Why the Battlefield 4 reveal is a disappointment
- Posted April 6th, 2013 at 14:59 EDT by Paul Kelly
In case you somehow missed it, EA unveiled Battlefield 4 with a new 17 minute trailer showcasing the game. The game is announced for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC (OMG I mentioned Xbox, go mad in the comments) but not PS4, which was unexpected. However, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen didn't get the 'don't confirm Battlefield 4 for PS4' memo and confirmed the existence of BF4 on PS4 at the February 20th conference when the PS4 itself was announced. Jorgensen said that 'I've seen the new Battlefield and it is stunning. It is just amazing what the imagination of the game developers are allowed to do with that much power.'The reason for this could be that developers are still under NDA from Sony about talking about the PS4 in depth because not everything about it has been announced.
Before I go further, this isn't me hating on Battlefield, DICE or EA. I'm a fan of the series and have enjoyed every one I've played, but I have never placed importance on a good single player campaign. Battlefield is a multiplayer franchise and I'm expressing my disappointment on what has been shown but also highlighting any points which fill me with hope for the game.
The game was shown running on a high end PC, which is not surprising given EA wants to make the best impression possible, but like BF3 most of the people playing the game won't get that exact experience. Of course that isn't DICE's fault since there is no way the PS3 can pull off that kind of detail but the PS4 will get much closer. Battlefield has always been a multiplayer experience, with various vehicles plus infantry coming to blows on big, expansive maps which offers the player multiple ways to tackle any given objective. However, the reveal trailer, like the one when BF3 was debuted, focuses on the single player campaign.
After the disappointing campaign in Battlefield 3 this seems like a bad move, but DICE are adamant that the campaign in BF4 will be much better. In an interview with Eurogamer, Patrick Bach, the executive producer on Battlefield 4, proclaimed that 'there are a lot of people who are really happy we are building the single-player. They don't even dare to say it out loud, because all their friends will mock them. But Battlefield is no longer a multiplayer-only game.' Do you agree with that statement? Personally, I don't. I've never felt that the single player has been truly important to the series or has been a good representation of the multiplayer experience, which is something DICE want it to be. A good example of this in BF3 is the jet level where you play the role of a co-pilot. Back when they were showing off Battlefield 3, DICE said that the single player in Battlefield is supposed to prepare the player for the multiplayer but if DICE wants to prepare you for the multiplayer then why aren't we piloting the jet ourselves?
The closest Battlefield campaign which captured the feeling of the multiplayer is the one in the first Bad Company game. It allows you to control different vehicles, including a helicopter, and has less linear pathways and allows the player to experiment with different tools to complete the mission, just like it should. It's not perfect, as there are some parts of it which felt a bit tedious, but DICE were on to something with that formula. Another thing Bad Company has which makes a good single player experience is memorable characters. The four protagonists: Marlowe, Haggard, Redford and Sweetwater all have different personalities and traits which make them stand out from the many, many, FPS characters out there, mostly because they don't take themselves too seriously. To be fair, that's an issue with many games in general.
Looking at the reveal video, the beginning shows the characters trapped in a car submerged underwater while Bonnie Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' is playing. Not the usual song you would associate with a game like this but at least it isn't dubstep. Rucker (I'm actually not sure if this is the correct spelling), the person who's perspective we see, is told to shoot the window. The game follows this with revealing the events prior to this event. It begins in a desolate school as the player follows Rucker around; hearing talking in what I'm assuming is Arabic and opening doors. To me, this just seems like dead time and doesn't add anything to the experience, if anything, it does the opposite. Another thing that detracts from an immersive game is having a bar at the top right of the screen telling me that at a particular section of a game, one of my friends has a certain score. In an arcade shooter that's fine but in something which the developers want taken seriously it doesn't work.
You then see the squad meet up and provide covering fire for Irish, who is making his way towards the group. The shooting itself looks like Battlefield, with plenty of recoil and powerful sounds. That's all well and good. We also see the destructible environments, walls crumbling into debris, which are a clear improvement over BF3's and are closer to what we got in Bad Company 2, which is brilliant. The explosions also look excellent and are a visual treat for explosion fans. At the end of this sequence the video is over 5 minutes in. During that time, we haven't seen much.
We then see the squad move through some foliage towards an abandoned factory where the extraction point is. In the image above you can see the lighting and detail DICE has put into the game and it looks very good, no arguments there. There are some great draw distances too, though DICE clearly is a fan of JJ Abrams' work because there is quite a bit of lens flare which can make things difficult to see. This is more visible when watching the video.
The group is spotted by enemies and another shooting encounter occurs. This time, we get to see the destructible environments in greater detail and at a closer distance, as we see a shotgun and grenade launcher used to dispatch the enemies, with lots of particle effects and bangs. Again, it looks nice and is a step up from BF3 in this department. This scene is continued when Rucker gets into the buggy which the enemies who spotted the squad were in. After a brief drive and some shooting we see him enter a building covered in some scaffolding and take out the enemies camped in there. This section highlights the top notch sound design in Battlefield as the sounds echo as rounds are fired.
Nothing new here in gameplay terms though, and it all follows a very strict path. To be fair, there does look to be some room for different paths but it's hard to tell if this is indeed the case. There is another defensive section which ends with a massive explosion caused by helicopter fire. The post smoke effect is lovely and grey. It looks real though and the aftermath dropping of debris is a nice touch. That section was the best looking and most interesting section of the video. I love big explosions, just like Michael Bay.
The squad has made it to the factory, thanks to some fast-forwarding. At the top is the extraction point. The factory has been abandoned for some time and yet when they make it to the elevator it still works somehow. When going up, they are attacked by an enemy helicopter. This is followed by a series of scripted events which means that the helicopter gunner has terrible aim, until you reach your helicopter and then he suddenly has great aim and blows the factory, and the friendly helicopter, to smithereens. How unpredictable.
The squad has survived the destruction unscathed, except one who has his leg trapped under a big piece of concrete. He can't be moved so the only way to free him is to cut his leg off, which is done by pressing two keys/buttons. I think the idea is the feel sympathy for the character that has had to have his leg cut off. To be honest, I didn't feel anything. It just didn't feel necessary since these are characters I've never seen before so why should I care about them? To DICE's credit, they are trying and it is realistic to a fashion, but I doubt only one would be that severely injured in that scenario so it just falls flat. Maybe it has more impact in the game itself when you're playing it yourself but if DICE was willing to show it this early then I doubt it. It doesn't make me want to play their story.
After the leg is sliced, the squad gets into the truck which ends up underwater. The next section sees them in a tunnel and this is a driving section. The enemy helicopter returns and is hitting them with machine gun fire. This isn't anything new and it actually reminds me of the final level in the first Bad Company, where the protagonists in that were, yeah you guessed it, chased by a helicopter, although they weren't in a truck which makes it completely different. After a short drive, a grenade launcher exchanges hands and fires a grenade to blow the helicopter up whilst hearing the voice talents of Bonnie Tyler again, this time in slow motion. I'm not sure what the slow motion is for, because a helicopter isn't exactly a small target. I'm guessing DICE want the game to feel 'intense'. Thank you Infinity Ward. After this, the helicopter crashes and causes the truck to career into the water. The story has come full circle.
This is the end, as you see the group swimming upwards from the truck. There is a phone call taking place which refers to Tombstone (the squad), the intel, Russians and someone named Admiral Cheng. This suggests a threesome war between the US, China and Russia. I'm surprised North Korea isn't involved. The video ends with a montage of explosions, moving and buzzing, to make things look epic. There's also the debut of the first female soldier in the Battlefield series. Can we play as her? No. Can we play as a female soldier in multiplayer? No.
What? Well, in the campaign there is only one playable character, according to DICE. This is because they see the story as being important and having only one playable character makes more of a connection with the player. It generally does, but I'm not sure this story will be any better than the one in BF3 so I'm skeptical. As for the lack of female soldiers in multiplayer, well, Lars Gustavsson, the game's director, gave the rather nonsensical non-answer of, 'Trust me, there are a million things I would like to do, it's just that you can’t pick them all.' He added, 'I have the deepest respect for the men and the women who choose to do military service. It's not that anyone is better or worse. It's definitely a valid question that we asked ourselves.'
If that's the case, why can't female soldiers be included? Not including them gives the impression that you don't respect the women as much as the men. Also, women (and some men, for whatever reason) like to play as women in games. They, believe it or not, feel more of a connection with a female character. Having them playable in a game like Battlefield will go some way of shaking the image that gaming is a male-only hobby, which is deeply outdated. There will be some opposition to this, saying it's promoting misogyny, but there are shooting games which have female playable characters and no one has opposed those.
Battlefield 4 has been unveiled as a real tour-de-force of what is capable in graphical technology. The environments, vehicles, explosions, destruction, characters and weapons are all created in great detail but that's it. It's a real case of style over substance and that's far too common in this day and age. I'm still looking forward to Battlefield 4 but I have little interest in the single player Battlefield, unless it's Bad Company. The real Battlefield to most is the multiplayer experience and that is what excites people. Seeing this technology with 64 players going to war on a big scale is what the fans want. Show us DICE and EA, show us the Battlefield we know and love on the PS4.
Battlefield 4 is rumored to be coming out on October 29 for PS3 and maybe the PS4, so stay tuned to PSU for further details.