A solid battle royale that doesn’t pack quite enough punch to get to the final circle.
Welcome, Battlefield fans! This review focuses solely on the newly released Firestorm battle royale mode. To see what we thought of the single-player and multiplayer sides of Battlefield V, check out those reviews.
Better late than never, Battlefield V has patched in its take on the battle royale genre. Firestorm mode takes the large environments, realistic weapons, and vehicle warfare Battlefield players know and love and injects them into a beautiful map. However, what Firestorm doesn’t do is move the needle in terms of originality and innovation, and it fails to come up with hooks that keep me coming back to play. Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds made the first waves in the genre with its realistic style and Firestorm feels like a more polished but less distinctive version of that same idea.
A relatively small group of 64 players drop onto Battlefield V’s biggest map yet, called Halvoy, and it is absolutely gorgeous. The menacing fire circle, lush green forest patches, and snow-covered hilltops all combine to form an eye-catching battlefield. I might even say that it is the most aesthetically pleasing battle royale map out right now, except that there’s only one memorable area: the visually distinctive mines, called the Digging Site. The mines are hard to forget because they drop down into a massive crater housing stashes of loot and a heavily fortified hangar.
Halvoy is a beautiful map but only the visually distinctive Digging Site is memorable.
By contrast, PUBG, Fortnite, and Apex Legends all have maps with distinctive areas and named locations that stand out. I know roughly where I am on each of those maps based on proximity to Fortnite’s Tilted Towers or PUBG’s Pochinki, but Firestorm is just a bunch of rolling green hills, snow, and identical quaint houses. When I recall stories and experiences about most battle royale games, the location of where the situation took place is always the first thing that comes to mind; In Firestorm, it all blends together. Even though Halvoy is so large that matches begin with the titular firestorm already in effect and setting parts of it outside the contracting circle, the absence of landmarks made running around the map uninteresting for me because it all felt the same. Which is a shame, because it’s at least uniformly beautiful.
Firestorm does do a fantastic job when it comes to two other fundamental parts of battle royale games: Good drops and plenty of interesting loot. When you jump out of a plane and deploy your parachute you have great control of your descent, allowing you to land precisely where you’d like (as opposed to battle royales like CoD Black Ops 4: Blackout, PUBG, and Fortnite, which all have different and complicated ways to drop and land faster which feel unnecessarily restrictive.)
Once you land, there’s more than just three tiers of armor, backpacks, and guns to scavenge for: you’ll find items such as airstrikes, vehicle fuel and ammo, and flare guns littered across every corner of Halvoy. You can use flare guns to mark opponents on your map, and some even call in support like the airstrike or vehicle airdrops. The airstrike is one of the best items in Firestorm because it destroys all buildings inside its radius, basically deleting any enemy or squad that’s holed up within. The great diversity of items keeps loadouts fresh every game and allowed me to change it up almost every time I dropped in.
Each weapon maintains the same solid shooting mechanics seen in Battlefield V’s other modes.
You’ll find that there are different tiers of each weapon, with higher tiers coming with upgrades such as pre-attached scopes and better recoil. Some of the scopes on the tier-3 weapons actually made shooting harder for me, but eventually you’ll pick up on what kind of variants you enjoy. Regardless of tier, each weapon maintains the same solid shooting mechanics seen in Battlefield V’s other modes, and there are some standouts: the Kar98 tier-3 version is a monster of a sniper, and you can’t go wrong with the tier-2 or tier-3 version of the MP40. There’s also an intuitive system that allows you to quickly see which items are better by clearly displaying the tier of each item, minimizing the time you’re inspecting loot instead of watching for enemies sneaking up on you.
Loot and ammo are so abundant on Halvoy that you don’t even need to land in a named location to get geared up quickly. This is actually my favorite part of Firestorm because battle royales that make you scavenge for loot for the majority of a game take too much time away from the combat portion. Firestorm even has control points and caches you can unlock to receive guaranteed tier-3 loot, although they take a while to unlock, leaving you vulnerable. In solos, this becomes an anxious waiting game because other players can hear or see that you are taking over control points and make their approach. In squads, covering each other is vital and the payoff is well worth it.
Unfortunately, Firestorm didn’t nail the entire loot formula. After an enemy dies, their loot splurges out in an extremely disorganized and awkward fashion. This is similar to Fortnite, but the key difference is that there is no need to manage ammo in Fortnite, so in that game you have the freedom to walk over ammo and focus on picking up the items you’d like. It was extremely frustrating to have to leave myself exposed while trying to hover over the correct item while avoiding loot I did not need, and because you have limited ammo storage space picking up the wrong type by mistake is a pain. Dropping ammo is actually very easy in Firestorm, which I appreciate, but the overall inventory HUD takes up a lot of real estate on the screen and feels intruding when I’m trying not to get shot.
Firestorm seamlessly adds Battlefield’s vehicle combat battle royale.
Spectacular vehicular warfare separates the Battlefield franchise from other shooters and Firestorm seamlessly adds that secret sauce to battle royale in a way no other game does. Tractors, water cars, the first prototype helicopter, different variants of tanks, and more can be found all over the map, including some that are always in the same location, which makes them risky rewards to go for because others will likely be watching. These include hangars around the map that store tons of loot and Staghound tanks for you or your team to snag, but to obtain these goodies you have to open two massive hangar doors which set off an alarm that can be heard from quite a distance, which is much like ringing a dinner bell. In solos, this isn’t worth the payoff because you have no cover while going through the opening animation and you can’t drive and shoot at the same time even if you get an armored vehicle. In group play, though, I highly recommend going for the hangars immediately if you think you can pull it off. When you’re in a squad, vehicle battles are prevalent without being unbalanced thanks to the abundance of anti-vehicle weapons. You can find anti-vehicle dynamite, rocket launchers, and other vehicles to counter vehicle play.
The second most important thing in battle royales after loot is probably directional sound, and the sound design in Firestorm is excellent. When running through the snowy hills of Halvoy, you can actually hear your soldier breathing heavily and shivering. I had no problem distinguishing which directions fights were happening or where an enemy player was running from. However, your own footsteps are practically deafening, to the point where it gets difficult to hear enemy movement while you are in a full sprint. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does encourage you to hold still in a fight and let your enemy give away their position. Adopting a defensive and passive playstyle definitely seems to be more advantageous in Firestorm than any other battle royale I have played.