- Developer - EA DICE
- Publisher - EA
- Platforms - PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
- Release date - Autumn, 2013
EA and DICE have revealed the first gameplay footage of Battlefield 4 which is slated for release later this year.
At a press event held at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, viewers were treated to a 17-minute long video of Battlefield 4's prologue level, 'Fishing in Baku.'
Opening on a four-man squad of US soldiers trapped in a submerged car, the video then cuts back to 15 minutes earlier to show the group fighting Russian troops through a fish market and getting trapped in a falling building before commandeering a car and being chased into a lake by a helicopter.
Watching the video, a few new things are apparent. Firstly, the graphics, physics and lighting effects are drastically enhanced compared to Battlefield 3. DICE has created a new game engine called Frostbite 3 for Battlefield 4, a step up from the Frostbite 2 engine used in the previous game, and it really shows. A fight scene against some Russian troops in the distance is made more difficult by the bright, realistic glare of sunlight in the player's eyes and explosion and fire effects look incredible.
Frostbite 3 also looks to have improved character animations, as the smooth, naturalistic motion of the squad during dialogue scenes will testify.
Then there are the game's environments which, apart from being prettily rendered seem much broader and larger than in Battlefield 3's single-player campaign. Though the series has always been known for its large scale multiplayer environments, Battlefield 3's offline mode was much more linear, channelling players from one action scene to the next. Not so in Battlefield 4. After the fish market sequence, the 'Fishing in Baku' level moves onto an enormous, sprawling beach, giving the player room to outmanoeuvre and flank enemies.
It looks as if DICE is trying to integrate some of Battlefield's more lauded multiplayer aspects into the campaign, not just in regards to the size of the levels but also in how the team itself interacts. There's a greater focus on tactics and cooperation, as exemplified by the player's new ability to order his comrades to provide cover fire. Aiming at some bad guys manning a machinegun nest, you can order your team to shoot at them while you sneak around the level to get a better shot from behind.
This hints at an emphasis on squad mechanics and, perhaps, more complex ways of ordering your troops. More on this is likely to revealed before the game launches.
There's also an element of humour to Battlefield 4, something which was totally absent from the third game. Prior to 2011, in the Bad Company spin-off series, jokes and light dialogue were something of a Battlefield trademark and an essence of that at least looks set to come back for Battlefield 4. Trapped underwater in the submerged car, the squad is stuck listening to Bonnie Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' after the stereo breaks and won't turn off. "I don't wanna die to this song" says one of them.
Finally of note, and likely intentionally placed at the end of the trailer by DICE, is the appearance of what looks to be a central female character, taking the role of your squad leader. Though often marginalised in games, the absence of women characters is felt most in war-based, first-person shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield where practically everyone on screen is male. If this mystery woman does turn out to be one of the main figures in Battlefield 4, it will at least mark a somewhat progressive move on DICE's behalf. Her cameo at the very end of the trailer is no doubt intended to spark intrigue.
If previous years are anything to go buy, Activision is likely to put out its latest Call of Duty game in November. To avoid any direct competition, DICE will probably launch Battlefield 4 in October, before Christmas but clear of the consumer rush to buy the latest Call of Duty. October feels like the safest bet.
After shelving the Medal of Honor franchise, EA has said it will put more resources into making Battlefield games and if that means annualising or bi-annualising the series, the publisher will want to follow Activision's footsteps and have a consistent launch month for each new game. Battlefield 3 came out in October; if EA wants to build yearly anticipation and a following for Battlefield, the next game will likely come out in October, too.
It'll be available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC EA has confirmed, although there's no word on a possible PlayStation 4 version. The developers of Assassin's Creed IV and Destiny are launching their games on current and next-gen consoles at the same time. Whether that will be the case with Battlefield 4 remains to be seen.