It’s 2020, and the world is on the brink of war. According to just about every major FPS franchise ever, the world is pretty much permanently on the brink of one war or another, but in this version it’s the assassination of a politician that’s got everybody (America, Russia, introducing special guest star China as “The Big Bad”) pointing guns and nukes at each other. Cue heavy rock music and meet US spec ops team Tombstone, who will be saving the world until the next sequel.
But enough about the campaign, because Battlefield 4 is all about the multiplayer. It’s also all about keeping things just the way you already know and love them, so for the moment it looks like multiplayer will include the same four classes – Assault, Engineer, Support, and Recon – seen in previous games. Squads can now include up to five players now, from Battlefield 3‘s four max, and PC and next-gen consoles will allow up to 64 players per match. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, however, will be restricted to just 24 players due to current-gen hardware limitations.
Playable factions this time around include the US Marine Corps, Russian Federation Ground Forces, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The RTS-style Commander Mode from Battlefield 2 will be redrafted into the action, while a new Spectator Mode enabling first- and third-person player cameras and a map-wide free camera makes its debut in the series.
With the unprecedented power of the New! Improved! Now with more mass destruction! Frostbite 3 engine, Battlefield 4 also adds a new “Levolution” feature that means changes to the environment equals changes to the gameplay. In the multiplayer map Siege of Shanghai, for example, collapsing a building with C4 charges will move flag locations and mix heaps of dust into the ongoing drama.
Also new to the game is a Field Upgrades specialisation system, spanning a total of eleven so-called “upgrade paths”, including three general paths available to all classes and two paths exclusive to each class. Each path provides extra kit and unit bonuses, like additional ammo or grenades, and passive abilities like reduced fall damage, increased sprint speed, and faster hit point regeneration.
Somewhat comparable with Call of Duty‘s scorestreak system, four paths can be selected for a match, and progress towards the next bonus is accumulated in sequence through teamwork and objective completion. You can swap to a different path at any time and your progress in the previous path is saved, but if your entire squad is wiped out, you’ll lose some progress in your currently selected path.
As is pretty much standard issue these days, two expansions have already been confirmed post-launch launch, including Battlefield 4: Second Assault and Battlefield 4: China Rising, the latter bundled free with all pre-orders of the game. Both expansions add new gear, vehicles, and four maps to the roster, with Second Assault featuring returning fan favourites from Battlefield 3.