Single-player campaigns have never been Battlefield’s strong suit, and that fact was evident in the first three War Stories that Battlefield V offered. “Nordlys,” “Tirailleur,” and “Under No Flag” started slow, ended too quickly, and never managed to weave truly compelling, complicated narratives over the course of their short run times.
With the release of its first major Tides of War update, Battlefield V introduced its final War Story, “The Last Tiger,” and showed how intense and powerful the War Stories format can be.
“The Last Tiger” revolves around the American capture of Berlin during the waning days of the Wehrmacht. In a twist (compared to pretty much any other World War II media out there), players take on the role of a German soldier named Peter Muller, a Tiger I tank commander who’s desperately trying to get himself and his crew out of the city as the Allied forces swarm.
Following in the footsteps of Battlefield 1’s best War Story, “The Last Tiger” is an almost entirely tank-focused campaign. Muller will have to hop out of his tank every now and again to either use an AA cannon or retrieve some documents from an abandoned outpost, but players will spend the majority of the time piloting the hulking, lumbering steel beast that is the Tiger I through the devastated streets of Berlin. Not only is the Tiger I a blast to use (as are all the tanks in Battlefield V), but the urban environment manages to funnel the action into a more focused, linear path. This might seem counterintuitive to Battlefield’s biggest selling point, which are its large-scale multiplayer battles, but it helps in letting players enjoy the gameplay without the frustration of wandering around big, empty stages that the other War Stories seem to favor.
This more linear approach to its level design allows “The Last Tiger” to wow players with explosive urban armor battles and exciting set-pieces. Taking on columns of Sherman tanks and other American vehicles with a lone Tiger I was never not exciting. The narrative hummed along from one massive battle to another, while the buildings of Berlin crumbled around me. The battles benefit from a more immediate context within the larger story of World War II, and while it’s admirable that DICE tried to tell the lesser known tales with its first three War Stories, those plots never managed to connect themselves to the larger narrative.
Where DICE really impressed me, however, was with the story in “The Last Tiger.” Muller and his crew are on the wrong side of history, but their struggle to escape Berlin—a desperate scramble for survival—is just as human a story as any other soldier’s. As the Americans push them further and further out of Berlin, the ideology of German supremacy that got them into the war in the first place finally begins to reveal itself as a lie, and it’s fascinating to see Muller reconcile that with the new reality he’s facing. He was wrong, and now he’s face to face with every terrible thing he did in an attempt to make that lie a truth.
“The Last Tiger” proves that the War Stories format is capable of weaving narratives that have an emotional impact while also delivering memorable gameplay moments. I’d still prefer a more traditional campaign, but if DICE is going to continue down this path, future Battlefield developers and writers should look to “The Last Tiger” as War Stories’ peak achievement.