Battlefield 3, from all time, is my favorite online shooting game. It still has the cutting-edge graphics even by today’s standard, solid gameplay, and robust multiplayer map design. To me, it’s nearly perfect. It only requires minor tweaks at most.
When it comes to Battlefield 4, after EA’s carpet bombing of advertising, no doubt people already believed this is a big hit in 2013. However when officially released, the true face of BF4 comes to the daylight.
Technical side, it has too many issues and bugs that severely impacted the game progress, which actually is the least problem of BF4. I always believe that all technical problems are not big problems, which in the worst case, still can be solved over time, because no matter how bad they are, they are hidden in the backend. In the other hand, you have no way to change design too much after release. There are too many things to consider after people already invested time and money in it. You don’t want to change even a small part of your design that can potentially make some player’s effort in vain. So technical issues aside, after played several rounds of multiplayer, obviously, BF4’s design is rushed and still a long way to be complete.
First of all, the main mode of Battlefield is Conquest, which is basically Capture Flag. In BF3, those strategy points are well designed and purposeful, which actually have real strategy advantages if you can hold them. In contrary, strategy points in BF4 mostly don’t have obvious strategy value. They are there just because for player to capture. In other word, they are not meaningful. Player can hardly see the reason to fight their life for it only because the game told them to. At least, in a supposed to be realistic setting, they are not convincible enough.
Second of all, many details in BF4 are not well polished, if not worse. There are many tweaks of gameplay which are supposed to fix minor issues of BF3, but actually didn’t work very well. For example, in BF3, one design of tactical flashlight is to blind enemy in a close distance, but the blind effect is so dominant that very often the opponent almost can’t see anything. So obviously they need to nerf flashlight, except they overdid it. Now the flashlight can’t do much blind effect, but make you a obvious target at any range. Another example is the suppression effect, which works almost perfect in BF3. It’s a brilliant invention that realistically simulates even if I can’t hit you directly, I should be able to suppress you. When you are suppressed, you screen will be blurry, and field of view will be narrowed. It’s not only realistic but also an important gameplay. So in teamwork, one soldier can cover another even enemy is hiding behind cover. The only problem is that the suppression effect in BF3 is a bit of strong. Your screen can easily get blurred no matter what kind of weapon your opponent is using. So in BF4 they reduced the suppression effect, but without surprise, they overdid it again. Now suppression is no long a gameplay anymore. The similar examples can keep going on and on.
Beside those obvious flaws, I don’t quite agree with the art direction BF4 is heading. The whole screen is de-saturated with blue grayish tone. I can understand it looks cool on concept art, but really didn’t work very good when in action. When you actually try it, almost instantly, you will find the problem of this blue-grayish tone is that you can’t tell friend or foe, because everything is so de-saturated and dark. Is this a new gameplay? If it is on purpose, it’s more like a gambling to me. In fact, most players shoot first if they can’t tell, which results in very often teamkill in BF4. Also, generally speaking, the environment art and VFX could be better. The landscape in BF3 is epic. I believe even the height of sun is carefully tuned, not only you can see the beautiful sunshaft, it could also affect strategic decision since sun may blind your eyes from certain angle. All of those disappears in BF4. So it’s pretty safe to presume that the art details are still work in progress.
Despite my negative feedback to BF4, I actually admire the courage of DICE that bravely experimented something new. You know, BF3 is very very good. Years ago, I consider it was 5 years ahead of its peers. Even today, it’s still probably the best online shooter. I guess the greatest difficulty for DICE is probably to go beyond itself. No one will blame DICE if they only make little tweaks in BF4. But they actually tried really hard to be different. It’s definitely the right spirit in game industry. Although BF4 is obviously a rushed product, I still can see the brilliant design and mechanics could potentially work pretty well. The only thing they need is a bit more time. If this game could delay 6 month, it might be totally different.
Although EA won’t admit, no need to say, BF4 is a setback. It already hurt the brand, EA and DICE. I don’t agree with EA’s business philosophy. But I do have confidence on DICE. They are definitely heading towards the right direction. And most importantly, they dare to try, even if they fail, always they will learn!