Battlefield 5 is a strange, unfinished beast that was released more as a schedule than a game. And yet I’ve been hooked on it since the first night of “release,” regularly playing with friends late into the night.
The secret sauce that makes the game so compelling, that can especially hook small groups of players, is how well EA DICE has balanced the game’s class structure while keeping Battlefield’s four-person squad organization. A number of small tweaks from Battlefield 1 have made all the difference.
Each round is a team effort
Much of what I’m about to discuss has existed, in some form, in previous Battlefield games. But Battlefield 5 brings it all together so well that everything that came before seems like a rough draft. And it all starts with the game’s classes, which are themselves emphasized by the attrition system.
Which is DICE’s way of saying health and ammunition are limited in Battlefield 5, and you can only get more of those supplies from someone playing as medic or support, respectively.
It’s very easy to find yourself with plenty of health but light on ammo, or vice versa. Either situation will change the way you react to firefights, especially in the back half of each round when tickets are running out.
You can carry one health pack on you, but a medic needs to throw you another if you use it. You won’t automatically gain health, so this is situation you need to actively monitor. The same goes for ammo.
Neither the medic nor support can spam supplies to players who don’t need them, which means those classes only get points for helping when other players need the help. This effectively forces you to pay attention to what you’re doing, and why. Teams without adequate support will find themselves low on health, low on ammo and dying at the hands of the enemy.
Medics can revive any teammate on the battlefield but, in a crucial twist, squad mates can revive each other. This makes moving as a squad even more powerful, especially since squad mates can also spawn on each other as long as the living player isn’t in active combat.
The best squads can be completely self-sufficient; reviving each other, resupplying each other and making sure at least one player falls back to relative safety so others can spawn on them to continue the fight.
Squads that work together this way can seem like they’re made of 20 soldiers instead of just four. The advantage of having an entire squad on voice communications, especially if they know each other’s habits and select one of each class, are hard to overstate.
It goes deeper than this, however. Recon is now the only class that can “spot” enemy players in the traditional way, while everyone else now just puts down a generic, static marker with the spot button. This means that stealth is a much more effective weapon than it has been in the Battlefield series in some time, and looking for muzzle flashes or the glint of a sniper’s scope is crucial. It also means that you can do your team a huge service just by finding a high point on the map, going prone and spotting enemy soldiers.
Filling this role is less about the mechanical skills of reacting, lining up a headshot and firing quickly, and more about knowing the map and moving with purpose, while also knowing when to get out of there and hide.
This complexity continues to scale up when you begin to see how the building options and vehicles fit into the bigger strategy of each map. From the class level to the squad level and beyond, everything works together in a way that feels much tighter and more interdependent than past Battlefield games.
That’s why it’s such a fascinating game to play with groups of friends; Battlefield 5 rewards squads and teams that know how to prop each other up, and wins rarely come down to the pure reaction time that’s so important in the Call of Duty series. The game can be a bit glitchy and it could use some more maps, sure, but the play itself is some of the best we’ve seen in any multiplayer game this year.