Remember when Battlefield 3 was first announced? Remember how the trailers promised deep engaging gameplay? That destructible environments would enhance and intensify the combat experience. Remember how all that ended up as a really bland single player shooter with all those big moments shown in those trailers turning out to be heavily scripted, glorified cut scenes. The controls were ripped from your hands; leaving you to just sit and watch as the big set pieces played out in front of you. DICE has recently begun their marketing campaign for Battlefield 4, and well I can’t help but feel we’ve been here before. I’ve had a good look over the trailer, and I’m feeling more than a little cynical about what’s been shown of BF4’s single player campaign. Here’s my thoughts on what we’ve seen so far.
It looks good; that’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw the trailer. The “Frostbite 3″ engine definitely doesn’t disappoint in the looks and physics department. The animations are smooth and the lighting is used brilliantly. Explosions seem to light up areas, and rubble is convincingly sent flying. It all looks very exciting, but what about the gameplay? It is a gameplay trailer after all. Well you can shoot people, stab people, and give orders to your squad. Forgive me if you will, but squad controls rarely work well unless it’s a key game mechanic, and the prospect of issuing commands to a dumb unresponsive AI doesn’t really fill me with joy. Vehicles also look to be controllable this time, but in a “drive 10 feet, stop and use the turret, drive another 10 feet, then rinse and repeat” kind of way. To give it some credit, it looks far more interactive than the tank and fighter jet missions in BF3. It’s a promising inclusion and shows DICE are actually listening to fans. There also seems to be a lot more use of the destructible environments, but again I think back to BF3 and how it seemed to turn into a corridor shooter, with indestructible corridors. The destructible environments are an awesome feature of the game engine, and I hope we get to actually play around with it more this time around. So gameplay wise it all looks like more of the same. Running from cover to cover, shooting guys, and completing objectives. Nothing innovative, no major leap forward as far as the FPS genre is concerned. Not always a bad thing though, as long as the game gets all these elements right it could still be good.
One of my reservations is that the trailer focused largely on scripted events that you didn’t seem to have any control over. It’s a trend in shooters that’s increasingly irritating; where the game decides it’s got something cool to show you, and yanks the controller out of your hands. It defeats the point of being an interactive medium and it’s a little insulting; like the developer doesn’t trust you to pay attention. BF3 did it, and it annoyed me then. Now BF4 looks to be doing it on a grander scale and a little more often. Nothing in the trailer seems to show any great leap in innovation or gameplay. Story wise the trailer didn’t go into much detail. The trailer starts with you and your squad trapped in a car under water. It then jumps back in time to show how you got there. Until we know more all I can really say is, that it sounds like pretty standard stuff. Nothing really special. I’m guessing it’ll run along the lines of avoiding World War 3, possibly involving China or North Korea. Terrorists are probably involved somehow as well. Maybe they’ll be the ones trying to start it. Probably with nukes. Ok this is all a bit unfair since we know next to nothing about the story, but you know I’m right. You might be able to swap around the countries, but we all know there won’t be a tale of a young soldier coming to terms with the horror of war, and his own addiction to the adrenaline fueled chaos. There won’t be any introspection over whether enjoying combat still makes a soldier human or something else, something more monstrous, something similar to those he’s fighting against. That would get in the way of shooting people in the face.
Don’t get me wrong I liked the trailer; if nothing else it will be a fairly decent shooter with impeccable production values, and an incredible online mode. That’s what it’s really about. The multiplayer is what keeps us (me at least) coming back to the series. It just confuses me that DICE would put so much emphasis on the single player campaign knowing full well we only care about the online game. Creating a fun, chaotic online experience is what DICE is best at. I for one will be keeping an eager eye on BF4, but for news on the online component only. If the single player campaign turns out to be mind-blowing; I will be pleasantly surprised, however all I got from the 17 minutes of gameplay shown, is that BF4s’ single player campaign will look good, sound good, but will just be more of what we saw in BF3. So lets not believe the hype, and hope we get some details about the multiplayer game very soon.
This article was written by David Neeson; he’s from the UK and currently works in customer service. He’s played games since the age of 5; on several platforms from the Sega Genesis to the PC, and from the Playstation to the Gamecube You can find him on Twitter @dneeson1987