REVIEW: Battlefield 4 (2013)

Last time, we reviewed a historical artefact. Today’s final instalment of this miniseries looks at a more modern franchise, whose sequels have somehow managed to incorporate everything from China to Star Wars

FEMINIST GAME REVIEWS
“BATTLEFIELD 4” (2013)

OVERVIEW ► released in Q4 2013, “Battlefield 4” is yet another military shooter, depicting America’s efforts to stop WWIII from destroying the planet. though it hails from a franchise known for online-only games, this sequel is one of the few with a story-driven campaign for offline play. unfortunately, the sequel’s campaign did not impress gamers upon release. most slammed it as being clichéd in plot, and uninspired in gameplay. to be fair, most critics agreed that the plot was an improvement over “Battlefield 3”, which was notorious for its incoherence and plot holes. still, the sequel’s campaign was less notable for its story than it was for engaging with race, gender and xenophobia, a rarity in gaming. ultimately, the campaign succeeded most at depicting relationships between characters who must learn to trust each other, to stop WWIII.

VISIBILITY ► given contemporary anxieties over China’s global rise, the game engages with similar themes, albeit with some measure of respectfulness. rather than being faceless foreigners, Chinese people are shown to be human beings, evident when dissidents and refugees interact with you. the game’s turning point comes when Irish, a black Marine, brings hundreds of refugees aboard a U.S. ship, despite racist grumbling from crew. yet the Chinese are not just helpless victims. your team includes Hannah, a Harvard-educated agent, albeit with a suspicious background. women veterans are respectfully represented too. Major Greenland is shown as cynical, yet caring toward her troops and true to her word. the game is unusual in not only granting visibility to women and foreigners, but depicting them as vital to the game’s narrative as well.

AGENCY ► the game is unsentimental in depicting war as destructive rather than glorious, but the characters try their best to make a difference anyway. Irish, your squad’s moral centre, never puts following orders above doing good. his efforts save the lives of countless Chinese refugees. Hannah also pursues her own agenda in an effort to stop China’s civil war, though her methods fuel the suspicions of a distrustful Irish. nonetheless, both characters come to earn each other’s respect. by the campaign’s end, both are willing to give up one’s life to save the other. Greenland, the game’s highest-ranking female, has a brief but vital role in helping the heroes, providing them with the means to escape China. though the game might be a military shooter, the campaign is mostly free of the sort of jingoism and macho posturing endemic to the genre.

PROGRESS ► though the game was above average in the handling of its characters, such efforts were overshadowed by the game’s technical failings. despite public beta testing, the game suffered from absurd bugs upon release, which broke the gameplay and even led to class-action lawsuits. nonetheless, the developers continue to fix and update the game, even to this day, which has contributed to its enduring popularity online. in 2015, the franchise’s publisher released “Battlefield: Hardline”, a spinoff praised for its improved plot and wildly diverse characters. “Star Wars Battlefront” is the franchise’s most recent spinoff, though this title was critically slammed for lacking any coherent story. gamers can only hope the developers learn their lesson, and pay attention to the characters and plot of future “Battlefield” instalments.

Despite doing just four episodes, we’ve learned a lot from working on this series. Most of those insights have been technical, like finding ways to simplify our workflows or up the visual quality of our footage. But whilst these videos may be well-crafted or -designed, the most common feedback we get is that the literal lack of voice makes these videos feel soulless – which is the last thing feminist content should ever feel like.

So as we prepare to launch our new playthrough series next month, we’ve already switched up the format to address those flaws. It does involve more work, because quality voice work (i.e. not just a vlogger talking to her iPhone) involves way more overhead, from soundproofing the recording space to compressing all words to be the same volume. But we’ve accrued enough experience over the years that we’ve tried to make the process as painless for us as possible. That’s important to pushing out future episodes in a timely manner.

For the miniseries videos, each took around three days to finish. As we finish the first video of this new series, our workflow involves more than double that amount of work…

Day #1: Play game mission
Day #2: Write script
Day #3: Revise script
Day #4: Record script
Day #5: Edit recorded audio
Day #6: Record game mission footage
Day #7: Edit audio and footage together

Of course, everyone has homework and jobs too, so these days are never consecutive. Heck, for this first episode, we’ve already completed everything up to Day #5, yet the episode likely won’t be done till month’s end, since winter classes just began for this quarter. Our goal is two episodes per month, which will require immense focus on our part.

Then again, if we’re focused solely on feminism for 2016, it means this will be your final carnage fix of the year, from the annals of our editing lab…


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