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Battlefield 4 multiplayer: seven ways DICE needs to raise its game

Of Commander Modes and headcounts

It's nice that DICE understands where it went wrong with Battlefield 3's campaign, and it's nice that the developer intends to deliver something a tad more flexible and sympathetic with Battlefield 4. But let's face it, Battlefield single player has always been the somewhat sour and unloved cherry on a cake comprised of spongy, sugary multiplayer goodness - and with the greatest respect to the labours of game director Stefan Strandberg and his team, that'll probably continue to be the case once the developer's latest hits shelves this autumn.

If there's obvious room for improvement on the campaign front - "don't copy Call of Duty" just about sums everything up - the multiplayer is a tougher one to call. Battlefield 3's online was thoroughly excellent even in the absence of some decidedly heavyweight add-ons and title updates. That said, the men of OXM are nothing if not heroically and unreasonably demanding, and I've managed to stump up no less than 10 suggestions-bordering-on-ultimatums. Go on, read through and add your own.

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1. 64 players or bust
An obvious one to get the ball rolling. DICE has said of Battlefield 3 that putting 64 players into the ring on Xbox 360 and PS3 means cutting out things like terrain deformation - but Battlefield 4 is a next generation effort, abubble with surplus RAM and processing power and the raw, undiluted juice of daydreams, so all this cagey talk of technical resources can go hang. I want to be able to kill at least 63 unique individuals per game, DICE - 31 of whom may be trusting allies, depending on the mode. I don't want to spawn five whole minutes away from the nearest decent firefight.

2. More broad strategy options in multiplayer
The larger the number of cats, the more sophisticated the tools you'll need to herd them. I'd start with an electrified whip of some kind, or possibly a sonar cannon. Alternatively, we could always drop-kick this broken metaphor and start talking about Battlefield 2's Commander Mode, which gave one player per side a serene, RTS-style overview of the map and everybody on it, transforming said player into a military-minded godling capable of ordering artillery strikes, equipment drops and UAV flyovers.

The feature allowed for more sophisticated strategies, as you'd expect, and its long absence has been sorely lamented. Given that Battlefield 4's single player takes things in more of a Brothers-in-Armsy direction, care of a quickfire squad command system, the reintroduction of Commander mode online seems appropriate - providing, that is, there are still Commander-less modes and playlists for those who want to fight without being pestered by some bureaucratic idiot in the sky.

3. Less rent-a-server chaos
In theory, letting players hire and customise servers is a Good Thing, but in practice, we hear a lot of complaints from Battlefield 3 veterans about despotic landlords, answerable to nobody save themselves. There are servers out there where you'll be kicked for acts of conspicuous skill, and servers where the Conquest tickets start at 30, and servers where the rules change mid-match, and servers full of self-declared racists. A shade more executive input is evidently necessary.

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4. A fully fleshed-out, decent co-op campaign
We already know there won't be co-op functionality in the main Battlefield 4 campaign, in order to preserve the plot - it's hard to imagine how DICE might allow for drop-in players while telling a story about characters who (e.g.) lose their limbs in the line of duty. If Battlefield 4 supports cooperative jollies, then, they're likely to be the "standalone mission suite" kind. That's the route Battlefield 3 took... and Battlefield 3 wound-up facedown in helicopter wreckage, crying into a puddle of leaderboards.

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