Swedish game developer DICE went to great lengths to include a solid and enjoyable singleplayer campaign in the studio’s previous military-themed first-person shooter, Battlefield 3, but as with the rest of the franchise it was the multiplayer portion of the game that players flocked towards and have been playing since the title’s release in 2011.
DICE will make similar strides towards a rollercoaster solo experience with 2013’s Battlefield 4, but it will ultimately be the game’s online modes that will once again prove to be what players choose to indulge in for years to come, and during E3 2013 I was able to go hands-on with Battlefield 4 multiplayer and its worldwide debut showing. Battlefield players will be pleased to know that the pillars of their favourite multiplayer shooter remain largely unchanged, at least on the surface.
If it Ain’t Broke…
In Battlefield 4, you’ll still be able to take control of vehicles like tanks, jeeps and helicopters. There’s still a wide range of weapons to choose from and customise (and they still sound and feel explosive and powerful). And firefights between opposing teams will still result in the destruction of scenery, turning suitable cover like walls, fences and objects (like statues and decorative art installations) into nothing more than detritus and rubble.
The four-part class system also makes a return for Battlefield 4, with the option to choose to play as a Recon, Assault, Engineer or Support soldier, and you’ll also still have the option of being placed in a squad of players with which to work more effectively than as a lone wolf player (with up to five players in a squad this time), with the ability to respawn next-to a fellow squad member with bonus points and squad specialisations your reward, too.
What DICE has added to the basic Battlefield formula is quite exciting, though.
For a start, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Battlefield 4 will include support for up to 64 players, which has previously only been seen on PC – Battlefield 3 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 supported up to 24 players and this number isn’t expected to change for current generation consoles in Battlefield 4.
It’s a Levolution!
Also new is a greater emphasise on level-changing events that players can trigger during a match that will completely change (and force you to rethink) your approach to key points of interest and objectives. In the level I played with 63 others, ‘Siege of Shanghai,’ a central skyscraper in the middle of the massive city contains one of five of the map’s control points right at the very top of the building. After a quick elevator ride to the summit, you and your team will need to capture and hold the objective to keep your ticket count high and deny the enemy the chance to do the same.
The top of the skyscraper also acts as a strategic point because it’s from there that you’re able to dive and parachute down into the city below, which means a more rapid method of reaching other objectives. This main skyscraper in Siege of Shanghai, then, is very important to your team’s ultimate victory and combat is incredibly fierce as players battle to take control.
But what if your team simply can’t oust the opposition from the building, despite an assault of your own? Why not simply bring the skyscraper crashing to the ground by attacking its supports with tanks and explosives?
If you happen to be unfortunate enough to find yourself on the skyscraper when it’s being bombarded below, you’ll feel the effects as the building shakes, ceiling boards loosen and objects in the world shift around – it’s like being in an earthquake. Before long, you’ll need to escape the building’s demise by leaping from a window and gliding into the streets (or water canal) that surround the building.
I was lucky enough to witness the towering structure crumble down to the ground for myself, and for a few moments everyone in the match stopped what they were doing to look on in awe and horror as the mass of concrete, metal and glass contorted, knelt to the ground and collapsed into a mountainous ruin.What’s impressive is that this potentially game-ending event does not, in fact, end the game. It just carries on as plumes of dust and mounds of debris act as new challenges to your visibility and mobility through the map.
Battlefield 4 – Siege of Shanghai Multiplayer Trailer
Similarly, if you find yourself in the basement of a building and you spy a pillar support, you’re able to shoot it out and bring the street above crashing down into the room to act as a new path up into the skirmishes and a great surprise for vehicle drivers if they’re caught unawares. Another example cited (that I didn’t see) was the opportunity to cut the power to a building, trapping your enemies in darkness before infiltrating and methodically taking out the opposition.
DICE says that these kinds of level changing events will be limited to areas of the team’s choosing in order to keep the map intact and have at least a modicum of control over the flow of the match, but environment destruction is even more natural and impressive than in Battlefield 3 as objects are ripped to shreds by gunfire and explosions, cement is chipped away from walls and wooden fences are obliterated. I never felt entirely safe while playing because my newfound cover would soon be taken away from me.
Frostbite 3 Decadence
I’m still unsure whether or not I was playing on a high end PC or an Xbox One development kit (I was using an Xbox One controller, but a mouse and keyboard were hooked up to an unseen box under the monitor), but whatever I was playing on, Battlefield 4 is so far shaping up to be very visually striking. The world itself has a very ‘clean’ look to it, something that you might expect from a central business district in Shanghai, but after ten minutes of a raging battle you’ll notice things becoming noticeably less neat.
Despite playing with a full complement of 64 players, it was still fairly difficult to consistently find other players on Siege of Shanghai (one of my key concerns while playing Battlefield 3 on console), but when you wander into a pocket of conflict the world erupts in gunfire, detonations, rasping detritus raining on the ground, clouds of black smoke and excited uncertainty as snipers pot at you from afar, helicopters loom in the sky and tanks rumble and crunch through the streets.
As always with a Battlefield game, when the disparate elements of war come together there’s no other game like it and hopefully Battlefield 4 will be able to offer up these experiences more regularly than before.
The Strategy of Commander Mode
Making a return to the Battlefield series is ‘Commander Mode,’ which is where an elected member of your squad is able to see a complete overview of the battle in a top-down map of the level, complete with real-time showings of your team’s movements and key enemy vehicles, like tanks, as well as a live feed of your team’s first-person view (which incidentally also shows up when you’re choosing who and where to respawn on after dying).
The Commander is able to provide their team with surveillance intelligence (while trying to deny the enemy’s Commander the same intel in what looks like a micro game), supply drops and vehicles, as well as back-up in the form of missile strikes and drone assault runs. What’s intriguing is that you’ll be able to take on the role of a Commander either from in the game, or via an application on PC or mobile device, like a tablet, meaning you can contribute to the team even if you’re not at your console.
Importantly, team-mates on the ground will need to follow their Commander’s assigned objectives in order to gain access to better abilities, so having a good Commander will be key in completing the loop of reward and success.
Battlefield 4 – Official Commander Mode Trailer
With months still to go until the launch of Battlefield 4, naturally there will be a few oddities here and there but I thought it would be fun to share some of the peculiar happenings during my time playing this snippet of the game’s multiplayer, the first of which was when I chose to respawn into a squad member’s vehicle that had recently capsized and had been flipped upside down. I appeared in the vehicle’s gunner seat, upside down and clipping into the world below and was forced to respawn again, only my controls had been inverted which meant a visit to the options menu to invert them back again.
In another instance, I was running along minding my own business when all of a sudden I was jettisoned high into the air and found myself parachuting down to the ground. I still have no explanation for that one. Finally, when you’re under fire and taking some hits your view will blur and distort at the edges (similar to Battlefield 3), but after a particularly intense battle my view failed to return from its blurred state, prompting an EA representative to tell me to hit the ‘Escape’ key on the keyboard a couple times to enter and exit the menu. My view was sharp again, but it continued to happen for the rest of the match.
Again, these are simply rough edges that will no doubt be ironed out by launch time, but it was weirdly fun to encounter them, especially when the rest of the game feels so solid and polished months ahead of release.
Battlefield 4 is out on October 29th in the US and November 1st in Europe and the UK across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, and will also launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
I have no doubt that EA and DICE are set to deliver a grand new entry to the Battlefield series that fans will welcome with open arms later this year, and I’m sure that after the game’s showing at E3 2013, Battlefield 4 has already won over and converted a few fans of other popular multiplayer first-person shooters.
Battlefield 4 – E3 Multiplayer Gameplay: Best Moments
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