Battlefield might have yielded to Call of Duty when it comes to being the overall king of mutlipayer first-person-shooters, but in my mind, you just can’t beat the crazy action that comes with a typical Battlefield match. Jumping over a tank in a dirt bike and throwing C4 on it, or nailing a helicopter with a well-placed RPG shot: these are things that only happen when a game allows for the type of randomized chaos that Battlefield revels in.
With the recent reveal of Battlefield 4, I thought I’d break down my hopes and fears for the game. While it has been two years since the game proper has come out (or will be by the time 4 drops), the most recent DLC, End Game, just came out. Is it too soon for another Battlefield? What can DICE realistically change in that time? What should they change?
Battlefield 3 is possibly one of my most played games ever, as you can see just by taking a peek at my player stats. This is a game I’ve had a tumultuous history with. First I loved it, then the first major patch came out, and I hated it. DICE changed a lot of the gameplay mechanics, small tweaks and adjustments that made it hard to play. While everything got ironed out by the time the second large patch came about, I had lost a couple of my friends (and regular squad-mates) who had become disillusioned with the game.
DICE needs to have figured out how Battlefield 4 is going to play before it comes out. While it’s nice that the developers are committed to keeping Battlefield 3 patched, three overhauls of the gameplay is a bit much. Battlefield 4 needs to come out of the gate swinging in regards to gameplay. I don’t think it will differ that much from Battlefield 3, but the Battlefield 4 we get on day one should be the Battlefield 4 we’re playing when the inevitable sequel rolls around.
Since DICE decided to reveal the single-player for Battlefield 4 first, I’ll tackle that quickly before moving on to multiplayer. If you haven’t seen the 17-minute “Fishing in Baku” trailer, give it a watch and come back. To me, it looks largely the same as Battlefield 3’s single-player, a linear roller-coaster experience where you play whack-a-mole against Russian soldiers. Battlefield 3 did have a couple highlights (like the jet level), but I doubt Battlefield 4 will eclipse those if it keeps going this direction. True, it’s only a glimpse of the campaign, but if the previous game is any indication, there won’t be much deviation from the formula. A couple neat things to note, though: the inclusion of canted iron sights which can be used opposite a scope and the new way to spot enemies, including some squad-controls for both your teammates and the helicopter that came in to extract you. Neat stuff, and I wonder if the backup sights and the new spot system will come over to multiplayer.
Speaking of multiplayer, that’s where Battlefield’s bread is buttered. The franchise didn’t even have a single-player component until the first Bad Company game, unless you count Modern Combat. Even though I’m not against the series branching out, DICE should, and probably will, be paying close attention to how they build the multiplayer for BF4. Having put a few hundred hours into Battlefield 3, this is what I feel should happen with 4’s mutliplayer.
First, the maps need to be polished and balanced, and most of all, fun to play. Battlefield 3 has a huge assortment of maps, but a few of those are either unplayable in a full 64-man server, or just too large to make it fun for those of us who enjoy infantry combat in addition to armored and airborne fighting. I rarely see Armored Kill expansion maps in rotation on the servers I visit, and I never see Close Quarters maps unless I seek them out. The maps that get the most play are vanilla maps like Caspian Border or Kharg Island, the Back to Karkand expansion or Aftermath. What I’d like to see in BF4 are maps like these, maps that aren’t so big that vehicles are the only viable way to fight and maps that aren’t so small that you can’t walk around a corner without getting turned into a fine mist.
Of course, a lot of my problems with vehicle-heavy maps would be alleviated if DICE reworks the class balance. Currently, the Assault class is incredibly over-powered. They have the best weapons in the game and with defibrillators and med-packs they can stay in the fight almost indefinitely. Support is almost never played, along with Recon. There are a few Engineers here and there, but not enough to turn the tide if your enemy gets a hold of all your air or armored assets.
Bad Company 2 had some smart ideas about how to balance the load between the classes. C4 was available to all the kits, along with designated marksman weapons like the M39, meaning that players had more options for handling different combat encounters, like if there were suddenly cornered by a tank. Support players were the medics, which worked out well, except for the fact that light machine-guns were pretty unwieldy. Light machine-guns aren’t used all that often in BF3, either, so DICE either needs to tune how they handle or remove them entirely. There’s a huge selection of LMGs available to Support players, but most often I see people either using personal defense weapons or the more assault-rifle style LMGs like the M27.
Recon needs the most reworking for BF4 as right now it’s a mostly useless class. The tools the Recon kit has are neat, but they either require a player to pick up the gear and move it constantly (in the case of the TUG-S), or hide in a corner and remote control their device (like the laser designator and MAV). Again, going back to the Bad Company 2, the dart gun was a great solution for marking vehicles for rocket launchers. Instead of having a Recon player hide in the corner and pray his laser designator won’t get destroyed, give him a dart gun that can track vehicles.
Basically, what the classes need is a trimming of the fat, so to speak. Things like the EOD bot or the MAV are cool in theory, but they’re rarely used and require the user to stay immobile and hope they don’t get found. Even the amount of guns offered to the various classes can stand to be lowered. For example, the Assault class has 21 different weapon unlocks available (if you count the various ammo types for the MASS and the M320). I use three of those guns. Three, out of the possible 21. And on the subject of guns, the attachments need to be more varied and useful. In Battlefield 3, there is one set-up I see most often: foregrip, Kobra sight and heavy barrel. If you want to be competitive and get the most bang for your buck out of the guns, these are the attachments you need to use. With the canted sight option on BF4, the rigid adherence to red-dot style sights might be going away, but making high-power scopes and different under-barrel accessories useful would open up the game to different play-styles other than medium-to-close range combat.
Battlefield is one of my favorite franchises, so I have high hopes for Battlefield 4. This is just a small sample of changes I hope will make it to the final game, and I’m looking forward to playing DICE’s next entry in the series. Hopefully EA will greenlight Battlefield 2143 after this, or approve it as a Bad Company 2: Vietnam style expansion. What do you guys want in Battlefield 4?