Disposable Heroes is one of those thumping anthems from Metallica’s Master of Puppets album, a song like many from the Heavy Metal giants that deals with death, war and destruction. There are two lines from the chorus of Disposable Heroes that ring in my ears when I dipped back into Battlefield V recently:
Back to the front
You will do what I say, when I say
For all of the improvements to the action since I pondered the open beta last year, this is still a game which tries valiantly to focus its attentions on squad play and teamwork, but which falls flat when playing on a public server with randomers.
Playing as a squad was the key to success in Battlefield 2, (the naming conventions of this series are worthy of an article all by itself). A commander oversaw the big picture of the battle, sent orders down to squad leaders and, as long as you weren’t playing on Strike at Karkand, people tended to follow orders and work together.
It was a game that didn’t need a dedicated 5v5 quasi-competitive mode (which has now been canned) as in private clan matches (-=256=-, represent!) things were simple enough to get into a 16v16 game with vehicles and squads galore, or lock things down into an infantry only mode with smaller numbers.
Modern online gaming is all about instant gratification. Whether that’s through rewards and new gizmos dropping like flies (and Battlefield V is more composed that Battlfield 3 and 4), or more pertinently the matchmaking that gets you into a battle straight away.
It’s great that from a click of a button on the main menu that you can get into a battle which will be somewhat tailored towards the current Tides of War chapter that is providing a through link for the regular live updates that are being deployed to Battlefield V. But by dropping you into a random fight, with everyone chasing their own personal daily, weekly and Tides of War objectives, you just don’t the same teamplay that I made me fall in love with this series in the first place.
Case in point, I joined the start of a conquest (still the classic game mode) battle on the new Greek map, Mercury. Based on the British led invasion of Crete in 1941, this is a stunning, sun-kissed map that arrived as part of Chapter 3 – Trial by Fire. I would love to explore this in a singleplayer mission, and that’s how it ended up feeling when I played it as a squad leader.
Without knowing the map layout, I made an immediate move towards the Marina capture point. With the sea sealing off one potential flanking move, and hill to launch the attack from, I made a sharp move to the flag to start capturing it. Before advancing, I’d ordered my squad to attack the flag and was foolishly expecting them to join my move.
They didn’t. Two of my squad mates sat on the hill overlooking the flag, sniping away, while the third was in another corner of the map entirely. Left to try and capture the flag by myself, I was soon overwhelmed by an enemy squad who were moving together as a cohesive unit.
A frustrating moment for sure, and I experienced similar problems over the rest of my time with the game. I think people need to listen to some Metallica to learn what war is about, and how to follow squad leader orders.
My gripes aren’t anything new. This is how the series, and most online gaming, has been for years when you don’t play with a dedicated group of friends. Buddying up with randomers just doesn’t happen as much anymore.
Despite this, the game seems to have come a long way since I played that open beta last year. Combat feels more balanced, the new maps add a new dynamic to proceedings and the Tides of War seems well set to provide people will regular targets to work towards.
Future updates will see more maps, and probably additional gamemodes that will just add to confusion, along with the welcome inclusion of the Pacific Theatre. Fighting on some of the tropical islands will be quite something in what is a stunning game.
Back to the front? For now, but we’ll see whether Destiny 2‘s rebirth takes me away.