Holding Down the Flag:
Eight years after its initial release, Battlefield 4 still delivers what its successor is missing
This past summer, Battlefield V’s final update went live, and it felt the same as going through a breakup I knew had been coming a long time. Many players (myself included) are jumping back into 2013’s Battlefield 4, and I hope everyone else is as pleasantly surprised as I am.
Let’s get this straight. I was disappointed by the fifth entry in Dice’s large-scale shooter, but I think calling it “a bad game” is a bit too far. I spent many nights pushing across bridges, blowing up tanks, getting shot down in planes, and just generally reveling in the chaos. In my opinion, it was well worth the asking price, but it did not live up to my expectations nonetheless.
With the announcement of the final update to BFV, many players did not even wait. My twitter feed was flooded with gifs deeming the game “dead”. It probably is now if it wasn’t already then. I had jumped ship a bit before the update was even announced.
When I fired Battlefield 4 up, I was thrilled to find a healthy and active server quickly. And I began to die. A lot. After a while, I could see why. Some seasoned players never left the game, and the necessary play style is wildly different than BFV.
Battlefield 4 is a vehicle heavy, strategic experience that BFV could never be. Ranged battles, complete with suppression, are just as tense as ever. Long open stretches of land are a hazard to cross. You need your squad right next to you. Everybody needs to play their role, and if you do it well, you will probably win.
In other words, it feels like Battlefield.
It wasn’t until my “breakup” with Battlefield 5 that I understood the vast differences between the two. On the surface, Battlefield 5 is a Battlefield game, but underneath, it’s more of a glorified Call Of Duty.
This is seen most notably in three factors of the game: map design, speed, and squad revive. Many of BFV’s maps are smaller than BF4, and this makes sense considering the WWII setting. Without jets and helicopters, fighting over a large stretch of land can be difficult and time consuming. Within these generally tighter maps, the players move very quickly. Agility based gameplay is key, and the slide mechanic only speeds things up. In addition, any squad member can revive their downed squad members, regardless of their class in the game.
Bearing this in mind, me and three squamates can slide into the courtyard that is objective C on Rotterdam (Battlefield V’s take on the disastrous Operation Market-Garden), spraying bullets. If just one of our four-person squad survives, they can revive the other three of us, and we should be able to take the objective with ease.
In Battlefield 4’s most popular map, The Siege of Shanghai, objective C sits atop a skyscraper. From objective D on foot, you must risk either swimming to the base of the skyscraper, which can leave you as a sitting duck in the water for snipers, or cross a bridge, which if done without armor on your side can be just as risky.
To get to the actual objective, my squad and I will need to get into an elevator. When the doors open at the top, enemies may be waiting. We cannot just quickly slide out, spraying our sub machine guns. Our characters are not fast enough for that. We will have to stack up and fire accurately and quickly to make it out alive.
Should we survive the exit of the elevator, we may encounter an enemy squad elsewhere on the roof. This will most likely result in a cover-based firefight where teamwork, specifically communication, is key. If we succeed, and two of my squad members are down, they can be revived, though only if our squad member who was carrying a defibrillator survived. If nobody has a defibrillator, you’re out of luck.
Assuming whomever is left among us takes the flag, we may then have to at least temporarily vacate the objective as the other team sends the skyscraper crumbling to the ground, and then be forced to repeat a version of the process again, this time through a pile of rubble. Should we succeed on this second attempt, stark defense will be needed to hang onto the maps most contested objective.
In Battlefield 4, taking an objective, or re securing one after a successful defense is a blast. It’s just not the most fun part of the game.
It’s the process.
What makes Battlefield be Battlefield is this process. Maneuvering to flank an objective. Advancing through smoke. Making sure squamates have ammo and are healed. Suppressive fire. Destroying a building that enemies are using for cover. This is what defines the game. When you take the flag, the fighting should be over. It is the object of the game, but the work it takes to get there is the most exciting part and makes taking said objective far more rewarding.
Battlefield V seems intent on making the actual flag capture the most exciting part of the game. Crawling through grass to avoid an enemy tank while taking a flag may feel cool, but it takes away the series quintessential strategy at the same time.
So, if you’re jumping ship from Battlefield V to 4, get excited. You will most likely die a lot at first, but that’s a good thing. If this frustrates you at first, be reminded that the play style you may have gotten used to will be punishing. Sprint right up to an objective, and I’d be surprised if you make it all the way there alive.
Remember your complaints about Battlefield V. They were valid. It does not mean that Battlefield V is an inherently bad game, it is just an inherently bad Battlefield game.
For those of you who have been missing a true strategic, ptfo-style experience, Battlefield 4 has been waiting for you. Hope to see you out there.