Around the end of the last console generation, I began gravitating more toward team-oriented shooters and away from the fast-paced, lone-wolf experiences. I believe the lone-wolf experiences offer more opportunities to demonstrate pure shooter skill, but team games—specifically Battlefield, in my case—are much more satisfying when all of their pieces come together. This formed a fondness for team coordination in multiplayer that followed me through this current console generation. It’s one of the many reasons I was so excited for the recently concluded Battlefield V beta, and why I was so surprised that its team-reliant systems were my least favorite features.
There are two directions in which shooters can most successfully take team-oriented design. Series like Battlefield have features such as vehicles and healing that are significantly more effective when used in coordination with teammates, but an individual player can still excel on their own. Alternatively, games like Overwatch have teams living and dying by their coordination, making it that much more rewarding when a team is in sync, and that much more disheartening when it is not. Based on Battlefield V’s recent beta, it seems to sit at an awkward middle-ground between the two ends of this spectrum.
The first example of this awkwardness is Battlefield V’s management of health and ammo. Players no longer regenerate their health to full, requiring either a med-pack from a health station or a friendly medic to get back into top shape. This is how health worked in the hardcore modes of previous Battlefield games, which ironically was my mode of choice when I played them. The problem here is that such a demanding system should be unique to hardcore modes, which are generally something you play with a coordinated group, all of whom have a full grasp on the game. It is not a system that is particularly cohesive with normal play, and certainly not with a beta. Even if it was moved to a more appropriate environment, however, Battlefield V’s health management still comes off more oppressive than ever. Whether it’s the map designs, weapon damage, or something else, I felt I spent more time looking for medics than for enemies during the beta.
More of a problem is Battlefield V’s covetous grip on ammunition. Each player spawns with a laughably low amount of ammo, remedied by Supply stations, Support-class teammates, or picking up ammo off dead enemies. Unfortunately, none of these options help if you run out of ammo in the middle of a gunfight while cut off from your team, which is a fairly frequent occurrence. These ammo restrictions (and the health restrictions, to a lesser extent) try to force players to coordinate in a way that isn’t conducive with the scope of Battlefield. The vast distances between objectives and the unrelenting action of a match do not accommodate players being laser-focused on the status of their teammates at all times. Team support of health and ammo should be supplementary perks for those squads looking to gain a competitive edge, rather than necessities in every moment of every match.
When this demand for team support inevitably collapses, death follows, and Battlefield V hits players with one of its most frustrating team systems: the revive meter. Other Battlefield games give players a small window of time in which teammates can revive each other, but then quickly move you (or give you the option to move) to the map/class screen if you don’t feel like waiting. The timer for Battlefield V’s downed system, on the other hand, makes death an even more arduous process than it already is.
The new timer works with one trigger slowing the bleed out and the other trigger speeding it up, with it moving at a steady rate if the player does nothing. The question here is why make it so there are three speeds for bleed out? Bleeding out only needs two speeds: a slow one if you’re waiting on a revive, and a fast one if you’re doing nothing, with an option to skip the function entirely if you want to spend your respawn time checking the map or customizing a character. Presumably, this bleed out redesign is meant to force players to give their teammates more time to revive them, but that is giving the playerbase a little too much credit. If a player doesn’t have faith that their team will fulfill its duties, don’t force the player into having false hope.
This is not to argue that my fellow editor Michael Goroff is wrong to suggest these systems are exhilarating when playing in a tight-knit squad, but I’m more concerned with the frequent moments in which that squad isn’t around. Plans regularly fall apart in war, virtual or not, and if Battlefield V’s only fun comes when you’re in spitting distance of your squad, the experience will wear players down faster than it should. I don’t want to suggest that the Battlefield series should sacrifice its team focus to cater to the lone wolves, all I ask is for some tweaks to the system so I don’t feel shackled to the teammates around me.