E3 2013: Battlefield 4 Multiplayer Hands-On Preview – Shanghai Boom
Written Friday, June 28, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Battlefield is back, baby! Well, back to its truly best that is. As much as we loved Battlefield 3 we couldn’t help but feel a bit perturbed by the lack of environmental destruction that we’d fallen in love with in Bad Company 2. You know, like levelling a whole town on the Arica Harbour map during a game of Rush; that kind of stuff never got old. Sure, Battlefield 4 might not be that mental when it comes to destruction… Oh, wait, scrap that. You can bring down a chuffin’ skyscraper. Yeah, it’s slightly more mental.
Forget the crappy buzz words like “levolution” that DICE tried to shove down our throats when it first unveiled the multiplayer at EA’s E3 press conference, because it’s more than just a buzz word. Battlefield’s 4 destruction is a game changer.
Amid the hustle and bustle of E3, amongst the kerfuffle on the show floor we stepped up to go hands-on with 64-player multiplayer madness, set in Shanghai on a map they’re calling Siege of Shanghai. First up, 64 players is finally coming to consoles - well, next-gen consoles that is - so no longer will console players feel like they’re getting less of a game than PC owners. Again, to reiterate, that’s next-gen owners I’m talking about. Combine that with 60 frames per second, and the next-gen Battlefield showing is already infinitely better than that on the ageing current console architecture.
Conquest was the name of the game - you know, Battlefield’s iconic territories style mode - and working as part of a team was as necessary as ever. Like any good Battlefield map, Shanghai is a sprawling map with various different sectors, whether it’s interiors of certain buildings, back alleys, bridges, river banks, wide-open streets, rivers to trek across, a subway to fight through, Shanghai has it all. Then there’s your usual array of vehicles, from tanks, attack choppers and armoured APCs. That’s all you effectively need to create what DICE has coined as “Battlefield moments,” and rightly so.
I’m not going to bore you by saying that “the controls are responsive, tight and there’s the usual fluency about them.” It’s Battlefield, you all know how it controls – like one of the best FPSs on the market. What I will touch upon though is the unpredictability and cause and effect that the new destruction mechanics have on the flow of play. But first, an amusing story.
While 2012 was the year of the bow and arrow, 2013 looks set to be the year of the bollard – yes, the bollard! We’ve all seen how Watch Dogs uses them to change the scope of its combat, but Battlefield uses them in a slightly different way that can cause just as chaotic outcomes.
Rather cleverly, DICE has placed bollards with a control panel on the numerous bridges in Shanghai, which is all well and good if you rock up to a bridge alone. Should you be ambushed when going for the panel – like we did to a pair on unsuspecting tanks – then you know it’s just not your day.
Hiding unwearyingly by a panel that retracts a set of bollards to block access to our half of the map, a small group of our team sat armed with rocket launchers – with our own tank just out of sight – waiting patiently for our chance to get the upper hand in the large scale warfare that shook Shanghai. A minute or two passed, nothing, and this group of people who were unable to communicate – no headsets, see? – or coordinate with one another must have been on the same wavelength. Not one of the six-or-so strong group budged an inch. Then, all of a sudden, a convoy of two tanks rocked up to the bridge, obviously keen to get our “A” territory under their control. Big mistake.
The two tanks stopped for a second, completely inactive, almost like they argued amongst themselves about who was getting out to flick the switch. Then, rather cautiously, one enemy soldier jumped out and headed for the panel, with no of way knowing what anarchy was about to descend upon them. At that point, just above my right shoulder a large calibre round sniper bullet whizzed past as if it was late for an appointment, and wham, all hell broke loose.
That breaking of fire led to one of the most epic ambushes I’ve ever experienced in Battlefield. Simultaneously we all leapt from our cover with rocket launchers locked and loaded, pinging as much devastation at the tanks before they knew what hit them. Bang! One tank went up in flames and at that point the other tank knew he was in for a world of hurt and retreated rather quickly. Still on the same wavelength though, everyone – almost in tandem – reloaded their launchers and launched a volley of rockets to see off our foe. A win for us, not only tactically, but mentally. Now we could push forward as a group, using our tank as the battering ram to capture the well fortified enemy outposts. Victory was sweet.
Then there’s the moment that you first witness the destruction of a ginormous skyscraper, something that isn’t scripted by the way. It’s down to the player (or players) to bring that one down. What was once a beautiful city with a bright blue sky beaming overheard suddenly became a hot zone of destruction and chaos. Not only was the creaking and crumbling of the falling skyscraper a terrifying experience, but the plume of smoke that billowed out from the rubble as it hit the ground reduced visibility, and that once majestic skyscraper that was perfect cover from all the aerial chaos that ensued suddenly became a maze of debris that lone shooters could hide themselves in.
It not only changes the face of the map visually, but it changes the complexity of the tactics too, meaning that it can be a last resort to turn the tide of a match if you’re up against it. You’ll never forget that first moment you hear, feel and see a skyscraper in Battlefield 4 come tumbling around you. Spine-chilling stuff, especially if it’s you that brings it down.
That right there is Battlefield 4. Frenetic matches that switch from taking down choppers and watching them crash into skyscrapers, to bollard ambushes in an instant. And that moment when the skyscraper comes down and changes the face of the map, that’s when you’ll have to stop and pinch yourself to see whether it was real. There’s no doubt in my mind that Battlefield 4 will put Battlefield 3’s multiplayer to shame when it ships in November. The only problem now is we have to wait all that time for it.
Battlefield 4 is scheduled for an October 29th and November 1st release on current-gen consoles in North America and Europe respectively, while also coming on the next-gen at a later unspecified date.