Book Review: The Art of Battlefield 4

The Art of Battlefield 4
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 11/05/2013
Page Count: 192
Cost: $34.95
Get it Here: TitanBooks.com

It’s hard not to disregard the fact that even military based first-person shooters do, in fact, have artists with a vision. After all, what do you think of when asked to recall images from games like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, or even a third-person game like Gears of War? Lots of drab colors and pastels that consist of primarily gray and brown. And yet, there are a ton of people who work hard on guiding these games visually. This is what I think The Art of Battlefield 4 is trying hard to convince people to recognize.

The book itself nicely put together, and despite what the cover image might lead you believe, it’s not a collection of gray and bright orange images. As a hardcover coffee table type book boasting over 192 pages, there’s quite a bit of content featured here. That said, the direction taken with it, even as a book featuring only BF4 content, comes off as a bit questionable.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Art of Battlefield 4 opens with a foreword from DICE CCO Robert Runesson, which serves as a nice lead-in for the pages that follow. Next is a several page introduction that covers the roots of the Battlefield franchise, which I thought was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole package. It even talks about the crew and projects that preceded the original Battlefield 1942 and chronicles its evolution into the multiplayer giant that it is today. It also succeeds in highlighting my biggest regret about the whole book, in that it would have been more effective as an homage to the whole franchise rather than just the one game. But alas, this item is just as much about promoting that particular game as it is about pleasing fans, so I digress.

The next chapter chronicles the main characters in the single-player campaign, providing commentary into their design as well as showcasing the various uniforms. One interesting thing of note is the heavy focus on the single-player characters in a game built almost entirely around its focus on multiplayer. Don’t get me wrong, obviously there are a lot of people involved in trying to build a compelling campaign for Battlefield 4. However, this chapter starts a trend that seems to extend throughout the entirety of the book, in that it doesn’t focus enough on aspects of the franchise that fans find the most interesting.

The rest of the book seems built around what I assume are the chapters in the single-player campaign (I haven’t yet played it as of this writing if you couldn’t tell), with the first being the game’s introduction. True to the FPS stereotype, many of the images are very darkly illustrated images of demolished cities and other locales. There are a few concept sketches mixed in there, but most are full page spreads with some commentary from the staff as to their significance.

The Shangai chapter was probably the most interesting of the campaign art, particularly the advertisements built into the stage. There are also a couple pages filled with graffiti art that you find scattered around the walls of the level. The images showcasing the city were fine enough, but it’s the small details that really give you an appreciation for the work having been done.

Next come Naval Battle and Airfield, both of which are chapters taking place in military transportation/establishments. Both chapters are dominated by full color replications of their respective backdrops, though the former managed to sneak in what appears to be a screenshot from the game in there (though it could be an artist’s rendition too, it’s very hard to tell). The Airfield has a few sketches that operate as blueprints for that particular zone worked in too.

The remaining chapters pretty much follow the same pattern as the previous ones with little deviation: Prison, Journey, Dam City (I can only imagine the puns when creating this), and Suez. The latter managed to work a little comic/storyboard in there to spice things up. Which isn’t to say that these chapters aren’t a feast for the eyes (they are), but they don’t offer much in the way of variation.

The final section of the book is dedicated to the multiplayer aspect of Battlefield 4, and it’s alarmingly short for a segment that most players will be spending their time in. It goes over the various maps briefly, which is all well and good, but it feels as though there’s quite a bit of valuable content missing. Where are the multiplayer character designs? What about weapons and schematics, or even vehicles and aircraft? The most important part of the book was the most underwhelming, which is a bit of a shame.

If you just take into account the material featured in the book, The Art of Battlefield 4 is a nicely laid out piece of work. There is a nice variety of full color artistry and sketches on display, of varying sizes from page to page, with many of it accompanied by some form of commentary. Its biggest sin seems to be applying its focus in the wrong areas, featuring way too much on the single-player locales and not enough on such things as multiplayer character models and weaponry. As I admitted earlier, I haven’t yet played through the campaign (or any of the game for that matter), so perhaps I have the wrong idea by basing my expectations on Battlefield 3. Still, it seems to be a book fashioned around fans of the BF4 story and less of one for multiplayer addicts and casual franchise players. If you fit within that narrow scope though, you should have a huge appreciation for what this book is trying to do.

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