Yestereve, I attended a Battlefield 4 gameplay screening preview and QA session as a guest of EA. Among the shooting and explosions that shook the movie theatre, Marketing Director in charge of Battlefield 4 David Silverman walked us through a number of features that will be appearing in Battlefield 4. And now I pass that knowledge unto you. Read on for informations.
The gameplay portion was nothing incredibly new. We watched as a member of the development team played through the Angry Seas level on a shiny PC. Angry Seas is close to the start of the game, and features the Chinese as enemies. It was essentially the same as the trailer, although our player decided to take the high route along the jets on the deck. The game looked pretty darned great and ran incredibly smoothly, although the system used for the preview was top of the line. Shooting and exploding duly occurred, and it was all very spectacular.
The real meat of the night happened whenever Silverman was speaking. During the question and answer breaks, Silverman fielded a great many questions, talking about the development process, Battlefield 4’s multiplayer, and, best of all, the team’s approach to single player.
Silverman expounded the benefits of the Battlefield 4 development team being in the same room as the Frostbite 3 engine development team. It allows the game developers to conceptualise a feature, communicate with the engine team, and have the ability to implement the technology into development in a streamlined way. Performance wise, we don’t know what it will take to max out the shinies, but they’re saying that the same machine that could run Battlefield 3 on medium should be able to run Battlefield 4 at the same settings.
Much of the talking was dedicated to multiplayer, inevitably. Some new modes are in the works, although they haven’t been revealed yet. For consoles, users will be able to rent servers, just like they could in Battlefield 3. Full 64 player support will be coming to PC and next-gen consoles, although the 360 and PS3 will miss out on this feature. Not all maps will support 64 players, based on map size and balance. The multiplayer map that we’ve seen – the Siege of Shanghai map – is a medium sized map. There will be bigger and smaller maps available. There is no final count on maps, but there will be “lots”. EA are bringing their Battlelog system to all platforms, marking the introduction of the system to consoles. Battlelog will handle all multiplayer gaming, from regular console and PC gaming, to the new Commander system.
Commander is returning, but with a slight twist. Along with console and PC Commander modes, players will be able to use their tablet devices to play as a commander. As long as you have a Battlelog account (and, I assume, the game), you can use your tablet to command matches. There can only be one commander per team, and Silverman revealed some details about how that system would work. Players can queue to be commander, and the commander cycles. There’s an interesting new mechanic that will allow players to effectively kick a bad commander from the game, which Silverman informally referred to as a mutiny.
As for destruction, DICE are using “levolution” (yes, I know). As you play, the level will change based on the parts destroyed. According to Silverman, the destruction is, in theory, unlimited, however developers will be putting limits to the destruction in place to ensure that maps remain balanced and fun.
Silverman acknowledged that Battlefield 3’s campaign was “maybe not so great”. This was attributed to focus on telling a military story, rather than one that relied on characters. Apparently, that’s being fixed in Battlefield 4. DICE are aiming for an emotionally engaging character driven story – a personal story in a military setting. The words “Game of Thrones” may have been said in reference to Battlefield 4’s characters, talking about how characters drive the narrative, rather than the action itself. Apparently, the characters will have ulterior motives and personality traits that will dictate their behaviors within the plot and the way they interact. DICE are using full performance voice acting this time around, rather than separating the voice acting and motion capture like in Battlefield 3. There were no real narrative elements revealed, other than the vague promise of a better story, but I imagine we’ll see more details emerging later in the year.
Gameplay wise, the single player is acquiring a few new features, including some from multiplayer. Weapons have more attachments, including dual zoom optics and back-up canted iron sights. Players will now auto-pop out of cover by aiming down your sights while behind an object. Destruction has been added into the campaign, allowing for a more dynamic gameplay environment. Players should be able to blow holes through walls with grenade launchers, opening up new ways of flanking and engaging enemies. Apparently, a greater range of vehicles will be available in the campaign, which should free up gameplay.
The most significant multiplayer feature that is coming to single player is the concept of teams. Apparently, one of the great things that we all liked about Battlefield 3’s multiplayer was that we felt like part of a team that worked well together. So now you will be able to command your squadmates around the field of battle. You will be able to spot enemies and call targets for your squad members to deal with. This is intended to add more tactical options for the player, as well as helping out more occasional gamers or aid players through the harder difficulties.
It sounds like the DICE crew are aiming for a more interactive experience. AI tweaks let NPC’s acknowledge the player’s presence to a greater degree, environments will react to your presence, with car alarms sounding if the player gets too close, or being able to cut the power to a building before assaulting it. The more dynamic and interactive the experience the better, and hopefully DICE will make something for the single players with Battlefield 4.