While most people are talking about the fate of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, I think it's a good idea to switch gears and explore the idea of a whole new frontier. Hideo Kojima is no longer shackled to pumping out MGS games, where does he go now?
Battlefield 4 and the Blurring Lines of the Modern Shooter
What a year it’s been for DICE and EA concerning Battlefield 3. It seems as if publisher EA has decidedly shifted most of its weight behind the game after seeing the success it brought. Although it has been competing with rival title Call of Duty, EA expected sales to peak at 18 million copies by the end of the last fiscal year.
It’s done so well that EA felt comfort in offering the game for $5 a pop earlier this month in a “mystery promotion”. The sales mentioned above didn’t even include DLC sales or Premium subscribers, although most full games are now sold and bought as Premium. With the DLC streak ending with “End Game” and Battlefield 4 being announced at the end of March with a stunning “single-player” montage, the question that begs an answer is: what can Battlefield 4 do differently?
Right off the bat, DICE announced that their single player experience would blow the player away compared to Battlefield 3’s single player, which was abysmal. With E3 in Los Angeles and the EB Expo in Sydney, players will be able to give it a shot themselves before the game releases. Battlefield 3’s was not only short and lacking substance, it was also reminiscent of a certain Call of Duty title involving operations that were black. Flashbacks anyone?
Single player aside, 87% of the general Battlefield 3 (of circa 366000 votes via battlelog.battlefield.com) fan base are more excited for the multiplayer aspect of the game, myself included. When the excitement of the Battlefield 4 announcement settled down, the sceptics took over, raising questions about the timeliness of the announcements and what Battlefield 4 would bring to the table so soon after the Battlefield 3 DLC streak ended.
Aside from the prospective changes like the addition of a third faction and the return of commander mode, which was last seen in Battlefield 2, would Battlefield 4 be a generic multiplayer sequel to its predecessor? I would argue so.
First off, the new Frostbite engine is being nicknamed Frostbite 2.5 instead of a full on 3 because unless you can reduce the entire map to rubble, indestructible piles of wood and lamp posts made out of freaking Zeus’ bones will still exist, and that is depressingly annoying when you’re trying to manoeuvre your tank off the beaten track.
Multiplayer experience wise, the lines between this game and that game are progressively being blurred. Take a look at Medal of Honor: Warfighter, which uses the Frostbite 2 engine but plays very similarly to Call of Duty. At one end of the spectrum we have Call of Duty where tactics aren’t really a concern and at the other end we have games like Arma 2 and Arma 3, with Battlefield leaning slightly towards Arma 3. Something that all these games have in common is the location, claiming “authenticity” of world locations; each and every game has an urban setting, a desert/mountain setting and most likely a forest setting. Take care in releasing a contemporary shooter because they are all more or less compared to each other.
Where World War II shooters were once called generic and “unoriginal”, contemporary shooters have taken the crown. Perhaps a good old Nazi-bashing would actually be refreshing in the constant whirl of Russia versus America shooters that we are so submerged in now.
Despite these concerns, Battlefield 4 will still sell to millions of people purely because it has that fan base. And those players who are sitting on 100 golden eagles and still play hours almost every day will want a change of scenery. We’ll still buy it, because we are consumers and that’s what we do!
Beyond looking at Battlefield 4, one does begin to wonder in which direction shooters will be taken next. There is already a shuffling movement towards the near future with Black Ops 2, but is it possible that someone will dust off the good old World War 1 or 2 schematics and take us back to our roots?
Semper Fi fellas, Semper Fi.