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Summer Games: Battlefield 4

Latest Blogs - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 02:24

Lately, I've been pretty harsh on the world of PC gaming, even to the point of labeling the industry as being downright disreputable. I still stand behind those sentiments. And little, if anything, has changed in the intervening months. Things are still pretty rotten around these here parts, perhaps more so as we now can add disreputable indie developers to the mix. It's all enough to make a man want to take up chess again.... ;)

Be that as it may, there is one aspect of the shameful record of modern gaming that I do feel I need to revisit in the interest of fairness, and that would be EA/DICE's Battlefield 4. As I have gleefully pointed out time and again over the last few months (most notably here & here, amongst other threads :D), BF4 was a good poster child for everything that is ailing the modern games industry: a sequel for the sake of sequel cash, bug-ridden and incomplete code being sold for full price, and months and months of patching before the player gets what he paid for.

Shameful. Inexcusable. Reprehensible.

But having said all of that, I do have to give EA/DICE a hard to swallow "kudos" for, finally, releasing a game worthy of the Battlefield name. Battlefield 4 has finally arrived - granted, some seven months post release - but arrived nonetheless. :rolleyes:

It all makes for some good summer gaming. Why summer, you ask? Because Battlefield 4 has so much swimming and boating in it, that they should have called it Battlefield 4: Extreme Water Sports. :D

Would be a great spot for some sunbathing...but for the fighter jets dogfighting overhead
This is perfectly acceptable and appropriate, though, as this version of the Battlefield franchise deals with a theme long overlooked by a world of combat games obsessed by a 1980's-styled World War III setting that deals with Americans and Russians going at it. Blessedly, not here. Instead, this is a game tailored for the Obama administration's pivot to Asia (one of the scant areas where I completely agree with this administration - like with BF4, credit where credit is due :)). With the exception of the map pack that revisits some of the favs from Battlefield 3 - mostly Persian Gulf / Caucuses settings - most of the maps in Battlefield 4 all seem appropriately set in believable PTO settings, such as island-hopping campaigns, sub pen and carrier assaults, jungle fights, and Asian-themed city sieges. Really, DICE has outdone itself in the thematics department based on what I have experienced so far. it is all convincing and on target (unlike Treyarch's Black Ops 2, a game that initially visited the same geopolitical theme, but later got distracted by wacky DLC that featured such incongruities as skateboard parks, rock concerts, and other WTF oddities).

With that in mind, be prepared to get wet! I hope you like to swim because you will be diving into the refreshing waters of the Pacific quite a bit!

The sea turned turbulent on me!
You will also be doing your share of recreational boating:

One if by land, two if by sea....

Now, DICE has made much of the "Level-ution" thing in the lead up to the release of this game, but I have to say that, by and large, "level-ution" is more often than not missing from most maps. This is a shame as where it is present, it can really add some nice additional atmospheric effects (I am less impressed by the gameplay implications, though). There really is no describing how thrilling it can be to be assaulting an island when a tropical storm blows in, something that causes the sea to become suddenly frightful, especially when you need to cross it on a boat. Likewise, it is pretty darn cool to be fighting your way through a Pacific Rim city when a rainstorm blows in and begins flooding the streets.

"Water water everywhere" is definitely the theme of BF4....

The streets of this city are awash after a storm

To be honest, I am not really surprised that water is everywhere in BF4 as the new theme in the world of video game design is clearly the art of creating believable moisture effects. I noticed this trend beginning with the unveiling of Watch_Dogs at last year's E3 - was there ever more ink spilt in transcribing all the "oohs" and "ahhs" that were heard when that's game's rain-slicked streets were first unveiled? So, yeah, expect a lot of moisture in your gaming for the foreseeable future because high fidelity rain effects are clearly the "hot, new thang" in gaming. As a lover of rainy skies, consider me enthusiastic for this trend.

Dawn, after a brutal, rainy night of combat
I will say that DICE has also amped up the destruction engine in this game. While I still think it might be a bit behind where the classic Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was, it is a definite improvement over the surprisingly limited destruction in BF3.

Destruction 3.0! Or is it 4.0 now?

As fans have come to expect, all sorts of things can be smashed, from vehicles, to buildings and even the landscaping.

I am literally hiding under a table as an enemy gunboat demolishes the bungalow across the way, and part of mine, too!

I am also glad to see the return of totally collapsible buildings, something that has been missing from the BF since we left the glory days of Bad Company 2.

I also have to give credit to DICE for providing many more cosmetic options in this iteration of the series. BF3 was a paltry Call of Duty rip-off in this regard, what with its minor handful of cosmetics. Not so in BF4. At last, the BF4 community has a very nice selection of custom camo for both our soldiers and our weapons, as well as the ability to design our own logos and have them appear in game:

My custom logo can be seen on the side of my jeep, as well as on my weapon (near the bottom of the magazine). It also appears as a patch on my uniform!
Finally, I am happy to say that DICE has finally addressed the "Hollywood sound stage" map design issues found in BF3 (you can read about it here). Now buildings actually seem inhabited with furniture and stuff!

I like to think maybe I had a bit to do with this change. :whist:

Even though DICE has clearly upped the graphic ante from the Battlefield 3 days, I am still impressed by how well this game runs on even a dated stock GPU like mine. While it is true that I have had to step down my BF3 high-ultra settings to medium-high for BF4 for a good framerate (roughtly 45-50 fps), I will say that I hardly notice a real distinction as the game still looks mighty fine while running great. Here, DICE deserves a definite pat on the back from PC gamers for taking the time to see that this game didn't become a resource hog. For example, compare the great graphics and solid performance of the Frostbite engine as used here to the highly modded Source engine(!) being used in another EA title called Titanfall - that game looks nowhere near as good, but runs like a fat pig (I am actually forced to play that game on all low settings! :(). Nicely done, DICE.

What about the infamous netcode that plagued the early months of this game? I can say that I have encountered few issues of rubber banding and/or delayed hit detection. Now, I said "few" issues for I have encountered such issues very occasionally - say, a dozen or two times out of roughly 50 hours of gameplay to date - and that is with the most recent patch's latency setting set to "medium" (if I set it to high, I probably could cut back on such issues even more). While a competitive player might have a better eye for such issues, this casual player is more than satisfied with the netcode at this point.

Keeping my powder dry
Final Thoughts

It's hard to stay mad at DICE when despite all the initial hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, they still managed to deliver another excellent entry in the Battlefield series. Granted, their behavior (along with EA's, of course) was disreputable and reprehensible at the outset. This is something that must not be forgotten. However, they ultimately did right by their fans in delivering the product we all hoped we would have had last October.

Now, having said that, I still believe DICE and EA need to be held accountable. With that in mind, I made it a point to refuse to pay full price for either the base game or the premium add-on. By doing so, I not saved myself money (roughly 60% discount in total off the original purchase price for the base game plus premium by waiting for sales), but hopefully also sent a message to EA that I will not reward their egregious behavior by paying full price. And, needless to say, I also waited over half a year to jump into the game. I am sure that if other gamers likewise delay their purchases, and also refuse to pay full price, EA will quickly get the message loud and clear (and perhaps already have).

But let us put all that ugliness behind us. Battlefield 4 is finally here, and I am having a blast yet again. DICE likes to use the "only in Battlefield" slogan as a selling point, but the truth is that there really is nothing like Battlefield when it comes to combined arms action in a highly destructible and immersive environment. Only in Battlefield do I find myself holding my breath and ducking my head as my in-game avatar hunkers behind a car as rounds from an enemy MG spang off the body. Only in Battlefield do I dive under a table as a gunboat tears the walls down around me. And only in Battlefield do I relish the opportunity to belly crawl into some shrubbery and set up the perfect ambush.

Only in Battlefield indeed....

Categories: Blogs

Gearbox Does it Again: Battleborn

Forums: Latest Threads - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 15:03
Here's why Borderlands 3 is not in production - it's a good reason :):

I am really developing a deep respect for Gearbox (with the exception of the Colonial Marines fiasco). They never follow the pack; every game they make is something fresh and original. Way to go, guys. :thumup: You already have me excited. Seeing what a great setting Borderlands proved to be, Battleborn looks very exciting!
Categories: Forums

Computer games you would like to see get made

Forums: Latest Threads - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 09:20
So what would you like to see that isn't out there? Something entirely new or a remake of a classic?
Categories: Forums
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