[The following article represents the sole views of Rob Keyes.]
Developer DICE and publisher Electronic Arts almost blew it. They may already have. With the Call of Duty franchise - reigning king of first-person shooter genre - seemingly peaked, scoring slightly weaker reviews, slightly lower sales figures and certainly a lot less buzz in each successive annual installment, the timing was perfect to grab more of that market share with Battlefield. After all, Battlefield 3 was the fastest-selling EA game and becoming the company's flagship property. With BF3 and the Frostbite 2 engine they had something with a ton of potential to build from going forward.
Battlefield 4 however, was a lesson in how not to build on that success. In fact, it did the opposite. From day one with the unveil of single player gameplay footage that elicited mixed reactions for attendees at GDC that year perhaps we should have known it was coming. Battlefield 4 failed to do much new, dropped co-op entirely and lacked polish. It essentially came out a year too soon and we say that because it took almost a year to get the latest massive update out - finally bringing the game to where it should have been at launch. Imagine how good Battlefield 4 could be if it came out this October instead of last?
But it didn't. Like The Sims 4, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, NHL 15 and Titanfall, Battlefield 4 released before it was ready. The result was massive problems with the game's netcode, causing unplayable connection issues for a significant portion of the community, balance issues, bugs and another unimpressive campaign. The disappointment was so serious that EA's shareholders sued the firm multiple times about their reports on the quality of the product. And while this was all happening, the publisher was pushing the sales of DLC and microtransactions. That right there is bad PR on top of bad PR.
To make matters worse, after EA's own CEO dubbed the game's launch "unacceptable" - the same meaningless resentment they shared for both Medal of Honor titles - they went ahead and announced another series entry: Battlefield Hardline. This one, believe or not, was going to come even sooner. As you can imagine, despite a different developer (Visceral Games) holding the reins on this project, it was crazy to not be skeptical. DICE LA Producer David Sirland had even admitted that they had "lost player trust," after all.
After a Battlefield Hardline beta period though, EA did the unexpected and pulled a move out of the Ubisoft playbook, deciding to actually give Hardline more time and focus on the quality of the project more than the release date. Battlefield Hardline was delayed to March 2015 but even with the extra time it will only have 9 maps at launch. DLC, DLC DLC.
We're now a year past the launch of Battlefield 4 and there's one more piece of DLC content still to come. EA is even re-releasing the game as Battlefield 4: Premium Edition (read: Battlefield 4: Ready For Launch This Time) on October 21st to prepare for it. The DLC is called Final Stand and the latest playable beta version released yesterday in the community test environment for feedback. The official release doesn't have a date yet but when it comes, we're finally going to jump back into Battlefield to try it out. Final Stand looks like it could be something special.
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Battlefield 3 kept us playing for along time and through most of its DLC but BF4 lost us relatively quickly. With the Final Stand DLC however, the last piece of new content for the game, we're getting something different. It's the closest thing to Battlefield 2142 in years and it all takes place in the snowy mountains of Russia with four new maps. There are hover tanks, all sorts of new gadgets and yes, giant bipedal mechs can be seen in the background. Here are the latest official detailed released by DICE yesterday:
THIS IS YOUR NEW BATTLEFIELDMake sure to pack your thermal underwear when you throw yourself in the all-new, wintry maps of Final Stand. You’ll fight through both enemy fire and the Siberian cold in Operation Whiteout, and explore a submarine base when you hit the mountainous Hammerhead. Military secrets and hints of future battlefields lie within Hangar 21, and in Giants of Karelia you’ll encounter both rural areas and a high-tech weapons factory.
HI-TECH MILITARY GEARIn Final Stand you’ll get your mitts on incredible hi-tech vehicles and military hardware of the near future. For instance, we have a hunch that you’ll love piloting the HT-95 Levkov, with the capability to move sideways with strafing. The mere sight of the devastating Rorsch MK-1will make sharp shooters drool, and the flying XD-1 Accipiter is another explosive Battle Pickup that will give you the upper hand on the Battlefield.
GET AHEAD WITH GADGETSAny other toys lined up? You bet. On top of all mentioned, you can expect gadgets such as the Target Detector that attaches to DMRs and Carbines and lets you auto-spot the enemy. The DS-3 DECOY emits false blips on the enemies mini-maps, fooling them into thinking they’ve got company.
And, there may be snowboards!
While this DLC will get us back on board to at least try the game and see the results of the massive update, we are still very concerned for the future of EA-DICE releases given their recent track record with their shooters. And that brings us to Star Wars: Battlefront, what may be their most important project to date. From what EA has said so far about the secretive reboot, it is clearly being driven to release around the time Star Wars: Episode VII hits theaters - Even if it's not finished we fear. Or if it is, half of the game's maps, vehicles, etc. will be reserved to buy later, included in the inevitable Star Wars Premium account. Maybe they'll call it the Force subscription or something. And for $5.99 you can maybe get the yellow crystal for your lightsaber.
Please don't mess this up, DICE.
In the meantime, Visceral promises their Frostbite-powered EA shooter will "work" at launch so don't worry. That's actually a question they had to answer.
Battlefield 4: Final Stand doesn't have a release date yet. Battlefield Hardline releases March 2015 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.