Battlefield 5 shines when you play it like a co-op shooter

There's a long list of things that Battlefield 5 needs to improve on, but Battlefield 5 succeeds on the merits of its redefined squads.

Despite Battlefield 5 boasting 64 player matches, I've learned that the only people that actually matter are the three others in my squad. They're the ones providing cover fire as I revive one of our own, and they're the ones fighting to hold objective E with me even as a German Tiger tank comes storming through the central village in Arras. The way Battlefield 5 subtly encourages squads to stick together and actually work as a team is one of its best achievements despite falling short in so many other areas, and it's the reason why it's one of my favorite games of 2018.

How Battlefield 5 achieves this, however, is through the smallest iterations of its tried-and-true formula. It's part of the reason, I suspect, that Battlefield 5 is one of the worst selling in the series so far because it's successes are, on the surface, small and negligible. Maps don't boast Battlefield 4's 'Levolution' that dramatically changes their layout or Battlefield 1's enormous Behemoth vehicles that can turn the tide of a battle at a crucial moment. Battlefield 5 returns to the basics and reinvents itself in a way that makes this the best feeling Battlefield I've played.

One of my favorite changes is how Battlefield 5 smartly adjusts how death works. While medics can still revive anyone on their team relatively quickly, squadmates can now revive each other too. This change makes squads much more resilient, which in turn also draws out battles into much longer and more climactic affairs as each side is better able to reinforce their positions and stay in the fight—so long as their respective squads are sticking together.

Strengthening this bond between squadmates is the fact that individual classes are much less capable on their own. Spotting and marking enemies has been removed entirely for everyone except scouts, guns will chew through ammo quickly unless you have a support class refilling everyone's reserves, and only the assault class can reliably destroy enemy vehicles. Even though squadmates can revive each other, medics are still invaluable because they can revive any player regardless of squad and do it much more quickly.

As a life-time medic player, Battlefield 5 is a dream come true. While I still love how silly it is running around with a defibrillators reviving dozens of soldiers every minute in Battlefield 4, playing a medic in Battlefield 5 requires strong spatial awareness and often brutal decision making. I've been pinned down and watched helplessly as a friendly soldier lay in the dirt, screaming and reaching for me to come and save them. It's a moment that echoes a particularly gut-wrenching scene in Saving Private Ryan but in a completely dynamic and unscripted way. Battlefield 5 is surprisingly good and creating these little memorable scenes where I feel inspired to add my own little bit of fictional context to what's happening around me.

As a medic, I'm stuck using some of the weakest guns in the game. But that is offset by my ability to keep everyone alive and fighting while using smoke to conceal a surprise charge or cover an exposed flank. Instead of just looking for people to shoot, I'm scanning the battlefield and making strategic decisions that could mean the difference between whether we take or lose an objective. It's supremely rewarding to feel like the glue that keeps a squad together. When everyone is working as a cohesive unit, we can sweep through enemy-filled objectives with awesome efficiency—something you just don't see in a lot of more casual multiplayer shooters.

That isn't to say Battlefield 5 is perfect, though. Since it first launched players have been complaining about everything from how long it takes to kill enemies to how painfully overpowered planes are. And yes, the singleplayer campaign is so boring that it might not even exist. There's a long list of things that it needs to improve on, but Battlefield 5 succeeds on the merits of its redefined squads, and that's more than enough for me.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.