It's evident from DICE's reveal of Battlefield 4 last month at GDC in San Francisco that they want you to play the game's single-player just as much as multiplayer. So much so, in fact, that they've ripped out as much as possible from multiplayer to stick straight into Battlefield 4's campaign.
In the 17 minute gameplay demo that we witnessed, lead character Recker blew holes through walls to flank enemy troops and transports, jumped into a vehicle to speed through the map and coordinated with friendly AI to focus fire as a distraction so Recker could circle 'round and eliminate threats. Sure, there were some obviously scripted areas to the demonstration -- a building literally falling around our heroes, as an example -- but that's not what DICE wants you to focus on.
Battlefield 4 "is less scripted than ever before in any Battlefield game," said DICE's Patrick Bach, Executive Producer of Battlefield. "It is a very narrative and focused story that we’re using, opening up for variations in gameplay when it comes to choice."
For the first time in a Battlefield campaign you'll be able to truly handle a mission as you see fit.
DICE wants to stress that, for the first time in a Battlefield campaign, you'll be able to truly handle a mission as you see fit.
"We can give you the tools, but we won’t be the ones to tell you have to solve each playground. In the construction site [demonstrated], there are a bunch of enemies in there, and you could have taken the vehicle all the way, or you could have skipped the vehicle. We’re not going to force you to do anything there," said Tobias Dahl, Battlefield 4's single-player Producer.
That supposed freedom is meant to open up Battlefield 4's campaign so it plays like a multiplayer match; while some outcomes have to happen, DICE's new Frostbite 3.0 engine will be able to provide players with many different methods to meet your goals. Do you try to stealth through an area, or do you jump in, guns blazing? Do you commandeer an enemy transport and drive in with a chaingun? Do you rally with your troops to selectively target threats? Or, do you take the true Battlefield approach and try to topple every building in sight… and those in them, of course?
According to DICE, all of the above.
"The whole purpose of the construction site in the demo yesterday is to show we will give you the tools that you have available in multiplayer, such as vehicles and the possibility to affect what your squad is doing. But how you solve each puzzle is… as far from pre-scripted as we can get," Dahl summarised.
An early version of Battlefield 4's Battlelog system was persistent on Dahl's HUD as he demonstrated the campaign, scoring him as he progressed and comparing his carnage with that of his friends. DICE wants to encourage you to replay levels like you'd replay tracks using Need for Speed in order to gain ultimate bragging rights.
The pair did concede that some options had to be linear in order to tell the story that DICE wanted to, but that Battlefield 4's linearity should take a back-seat to overall player choice. "We want to take Battlefield multiplayer to the extreme, and create a Hollywood movie version with you as an interactive player in that, to play through with the toolset that you have in multiplayer," said Bach.
"We don’t see linear as negative and being open as positive," Bach continued. "To us, it’s the variation between them; it’s the contrasting actions between being in a very narrow space and being in a very big open space."
"As you see in the demo, you start in a car, underwater, sinking; it’s less than a corridor. It’s worse, you could argue. But, it creates a very intense drama. It creates tension; it creates a connection to these people around you. Like we talked about before, people remember the [characters’] names. It’s super personal. People care about the characters, and we’re not used to seeing that in many shooters."
Sure, DICE has some big claims to live up to, but if it's all pulled off correctly, Battlefield 4 could have a campaign that's just as respected as the franchise's multiplayer has been for years now. It'll be make or break time when Battlefield 4 is released on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 (and probably next-gen systems, but that's yet to be confirmed) in October.