Battlefield V's First Expansion Is A Gamble That Doesn't Pay Off

Battlefield V’s first post-launch addition, Overture, released today after an initial delay. The expansion moves the game’s timeline forward with new story perspectives and massive, tank-focused multiplayer battles.

Overture is a mix of disappointing and exciting elements; it has terrific storytelling, but it also has one of the series’ least interesting maps. Also: Nazis.

Overture’s biggest focus is on vehicle combat, specifically tanks. While Battlefield V’s initial selection of maps highlighted lesser-known battles, Overture delivers a different type of Battlefield experience. Vehicular combat and mass environments have always been one of the series’ biggest selling points.

This first expansion manages to leverage that core strength into something that you won’t find anywhere else, not even previous Battlefield games. At its best, the result is explosive and amazing to play. At its worst, its romantic take on war paints too soft a portrait of history’s greatest villains.

These faults are most apparent in the new single-player war story, The Last Tiger. It follows a German Tiger tank crew during the final days of the war. As American troops push further into Germany, countless Wehrmacht soldiers press to the front lines in a nearly suicidal last stand.

The player controls tank commander Peter Müller as he and the rest of his crew face off against a seemingly endless onslaught in a city along the Rhine. The mission is spent largely in the impressive and deadly Tiger tank, which was historically known for its ability to stand up to armoured vehicles like the Sherman tank. The initial portions of the campaign feel like a unstoppable push through enemy lines.

Then the Allies rally, and things start falling apart. The Last Tiger wants to examine the ideology of Müller and his crew as the battle turns. As their defeat becomes clear and destruction mounts, each of them respond differently.

Some express unspoken doubt, others stick to zealous adherence to the Nazi party line, and others voice fear. Battlefield handles these internal struggles well, and the characters, while broad, feel human enough that you’re drawn into their conflict. Their tank assumes a metaphorical role. It is a machine they are caught up in, rolling forward no matter what.

That drive forward culminates in one of the most astoundingly realised tank battles I’ve ever played. Shells ricochet, buildings crumble, ash dances on the air, and there’s a horrible sense of finality to the whole affair.

But there’s a problem. It’s 2018 and I don’t need or particularly want media to humanise Nazis. I acknowledge that history is complex, and I’m glad that Battlefield treats it that way. But The Last Tiger’s extraordinary production value is hell-bent on telling the tale of “the Good German” while glossing over the fact that you don’t exactly get to be a Wehrmacht tank commander without being an accessory to some horrible stuff, most of which is left off-screen and unspoken in this game.

There are some nods in that direction - cruelly executed “deserters,” the horrified faces of civilians as German tanks roll by, a monologue from Müller about how he was punished as a child for being there and doing nothing while other children committed theft - but the framing of this story feels strange in the context of the modern day, when Battlefield V is being released.

Battlefield V doesn’t focus on the structural violence that these Nazis were complicit in but it’s something I kept thinking about while playing through a story that depicted their deaths as a noble tragedy. I’ve spoken to Holocaust survivors; I’ve seen Schindlerjuden hold back tears while addressing my junior high school class.

Their stories matter to me far more than a romanticised tale about Nazi guilt conveniently dawning when defeat finally rears its head. The Last Tiger is one of Battlefield V’s most exciting and thematically focused story missions, but it is a story that is painting a myth that is still used today to justify gross injustice.

The Last Tiger certainly doesn’t like Nazis but it still wants you to to appreciate their bravery. Whatever condemnation it offers is washed away by its flattening valorisation of any and all forms of soldiery.

While Overture’s story mission is a mixture of well-presented set-pieces in an uncomfortable narrative wrapping, its main addition to the multiplayer is a strange new map that has had just as many high and lows.

The map, called Panzerstorm, is one of the largest maps I’ve ever played in a Battlefield game. But where most maps have a mixture of wide spaces and close combat, Panzerstorm is comprised of a few key capture points separated by massive open fields. Teams have access to a slew of vehicles, like tanks, mobile AA turrets, personnel carriers and more.

When Panzerstorm clicks, it results in a type of freewheeling carnage unlike anything I’ve ever really seen in Battlefield’s multiplayer. Tanks face off, planes tumble out of the sky, and the horizon teems with explosions. But those moments are unfortunately rare. Instead, the map’s massive scale cases problems with spacing out units effectively, making normal infantry play untenable and leading to one-sided defences as teams get cut off from their armoured units.

That’s dramatic, but not really fun to play. Once momentum is seized from one side, it can be difficult to turn the tide in the other direction. I expect that once the novelty of tank battles wears off, Panzerstorm will end up as a map that most players don’t really want to play.

I admire what Overture is attempting to do. It wants to round out the game’s view on World War II with narrative complexity while also offering a new kind of gameplay experience. But more often than not, that intention falls short.

It delivers occasional bouts of action but has no staying power. The new story feels ill-considered, and the new map ignores what most players are looking for. Overture is a welcome experiment, but it unfortunately, it fails more than it succeeds.


Comments

    Just played this war story and I feel the opposite to what Heather notes. The gameplay was ok but a tank scenario has been better in prior battlefields. The story however is excellent.
    It shows how youth is indoctrinated to beliefs and fail at critical thinking, it also humanised the Nazis (not the ideology but the individual)

    People like to see things as purely black and white, good Vs evil, but things are rarely the case.

    People also don't want to be able to sympathize with someone who they see as evil, to do so means they are able to see the others perspective and that means there is a chance (given a similar situation) that you could have become the monster you so despise.

    You are right to fear the beast, but it's not some other, the beast is in us all. That knowledge should be used as a platform for compassion.

    Note: before criticising Heather for her opinion just remember that some people are not ready to see the beast in the mirror.

      I'd love to see DICE double down on the tank mode and almost do an expansion that's just about tanks. Bit like the M4A1 Abrhams games on a small scale within the Battlefield engine somehow, whatever could be retrofitted within BF5. I know a ton of gamers who would go bonkers for that. The size of the maps now would be well suited for extended tank battles, too.

        DICE already did such an expansion for Battlefield 3 called Armored Kill with a new game mode called Tank Superiority. It was okay.

        I think the problem with doubling down on tank combat is that most of the audience of Battlefield seems far more interested in a purely infantry based experience these days.

      I just find Heather's attitude remarkably similar to the propaganda during the First and Second World Wars, which painted the Germans as baby-eating monsters. We all like to boil down complexity into easily-understood concepts, but I thought Kotaku's authors were better than that.

        C'mon man, you've been here long enough, you know better than that. The US authors arent interested in logic, only hysteria and clicks

        It worked, I read this stupid article

        Obvious troll is obvious. Clickety click click yo.

      I assume when you say "some people" you are specifically referring to Heather, right?

    It’s 2018 and I don’t need or particularly want media to humanise Nazis.
    Ok, but how about humanising soldiers levied into a conflict larger than themselves?

    As someone with German heritage who grew up being called a Nazi virtually every other day, I think people NEED stories like this to get some god damned perspective.

      You need some perspective friend. The number of Germans who were voluntarily involved in the war was much larger than the number of those who were not. It's a reasonable assumption to make that if someone is involved in a war, wearing a fucking Nazi uniform, they're probably a Nazi. Sorry, but making the reverse assumption is breathtakingly naive.

      I'm not saying that people weren't brainwashed into thinking something that was wrong - the false information they were fed is most likely the reason that they choose to be involved rather than not, and that's important to note - but they still chose.

      "All these horrors I've heard of during the Nurnberg process, these six million Jews, other thinking people or people of another race, who perished. That shocked me deeply. But I hadn't made the connection with my past. I assured myself with the thought of not being personally guilty. And that I didn't know anything about the enormous scale of it. But one day I walked by a memorial plate of Sophie Scholl in the Franz-Joseph-Strasse. I saw that she was about my age and she was executed in the same year I came to Hitler. And at that moment I actually realised that a young age isn't an excuse. And that it might have been possible to get to know things." Traudl Junge.

      She didn't know. She had no way of knowing. And yet still, her involvement shamed her to her core until her death in 2002. That says a lot.

        I'm not really debating who is or isn't a Nazi or whether they should be ashamed or should have/could have/might have known what was really going on, but there is a huge difference between the SS and young men indoctrinated and/or caught up in patriotic fervour, just as there is a volunteer and a draftee.

        It's extremely easy to lump them all into the same "Nazi" bucket, though kind of unfair, particularly when it's then used as an excuse to deny any of them them a platform or, as this article puts it, avoid humanising them. That's what bothers me.

        These are people born in the wrong country at the wrong time and most of them didn't know much, if anything at all, about what was really going on. In their minds, many of them were simply fighting for the benefit of Germany and to right all the perceived "wrongs" done to them following WW1.

          Yeah fair enough, but that's just saying you can't assume anyone is bad or anyone is good. That's very much true, and I have no doubt that there were good people among the Nazis. But I also have an inkling that they were vastly in the minority. Arguing off the bat that there were good Nazis flying under the radar seems bizarre to me.

          My point with Frau Junge - she didn't want to be let off the hook, even though she could have been. That's reflective of the attitude of someone who was in the Nazi party, but wasn't on board ideologically. She felt responsible, even though she wasn't. She wouldn't want people defending her involvement.

          Anyway, we've reached peak 2018 - discussions of the fairness of ideological assumptions relating to Wehrmacht tank commanders and morality.

            And yet her guilt paints her as a complex human being who got caught up in some nasty shit she had little control over, like so many other Germans during that time. People shouldn't just write off those stories because they "don't want to humanise Nazis". Granted there were certain individuals who don't deserve to have their story told, but it's a bit unfair to extend that to all of them.

            I'm not going to argue the semantics of Good or Evil or what constitutes a Nazi. This is not the place for it, nor is it a worthwhile argument to have. I just find it troubling when people say they "don't want to humanise Nazis" when so many people these days have no problem calling others a Nazi over simple disagreements. That is not a healthy attitude to have.

        Completely agree with this. There’s often a strange perception out there that the Wehrmacht was some sort of separate entity to Nazi Germany that was noble and stood above the evil of the SS (Also btw, that comment about the SS commanders is insane, never, ever defend the SS)

        Below is a link to the war crimes perpetrated by the Wehrmacht. It’s insane, the invasion of Russia is considered a straight up genocidal war by some sources. Remember, the Nuremberg trials set the precedent that “just following orders/doing my duty” ARE NOT a defence. These guys did some genuinely sickening shit and we do not need people saying they’re triggered because someone’s upset about how this humanises nazis. Yes they were tragically deceived and lied to but they. Still. Made. A. Choice. There are many cases of Germans making a stand against their comrades. Why can’t we have a campaign about them? Why does it have to be a group of soldiers following the orders of an evil organisation? Sure they’re brave but so are the “enemy soldiers” that you’re killing and they aren’t members of a genocidal regime

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_crimes_of_the_Wehrmacht

        Miak is right. At that late stage in the war the Allies were fighting against so called "stomach brigades". Conscripts who had illnesses like cancer or kids as young as 12 taught how to use a panzerfaust and thrown into combat a week later. There were very few volunteers still alive/ capable of fighting in late 1944 and 1945, hell, a lot of the soldiers fighting on the Eastern front at that point weren't even Germans, but Italians, Romanians and Russians who defected because they saw the Germans as less evil than Stalin. It surprised me as I grew up with an Australian education which told me there was no difference between the Wehrmacht (now Bundeswehr) and the SS. But having lived in Germany, married to a German, learning their history and their culture. Articles and posts blanket calling Germans Nazis makes me sad, now that my eyes have been opened.

        Sadly derrick, whatever I say to you will not "make" you realise the truth. That is something you need to do by yourself.

        You need some perspective friend. After the humiliation, hyperinflation and resulting poverty of the Versailles treaty you didn't need to be a Nazi to have plenty of motivation to volunteer for a war. Only about a third of the Wehrmacht (which means "Armed Forces") were actually members of the Nazi party. Most were indoctrinated and joined after enlisting and they didn't wear Nazi uniforms but uniforms based on which branch of the military they belonged to. Towards the end of the war soldiers displaying Nazi Party insignia were treated with contempt, although not openly. Sorry but making the assumption that all German soldiers in WW2 were Nazi's and that political ideology was the only or even the main motivation to enlist in the war is breathtakingly naive.

          You are right. There was a concerted effort within the army and German Foreign Ministry to get rid of Hitler (i.e. arrest him) prior to the Munich conference. There were a lot of Germans within the armed forces who believed that Hitler was leading them down a suicidal course and that the other nations of Europe couldn't possibly lose if it came to armed conflict. It was only when those nations kept appeasing Hitler and Hitler kept on getting away with more and more that the army started believing that they might possibly win. That, and the fact that after 1938 Germany's officer corps, armed reserves and Panzer units had developed to a point where they actually would have had a fighting chance against France (the major opposing army of the time).

    ...you don’t exactly get to be a Wehrmacht tank commander without being an accessory to some horrible stuff...

    Heather, I don't know how to put this nicely, but get a fucking clue and read some history before making stupid fucking comments like this one. You may as well say "...you don't exactly get to be an inspector in the NSW Police without being corrupt..." It's false and it's offensive to all those people who did in fact get to be Wehrmacht tank commanders without committing war crimes. Even Waffen-SS tank commanders generally stuck to armoured operations. You can't just equate German officer to someone who should be tried at Nuremberg...

    Your article delivers occasional bouts of action but has no staying power. The story feels ill-considered, and ignores what most readers are looking for.

    "It’s 2018 and I don’t need or particularly want media to humanise Nazis."

    Are people genuinely complaining about that quote? #notallWehrmachtcommanders seems to me to be a largely implausible argument. Deliberately looking at a single tree and ignoring the woods behind.

      I guess the trouble is that the story in the game is not about 'the woods'. It's about a small group of trees within those woods. No-one is debating Germany's blame as a nation, but I think the story in the game is much better and more nuanced than one where the message is "Germany was bad, yo!"

        Yeah fair enough, I have veered off topic somewhat. Yeah it probably doesn't seem that way from my previous terse responses but that's my preference too. It's a much more interesting story for one thing.

    Ignoring the social commentary for a moment, is this a free expansion? And regardless of whether it is or not, damn it's quick. How long has BFV been out now? Less than a month right?

    Is this some sort of new approach they're taking where they plan to release a map a month or something?

    Back to the social commentary, this is a map about a tank crew, not a bunch of SS officers rounding up people and taking them to a concentration camp. It should be viewed and reviewed as such. There is no need to humanise nazis - they absolutely were human. Sadly people are capable of wonderful and horrible things.

      In BFV, Dice has gone for a games as a service model which basically means they release games with half the content and drip feed the rest of the content over the next year.

      They are trying to regain a bit of rep with the gaming community but ditching the "Premium Pass" and instead offering "Free" content over time to all players. I am pretty happy with it personally

        Fair enough, I don't mind getting more content on a regular basis if it's free (or really, really cheap). I was just dreading the thought that they might have been charging $10 for it or something.

    Must be tough humanising humans.
    No one wants that, especially if you don't agree with them or their ideology.
    I remember being a kid saying wouldn't be good to play as the Germans.

    I think the fact that a FPS online game can warrant such interesting discussion is merit enough of the expansion.
    A more vehicle based mode would definitely be welcomed though.

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