This is how you show off your next-gen capabilities. Battlefield 4 looks stunning and plays brilliantly but we already knew that it would. It’s the added bonuses that come with this that really make us excited for DICE’s new game.
Firstly the in-game additions. We’ve all seen the trailer for ‘Siege of Shanghai’ that shows the skyscraper crumbling to the ground. What you may not know is how this impacts on the way you play. Yes you’ve already been able to get extra kills from destroying buildings but it’s never been on this scale. You’ve also never been able to get such a shifting geography of the battleground but that’s set to change. Once the building comes tumbling down it offers new pathways and tactical choices that come with it. You have a new set of areas that you have to adapt to, yes it may be a quicker path to your objective, but what if it leaves you more exposed? Do you take the risk for the team?
These dynamic choices extend to the weather as well. We got a hands-on with new game mode ‘Obliteration’ on the map Paracel Storm. The game mode itself is much like Rush, only there’s one bomb between the teams and each side has to destroy, and defend, 3 objectives. That’s fairly standard stuff but it felt more like a tactical battle than the usual Rush fare. The interesting thing came when half-way through the game the weather suddenly changed. We were on a jet ski, heading for the enemy base when suddenly a storm whipped up, throwing up massive waves. It was a struggle to even keep control of the vehicle, of which there are more than ever before, never mind dodging the enemy bullets that started hailing down once they noticed us stranded in the water.
With 64 players finally available on consoles as well as PC, mistakes like that will inevitably be shown up. The maps are still big enough to accommodate everyone comfortably, but there are also enough players to defend any point on the map. Added to this you have the role of the Commander. Unfortunately we didn’t get to play hands-on with this role but the preview presentation we saw of it shows it as being a larger version of the squad leaders. You mark the points you want your team to attack, and then the squad leaders can mark each of them for their individual units to follow. It doesn’t look like a revolutionary improvement, but it’s nice all the same.
We already knew we were going to like how the game played but the real excitement came from the extra features announced. Most games are going to have some second screen functionality on the next-gen but few will be as well developed as Battlefield 4‘s. In game you can use it as your mini map, pointing out objectives that you want your squad to head to, as well as keeping an eye on enemy movements.
Outside of battle there’s so much more. You can keep track of your load-outs, queue up to join servers for when you’re ready to play and look at what your friends are up to. You can also set up challenges that you and your friends can try out, the example we were given was of setting a challenge to destroy more than 3 vehicles on a given map. It’s too early to tell if this will add to, or detract from, the main focus of the game but it could work out well. Each of these additions sound like small events, but if the next-gen consoles are as quick to launch as they should be then there’s a scenario in which you can be on your way home from work, get your game ready to play and then launch straight into the battle, and the challenges, as soon as you’re home. This is what next-gen gaming is about. It should be this easy to just pick up and play and it should be this accessible for players.
It goes without saying that Battlefield 4 looks beautiful and plays just as well as you would expect. The extra layer of tactics needed by the extended destruction was a welcome addition but it’s this second screen functionality that really impressed us. EA and DICE may have taken the initiative for FPS on next-gen if it all lives up to it’s promise but it’s looking hard at the moment to see a reason why it will be anything other than a fantastic way to kick of the next-generation of consoles.