It’s taken them far too long, but Battlefield V’s battle royale mode, Firestorm, is now available to all players. I’ve been checking it out briefly, spending a few hours with the mode so far, and I’m here to give you my early impressions of how it fares against the plethora of other options that are available to you in the same genre.
I’ve seen quite a lot of people complaining on Reddit about it taking ages to get into a game, with some people reporting having to wait up to five minutes in the pre-lobby. In my first few games this afternoon I was pleased to find myself having no such issues, managing to find a game within 30 seconds and get through the pre-lobby in a minute, with no noticeable extra wait or loading times compared to other battle royale games. So far so good then, but when I jumped back in for a few more games tonight I too found myself waiting for prolonged amounts of time, sometimes taking up to five minutes to get through the matchmaking and pre-lobby stages and into a match. I’m a pretty patient person, but in battle royale games it’s quite easy to drop in and get killed instantly, and when you’ve waited up to five minutes to get into a game just to die instantly and have to do it all over again it gets pretty annoying. Yes, it happened to me twice in a row, and yes, it did piss me off.
When I got into my first game, the first thing I noticed was that the map looks too big for 64 players. Opening up my map, it definitely looks like there are a lot fewer named locations compared to other BR games, which means there’s a lot of barren land that makes the map look quite empty and bare. There are also very few truly distinctive, memorable places on the map, with the whole place pretty much looking the same and being largely forgettable. Even now, after a number of hours with the mode, I don’t think I could name you one location. There’s a Dam and a Farm, but specific names? I’m struggling. I was also surprised to see that the Firestorm closes down a particular part of the map straight away, which limits all players to dropping into one large section of the map where the game will take place. That seems odd to me; it’s presumably because the map is too big, but that poses the question of why make the map so big in the first place? Perhaps it’s a decision that’s designed to make each match feel different.
Dropping in doesn’t quite feel right somehow. I’ve found it difficult to perfect the art of dropping at the right time and maintaining a perfect course to my desired area of landing—something which I haven’t struggled with on any other BR game—but maybe that’s just down to my own clumsiness and I just haven’t played enough to perfect it yet. When you do land, it’s a mad rush for gear just like every other game in this genre. It’s here when the modes biggest flaw begins to become prominent – the looting and inventory system is awful. Your inventory is annoyingly present and intrusive on your screen at all times, and picking up items and cycling them in and out of being equipped feels sluggish and clunky. It’s that word, clunky, that you can attribute to much of Firestorm; Battlefield has a bit of a reputation for feeling slow and clunky at the best of times, and Firestorm is absolutely no different, but the looting system accentuates things. When you kill an enemy, they drop their items individually rather than in a nice tidy backpack a’la Blackout, which makes filtering through their gear for anything of use an absolute nightmare. It’s a crazy design decision, and I genuinely can’t believe it got passed testing.
When you do get into a firefight, Firestorm’s strength is shown – Battlefield’s realistic and satisfying gunplay. Predictably, Firestorm takes a more realistic approach to the battle royale genre, steering itself closer to PUBG than the likes of Apex Legends or Fortnite, and that allows the full integration of Battlefields gunplay which makes every firefight feel realistic and intense, complete with the destruction and the incredible sound of Battlefield’s standard multiplayer offering. It’s unforgiving though, and you do drop quickly if somebody gets the jump on you, which won’t make it very appealing to the larger audiences – I’ve already had a couple of experiences of being killed out of nowhere without having any chance to react.
The titular firestorm also deserves a mention in the “praise” category. It stands out like a sore thumb as soon as you’re dropping in, and you seem to be able to see it on the horizon at all times as it gradually closes in on the map. When it does get close to you things get even more intense; it sounds scary as hell as it destroys everything in its path, crackling behind you as you try to get away. It completely changes the area of the map that you’re in, destroying buildings and leaving your surroundings glowing orange as the inferno rages on. It’s a genuinely scary threat compared to the usual “storms”—which are basically just domes—that close in on you in other battle royale games, so Firestorm deserves credit in that respect. If I had one complaint about it, it would have to be that it looked a bit “low-res” when I was close to it, but that’s something that can be forgiven and lived with – after all, you’re meant to be running away from the bloody thing, not staring at it from up close.
I haven’t had much experience with vehicles so far so I’ll have to report back on that front later, but in my short time with Firestorm so far my overwhelming feeling is just “meh”. The map seems completely forgettable and everything feels slow, boring, and clunky. The only real praise I can give it so far is for the gunplay and the firestorm itself, other than that I just don’t see what it has to offer that other battle royale modes don’t already do better, or what it does differently to make itself stand out from the pack. I’ll stick with it and see if it grows on me and report back, but so far Firestorm is nothing special.