Battlefield V has some high expectations to live up to. It's the first entry in the series to feature a battle royale mode, it's caught endless grief from gamers for its inclusion of a female character and it's become the poster child for the ray tracing features of Nvidia's latest GPUs. We previously examined the game's performance during its closed alpha, and over the weekend I played several hours of the open beta to get a better idea of what to expect from DICE's attempt to keep Battlefield relevant in the age of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG).
DICE and Electronic Arts have already delayed Battlefield V from October 19 to November 20 so they can respond to player feedback after the open beta. That was probably a good decision. So far, I've noticed several lag spikes, caused some glitches by changing video settings and crashed in the middle of what was shaping up to be a 45-minute-long game. But that's to be expected from an open beta--especially on PC, where DICE has to support a wide variety of hardware--and the game showed promise despite those problems.
Battlefield V makes a strong first impression. Its graphics are gorgeous, whether you're bunkered down in a burning ammo depot or sprinting through snowy peaks, and that beauty is made even more impressive when things start to blow up. Much of the environment is destructible, and it also responds to things happening in the game. You can follow tracks on the ground, watch snow fall off roofs after being rocked by nearby explosions and attempt to shoot your opponents through all the fire and smoke that inevitably rises as battles continue to rage on.
All of this visual splendor does have a drawback, however, which is that it can be hard to see what exactly you're supposed to be doing. Combine that with a low time-to-kill (TTK), and I often found myself zig-zagging around spawn points trying not to be picked off as soon as I was allowed to play the game again. That will change with time--familiarity can often help make up for visual overload; just look at Overwatch--but for now it's a frustrating side effect of having too much to look at (and don't you go blaming my age or poor eyesight because I'm only 26!).
None of that detracts from Battlefield V's appeal. The game feels good to play despite being in a relatively early state, with guns feeling distinct enough to reinforce your own preferences but similar enough that you won't feel lost if you play a different class. I preferred sniping as the Recon class, for example, because hitting those headshots is more satisfying than lobbing grenades. But I'm not going to be upset if you prefer doing the latter because it's hard to sit back and play the world's second-most involved game of skeet shooting if there's no front line pressure.
In a match, then, Battlefield V is already compelling. But the rest of the game suffers. It's not immediately clear how you're supposed to accomplish things via the very stripped-down menu, for example, and text can be hard to read because it's mostly thin sans-serifs typefaces in varying shades of grey set against whatever color happens to be in the background. Another glaring omission is the ability to play one game and be done. You have to load into the next one and then leave it, rather than simply hitting an "exit" button in between. This absence is baffling.
The game also isn't particularly welcoming to newcomers. Maybe this is just a problem with the beta, but if you haven't spent a lot of time with other Battlefield games, know the fifth installment won't bother explaining anything to you. How should the communication wheel be used? How do I know if we need another grenadier, medic, engineer, or recon officer? What exactly is this game mode, and how do I know if I'm winning? The answers to these questions are easy to grok, but anyone used to having at least some explanation before jumping into a game will be lost.
On the technical side of things, my GTX 1080-outfitted system didn't struggle with Battlefield V, though I did turn down graphics settings just so I could have the lowest possible input lag (I'd rather sacrifice visual effects than wonder if a shot would've hit if I'd turned them down). You can find a preliminary breakdown of various benchmarks from the closed alpha in our previous coverage. All in all, I was satisfied with the performance at this early stage, and I suspect DICE will use the extra month to continue its work to make sure Battlefield V is a solid experience for everyone.
I'll close with this: Battlefield V's beta is the first beta to make me actually want to play the full game. I'm even more excited for the battle royale mode, Firestorm, just because I'd love to see a relatively polished game's take on the genre (for all their virtues, Fortnite and PUBG don't exactly run as smoothly as most big-name titles). It'll be interesting to see if Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's beta has the same effect. In the meantime, I'm going to keep playing the Battlefield V open beta until it ends on September 11.