A high bridge cuts across Battlefield 5’s Rotterdam map, overseeing the wide streets either side of the river. It ought to be a sniper’s paradise, but a crashed train on the bridge provides great cover for a sniper-hunting squad equipped with submachineguns. I spent a lot of time in my first game giving my sniper medical support while ducking in and out of carriages to fend off attackers.
There isn’t even a control point on top of the bridge, but its usefulness is so obvious that players fight to control it anyway. Good Battlefield maps tend to feature organic sub-objectives like this. If one squad locks the bridge down, your team can spend the whole game punishing opponents trying to sprint across the open centre of the map.
Rotterdam feels like several maps in one. On the outskirts tanks duel for control of a pathway that stretches across the northern edge of the battlefield. The northwest point sits inside an opulent two-storey building, and the northeast point is in a partially collapsed alleyway that forces squads into scrappy short-range battles. The points change as squads build fortifications, and artillery shatters buildings. The weather changes, too. Sometimes it’s a visual effect, like rain, but sometimes fog can obscure long sight lines and force the teams into closer engagements.
Collectively the changes remind me of that awful Battlefield 4 word ‘levolution,’ but instead of grand, gimmicky map shifts, Battlefield 5’s map changes have tactical significance. Some control points are exposed at the start of the game, waiting for an intrepid squad to claim it, build it up, and defend it against all-comers. Fortifications create some counter-play for classes carrying explosive weapons, and to overrun a particularly well defended point you might need a squad leader to call in a V1 rocket strike.
These are terrifying. The rocket has a distinctive, sinister engine sound which the game captures perfectly. You really need to worry when the engine stops, because that means the bomb is in freefall and about to impact its target. If you aren’t instantly killed by the strike you are thrown to the ground by a pulverising shockwave.
After weathering several of these strikes in quick succession I wonder if V1s might be a bit too cheap in this unfinished build. Squad leaders pay for them with points the squad earns for doing squaddy things like capping points, which is one of many incentives to work as a team. You can spawn back on squad mates if you die, and you will need specialist pals to bring you back to full health and keep your ammo reserves full.
After ten minutes I already liked Battlefield 5 more than Battlefield 1. After an hour I was convinced that this will be the Battlefield that brings me back to the series. Squads stick together more consistently than they tended to in Battlefield 4, and the weapons feel more manageable than Battlefield 1’s WW1 arsenal. I liked the last game’s interpretation of the setting, but it feels good to reliably bring down foes at mid range without having to feather the left mouse button.
The game will be brilliant if you can get a few friends together and co-ordinate as a squad. Battlefield 5 will play quite differently if two of the squad mates you’re assigned in a pub game decide to lone wolf with a long-range rifle and nurse their k/d ratio, but that’s the luck of the draw. on the basis of this demo, it should be worth the gamble.
Battlefield 5 is out on October 19.