Picking Battlefield V as the game of the year is the obvious choice. I mean, which other PC title released this year has shown such originality in thought? You’re a person – man or woman, there’s no prejudice here – with a gun, and you shoot people until you, eventually, are shot, stabbed, blown up, or otherwise eviscerated. High concept stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
But there are other reasons for the latest in the Battlefield series to get my vote aside from the exact same stunningly original gameplay… shown in every version of the game for the past 16 years. And that’s the feel of the weapons, the immediacy of the combat, and the next-gen graphics enabled by some of the most expensive GPU tech this side of Oak Ridge.
‘But what of Battlefield V’s terrible single-player campaign?’, the voices inside my head cry. Well, that’s irrelevant, as no one outside of the DICE QA staff, and masochists, ever play a single-player campaign for a Battlefield game. Indeed, those people are often seen as one and the same.
Look, I understand Battlefield V is the same essential game which has seen approximately 13,542 barely distinct iterations over the years, and yes the single-player campaign is a jingoistic mess, but this is the first Battlefield game in a long time that has actually grabbed me.
I’m an old man now, with the reaction time of a three-toed sloth twice my age, and still I’m playing it in my downtime… and not just using it for graphics card benchmarking.
The weaponry feels immensely satisfying. Solid, but also pleasingly janky, nothing like the oily, lead-spitting, über-functionality of the modern bullet sticks in COD: Blops 4. The matches are more supportive and a little more considered than the run-and-gun stylings of the Call of Duty bro-down, with each single shot of a semi-automatic rifle echoing out across the map, before embedding with a thump and a wee spray of claret.
Though, admittedly, some of it isn’t considered at all. Some of it is exactly as frantic as you might expect escaping an exploding Belgian cottage into a hail of Nazi gunfire to be. And that destructibility is one of the other reasons I’m loving the game. Even losing a life to a roof collapsing on my head is oddly fulfilling, with Battlefield V exposing some of the most violent property damage I’ve seen since Bad Company 2. That canned Shanghai skyscraper collapse in Battlefield IV is nothing compared to the intricate wastelands left at the end of a particularly brutal Conquest in Battlefield V.
But, as a dyed-in-the-wool hardware and graphics nerd, it’s the stunning effect of real-time ray tracing that has me holding Battlefield V above the game I will inevitably end up spending more time playing. Football Manager 2019 is a great game, and the best the series has been in a long time, but DICE and Nvidia are pushing PC graphics into a place I wasn’t sure I’d actually see in my lifetime. I’d kind of expected that even if ray tracing in games did come before I was just dust in the wind, it would be at the point where I was defecating into a colostomy bag while sat staring out the dirty window of some grotty retirement home, wheezing out my last.
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Sure, there’s a hefty performance hit to enabling the DirectX12-based real-time ray tracing effect, even on Nvidia’s $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, but the effect is incredible… though best appreciated when you turn it off. The problem is the ray traced reflections DICE has added to Battlefield V work exactly how your eyes expect them to, so you almost just accept them as normal. It looks realistic so your gaze will just glide over the reflected flames in a pool of water, or the muzzle-flash of a rifle glimpsed in a window during the heat of battle.
It’s when you switch back to the standard rasterized version of Battlefield V that you start to really see all the previously unseen tricks that game devs have been playing on our eyeballs for years. The canned reflections all stand out a mile once you lose the ray tracing.
I know a lot of people are still calling it a gimmick, and sure, you wouldn’t spend out on an RTX graphics card just for that feature alone. But this is the first generation of the first genuine attempt at getting the holy grail of PC graphics into our desktop PCs. And, like any new graphics tech, it’s niche, expensive, and isn’t featured in all games, but with the performance updates and optimisations DICE and Nvidia have already rolled out for the game, it feels like ray tracing could become the de facto standard for PC graphics in the not-so-distant future.
So, whether you’re in it for the relentless killathon, or just want to see what the future of PC gaming looks like, Battlefield V is the game of the year.