Our hands-on run of Battlefield 4 at Gamescom turns into a story of suicidal bravery and catching sick air.
By Joab Gilroy on August 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm
The sea was angry that day my friends. Angry like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli.
We’ve got the bomb. The red light atop it flashes alongside a rhythmic beep as we gun it away from the shore, seeking refuge in the waves. A storm has set in over the Paracel Islands, a small archipelago east of Danang in the South China Sea, and the waves roll, creating a moving set of cover.
As I take us out to sea my shipmates do what they can to take care of those behind us. The Patrol boat we’ve commandeered has a pair of miniguns and a rocket launcher, so as long as we see our enemies coming we can do something about them.
Two jet skis explode, taking four soldiers with them, and I begin to angle our boat back towards shore. Before when we were heading directly into the waves we lost speed as we hit the crest – slicing into waves at a 45 degree angle lets us conserve more momentum, so we begin to streak quickly back towards land and our objective.
Waves are networked, which means they model the waves for everyone on the server all at once. Apparently this wasn’t always necessary – when the waves were inconsequential and boats were used only for transport, waves were only networked for people on the same water vessel.
Waves in Battlefield 4 are part of the “Levolution” strategy for the game – where players notice both large and small scale differences across the map. In the case of the Siege of Shanghai the player causes these differences by blowing up the TV building at point C or activating any of a number of switches to change the game in the player’s advantage. In the case of Paracel Storm, the level changes itself via the storm, and eventually one of the destroyers lingering on the edge of the combat area crashes into an island.
This, of course, happens alongside the destruction the Battlefield series is now famous for.
Bullets pepper the deck of our boat, killing one of my squad mates. I push down harder on the W and Shift buttons – as if that will make us faster somehow – and swing the boat’s 30mm cannon around to find our attacker.
Of course it’s an attack helicopter. And of course I have the ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) equipped instead of Anti-Air. Another member of my squad goes down and the game alerts me to the fact that I’m the last squad member standing.
In Battlefield 4 squad members work together to earn Field Upgrades during matches – a series of perks given to a squad as they do well throughout a match – and they dissolve atthe end of a match. At Gamescom these included perks like Explosive Resistance, a health boost on the defensive side and an increased Sprint on the offensive side. The trick here is that when an entire squad gets wiped, you lose one level of your Field Upgrades – if Health Boost is your fourth tier upgrade and you get wiped, you lose the upgrade and need to build back up to it again.
I start unloading into the helicopter with my 30mm cannon, and I take a speculative shot with the Anti-Tank missile. It misses, and I head directly underneath the chopper to make things hard on it.
As we close in on land things get worse. What seems like the entire enemy team (minus one helicopter pilot) is shooting at me from the island with the bomb objective, my only respite being the still rolling waves. I need to choose – either I reverse, and try to get to another objective location while the chopper continues to hammer me or I attack the island and hope for a miracle.
Whether it’s jetlag or that I’m just not very smart, I decide to kamikaze at the island. The 30mm starts tearing into my opponents as I charge the island, and their fire dissipates for a moment before kicking in stronger than ever. My screen starts to go red as I begin to take damage, and as I sink low into the trough of a particularly large wave, my life flashes before my eyes.
I think back to the time I was born, almost four minutes ago, at the helm of this boat. I remember the first time I killed a man when I ran over his jet ski. I recall my brothers getting cut down in a hail of gunfire.
My eyes narrow.
I can’t go out like this. I haven’t even taken my first steps yet! I won’t go out like this.
Like a man possessed, I start firing through the waves. I cackle (in my head, it’s a public space and I don’t want to embarrass myself) as it seems to work, my foes falling before me. Behind me the chopper bears down, spitting up water as it tries to get a line on me. I break through the crest of the wave and get air, my action movie fantasies playing out all at once. My screen is a dark red now, and I know I’m about to die as the boat crashes into the shore but I jump out anyway, bomb in hand, and start fighting my way to the bomb site.
And then, at the last second, in a twist straight out of the worst Matthew Reilly book (for those keeping score at home, the worst Matthew Reilly book is all of them) my squad mates spawn on me. I hit the deck as one of them drops a medkit and my screen clears up again. Behind me, a friendly Z-11 attacks the Chinese helicopter, taking its attention away from the ragtag crew of strangers who make up Juliet Squad.
As I make my way to the bomb site – a large fuel tank – the rip/tear sound of a rocket-propelled grenade makes its way towards me. I turn to find its source, but it’s already too late. The missile crashes into the ground behind me and explodes outwards, the shockwave obliterating my internal organs even before shrapnel can pierce my skin, and I ragdoll to the ground. The bomb drops on the floor, and as I wait for rebirth I hear it plant, tick over and explode.
Now we just have to do it all again, three more times.