|System: PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|Release: October 28, 2013|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
E3 this year gave us a chance to sit in on a 64-player match of Battlefield 4. Yes, the popular FPS series is back, bigger than ever, and blown up to a scale that you wouldn’t believe. While many of the games shown at E3 press conferences are demos that use a lot of smoke and mirrors to make the game look better than it is, we can personally verify that Battlefield 4 supports 64 players and does it well.
First of all, 64-player maps are absolutely huge. They are made of several different control points, each spread out among a vast landscape. The map we played was a riverside city, allowing us access to land, sea, and air vehicles.
If you were to divide the map up into five equal sections, then each control point essentially lies at the center of its own Battlefield map. There are numerous points of cover, strategic vehicles, and important spawn points littered all around it. Essentially, each capture point is its own self-contained game of King of the Hill.
Maps are large enough that traversing them on foot is more than a little inconvenient. In fact, characters move slowly enough that an entire match might pass before you actually manage to walk from one side of the map to the other. Luckily, the squad spawn system makes traversing the map a lot easier.
Essentially, each 32-player faction in a 64-player Battlefield 4 game is broken up into multiple squads. Squads function as a way of creating fast respawn points all over the map. You can spawn at any of the control points you own, or at the location of any one of your squadmates. So as long as any one of your squadmates is alive, you’ll be able to jump right back into the action without spending minutes traversing the huge map. In addition, if a squadmate is in a vehicle, you can choose to spawn next to or inside that vehicle. This allows you to take up a secondary gunner seat in, say, a chopper right away, effectively doubling your firepower. However, this system also does lend itself to hilarious circumstances where you spawn in your squadmate’s vehicle only seconds before they ram it into the side of a building.
The whole game is essentially a huge game of tug-of-war. Your team has a limited number of tickets, and each time a troop respawns or a control point is lost, you lose tickets. The side that runs out of tickets first loses.
This might seem like a simple Deathmatch mode but it’s actually far more complex than that. The fact that capturing points removes more tickets than shooting opponents motivates you to constantly aim for controlling strategic locations on the map. Vehicle kills are also worth more tickets than plain old troop kills. This dual-win condition essentially allows you to play the map in whatever way you choose. If you like to just run around killing people, you can do that, or you can work with your team to earn a control-point victory instead.
One of the big features of this map is a central control point at the top of a skyscraper. The control point is on the roof of the skyscraper, allowing you to launch choppers and parachute down to nearly any other location on the map quickly. However, in the basement of the building are support beams that can be taken out, causing the whole skyscraper to fall, along with everyone in it. So, not only do you have to defend the roof, but the basement as well, and there are tons of floors in between. It’s an absurd amount of detail for a destructible map element!
In the game session we sat in on, alongside all the regular troops, one player acted as a commander. The commander is able to see the battle from a top-down perspective, much like an RTS. Instead of gaining special rewards such as airstrikes or mortars for killing your opponents, all of these special tactical weapons are put in the commander’s hands. So, communication with your commander is important, as a well-timed mortar strike can easily turn the tide of battle. The commander will be able to control the game via a tablet or smart phone, though they can use the in-game interface and controller just as well.
The main theme of Battlefield 4 appears to be options. There were so many options presented to us in our one session that I could barely decide between them, and this was just a demo! There are four different classes (with more to come) and each class can equip two different weapons, and each weapon can have attachments, and those attachments can sometimes have attachments (seriously!). Then, there are grenades, med kits, gadgets, and any number of other toys you can assign to your loadouts, along with class-specific abilities. Even in the demo alone, which only gave you two guns and a few gadgets to choose from, there were hundreds of combinations per class, and we didn’t have near enough time to try them all.
Combined with the interesting multi win-condition game mode, the variety of capture points, vehicles, weapons, and all the rest of the game elements we saw in the demo, it’s obvious that Battlefield 4 is a shooter that lets you play it in the way you want to. If you like feeling like you are part of a large-scale military conflict, this is the shooter for you.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: June 14, 2013