Preview: Battlefield 4
Last night’s Battlefield 4 reveal – the real one, not anything involving leaked screenshots or a trailer – took place at San Francisco’s AMC Metreon movie theatre. Looking back, it was an extremely apt location for a game that wanted you to revel in how cinematic it was. That was definitely the theme of the evening as EA Games Executive Vice President Patrick Soderlund welcomed us to “a new era of Battlefield, and frankly, a new era of interactive entertainment.”
As initial presentations wrapped up and Battlefield 4’s 17 minute gameplay sequence began – with a laugh, thanks to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – it took me a good two or three minutes to get over how amazing it looked. Watching the gameplay video a second time this morning, it’s safe to say that YouTube does not do it justice. Everything looked so real, and in particular, the lighting was absolutely amazing. The developer playing the demo paused for us in one area as light streamed in from a hole in the roof and lit up the room in the eeriest way. Dust particles hung in the air, illuminated by the single stream of sunlight, and it was nothing short of picturesque.
By the way, it’s also safe to say that you’ll all be needing to upgrade your PCs if you want Battlefield 4 to look as good as it did at the Metreon.
Beauty aside, we got our first taste of Battlefield 4 combat as main protagonist Recker had to providing covering fire for a comrade. Gunplay seemed fairly standard Battlefield, though I noticed that the two grenades thrown during this sequence did far more environmental damage than what I’d seen in Battlefield 3 single-player.
In the gameplay's second sequence, that notion of destructibility was continued. Recker called upon a new ability as he fist pumped the air and identified targets for his squadmates to fire upon. Once fist bumped, the enemy targets had targeting arrows appear over their heads, and Recker’s squadmates rained covering fire upon them. That allowed Recker to bust open a nearby wall and proceed to flank enemy attackers. Once dispatched, Recker took the vehicle that the enemy had been driving to high-tail it to another combat sequence.
After more combat, the protagonists ran up into a tall building, only to be attacked by a helicopter – well, and then an allied ‘copter too, of sorts – and had that building literally fall down upon them. It was a spectacular, action-packed sequence that looked straight out of a movie.
The sequences clearly illustrated DICE’s stated intent to put multiplayer elements like directed targeting, more vehicles, larger maps offering more tactical options and ultra-destructibility into single-player to get gamers coming back to its campaign.
Soderlund confirmed this, furthering that the power of the new Frostbite 3 engine allowed DICE to create sequences that really highlight “the stress of the moment, the feeling of imminent danger [and] the connection you have to the characters.”
His claims are true… at least, during the first time you’ll play each sequence in single-player. The second time, not so much. DICE’s Patrick Bach called single-player a “directed” experience, where I think I’d prefer the word “scripted.” Either way, in single-player, that one particular building will collapse upon you in the same exact manner, each time. Tension disappears upon a second run-through.
While a multiplayer flavour in single-player is appreciated, it won’t be what keeps gamers coming back into Battlefield 4. In fact, nothing in single-player will; it will remain a one playthrough training area of sorts before online combat begins. Multiplayer has always been where it’s at for the Battlefield franchise, and this iteration is nothing different. Directed gameplay means you’ll rehash the same experience over and over again, while Battlefield multiplayer is unpredictable and blindingly fun as a result.
All up, it’s hard not to be disappointed at a lack of multiplayer in last night’s event, or similarly, a refusal to confirm that the title will be available for next-gen consoles. That being said, it’s hard to deny that Battlefield 4 wasn’t an utter treat for the eyes, or that DICE hasn’t thrown their heart and soul into attempting to create a single-player campaign to end all others. It’ll be very interesting to chart Battlefield 4’s progression leading up to its release in autumn.
Oh, and you all saw the female soldier at the end of the gameplay video, right?