Battlefield V (PS4)

Battlefield V tells three independent stories, linked only by their existence as part of World War II. There’s a sarcastic British prisoner, a Norwegian resistance fighter, and a determined French fighter. Of these three, only the last features any reasonable sense of scale. In the others, Battlefield V’s lone soldiers tag German troops, blow things up, and generally exhibit heroic action too absurd for even Hollywood.

Much as Battlefield V uses cutscenes drained of color, with emotive music and stories of battlefield desperation, little changes. The first-person formula, that gun pointed forward, always in view, and sighting targets, doesn’t flinch. There’s no space for in-game drama, just shooting and walking and minor animations. In Battlefield V, soldiers pick up stray ammo and hold the cartridge in front of their face before stashing them away. Even when taking fire, it’s still routine to show a hand pop up. That’s weird.

This series is awkward. Call of Duty knows what it wants to be, to a mixed output. EA’s series dramatizes things with sorrowful symphonic scores and rapid development of character, then lets players defy physics in planes, mow down entire front lines single-handedly, and drive jeeps as if shock impacts don’t matter. It’s an asinine situation, more so when conjoined with an online uproar over the depiction of female freedom fighters, as if those represent an issue of realism.

To its credit (and like Battlefield I before it), Battlefield V is capable of telling a balanced story. The mixture of silence and high action works in keeping things fluid. In-between, tales of bravery and how war changes people play out with a patriotic slant. Although people die, no one actually loses their fight. War games too often fail in depicting loss. Odds never matter. The world wins, Germany loses; that greater story arc cannot change. The aftermath though, including a stated 20,000 French black men removed of their heroism and losing benefits, seems too cruel to contemplate. That’s why it’s just part of a pre-credits text crawl – no reason to impede on the fun of shooting things.


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