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Is Battlefield V the failure people would have you believe, or is the latest big PS Plus freebie worth all that storage space?

Battlefield V is one of the latest titles arriving as part of Sony’s monthly PS Plus offering, landing on May 5. Middingly reviewed by critics and disregarded by so many fans, it is hard to immediately see why you should allow Battlefield V to take up so much of that precious hard drive space.

I’m here to – cautiously – tell you that Battlefield V is actually a solid addition to the franchise, but also, one that struggled to grow legs as it evolved into the living games market.

So much of Battlefield V is signalling where EA and Dice would like the franchise to stand. Always paling financially to its arch-nemesis Call of Duty, Battlefield has struggled to inch its way into the centre of the mainstream, always teetering on its outskirts. Avid fanbases have allowed previous entries such as Battlefield 4 to enjoy active communities, but Battlefield V ruffled the feathers of so many loyal fans by trying to evolve into something new.

Gameplay, that most intangible of metrics, has always been at the heart of the Battlefield experience, whether that be visceral “in the trenches” warfare or impressive map destruction. Battlefield V has all of these, albeit to a smaller degree. However, with its inclusion of defensive building and the repurposing of class abilities, it delivered an experience that felt purposeful, and more immersive than ever.

With the aid of sublime visuals and a swelling score even less glamorous multiplayer roles – supplying much-needed ammo as a Support or weaving your way in for a quick revive as a Medic – were decidedly epic. But as combat was drawn into tight skirmishes and intense focal points maps would feel needlessly large, with swathes of empty space around the action. Player counts could feel disappointingly low as a consequence and, ultimately this new approach clashed with what Battlefield traditionally strives to be.

Gameplay wasn’t its only mix-up. Dropping paid season passes a full year before Call of Duty eventually would, Battlefield V brought on Chapters of content with seasonal challenges, customisable skins, new weapons, maps and the occasional mode. Sound familiar? That is because it’s the same formula that games such as Cold War and Destiny are currently employing.  With so many tweaks and new additions, BFV became a decidedly modern video game, that felt evolved and raring to succeed. So, why didn’t it?

Unlike the behemoth that is Warzone, which made $3 billion in 2020 purely through microtransactions, Battlefield V did not have the financial stability – or, perhaps, the confidence – to pull off the service angle. Chapters were few and far between, while monetisation of cosmetics was confusing, to say the least. Beyond Chapter launches, players found little reason to return. You need not look further than dumped Battle Royale mode, Firestorm, to see that Dice (and Criterion Games) did not have the consistency to keep the game relevant.

Battlefield V is, in its own way, a brilliant game. Perhaps one that was caught trying to be something it isn’t. Evolving a decades-old franchise into something that feels new and relevant is a difficult feat. With its revitalisation of gameplay and flirting with live service elements, Battlefield V could have been as well-received as some of its predecessors.

Now the dust has settled and Battlefield V arrives on PlayStation Plus for free tomorrow, perhaps it’s time to re-explore one of Battlefield’s most experimental entries? A lot of what didn’t land in 2018 is about to come back swinging with its 2021 successor.

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