Now that I’ve finally got a chance to sink my teeth into Battlefield 4, I’m realizing in what ways the Battlefield franchise is getting away from it’s roots, and losing some of the key elements that separated Battlefield from other online shooters.
Combat in Battlefield 4 is often close quarters and chaotic. Every map makes the contest into a cage match, where the lines of the opposing sides are so mixed in, that there are essentially no lines at all, and teamwork becomes harder and harder to achieve.
A note here about Bad Company 2:
Battlefield Bad Company 2 had a multiplayer that really launched the Battlefield franchise. The maps were created with two or three obvious avenues of approach for the offense. So while, the defending team could anticipate the approach, the offense could tie in with other squads creating an organic teamwork experience.
The maps in Bad Company had their flaws, to be sure, but the fields of battle you fought on had fronts. The good guys are on this side, the bad guys are on that side. I think this is consistent with how combat with two organized opponents usually work in real life, and therefore, how militaries can teach tactics and operate strategically in battle.
The shortcoming of some of the maps in Bad Company 2 had to do with chokepoints that could become impossible to overcome. Cold War, a snowy map that passed through three sections of a town, began at the top of a hill that could become a death trap if the offense didn’t take the first set of objectives quick enough. But for that short coming, once the first objective was gone, the battle was in an urban environment, but still had separate areas of operation for the attackers and the defenders. Cold War is a great example of a fine balance of an urban setting that isn’t automatically a cage-fight.
In BF3, the maps had a lot more city environments, but again, there were avenues of approach and each side had more distinct areas of operation. Even Operation Metro–which mostly takes place inside of a subway–offered the close quarters experience without the cage-fight experience of not knowing where the bad guys could come from. Even inside the subway tunnels, Metro had three possible avenues of approach.
BF4 feels like it was designed to make teamwork more difficult or less important. Teamwork, lets not forget, is what Battlefield really introduced to the online shooter world. Being a part of a squad that you can spawn on, with different classes, is the perfect foundation of a team oriented shooter experience. This is what Battlefield’s niche is, and I hope they don’t stray too far from this foundation.
Working as a team in a squad involves simple things like covering a squad-mate as they run across the street. Shooting and suppressing an area occupied by the enemy while your squad moves forward. Or stopping and covering the rear while the rest of the squad spawns back in and rearms their ammunition. These basic teamwork practices are made much more difficult in Battlefield 4, and I suspect when Battlefield One comes out it will be more of the same.
Funnels of Death are all over Battlefield 4 maps. The approaches toward the objective so often require a fight through a hallway or a narrow alley, the squad can rarely combine firepower and work as a team. Since four or five teammates fighting their way down a hall or street–with sparse cover–makes it impossible for more than two squad-mates to fight effectively, the best strategy is often to split up, and see who survives so you can spawn on them once everyone else dies. This is not what a squad based game is looking for.
Urban Environments and Close Quarters:
These maps have too much city! Why can’t we fight in the suburbs or on the edges of a city? Tall buildings in downtown city settings make for a lot of sprinting down incredibly exposed streets. BF2 and BF3 both rewarded patient squads, who worked around the flanks, the long way, while being careful for a chance encounter of an enemy who is keeping an eye on the road less traveled by. The city maps are so slippery with so many places for the enemy to go, you can never take cover and provide suppressing fire for teammates fighting toward the objective. It’s not even that the cities are sniper play-lands. Though they are. Its that the open maze format of the urban map in BF4 is so accessible, if you set up to provide fire support, enemies can come across you while on one of their constant jogs around the map.
The essence of teamwork in a FPS is when your squad can fan out and overlap their fields of fire. When they can move up under the cover of their squad-mates, and then suppress while the others leap-frog ahead. And when they can fall back, when losses are coming too quickly, and the survivors who are falling back have a less than average chance of running into an enemy who can pop up anywhere and at any moment.
If every place a squad stops, someone has to cover a completely different direction; tactics in a team situation is not possible. All that’s possible is every-man-for-himself, in a chaotic cage-fight.