I have been playing Battlefield titles for a decade now. I grew up with them being my favorite first person shooters, and Battlefield 3 is easily my favorite game currently. That said, I have had a lot of mixed feelings about the way Battlefield 3 turned out. And as the fan of any franchise, I had major expectations that, unfortunately, left me disappointed with DICE’s execution of this most recent title.
So, with Battlefield 4 looming on the horizon, here’s a rundown of what needs to go, what needs to stay, and what needs to be introduced to ensure BF4 lives up to the series’ name.
What to change in Battlefield 4
It’s been tough watching the franchise develop in these recent years. Battlefield 3 lacks many features that were seen in previous Battlefield titles (and many other online shooters as well) – things like Battlerecorder/spectator and beta patches have been especially missed. With Battlefield 4 slated to release later in 2013, casual and competitive players could benefit a lot from a few simple changes and additions.
Let’s start with a lesson from League of Legends, which is currently the most played game in the world by a rather absurd margin. Being free-to-play certainly helps, but there is no doubt that the main explanation to the game’s popularity is something that Battlefield 3 is completely missing: any form of competitive support. How is a game supposed to be watched by the masses if you can’t even spectate during a tournament? Even the most important matches within Battlefield 3 leagues and tournaments are played from players’ homes! And it’s not just for vanity… it should also be noted that spectator modes tend to be a form of anti-cheat themselves, since hackers are outed when others can see their abuse firsthand.
But the lack spectator mode isn’t the only major problem with the latest Battlefield. DICE typically breaks as many things as they fix with every patch. In the past, players themselves would be able to test upcoming updates so as to not break the game upon its deployment. For example – for the longest time, the TV missile would kill the gunner’s own helicopter almost every time it was used. Even after it was “patched,” the problem still persisted. Complicated features like this require a lot of testing which is, inexcusably, a huge problem for DICE. There are plenty of people willing to test patches before their release; particularly the competitive players who like to know every nook and cranny there is in the game. The beta stage of patches needs to make a return.
Suppression, while certainly an interesting and controversial concept, is executed terribly. The drastic artificial increase of your weapon’s bullet spread as a result of suppression blatantly lowers the skill ceiling of the game. While the blurriness of the screen isn’t so bad of an effect, I just don’t find it fun having to run back behind a corner because a guy missed me so many times that I couldn’t shoot him back. Suppression should be completely optional to the server if it is to be included at all in Battlefield 4. Lens flare presents a similar problem – “oh how fun, I can’t see anyone in this general direction.” I am not sure what it is that players like so much about being constantly disadvantaged at random times, but it causes a rather large problem of inconsistency in the game. In Battlefield 4, these kinds of distractions need to go.
What to keep from Battlefield 3
While Battlefield 3’s flaws are clear, the game boasts the most fun infantry and vehicular combat of any game I have ever played. One thing that I hope doesn’t change is the way in which weapons handle so smoothly. Although I’d prefer the game to have consistent recoil as opposed to random spread, the way the guns work just makes sense. Velocity and bullet drop feels phenomenal – allowing weapons to be quite controllable even at longer ranges with some practice.
Vehicles are balanced very well against infantry, and this is something that DICE has been able to deliver with just about every Battlefield game they have ever released. They all handle quite well and accurately thanks to the Frostbite engine. Vehicles have always been a major point of differentiation for the series, so keeping them fun and balanced will be pivotal to the next game’s success. Considering how consistent DICE is with this aspect of the game, I think we can expect them to continue doing it right for Battlefield 4.
Graphically, the game is further ahead of any modern combat shooter I can think of. When cranking up all the settings to their highest, I find myself getting distracted by the sensational scenery around me as opposed to the actual action. For something that looks so good, it is surprisingly well optimized.
Battlefield 3’s audio impresses once again. The work the studio puts into these very accurate and rich sounds is incredible. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
Finally, DLC with radically different settings and game modes as well as new gear keeps a game fresh. DICE did a great job supporting Battlefield 3 far after release, and even though I didn’t enjoy every single addition, the stream of new weapons, modes, and vehicles helped the community stay strong.
What to add in Battlefield 4
As mentioned before, competitive support drives a better scene for gaming pros, and can result in more players being drawn into the game via events like tournaments. When a game becomes a popular e-sport, developers take better care of it and continuously make patches to address glitches and issues – making the game even better even for those who like to play casually.
And of course, tutorial and/or bot game support would be a fantastic addition, so that players can learn the basics of the game and advance their skills at things like piloting aircraft without having to learn in a harsher and unpredictable multiplayer environment. Battlefield is a team game, so having unskilled allies can drag a match down. Helping players learn the ins and outs on their own time will improve gameplay for everyone involved.
Ultimately I have faith in Battlefield 4. DICE did significantly more right mechanically than they did wrong in Battelfield 3, and by making some features like suppression a server option and adding a spectator function, they will win over a lot of people seeking to compete in first person shooters. DICE has an easy opportunity to create the most fun casual and competitive FPS of the decade in the next iteration of this franchise… let’s hope they seize the opportunity with Battlefield 4.