In front of a packed AMC theater crowd in downtown San Francisco Patrick Soderlund takes and sets the stage for one of the most anticipated titles of 2013. With no formalities or BS he simply says, “Here is Battlefield 4”
The camera sinks deep into the cold dark ocean and we can hear the faint sound of Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit Total Eclipse of the Heart playing softly in the background.
Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I’m only falling apart
There’s nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Who knew that these words would translate so well to the reveal of a shooter?
The camera reveals two soldiers, Irish and Recker, who appear to be in dire straights for survival as they are stuck in an SUV that is sinking faster and deeper with each passing breath. It is at this moment when I started to fall in love with Battlefield 4. I immediately knew that the tone and setting of this one was going to be different. This time they were making it personal.
The first thing that strikes you when the demo starts is how beautiful the visuals are. We were told this demonstrtation was running on Frostbite 3, which according to Patrick Bach, “What you see is what you play” He went on to tell us that it was built upon three pillars Human Dramatic Believable and that BF4 and the next generation of the Battlefield franchise will stand on these as well. During the course of the demo we were greeted with different types of locals and environments. Everything from indoor warehouse type areas, to lush dense forests, to open landscapes — each more striking than the next. It’s impossible to ignore just how breathtaking everything is. It looks and feels like a living, breathing world where your actions will have an impact on the environment around you.
The gameplay on the other hand still feels like Battlefield, which isn’t a bad thing. The HUD is now more minimal than before and the sun is no longer blinding; although still relevant. Also, it appears as if suppression has been either turned off or turned down to a minimum. The only time I noticed it was when you were actually getting hit by bullets and not when you were being shot at. The environments themselves also seem larger arena-type areas where you can approach each section with a variety of different gameplay options. Whether it be jumping in a dune buggy, using a grenade launcher to blow some cover to reveal a new flanking route, or sneaking up the side of building and then entering with your shotgun, there were plenty of ways to play the objective.
Alos new to the series will be hybrid sights where you can have both an ACOG and a Red-Dot equipped so you can switch between the two. I also noticed that during the demo our player was wielding an assault rifle, a grenade launcher, and a shotgun. No word on whether this will translate over to multiplayer. Patrick Bach assured gamers that multiplayer elements will be more prevalent across the single player campaign and that they are “Building a single player campaign true to the Battlefield heritage”
Continuing with the Battlefield legacy is the sound design. Back when Battlefield 3 was first revealed we were told that the sound was being built from the ground up and that although the sound in BF3 was great, they were working on something even better. No better example of this was when our protagonist entered into a small compound with his shotgun. The sound it made was about as satisfying as hitting a golf ball with an aluminum baseball bat. It echoed and rang with the utmost gratification.
And what would a Battlefield game be without destruction? Unfortunately destruction wasn’t a huge bullet point during this demonstration but fear not as there were some pretty amazing set piece type moments, along with the subtle micro-destruction we’ve come to expect in a Battlefield title.
At one point we were watching as our teammates lay down covering fire out of a third-story window when a grenade goes off on street level, blowing a huge chuck of the corner of the building up, sending lots of debris and building giblets into the air. There was also a a huge set piece where a building comes down crashing around you. Think of the earthquake scene from BF3 except this time you’re inside.
Battlefield 3 borrowed from the FIFA engine to incorporate a new animation system. From what I could tell it seems as if that system is still in place, however now with even more movements and animations. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) no vaulting occurred during the demo. One thing also to note is that there are still aren’t animations when getting in and out of vehicles. Something that I personally hope gets implemented by the time the game ships.
Overall the Battlefield 4 single-player campaign is shaping up nicely and I think fans new and old will be happy with what they have been shown so far. Patrick made it very clear that there are still a lot of original DICE members still left on the team and there are plenty of roots left under the DICE tree. From what I saw I think they are playing it a little bit safe and I’m going to need to see more. Say what you will about the Frostbite 3 engine but to me to all comes down to gameplay. If they can deliver a truly “next-gen” gameplay experienced coupled with an industry leading engine like Frostbite you could be looking at a Game of the Year contender.
For more information on Battlefield 4 be sure to stay tuned to Pixel Enemy.