Trying Battlefield 4 After Having Played ArmA

So I took advantage of Game Time — EA’s latest gimmick to get people to install Origin, to finally try out Battlefield 4. EA advertises the game with everything it does compared to Call of Duty, but it’s odd having played through its campaign after going through ArmA III. The three franchises form an interesting scale of military first person shooter gameplay.

I have to admit, compared to COD games, Battlefield 4’s campaign indeed feels more open and dynamic as EA advertised. Instead of trying to straight-up copy COD like Battlefield 3 mostly did, BF4 makes design decisions that starkly contrast with COD’s extremely linear campaigns. You often hop in and out of vehicles in BF4, run around groups of fully-explorable and destructible buildings, give basic commands to characters, and most importantly fight in open-ended arenas. There was more than once instance in the game where I was able to skillfully build my own plan for opening assaults and see them play out in both expected and unexpected ways. The whole thing still feels linear, but also slightly tactical.

Let’s imagine a scale (I don’t have the time to photoshop it together) between linear shooters that just want you to move from cover to cover and shoot what’s in front of you, and tactical shooters that ask you to plan things. You have COD at 0% (for lack of a better term) on the linear end of the scale and ArmA at 100% on the tactical end. Classic squad-based shooters like the original Ghost Recon or the old Rainbow Six games might be at 75%. Modern squad-based shooters like Rainbow Six VegasGhost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, and SOCOM 4 would be around the 25% mark. In my mind BF4 would be at the 15% mark on this scale, so maybe it’s like halfway between a COD game and GRAW. Either way, it accomplishes what it attempts. I just wish the developers of these big AAA games had more ambition.

Battlefield and COD get all the attention while ArmA attempts to create the most expansive and open-ended military shooting experience ever, even if it doesn’t completely succeed. It’s a game where I can literally fly a helicopter carrying 12 soldiers 20 kilometers across the landscape, pick my own route so as to avoid anti-air, determine where to safely land, pick where I’m gonna drop my men for a mission, plan and accomplish said mission, take my own route to my own chosen extraction point, and make my way back home. I deal with all the bugs, rough edges, and hard-to-learn game mechanics because this group of guys in the Czech Republic are the only ones willing to make this game. I’m just mad because I don’t know if EA or Ubisoft or Activision will ever try to make a mainstream, accessible AAA game with ArmA’s level of ambition. I’m sure with their hundreds of people and budgets in the tends of millions of dollars they could make such a game feel polished. Battlefield 4’s campaign, for all EA advertises, feels like a baby step in that direction.

Anyway, BF4 has some pretty fantastic graphics. Part of the reason I did this Game Time thing was to finally test how my computer handles a “next-gen” game. It truly does look visually on another level from even most cross-generation games we’ve seen, and I wasn’t even playing with the graphics on ultra. Judging by the release calendar, it looks like my computer won’t be consistently put to the test until it’s already over a year old.


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