I think I'm gonna pass buying this:
there's no sitting at suburb, in a weird peace hearing the distance battle, all the while knowing it could come crashing down on you at a moments notice. BF3 and on have been just non-stop hectic combat everywhere, no sense of pacing or ebb-and-flow.. something the BF2 trailer nodded to: https://youtu.be/fQ2c3Yj7Haw?t=138
Yes, the trailer had to sell, and as a whole, it is this all out assault on a single base. But then when it is taken, the assault is over, and if it weren't for the commander asset, it would have been a sweet break in the combat. That base on Daqing Oilfields? It was sometimes a bloody intense 4 squad firefight, other times you could be holding it with nobody coming, but you knew the longer it went after taking it, the harder that wave of enemies was gonna crash down on you. It was the same with Strike at Karkand's Suburb I mentioned earlier - It gave teams critical access to Market and Train, and getting it was sometimes an intense firefight - but it would be a minute or two before the enemy could react - going in alone was a bad idea, so typically a tank or Vodnik/Humvee would be used.
These little self contained matches, these battles - taking bases was always this (with some poor map design exceptions, such as Hotel on said Strike at Karkand). These were what made Battlefield such a lasting and memorable experience. The reward for playing was victory, was collaboration, was succeeding with your friends or even strangers online. Yes, weapon or class or vehicle balance was often broken, but the core gameplay was that the battlefield was not one huge front of players murdering each other, it was a collection of little conflicts, clashes between squads, vehicles coming in to provide critical support when things went south. None of this in a hardcore, ARMA-style play - the emergent arcade experience simply encouraged this kind of play.
Every battle had this story, it wasn't brief 'battlefield' moments, it was fighting for every meter of dirt up the side of Mashtuur City from Hotel to North Gas Station, seeing buddies drop and supporting your squad, always on the lookout for flanking. Getting to the top, having an incredible firefight with one or even two squads, then taking that base and knowing they'd be coming back for it. Having time to regroup, plan a defense and hold it while someone scouted out to either lay traps or just be an early warning. A solid 2-3 minutes of battle to take a base, reviving, spawning, pushing, grinding, and achieving ultimate little victories.
Some of what made this succeed was the 6 man squad: splitting the squad, sending 4 guys head on into an enemy defense, while a squad leader and a medic circle around back to find a safe spot for the leader to sit back and overwatch from was a fundamental strategy everyone naturally came to use. That's how we did Junkyard on jalalabad - usually from market or fountain, we'd scope it out and look for mines, if there were mines and we had humvee, we'd jump the fence, if we had vodnik we'd park it in a corned outside the fence and draw fire, while the main 3 dps, usually a medic a support and antitank, went through the house or around back to the bridge. The vodnik would lookout so the leader and medic could wrap around the main entrace, in case t90/abrams were watching. This was organic, and would happen with randoms, not try hards, it was something people did once they realized having a squad leader alive was worth cooperating for. My friends and I did this specific tactic maybe two or three times. I played map over a hundred times, and I can remember at least as many experiences I had on it. This was just taking a single base. Not even the whole battle, which I could even tell you what we did from there.
I can't remember anything like this from games after BF3.. There are moments - but no experiences, no stories to embellish, nothing I could describe in detail, as if telling a war story from some war long ago. The new battlefield has given me nothing more than a collection of moments that I remember hazily.
BF5 is more of what made BF3 so bad for long time fans: if 1942-2142 were a tide of war, two waves crashing against eachother, or a rising tide trying to engulf a stronghold; BF3-BFV are a swimming pool. No matter where you are in it, you're in the middle of it. The only times you're not in the middle of it is when you're above it (flying) or not in it at all (deployment, or spawn screen). In BF classic, you could choose to be an engineer in a jeep, just blitzing around repairing tanks, or a support jeep resupplying everyone as needed. (medic/engineesupport resupplied repaired and healed with an aura when driving vehicles) - And hated as the player role may have been for ease of exploitation, commanders had assets, and these required engineers and even squads to stay behind the front lines to repair them or protect them. Players that wanted to constantly play at the front could do that too, because up the beach or out at sea, there's a calm - oceans rise because they are pushed from behind, and waves break because they are being pushed back by the slope of the beach. In BF3-BFV you're always at the front line, and the way classes evolved shows that, the level designs show that, the gimmicks show that. The expectation and the design is to simply ALWAYS be in thick of it. And if you're always in the thick of it, what makes one battle more memorable than the other, what reward is there for being creative or even playing for the team?
Calling post BF3 Battlefield a COD Clone, or saying it is becoming CoD has become somewhat of a meme, but when Battlefield 3 was released, the sentiment was brutally honest feedback from players which loved Call of Duty's hectic play, but also Battlefield slow and methodical arcade. I was one of those players - Until Modern Warfare introduced killstreaks, I put as many hours into Call of Duty as I did Battlefield. Modern Warfare was the first Billion dollar launch in the history of games, an industry where just breaking even was common (calculated as future development costs plus development costs), and having a "mere" 200% return on investment was a huge success. Modern Warfare changed all that. EA is owned by investors, and the idea of spending 100-200 Million to make 1.5 Billion was too attractive to pass up - or so we fans like to think. No other reason could have existed to justify the changes made to the core of the game franchise. There were only two major shifts that ocurred between Battlefield 2142 and Battlefield 3. Games started making billions per title, and Battlefield went to console. A third, Battlefield Bad Company, is not really a possible reason as the franchise has had several spinoffs during the classic Battlefield era.
Console audiences demanded deep offline experiences (campaigns) for success - a fact that can be seen by simply looking at the performance of games on console that lack campaigns as opposed to the same on PC. Games like Fortnite, PUBG, Counter Strike, Team Fortress, Quake, Unreal Tournament - and many more - simply could not have achieved Call of Duty level sales - even Battlefield's own attempts floundered until Battlefield Bad Company. Pushing a Campaign into the game was required for two reasons - the Xbox 360 requires that a game be playable offline (if installed with a disk/on a disk), and console players were much more likely to buy a full price title just for the single player campaign. This is the critical reason for console sales far exceeding comparable PC sales, even though the number of PC players dwarfs the number of console players. In order to achieve that Billion dollar franchise, EA had to add a campaign. Remember, this is years ago - the industry has shifted, with consoles now allowing for online play to be required, and console players being much more willing to purchase games that lack a defined single player campaign.
In adding a Campaign, DICE had to effectively split development - something they had partly avoided doing for Bad Company 2, where levels used in the Single Player were frequently repurposed for the Multiplayer. Battlefield 3's single player is in many ways a compeltely different game to the multiplayer - with vehicles, assets and even engineering technologies being used that are simply unnavailable in the multiplayer release. Some of these were concessions made in order to make Battlefields single player as good looking as possible, while also pushing the hardware to the limit just to get the multiplayer running on the Xbox 360. This is where the biggest pitfall would happen - Consoles require certification for release, consoles are inexpensive to procure, both the campaign and the multiplayer are very large and require lots of eyes on them to catch bugs. The result of all this is majority testing and feedback and data, pre-release, came from console testing.
How do I make this claim?
As we all know, Xbox 360 and PS3 have analog input, they have fewer buttons. Most importantly, they could only run 32 players at a time. On PC, picking up a kit was bound to its own key in all games leading up to BC2. The console lacks the number of buttons, so kit swap, something used very frequently in Battlefield, switched from being its own button, to "Hold Reload to Swap". This is a surface tip - we could even call it a coincidence. Dig deeper: Vehicles in BF3 and BF4 react very poorly to binary input, this can be seen best with the Jetskis in BF4, but also Jets and Helicopters in BF3 lacked certain features, certain types of braking and acceleration types which were mapped to the extremes of the analog sticks or triggers, these could be mapped on PC using the config file, but were simply missing in the menus - one of which was the ability to decelrate hard, or air brake. Another area where this could be seen was in infantry movement itself. There was a sluggishness and jankiness to swithing angles (pressing strafe and back or forward), which was even visible in other vehicles but most pronounced in infantry. A game with a special animation engine marketed as being the great next thing was delivering a second-rate movement experience on PC - specifically, when using binary input. Battlefield 3 deleting the weapon wheel preview would be another place where this change is clear.
All of these are little things that point to a console first, PC second *feedback* loop. Testers and play testers were spending most of their times behind analog controls. The two most critical problems the franchise faces stem from that.
Battlefield 3 and 4 level design and weapon balance is console centric. 3D spotting broke Battlefield 3 and 4 on PC.
3D spotting has a place in the console world - Battlefield has large environments, TVs are often poorly configured, low resolution or simply unable to show enough detail in darker rendered environments to make enemies sufficiently visible - Analog sticks are relatively unwieldy so hitting a 3D spotted target, while possibly easy for some of the best, is a challenge for most, unless that target is close enough for aim assist, at which point 3D spotting makes very little difference as the enemy is right on top of the player. On PC, however, tracking and clicking on the little doritos is child's play, the mouse is an incredibly intuitive and accurate pointing device. Open levels on PC, those with helicopters and jets especially, were deathtraps for infantry on PC, forcing most players to play the engineer role to simply get back at the enemy for dying 4 or 5 times from a mile away. Being spotted also meant that if an enemy could see you, they could also shoot at you, and on PC that usually means they will hit you, immediately. This sort of issue is genuinely game breaking, and can turn even the biggest maps into meat grinders for infantry deaths (Alborz Mountains).
Where there was some salvation from 3D spotting there was another problem. Level design on infantry focused maps in BF3 and to a smaller extent in BF4, were designed to allow console corner peeking, and worse yet, were designed for 32 players on console. Console corridor play is very different to PC corridor play. A hallway in a console game is difficult not when a target is far from the center of the screen, but when the target is far from the player character. On PC it is the exact opposite, a target at the end of a mile long hallway would be as hard to hit as a target at 25 feet (assuming the bullet can hit at the same time for both distances - the point being PC doesn't, as above mentioned, rely on aim assist). On PC, the traditional approach to hallway, or close quarter combat, is to require the player to have turn to find or search for targets: a wide room room that isn't very deep is far more dangerous to the player than the same room on console, as the console player can snap with aim assist. Grand Bazaar examplifies this issue. All primary combat areas on this map are long narrow channels, rather than wide fields of view with ample cover. Similarly, Caspian Border's central flag on the hill could see directly into several other bases. While on console this is largely a non issue given the lack of aim assist at longer ranges (making the addition of suppression a good way to slow the action down and make it more intense, while also rewarding players for putting bullets down range, you know, let them have fun) - on PC, this kind of access (in addition to 3D spotting) made spawn camping and random deaths a very common isssue.
Tracking targets is difficult on console, especially at a distance, and that's ok, Halo has some of the best combat in FPS ever, and it would be miserable (well, it is miserable) on PC, except when the maps are designed from the ground up for PC.
The second aspect I mentioned is weapon balance - Battlefield 3 was abysmal for this, and most of the outcry came from PC players, as well as console players who had the misfortune of facing of with an analog stick god. Guns like the USAS 12 FRAG, or the 40mm slug - these were largely non issues for console, at least when compared to the total game breaking balance they had on PC. Sniping with 40mm and the frag was easy, landing all shots was easy - weapons that either aimed to add crowd control or provide very accurate aim with a very accurate weapon were simply completely broken for the PC audience - again, because the bulk of the pre-release development test audience was on analog sticks.
Making the best possible console version of Battlefield meant dealing major damage to the core of the game - Battlefield 2 would have been miserable on console, it was far too big for console aiming systems and was balanced for players with pin-point accuracy through inordinate amounts of random bullet spread to artificially manage DPS. While RBS is common on console, too, most games will switch to a kind of magnetism when close enough and aiming close enough to the target - hits are guaranteed, for example, when using BDMCarbine/etc in Halo when the reticle turns red. This works really well there, incredibly well, but is completely broken when done the same way on PC. In chasing after Console crowds by adding the campaign, and everything it entailed in terms of QA time needed, DICE shifted critical game testing resources away from PC - all in an effort to appease the shareholders who saw major dollar signs in EA's most popular first person shooter.
DICE made Battlefield 3 more like Call of Duty not because of their greed, and maybe not even intentionally, but in their effort to make the best Console Battlefield, they fundamentally altered the PC formula. Battlefield Bad Company was everything Battlefield could be with the hardware resources they had to work with - and it is unabashedly good. It had issues, but resolving them, and expanding the experience would have made a better console Battlefield than Battlefield 3 was, and Battlefield 3 should have simply chosen to stay true to its PC roots and hack in a single player experience to fit into the market demands for console. A swiss army knife has it all, sure, but it doesn't really do any of it very well.
tldr: classic battlefield was better at being a player driven battlefield with much more dynamic flows and playstyles. Yes, they had LOTS of issues, and things like gunplay were atrocious. BUT: Battlefield stood apart by offering a sandbox experience that let all players be in control of how they played - something that was even reflected in Mod tools, private servers and local game hosting.(edited)
inb4 strike at karkand grenade spam fest - like i said, the games were far from perfect, but they were also a distinct franchise which rewarded some planning and creativity greatly, while it punished mindlessness without skill harshly.
some of the best fun I had in BF2, for example, was driving my brothers around from base to base on kubra dam, just to cap and ditch... usually after a rough grind on some other map... because that was an option, to just shoot the shit and sometimes shoot the enemy.
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