Fresh from DICE’s glamorous unveiling in Stockholm, we give you all the important info.
Last night we attended DICE’s official reveal of the next entry of Battlefield 4 in their home city of Stockholm. The event featured lengthy presentations, interview opportunities and most promisingly a live seventeen minute long gameplay demo.
Now we could hide all this information in a delicately constructed preview offering up opinion the seventeen-minute long live demo we saw of the game in action, but we’re guessing our musings aren’t the main reason for you clicking on this article. Instead we think you probably just want the cold, hard facts about DICE’s FPS sequel or more appropriately the ones the developer is ready to reveal and funnily enough that’s exactly what we’re looking to offer. Take a knee and read carefully, as there’s a lot of information to get through:
Frostbite 3 – New Engine, New Rules
If you’re one of the millions of unfortunate gamers who only ever played Battlefield 3 on a console, you probably don’t have much of an idea how powerful the Frostbite 2 engine really was. Boasting destructible environments and a load of special particle effects, with the right graphics card Frostbite 2 could produce stunning visuals. Frostbite 3 takes that visual prowess even further with vastly improved lighting system supporting more nuance across the light to dark spectrum, character models which boast higher facial texture fidelity and much more realistic physics simulation in the environment. Trees and undergrowth blow in the wind, cloth reacts accordingly as you bash against it and smoke and particle effects liven up scenes which would otherwise look grey and dull. Destructible environments also make a big return in Frostbite 3. DICE has been working on this new engine since 2011 – directly after the release of Battlefield 3 – and the studio stated that like with previous Frostbite engines, other EA studios will also have access to this new technology. Don’t bet against the next Mass Effect or Dead Space (if there is one) using this impressive engine.
Premise – ‘Pesky Russians’
Despite DICE repeatedly mentioning that they have aspirations to tell a “dramatic”,” human” and “believeable” story in Battlefield 4, they seemed oddly reluctant to detail the exact nature of the single player campaign’s premise. The prologue mission we were shown during the initial reveal presentation was titled ‘Fishing in Baku’ and featured a four-man squad of American soldiers fighting Russian forces in Azerbaijan. Why the battle is taking place at all wasn’t revealed, but we suspect another Cold War turned hot scenario. We hope there’s a bit more to it than that though…
“This time it’s personal”
Surprisingly for a reveal of a new Battlefield game, DICE were reluctant to reveal anything regarding multiplayer. Instead they focused purely on Battlefield 4′s single-player campaign which seemed to boast much more character and personality than before, thanks to narrative focusing on the exploits of one squad fighting for survival. Players assume the role of voiced protagonist Rekker, as he seeks to work with his three fellow soldiers – Irish, Pac, and Dunn – to stay alive in a massive new conflict. Judging from the demo and insights from Battlefield 4′s game director, Stefan Strandberg, it’s clear that DICE are putting more emphasis on character evolution this time around and whether it pays off or not the campaign will provide more context to personal struggles than the previous game.
Rather than hopping into the skin of different armed forces and characters, Battlefield 4′s campaign will focus purely on the exploits of a single squad. This new squad-focus also ties into gameplay as well, as players can now tag enemies and give orders to their team like firing at specific enemies during combat. This system didn’t seem anywhere near as advanced as Brothers in Arms, but players will be able to use their squad-mates as tools facilitating different ways to engage enemies. What is clear is that DICE are looking to make players care about the characters that surround them, with specific story beats, like cutting off a soldier’s leg to free him from wreckage, designed to prompt players to care about their AI partners. Whether these moments actually have the desired effect remains to be seen, but DICE are going for an approach which lacks any kind of gore or real gritty drama. The set piece we referred to earlier about the protagonist cutting off his squad-mates leg involved zero blood and minimal drama, with Rekker simply amputating an entire leg at the knee which a quick swipe. There wasn’t any blood squirting, sawing animations or anything like that. The Walking Dead this certainly ain’t.
“Bringing Multiplayer Moments to Single-Player” -
Usually reveal event presentations are laden with needless buzzwords and slogans, and the Battlefield 4 event certainly wasn’t short of them. One of the most common ones muttered throughout the evening was “bringing multiplayer moments into single-player”. What do DICE mean by this strange marketing concoction? Simple, they want to expand out the traditional linear, corridor-like campaign experience to include grand outdoor set pieces allowing players to make choices on how they engage enemies and utilise vehicles such as boats, cars, jet skis and jets. Art director Gustav Tilleby even tossed around terms like “sandbox”, “dynamic”, and “freedom of choice” to describe Battlefield 4′s single-player environments, so players should expect a much more unrestricted feel with greater freedom of movement than Battlefield 3.This was proven during the live gameplay demo with proceedings moving from tight corridors to a grand construction site wasteland, which requied players to drive from one side of a large area to another.
New Battlelog Functionality -
DICE also revealed that for the first time campaign performance will be relayed into Battlefield’s Battlelog portal, with players accruing performance points in accordance with how well they do in missions. This all updates in real-time and is supported by new HUD elements in-game which show the player how many of their friends are online, and what achievements they’ve accomplished most recently. A small but a noteworthy inclusion.
Despite boasting the bleeding-edge Frostbite 3 engine, Electronic Arts and DICE confirmed that Battlefield 4 will be released this autumn for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The live tech demo we were shown was undoubtedly running on a PC rather than aging current generation hardware, but we’d imagine that the PlayStation 4 and whatever piece of plastic Microsoft are cooking up also factors into Battlefield 4 plans. We’ll find out more soon for sure.
Like many reveal events, Battlefield 4′s posed just as many questions as it answered. EA and DICE weren’t willing to talk about anything regarding multiplayer which for a game in this series did come across as a little strange.
No doubt EA will be drip feeding lots more information about this FPS sequel over the coming months and rest assured we’ll keep you updated on all those developments as they happen.
2013 is going to be a very interesting year. Your move Activision…
Tags: Battlefield 4
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