Living in a powder keg: Battlefield 4
If you’re a fan of games where you run around cities and warzones, shooting at enemies with similarly dressed squad mates then get excited because Battlefield 4 is coming to a platform near you! I was lucky to see a live gameplay demonstration presented by David Silvermann (Global Director of International Marketing, EA) and this latest instalment of the Battlefield franchise includes more vehicles and more destruction for fans of the series, and introduces features to bring in new initiates.
Built using the Frostbite 3 engine, Silvermann discussed the benefit of this in the symbiotic relationship between the engine and game designers and how useful it was to have the two teams working in close proximity. Battlefield 4 will be the first game released using Frostbite 3, with many other anticipated titles to be made using it (including Dragon Age: Inquisition, the new Mass Effect and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare). It will be great to see how it runs on PC, Xbox and PS3 on its release and then on the next gen consoles later in the year.
As video games try to emulate real life, motion capture is fast becoming a staple in game design. In Battlefield 4 mo-cap has been employed to increase the connection between you and your squad mates and the game features IRL actors, such as Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little in The Wire). As technology evolves this seems like a natural progression for video games. I just hope that the idea of ‘story’ doesn’t get superseded by higher frame rates as the defining hook to engage players with a game.
Sometimes first person shooter games can seem intimidating. There’s often a lot of action happening at once, bullets flying in all directions and if you’re unfamiliar with this style of gameplay you might be tempted to give it a pass. DICE have implemented a new feature called ‘spotting’ to assist the less technically skilled players. With this you can send in one of your AI squad mates to take down specific enemies, a great idea that shouldn’t alter the degree of difficulty for more advanced players while allowing newbies a chance to get into the game.
I’ll be honest; my familiarity with the previous Battlefield games is close to zero. I’m a console gamer and I find it incredibly frustrating to play this genre of games with a controller because I can’t be as precise I want to be. Yet there was still a lot about this game that interested me. Especially the feature that DICE are calling ‘levolution’, where the player can interact with various parts of a previously static environment, such as the ability to shoot at skyscraper support pillars to bring the whole thing crashing down (as was seen in the E3 demo of the ‘Seige of Shanghai’ map) or to make a strategic decision to shoot out all interior lighting in a room (just make sure you have your night vision goggles).
We were given a live demonstration of ‘Angry Seas’, a section of the game where you have to escape from an aircraft carrier. On the big screen it looked quite spectacular. In spite of the multitudes of explosions you were still able to hear your squad mates instructions clearly. The only part that felt a little contrived was when you go to make your escape and there happens to be a handy boat just floating in the water, completely unharmed as the aircraft carrier sinks around it. But that boat provides you with opportunities to take out pursuers on both the sea and air so props must be given to the game for mixing up the combat styles.
There was a lot more asked about the technical specifications of the game, but as it’s still a while out from release Silvermann wasn’t able to give firm answers, so expect more official information to be released in the coming months. In the meantime, you’d best spend your time finding 64 friends who all play on the same platform for a mega multiplayer session. Just make sure your name is at the top of the list for the Commander position.