Far be it from us to tell DICE how to do their job. After all, this is the studio that is bringing us the next iteration of its popular first person shooter with Battlefield 4. The gameplay demo it revealed at this year’s Game Developers Conference cemented the fact that the developer easily possesses some of the best graphics engines in gaming today. However, you can’t just build a game with pretty graphics – look how that turned out for Crytek’s Crysis 3, which championed the amazing CryEngine 3 but suffered under the weight of a ho-hum campaign.
Based on the gameplay footage we’ve seen and rumblings of the overall direction of the game, here are our top five suggestions for key areas that Battlefield 4 can improve on. You know, while there’s still time before its release.
In today’s highly over-crowded military shooter genre, which comprises both third person shooters like Spec Ops: The Line and first person shooters like the abysmal Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, it is pacing that is quickly becoming the default factor by which we can measure the success of the campaign.
Is there a diligent spread of shooting against challenging opponents, with a few sequences here and there to break up the action and provide variety without relinquishing control from the gamer, and then carrying over into a nice, long, cohesive chapter a la Gears of War?
Or is it a mish-mash of QTEs, slow-mo sequences, cut-scenes, vehicle sequences, alternate firing, stop and start shooting against enemies located in the most obscure places culminating in a big climactic finish before hurriedly moving to the next far-flung location?
While Battlefield 4 doesn’t show too much indication of being like the former, it certainly doesn’t have enough of the latter. We’re getting extremely tired of rushing from one location to the next for the sake of our “mission”.
Keep us in the game and the given setting as much as possible, but try to break it up and keep it fresh. We won’t dog on a first person shooter for not doing anything new, but at least make it interesting (which the leaked “Levolution” feature seems it’ll be doing anyhow).
One thing we’ll credit Battlefield 4 for over Call of Duty is the emphasis on still-somewhat realistic military technology. There isn’t a dangerous abundance of target finders, expanded clips and other such non-sensical modifications.
But this is the future, and DICE might be motivated to try something different. While we appreciate variety, it’s still a first person shooter. If we’re going to spend all our time switching guns in between the mission, what’s the point?
Ditto for overtly modifying and selecting from a range of weapons when some are clearly superior to others. Give us something to shoot people with in a way that doesn’t make us feel at an (unintentional) disadvantage. We’ll make it work somehow.
3. Squad Commands
This represents a bit of a lost opportunity. In the demo, we saw the protagonist able to instruct his fellow squad-mates for suppressive fire so he could flak the opposition. Which is good – in the heat of the moment, it’s good to have something you can execute in an instant.
But it’s been done already. Do we really need to have the action be so fast and incoherent that the only reliable action for squad commands is for suppressing fire?
There’s a good chance that DICE has other commands that can be used in the game (like calling on the Apache gunship to dispose of foes). We might have also liked being able to switch between different squad members (at least those who remain constant through the majority of the game).
This serves several functions: It allows several squad members to have key roles, thus increasing their tactical usefulness in certain situations. It also helps associate you better with each squad member, making you care for them even more when you work hard to lead them to victory and genuinely care when they die (similar to Spec Ops: The Line).
Finally, it helps build a closer association to NPC soldiers who join your cause. It’ll feel more like it’s your squad helping out, rather than just a one-man army.
This one is far more straight-forward. Take a look at the level of destruction in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Now compare it to that of Battlefield 4. Whether we want to admit it or not, the level of destruction in Battlefield 4 isn’t on that level.
Talk of the destructibility in the demo being pre-scripted doesn’t help matters. We’ll have to get the game in our hands to fully comment on the level of destruction capable. But that screenshot you see above is a best-case scenario. We’re looking at something that’s applicable throughout the entire game, not just during specific moments.
Because when you have a powerful, seemingly next generation engine, built off a base of incredible wide-spread chaos, dumbing it down for one of your game – just for the sake of higher fidelity overall, we understand – just doesn’t help when trying to prove its might.
We get it. War is hell. And in this era of nukes, poison gas, orbital strikes, invasions, EMP strikes, drone strikes, all-out war and assaults, there is a need to top the other competitor in terms of epic scale.
But honestly, this is one of the reasons gamers are so burned out on Call of Duty’s single-player: The formula has become tired. In trying to top whatever crazy shit you can come up with next, you’re inevitably going to burn out.
Even worse, you’ll risk losing interest in the genuinely interesting scenarios you do cook up.
Battlefield 4’s demo showed a good mix of these elements – it kept its moments personal. Still a bit contrived but personal nonetheless, eschewing mammoth scale for the tight action of fighting within a foreign warzone.
As things ramp up, we expect the game to show us some amazing moments – but please, play it as close to reality as possible. The more believable and disparate something is, the more we’ll sympathize with it rather than being jaded to the consequences.
What are thoughts on Battlefield 4? Anything the game should incorporate before its release in October this year? Let us know.