Battlefield 4 - What we know so far
Frostbite 3 and the experience
It’s a new Battlefield, which in recent years has generally meant a new version of Frostbite. Frostbite 3 is the latest iteration of DICE’s cutting-edge engine, and as well as highly-polished visuals it is expected to give Battlefield 4 a greater degree of destructability compared with Battlefield 3. Water is also looking to play a much greater part of the experience, with teaser videos pointing very strongly to naval vessels returning to greater prominence in the series.
Frostbite 3 is also designed to make things very scalable, from high-end to low-end machines, so current-gen consoles will get a version of it to play (the game has been confirmed for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and ‘next-generation consoles’ – oddly, they haven’t confirmed it for the PS4 yet, but it’s a pretty safe bet it will turn up on the console). However, DICE have stated that they won’t be releasing Battlefield 4 on the Wii U or Vita, as the different control setups require extra work actually redesigning the game (rather than just scaling the experience that they’ve already put together).
While there was some discussion of the engine, DICE made the point that the experience itself is the focus of Battlefield 4. In an interview on Eurogamer, Patrick Bach from DICE argued that a cutting-edge engine was a given for a series of Battlefield’s stature, and that most gamers are more interested in the experience that engine provides, rather than the particular lighting model or the number of polygons in each character. While Eurogamer suggests this is a “seismic shift in focus”, it’s pretty clear from the 17-minute reveal trailer that DICE are still very much interested in delivering a cutting-edge visual experience. The lighting, geometry, effects and texture work were all stunning. However, they’re not just doing this, and are focussing more on making those cutting-edge visuals engage the player through ‘Battlefield moments’.
It was for this reason that DICE chose to focus the reveal on Battlefield 4’s single player component. Unlike Battlefield 3’s linear battlegrounds, Battlefield 4 sounds like it’s heading back towards the kind of single-player experiences seen in the Bad Company games (albeit with somewhat more serious characters), where levels, or parts of levels, were presented as a sandbox, with the player largely able to determine how they achieve their objectives in the context of the sandbox. From our perspective, this will be a huge improvement from Battlefield 3, and make the single-player experience stand out from the largerly linear single player experiences found in other contemporary military shooters (ArmA aside).
DICE also expanded on wanting to give players a feel of being in the shoes of one character for the whole experience, and connecting with their squadmates. In their words, they want it to feel ‘human, dramatic and believable’. It’s not as clear how they’ll go with this, as they’re trying to hit a very broad audience here, with a large range of standards. EA’s Medal of Honor reboot told an excellent but quite (for a video game) realistic story that went over the heads of most of the audience and almost all of the critics – for those brought up on Hollywood shooters, it was so realistic that it didn’t give enough drama.
In the wake of this experience I’d expect DICE to take more of a gung-ho Michael Bay approach to storytelling, than a Blackhawk Down or We Were Soldiers angle, and focus more on ‘human’ and ‘dramatic’ than ‘believable’. The 17-minute trailer definitely leaned more towards the first two, which, given the nature of most modern video gaming critics, is the safe approach to take for a multi-million dollar blockbuster. DICE have to be careful to maintain a clear vision here though – trying to combine the two approaches can detract from believability and at some parts in the trailer it felt like they were trying to have two bob each way.
DICE haven’t revealed the multiplayer component of the game yet, preferring to focus on the single-player reveal. We have seen, however, a number of vehicles and weapons in trailers and in promotional art which should give us an idea of what we’ll get in the full game. For the full list, go to the Battlefield Wiki (the good people that put these together), but as a teaser, there’s decent odds we’ll see:
- The Mi-28 (Russian), UH1-Y Venom (US) and WZ-10 (Chinese) helos
- The RHIB boat
- The US M1 Abrams and Chinese Type 98 tank
- The Chinese J-20 Jet. If this is in the game, then (noting it hasn’t been revealed or rumoured) there's good odds of the F-22 making it in as well.
Beyond this, the multiplayer is rumoured to be 24 players on PS3 and Xbox 360, and 64 players on PS4, the next-generation Xbox and PC. We also have Karl Troedsson (DICE’s general studio manager) on record as saying that they’re very interested in eSports, although we have no information on what that might translate into (the full interview is available here on Youtube).
We do know, however, that coop won’t be in the game (at least at launch – who knows what DLC may bring down the line). We do know that pre-orders of Battlefield 4 are likely to receive the ‘Drone Strike’ expansion pack (but know nothing about what it contains, although we’d wager drones are involved).
While it could have been argued that the reveal trailer was a little on the long side (17 minutes!), there’s a lot to like about what we know so far. However, there are also a lot of question marks, about both the multiplayer and the single player. It’s great to hear that the single-player will be returning (if you consider the Bad Company part of the Battlefield series of games) to more open encounters, and eschewing the corrider-shooter approach. On the other hand, we have no idea whether they’ve mixed up the multiplayer at all, or stuck to the model in Battlefield 3. Either way, we’re itching to find out, eagerly awaiting more news on the game, and will keep you updated on its progress.
Author: Axe99, I_live_4_fun