‘Battlefield 4’ Reveal: The Xbox 720 and PS4 Details We Need To Know
EA's "Battlefield 4" is coming, that much is guaranteed for March 26 at this year's GDC in San Francisco. But we all knew it was coming eventually, and EA knows just how important first impressions are. Here's a list of things EA needs to do, or avoid, come the end of this month, especially in regard to next-generation consoles.
A Visual Evolution, Not Just an Upgrade
Of what little signs we have - some leaked cover art, some promotional sendouts - most of it points to "Battlefield 4" looking very much like "Battlefield 3" from a stylistic point of view. Blue and orange hues surround gruff military dudes with sweet guns and tanks and jets going all crazy everywhere, and that's just on the cover art.
What's expected is EA will tout the next-generation level of graphic fidelity, but they won't surprise us with any extra visual flair outside of the ultra-realism military shooters go for these days. As risky as "Battlefield" multiplayer often is, the series hasn't made any true innovations in the visual department. They've only ever strived for one look, and it's a boring look, but to hope for anything else is probably a bit naïve.
Single-player campaigns look really, really good in trailers, especially when those campaigns are overwrought with pointless crescendos in violence and quick-time events that, when the button prompts are obscured, look like genre-pushing gameplay. That's the pointless "Battlefield 3" campaign in a nutshell - over-marketed, endlessly boring, linear and barely an afterthought to the many who continued playing the game months after its release. Where "Call of Duty" actually has some merit in capturing Hollywood thrills, "Battlefield" completely fails as a copycat.
Seriously, don't even do a single-player campaign. Sell the multiplayer as a $40 download and sell us microtransaction and expansions. We know they're coming anyway. Players just might respect you for it, EA. Maybe you could sell some co-operative missions on the side, but you know we're all coming to the party for one reason, and that reason is for to quick-time kill a rat in a sewer.
Explain the Online Infrastructure
EA is going to ask players to spend at least one year of their life playing "Battlefield 4." Everything they do is about keeping the player engaged so that player will buy the next round of DLC or beg for the tiniest of visual upgrades on their gun or character. So how about a trade? EA can ask players to give up their time, but they have to explain exactly how that time is going to be spent. We're talking squad structure and size, the potential return of commander players, modes, maps, servers, player counts, team sizes, season passes and on and on and on. Every little detail you describe that further encourages the possibility for a long-time, active, evenly structured and stable experience, that's how you hook in the current "Battlefield" crowd. Above all else, the experience needs to simply work.
Match the Console Version with the PC Version, and Prove It on Day One
In spirit, the next generation consoles are already here. Players are imagining PS4 possibilities and Xbox 720 eventualities, now it's up to third-parties to prove the games are worth buying the console in the first place. The tech-pushing "Battlefield 4" is the best shot for both Microsoft and Sony to make this point, but EA needs to show that PCs, at least for rest of this year, are not superior to the new consoles when it comes to raw power. The first thing you show is graphical fidelity. You put the PC and PS4 versions of "Battlefield 4" on the big screen, side-by-side and have players guess which one is which. Don't just run some PC footage and tell players the console versions are going to look like it. You can't pull the "Battlefield 3" trick again, it just won't work, especially when expectations are even higher this time around.
But it's not just the graphics. By far the most frustrating thing about the difference between console and PC versions of "Battlefield 4" was the total drop in player count in a given battle. Some maps just seemed totally empty for console players as they imagined a full-fledged war happening at the same time for PC players. The console crowd wants this experience, they don't want to feel like a second-tier consideration with "Battlefield 4." If "Battlefield 4" is exactly the same on both PC and next-generation consoles, then EA might just hook itself a healthy dose of first-person shooter fan-base for the next couple of years.