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Some things Battlefield 4 has taught me about war


In Battlefield 4 they call helicopters ‘helos’. Not ‘helo’ like you might say “oh hello, here comes a helicopter”, but like ‘heelo’, as if it were short for ‘heelocopter’. The more I think about it, the more that word makes sense, because if soldiers said “hello” every time a helicopter appeared, other soldiers might think they were just being friendly and start waving and running towards one another. That’s bad battle tactics. And if they said “heli”, any soldiers named Helen or Ellie might respond with “hello”, and then things would get very confusing indeed. So in fact it makes tremendous sense to call a helicopter a ‘heelo’. I’m not sure why I even brought it up now.

This is just one of the things Battlefield 4 has taught me about war. Here are some other things.

Guns that sound like guns are the worst guns. If your gun goes ‘bang’, you need to swap it for another gun immediately. If you find a gun that goes ‘pop’, good work, you’ve got your hands on a nice gun mister. The best guns, however, are the guns that don’t sound anything like a gun. The best guns sound like pressing your lips together and blowing really hard. The most powerful gun in the game sounds like a business card slowly being inserted into an electric fan. These guns are very rare and can usually be found on the tops of tanks and inside heelocopters.

In a typical war most doors will be locked shut to prevent the war from spreading any further. However, a small number of these doors can be opened by specially trained soldiers in one of the following three official, army-sanctioned methods:

  • You are awkwardly jostled out of the way of the door by another soldier’s scripted door opening animation. As you turn to remonstrate with him, his magic ghost foot sails unimpeded through your torso, booting open the door that is now behind you. You are immediately shot in the back by a room of enemies.
  • You stand near the door as two soldiers stand on either side. “Ready?” one says. “Let’s *effing* do this,” one responds. The other reaches across the door to the handle, pushing it open in one sweeping movement. “Flashbang out!” he shouts as he throws a flashbang grenade into the room, which would certainly have surprised its occupants even more had he not just shouted that.
  • You stand in front of a door that, while appearing suspiciously openable, seems totally immune to you repeatedly pressing E on the handle. Stumped, you run back down a corridor towards your squad, who have vanished. “Come on man, are you going to open this *effing* door or what?” crackles your radio. Confused, you turn around to see your squad now somehow waiting impatiently by door. ‘Press E to open the door’, the game helpfully reminds you.

There are three decent female characters who appear in Battlefield 4’s campaign, and at no point in the game do they have their uniforms blasted off by a grenade. There isn’t a scene in the base where you walk in on one of them showering and they sassily snap, “what’s the problem sargeant, never seen a pair of military-grade jugalugs before?” You don’t ever follow one of these women up a ladder and have your character sarcastically comment on her arse. The bad guy never pins one of these women against a wall and kisses her on the neck or sniffs her hair before she knees him in the penis and balls. These are things that do not happen in Battlefield 4, which is a totally praiseworthy leap forwards for videogames writing and culture. Like, actually well done.

There’s a bit, right near the end of the game, where you and the rest of your squad must leap out of the back of an aeroplane and into your final battle. The music swells as the camaraderie between you and your fellow soldiers, now forever cemented by your shared experiences of war and the horrors that you have faced and overcome, buoys your resolve. With nothing to lose and the fate of civilisation in the balance you charge screaming towards the open bay doors. Except you don’t have to. You can stay inside the plane and just stare at this guy for absolutely ages.

I left the game running like this for 15 minutes while I made a sandwich, by which point we should’ve rightly been far away from the battlefield, my team thoroughly abandoned and most likely dead without me. Of course, when I eventually jumped out of the plane I was somehow still above the landing zone, with my fellow squadmates still parachuting just a hundred or so metres ahead of me. And here I was thinking I might discover a secret new level or something. You have to get up a little earlier than that to trick Battlefield 4.

But the most important lesson about war that I learned is that whichever army has the mute soldier will ultimately win. If you are fighting against an army with a soldier who, when killed, reappears about four hundred feet behind the spot where he died and causes the universe to inexplicably reset to a moment 30 to 40 seconds before he fell, then you are definitely going to lose that war. Your opponent is literally a god. He is unstoppable. All is lost. You may experience some small victories while the mute soldier isn’t around, but often these victories will simply cause the mute soldier to appear, spelling certain doom for you and your pitifully mortal friends, especially if your death is what triggers a door to open or a wall to explode.