Gamescom 13: Hands on with Battlefield 4: “Big boats, big guns”
I hate playing FPSs in public.
It’s not that I don’t love playing them – I do. From the comfort of my own sofa, I’m good. (Well, actually, I’m not – I’m probably pretty average – but I love it nonetheless.) For me, the best FPS’ weave tight combat with dynamic environments and – if we’re really lucky – an engaging narrative, and few games typify this frenzied elegance as successfully as the Battlefield franchise.
This is the world’s first hands-on experience with DICE’s highly-hyped Battlefield 4, and the lengthening behind-closed-doors line deftly illustrates the industry’s collective excitement. It’s okay for the guys I’m with – Jack Frags is one of the world’s most prolific BF3 players, an undisputed expert at all things Battlefield – and the rest of our troop are pro/semi-pro gamers. Me?
I already told you I’m a bit medicore, right?
It’s too late to bottle it, though. The doors have already opened and we file in.
You’ll notice the improvements from Battlefield 3 immediately. Running on Frostbite 3, Battlefield 4’s environments are not just as gorgeous as we’ve come to expect (demand?) from the BF experience, but we’re told that they’re more interactive, too – and I’m not just talking about falling skyscrapers. Shutting down the power to the building complex will cut off elevators and immobilise your enemies. Plunging them into darkness will give you the advantage if you’ve got night-vision goggles to hand. DICE insist that the environment is every bit as integral to gameplay now as the vehicles and weaponry, and I believe them. This time, winning isn’t just about rifles and grenades: success comes from intelligently using the world around you, too.
It’s a short, sharp presentation – five minutes, and we’re done. DICE think we’d prefer to be playing rather than just hearing about it and I’m pretty sure they’re right.
We’re introduced to Battlefield 4’s Domination mode. Static images on the flat screen convey environments rich with depth and detail, and a dark brooding sky pressing down on a stormy but beautiful island vista. In-game visuals aren’t quite as crisp as I might have anticipated, but I don’t let that bother me so neither should you.
On the island map Paracel Storm, our Domination mission is to . . . well, dominate. You’ll know the mode. Essentially a capture-and-hold mission, Domination sees two teams battle it out for control of three bases. Lose control, and your team’ll lose tickets. Simple – hectic, but simple.
It’s brutal. But it’s awesome. No sooner have you secured one flag, another will come under attack, so there’s little stopping time. That’s okay, though – the pace is frantic, but it’s fun, too. Combat is intuitive and satisfying, with tighter, more compact maps that ensure you spend your time fighting and not simply trying to locate someone to shoot. Weaponry is heavy, meaty and plentiful, although I’ll admit it took some time to acclimatise using BF’s standard control scheme with PS4’s larger, heavier controller.
Watch your spawn points, though. Whilst it’s tempting to jump on in and spawn on a buddy, there’s no grace period. Spawn in the middle of a firefight and you’ll go down before you get chance to raise your weapon.
Twenty minutes later, we’re done. It feels like twenty seconds. It’s clear – painfully so – that DICE have stuffed every second of Battlefield 4 with love, passion and respect for the genre and the franchise – it drips from every pixel. And I can’t wait to play more.