Hands-On By Roger Fingas Thursday, September 27, 2018, 12:07 pm PT (03:07 pm ET)…
Battlefield V: War Stories hands-on preview
World War II is an overused setting in video games. Call of Duty, Wolfenstein, and Medal of Honor are just a few franchises that have shamelessly delivered an innumerable amount of games based in that time. Battlefield has also cashed in on the WWII formula in the past, so when DICE announced that the next game would (again) take place during that time, our enthusiasm for the game dropped dramatically.
That changed after playing Battlefield V: War Stories.
The many faces of war
Battlefield V: War Stories approaches the stale WWII setting in a way that makes it feel fresh. It spotlights the forgotten stories of people from different corners of the world and shows you how they’re making an impact in the war.
Instead of one all-encompassing campaign, War Stories takes on a new format with four separate single-player stories — Nordlys, Tirailleur, Under No Flag, and The Last Tiger. Like the stories in Battlefield IV, each follows a different survivor caught in the heart of war.
Joining the resistance
We spent most of our time with Nordlys. Taking place in Rjukan, Norway in the Spring of 1943, the country has fallen to the Nazis. You’ll play as the daughter of a captured scientist that rebelled against the German army after discovering the heavy water produced at the plant she works in is being used to create nuclear weapons. You’ll have to infiltrate a base and rescue her, destroy the electrical substations powering the plant, and stop the shipments before they can reach their destination.
There’s no doubt that this story has a somber tone, but that doesn’t stop the gameplay from being incredibly fun. You’ll use a combination of stealth and Rambo-style infiltration to get through the campaign. Sneaking up on outposts and taking down soldiers never loses its thrill. But recklessness isn’t the key to success because if you make too much of a fuss, reinforcements will be called, turning the fight into a bloody mess you’re unlikely to win.
Even getting around the map bucked our expectations. In Nordlys, you’ll use a pair of skis to travel from one objective to the next. They’re not reserved for designated sections but can be pulled out and put away at any time. Each chapter in her story encourages their use. Maps take on a slant, with missions starting at the highest point and ending at the lowest. It’s a blast to whip out the skis and speed downhill. You can even take down enemies by gliding past them and throwing knives. As surprising as it was to see skis used as a tool in a Battlefield game, they really compliment the gameplay.
In a mission where you are tasked with taking down various recon occupied strongpoints, the skis are your main method of travel. You’ll use them to reach three objectives on the map — Village, Docklands, and Depot — to sabotage any means of heavy water transport. Gliding down the snowy hills is a ton of fun – sometimes too much fun. We merrily skied right past one of the objectives and had to climb all the way back up. We also nearly killed ourselves skiing clean off a cliff.
There’s a lot of potential in Battlefield V: War Stories. It’s an introspective look into the lives of people that fall outside of the tropes we usually see in World War II fiction. Nordlys was the highlight of our preview, bringing a thrilling story of desperate and courageous resistance to an unconventional location.
Not every story is as unique, though. Under No Flag, which we played only a portion of, more like the standard FPS campaign fare. Finding high ground and using binoculars to scope out the enemy territory before sneaking into a hangar felt uninspired, though it’s possible the mission adds a unique twist later.
Our first impression of War Stories is a positive one. The time we spent with the preview has us excited to experience the completed campaign. With stories like Tirailleur that features a Senegalese French Colonial Force and The Last Tiger which follows a German tank crew that begins to question their role in the war, it seems that DICE is making a genuine effort to include war stories that can resonate with everyone, even players outside of the traditional shooter demographic.
That’s a new spin on World War II that we can get behind, and one that seems even more relevant in light of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s decision to ditch the single-player campaign. Campaigns are rarely the focus of modern shooters, but they can still add a unique twist.