Two words, Battle Royale – that’s all it takes to create the hype that’s taken gaming by storm over the last few years. While Battlefield V Firestorm seems like a late entry to the battle royale genre, the developers at Criterion have a chance to deliver their own fresh take on one of the most popular trends within the industry.
Battlefield has always emphasised large scale battles, big maps, lots of players and vehicular warfare. The uniqueness of the frostbite engine brings grand scale destruction to the playing field and all this is present in their new Battle Royale mode, Firestorm. The new mode introduces one of the biggest maps to ever grace the Battlefield series called Halvøy. The map is massive – it’s about ten times bigger than the current biggest map in Battlefield V which is Hamada. The map features several valleys and vertical landscapes in addition to open fields and urban towns. You will witness the full scale of the landscape when you drop.
Firestorm consists of 64 players with the ability to play solos or squads. During the preview event, I had the chance to try out both modes and found squads to be the most interesting as encounters and pacing are both quite frantic. If you’re already experienced with battle royales games, the start of Firestorm will be quite a familiar territory with its ‘where are we dropping’ introduction. As our squad prepares to drop out of the plane, the most notable difference is that the Firestorm circle is clearly visible, already engulfing areas around the map. The pre-determined Firestorm circle could be seen as both positive and negative. The idea behind it was to push people to different drop areas of the map (to change up the drops every game) but may limit the experience of the whole map. Personally, I like the idea of the pre-determined circle as it helps contain the action to a certain area and gives slight variation in strategy to every drop.
With no starter weapons, players will fight and scavenge for weapons and loot scattered around the map. Weapons vary in terms of tiers with three different levels available at your disposal. While the weapon balancing is pretty spot on in my experience in firefights, the higher tier weapons give you a slight edge with pre-equipped attachments such as scopes and grips/bipods etc. The best gear, however, is rare and are normally hidden in objectives such as safes around the map. Criterion developers have emphasised that the gameplay is all about ‘high risk high reward’ system which is one of the main focus when it comes to getting better gear. Objectives are dangerous but the rewards are worth it, so players will have to decide on whether to pursue them or play with the whatever gear they have. This also applies for vehicles such as the tank that are locked inside bunkers and require you to bust them out.
Busting out a tank from a bunker was probably the biggest highlight of my hands-on. It’s not easy to get your hands on some heavy armour as you’ll need to find bunkers located around the map and break them open. Opening bunker objectives are pretty straight forward as you and/or your team have to spin the locks to open the door. As you open the door, an alarm will sound and alert the surrounding area of your position making you vulnerable to attacks. The ‘high risk high reward’ gameplay is evident here as the battles could go either way if you’re not prepared for a push. Our first attempt in a bunker breakout was almost successful as another team found out what we’re doing and waited for us to drive the tank out before dropping C4 on our heads and finishing us off with anti-tank rounds, so you’ll always be at the edge of your seat when it comes to completing objectives.
The biggest question I had going into Firestorm was the way the game will be balanced with tanks and armour vs infantry. While Battlefield V is balanced with an anti-tank plus a sheer number of players, a good armoured player can basically steamroll against a squad which is the types of firefights expected in Firestorm. When our squad encountered enemies running a tank, we basically ran around hopelessly like chooks without heads but we noticed they didn’t spot us so we regrouped and took them out with a few Panzerfaust rounds which our whole squad had. Panzerfaust and other anti-tank is common around the map and takes up its own slot.
Firestorm has a total of 17 available vehicles from armoured transports, tanks and (an obvious Criterion take) – a sports car. While planes have been removed from Firestorm, the mode does feature a transport helicopter which adds a faster way of traversing the terrain by air but it’s a highly visible target in the air and will attract lots of gunfire towards your direction. Vehicles in Firestorm also requires fuel to run and while spawned vehicles will have some to run, to keep it running till late game – you’ll require to find fuel. This helps balance Firestorm’s vehicles especially tanks and armoured transport reducing its ability to run around without limits.
Looting is seamlessly fast and hassle-free which sticks to the flow of the gameplay. Criterion has opted to use the Borderlands/Fortnite style loot drops where players can see and identify (thanks to the colour coded system) the loot on the ground or when enemies die. This system works well for the momentum and players can easily pick up more ammo, better guns etc. under fire without hassling through scroll menus or death boxes. Combined this with the weapon tiers, Firestorm eliminates the need for micro-managing gear, weapons and their attachments making it easier to focus on the fighting rather than your inventory which is my biggest gripe with some battle royales.
My time with Battlefield V Firestorm was limited but I did walk away wanting more of the action. The fast combat, the sense of scale and destruction plus an array of combat vehicles at your disposal which essentially makes Battlefield brings something fresh to the battle royale genre. I love this aspect of the franchise, playing around with possibilities with Battlefield gadgets, the what if scenarios, the ‘Battlefield moments’ – pulling all the together into a tried and proven formula like battle royale makes sense and unique.
The biggest question however is pitting this against other titles in its genre; will it compete to the same level? More than likely not because it’s not free-to-play and it’s because of this – Firestorm realistically won’t be able to grab that same market and I feel EA Games knows this. However, after talking to the team at Criterion – they wanted a battle royale for the Battlefield community and what they have here delivers on that experience and I believe this is where Battlefield Firestorm will make its mark.
FIRESTORM LAUNCHES FOR BATTLEFIELD V OWNERS ON MARCH 25th. AGUS TRAVELED TO THE UK AS A GUEST OF EA TO GET AN EARLY LOOK AT BATTLEFIELD V’S FIRESTORM MODE.