In 2016’s Battlefield 1, Suppression was a realism-driven mechanic that ended up dominating multiplayer matches. In Battlefield 5, it’s all but gone – but that’s no bad thing.
Generally speaking, I’d say EA and DICE has found a solid middle-ground with Battlefield 5. There was a weighty, more thoughtful and consequential-feeling pace to games like Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2, but some of that was drained away in the wake of Call of Duty’s explosive success. Battlefield was still special, but it became about the scale and spectacle of its large-scale, environment, trashing skirmishes.
Matt liked his Battlefield 5 hands-on at E3, but I needed to see for myself – so for the last few days I’ve been getting in on a few rounds of the Battlefield 5 closed Alpha. After playing a bunch of matches, I feel reassured that Battlefield 5 still has that series staple spectacle, but it also feels like there’s a weighty quality to the handling of weapons that hasn’t been present in the series for a good long while.
A large part of this, I think, is down to the significant changes to Battlefield 1’s reliance on random bullet deviation. Battlefield 1 already featured some of the additional weight I’ve been hoping for from the series, but much of that was marred by the inclusion of random chance into your shooting. As the term random bullet deviation suggests, it was all about where bullets would end up placed: maybe one in five bullets fired would end up a little bit shy of where you were actually aiming. When under enemy fire your aim would get worse still with more bullet deviation and recoil, a key part of BF1’s suppression mechanic.
In many ways these were good ideas – the bullet movement when suppressed was a solid way to make suppressible fire actually useful in combat – but it also just got outright frustrating. In Battlefield 5, suppression exists but only as a distracting audio and visual effect – where you aim is exactly where bullets will end up every time, both when being suppressed and generally during fights.
Honestly, this system feels like a huge improvement already – after only a few Battlefield 5 closed alpha matches I can feel the difference. Suppression is still effective when you’re being fired on from afar as the audio and visual impact can be distracting from your actual aim as a human player, but your aim is still on-point, you’ll still get the kill. You’ll no longer feel like you’ve been robbed of your chance to fight back by bad luck and randomness.
Other improvements to the systems around guns include DICE’s promise that every gun in Battlefield 5 will perform significantly differently from its peers, plus what feels like a generally more slow, measured and tactical approach to its action. One thing that astonishes me is how used to the full-on grenade spam I got in BF1 – in this game, grenades are more scarcely used and that feels great. In these places the Alpha is giving me great hope for the final release, as the potential is clearly here for the best Battlefield game in a good while.