You’ll be battling in a field
The big Battlefield 4 reveal is coming on March 26th, and all we have leading up to that is the promise of a beta and a single image, seen above. While that might sound like little to go on, I feel we can speculate fairly confidently on what we’re like to see in Battlefield 4. Please do note though, everything after the break is exactly that, speculation.
So, for one thing we can consider platforms. Now this one is easy and I can be 99% confident we’re right, Battlefield 4 will launch on current gen and next gen consoles simultaneously. We know this because a beta has been promised with Medal of Honour: Warfighter, so it’ll have to be running on current-gen for that, and the games tend to come out in October/November and are known for pushing gaming technology to its limits, so it’ll definitely be on next gen as well. We’ve already seen this trend with Destiny and Diablo 3, and I imagine COD, Fifa and Madden will all follow the same path. You’ll be getting a watered down experience for current-gen, but then DICE have experience with that looking at Battlefield 3 and the marked differences between console and PC versions. They carried that off well and I imagine the next-gen consoles will get a PC-equivalent experience, with lower resolutions and a few less graphical niceties.
As for the setting we can see from the image above that it’s present-day. Again this is no big surprise as the numbered sequels have always followed this. We’ll get our future-based spinoff again I think but it’ll be called Battlefield 2143, possibly as an expansion to Battlefield 4, for now the series will be staying true to the present day. But this brings up an interesting problem, how are they going to differentiate it from Battlefield 3? Even as a year and a half old game, it still looks spectacular and the recent expansion is well populated and has been well received. It featured some cutting edge modern tech and a wide range of theaters of war, from Urban cityscapes to desert plains and lonely mountains. So what could they do differently this time?
I’ve got two ideas about this. Firstly, and most likely, it’ll be weather. Rain is extremely prominent in that screenshot up there and weather is often left out of games as it is a fairly expensive (resources wise) feature but it can have a profound impact on a game. The first level of Crysis 3 looks absolutely gorgeous and a big part of that is how the weather affects everything, from billowing plastic sheets to broken windows and sheets of metal. Think of Battlefield 3, what was the weather like? Other than a few single-player missions and one multiplayer map that still ended up ridiculously bright, it was sunny, you could always see to the other side of the map. We could get rainstorms, hurricanes, even simple darkness in multiplayer and it would give the game a distinct look all of it’s own. Imagine creeping through a near pitch black jungle using flares and vehicle headlights to find your way to a point. Stealth has always been exhilirating in Battlefield multiplayer when you pull it off and I imagine it’s going to be an integral part of the new game. It’ll also give them something fancy to show off at the presentation, and will avoid people saying it just looks like BF3. It would still be running on Frostbite 2, it’s an amazing engine and I can’t imagine they’ll want to create a new one already.
The other possibility is that they stick with the same engine and rough gameplay, but open it up in some way similar to Planetside 2. Imagine a battlefield 50 miles across where you choose which objectives to take and get a squad together than drive there. It could take advantage of the new consoles’ connectivity with various devices and have a commander (as in 2142) who can draw maps on touch devices to show a plan of attack. Distant battles will rage on in the background and the persistent world will develop as different factions fight for control of locations. There could be Rush, Conquest, CTF and Air superiority missions all happening in the same game space, with objectives dynamically shifting depending on the balance of power. Obviously this could be backed up with micro-transactions and a robust levelling system. I know some people have a problem with systems like this but I would love that games, and I really think ‘freemium’ titles are the best way to keep a game interesting while providing support for the developers. If Battlefield took this path it’d be going right up against Destiny, and that doesn’t seem too unlikely as the big publishers scramble to get their games to the enviable position of the ‘must-have’ launch title.
Whatever happens on March 26th, I’m excited for it as it’s another step towards information about the next generation, and there hasn’t been a disappointing Battlefield title yet. While I wish we were getting 2143 or Bad Company 3, I’m hoping they’ll do something special.