I’ll start here by admitting that I’m not at all a big Battlefield player. I basically just did the campaign in Bad Company 2 and played a few hours of multiplayer, and haven’t played Battlefield 3 at all despite owning it. This here is just me musing over what might be some missed potential for the future of the franchise’s singleplayer modes.
EA’s talked a little bit about singleplayer Battlefield 4 and from that it seems to be going in a direction I think makes sense. I’m still afraid DICE will just go half-way there in its bid to go pound-for-pound against Call of Duty.
Battlefield is probably the one shooter franchise that can even do this right now, but that’s mostly because its multiplayer already has an established fanbase going back over a decade. Campaigns are a relative newcomer to the franchise, and DICE hasn’t yet proven they’re even necessary to Battlefield.
Respawn entertainment, also under EA, is trying to sell Titanfall as a $60 multiplayer-only game. That move is a bit controversial, but it proves that they can do it. People complain about tacked-on multiplayer all the time, but what about tacked-on singleplayer?
I’ll be an optimist and say that singleplayer Battlefield is possible, but it has to be Battlefield. It shouldn’t try to be COD, which is what EA and DICE have tried too hard too often to do. For starters, the rollercoaster level design style that COD’s campaigns follow is something that only maybe three studios in the world get right, and Infinity Ward is one of them. DICE should just stop trying. Most importantly, I think part of the reason Battlefield does so well in the face of COD is because of how different it is. Its multiplayer is slower-paced, more strategic, and on a larger scale.
This is what DICE has at least hinted at in what little they’ve said about BF4’s singleplayer (despite how much footage we’ve seen). In the middle of the “Fishing in Baku” video I saw what looked like fighting in a large, open environment, and I picked out what DICE later confirmed to be the player giving AI squadmates commands. DICE needs to go all the way in that direction if you ask me.
Battlefield multiplayer is about squads getting together and completing objectives within large open maps. The singleplayer should essentially be about the same thing, even if you’re only handling one squad.
Not only would this differentiate BF4 from Call of Duty Ghosts, but also from most other shooters these days. It could be seen as something different and possibly even innovative – the feeling of managing a group of fighters in a large, dynamic battlefield (no pun intended).
People from DICE have also said however that Battlefield 4 will have somewhat more linear sections to its levels for the purpose of telling a story. I guess they can do that, but what I’m afraid of is that they’ll still try to jack the game up with a bunch of set pieces and scripted events that they think will be memorable.
Really, if a game has to have additional modes beyond where it originated, it should still stick to its strengths. DICE shouldn’t just put in “some of the elements of the multiplayer” like they say they’ve been doing. They basically need to make the campaign a singleplayer version of the multiplayer base.