It had all been going so well. My squad and I had competently secured our position, a train track that stood over even the tallest towers of Rotterdam. We didn’t get long to enjoy this success as enemy armour advanced on us. I dove for cover, as my plucky little band of brothers did the same. We all lay stranded amid the wreckage of bombed out train carriages. If one of us dared peek at the picturesque inner-city canals and roads below, our rash move would be punished with a barrage of explosive fire, certain death whizzing past our terrified faces by a whisker: the tank has us pinned.
Our offensively-minded assault squaddie was unable to return fire, and I was hardly in a position to revive a downed comrade as the resident medic. Then, as we were beginning to get surrounded by enemy support, an almighty explosion roared into our ears: a brave engineer’s anti-tank mine had done its job. As we picked ourselves up and basked in the Dutch sun once again, more of our fellow soldier’s squad spilled out onto the streets to relieve us.
My time playing Conquest on Battlefield 5’s Rotterdam map was full of these moments. The multiplayer matches a ceaseless tug of war as positions were squandered almost as quickly as they were captured. Rather than despairing, this push and pull is hopeful – if you lose a capture point, there’s always a chance to take it back. Likewise, the cockiness bred by capturing a point opens you up to counterattack.
The Rotterdam map is chaotic in the best possible way, the density of the city’s tight network of side streets often meaning an enemy squad was always just around the corner. Distinct to the much more open Narvik map, Rotterdam feels almost claustrophobic, but every now and then the narrow alleyways give way to gorgeous canals. Despite this maze of streets, wherever a squad sets up, routes inside buildings – or the wreckage of existing ones – mean they can always be flanked.
And for someone as poor a shoot as myself, it was satisfying to feel like I was making a difference in a support role, whether I was reviving my chums or emboldening our defences with fortifications. The ability to craft makeshift cover was extremely effective in the labyrinth of tight street corners in Rotterdam.
Should the fight go against you, the improved Battlefield 5 Bleeding Out mechanic prevented the punitive disruption to pacing we experienced during the closed alpha. Soldiers on the brink of death can still wail for help but, if no help is forthcoming, the time it takes to get back into the game is far reduced. That attritional flow of the match is maintained if you die, without it being too generous.
That way, provided they’re not under fire, you can spawn on a squad member and start mobilising for the next offensive. On the complex, constricted streets of Rotterdam, it’s a treat and it feels like you’re never far away from the next heart-pounding attack. If you get the right squad, Rotterdam’s map design is the foundation for some of the finest squad-based multiplayer gameplay around.
Of course, it helped that my demo consisted of a squad of soldiers all happy to do their bit for their team, something that cannot be guaranteed when the Battlefield 5 release date rolls around. Nevertheless, it was immediately apparent that clever cooperative play was essential to victory.