“Why won’t anyone help me?” –Bender, Futurama
Battlefield’s medic kit is an iconic part of the series: besides being responsible for healing friendly players, medics are armed with either a defibrillator or syringe that allows them to revive downed teammates, bringing friendlies back into the fight and restoring a lost ticket. This mechanic is integral to the Battlefield experience, and over the years, different iterations of Battlefield have made minor modifications to the medic for gameplay balance. In earlier titles like Bad Company 2 or Battlefield 3, medics carry defibrillators that can be used to instantly revive fallen teammates. With only a minor delay to their operation, the defibrillators could be immensely powerful, allowing a skilled medic to revive their entire squad on very short order. To counteract this, Battlefield 4 introduced several changes to the defibrillator to encourage more strategic and thoughtful use of revives: the defibrillators now required charging before they could bring players back to full health, and moreover, could only be fired three times in a row before a cooldown occurred. Because of these changes to how defibrillators worked, Battlefield 4 players found themselves being revived with a reduced frequency, while medics initially saw these changes as reducing the efficacy of individual medics in matches. However, over time, medics and players would adapt to these changes, and by the time Battlefield 1 released, medics were once again immensely powerful; their syringes could be used on consecutive teammates with only a small delay, but otherwise brought players back to full health upon a successful revive. In Battlefield V, squad mates could now be revived, and medics can revive all teammates using their syringe, although in both cases, there is a delay while the revive occurs. This was done to balance the fact that Battlefield 1‘s syringe had proven to be extremely versatile and, similarly to earlier defibrillators, could undo the outcomes of a firefight when used correctly. Of all the iterations in Battlefield, the revival mechanics of Battlefield 4 are the most balanced, yielding medics with a useful toolset for aiding their teams, while at the same time, also encouraging smart, tactical play in order to maximise efficacy.
With their equipment, it is common expectation that, in Battlefield, medics fulfil their role of reviving downed players and bring them back into the fight: besides saving one the trouble of having to navigate back to a capture point or firefight, this action also restores a lost ticket. These tickets add up, and a team with effective medics can stave off ticket loss in this way, aiding their fighting chances during a match. However, revives are not always provided to players who may need them, and in a post written to a local blog, Youth Are Awesome, writer Deaniell “Dean” Cordero’s post voices his grievances in Battlefield 4 pertaining to how the medics always seem to skip on reviving him, before indicating on how the medic’s behaviours as being equivalent to turning one’s back on those in need. At the time of publication, Battlefield 4 had been a year old, and at this point, players likely would’ve already familiarised themselves with the defibrillator’s mechanics. While the revive mechanic is unlikely to be the cause of Dean’s frustrations, there are numerous reasons why he’s not been revived during matches. A complete revive takes a few seconds, and therefore, one must make a quick decision as to how they wish to proceed. From a practical perspective, there is also the matter of elements like positioning and circumstances. If a player dies as a result of rushing an objective on their own and encountering a full squad, there is no incentive to revive them because this would also result in the medic’s death. Similarly, if one was sniped because they exposed themselves to enemy fire and was travelling on their own, as a medic, I see limited incentive in travelling across the map to revive this one player. Other players may swap out their defibrillator for the M26 MASS or M320 for extra firepower to assist in dealing with threats. There is, in short, a plethora of reasons that one cannot simply expect revives from medics: when I play the medic class in Battlefield 4, I factor everything into account before deciding whether or not to bring a teammate back to life. Are they in a dangerous area? Were they squadmates? Do I have other, more urgent tasks that need to be dealt with? If it is safe to do so, and there is merit in doing so, then I bring out the defibrillators, otherwise, my teammates will simply have to deal with returning to the spawn screen. The alternative is that I get sent to the spawn screen and deprive my team of tickets, which could, at scale, cost us the match.
Additional Remarks and Commentary
- My time in Battlefield 4 was short: after I picked the game up in 2015 on a sale, I spent a year enjoying things before transitioning over to Battlefield 1, and so, returning to Battlefield 4 after a several years’ absence was a trip down memory lane. This post deals predominantly with the medic class, and consequently, all of the screenshots here are related to the medic’s ability to heal and revive teammates: I’ll open with a still of me scoring my first kill in many years and healing allies on Operation Metro, a chaotic map that returns from Battlefield 3.
- Right out of the gates, returning to Battlefield 4 after the likes of more recent installments felt a little strange: newer titles have superior movement and better weapons mechanics. Battlefield 1 had introduced the concept of vaulting over fences and walls, which made map traversal more dynamic, and the crouch-slide mechanic is something I’ve come to use when trying to escape greasy situations. Not having either here in Battlefield 4 did lead to a few more deaths than expected, but once I refamiliarised myself with the maps, things began returning to me.
- The other change that more recent Battlefield titles took in the right direction was weapons handling. In particular, Battlefield V‘s mechanics were consistently fun: Battlefield 1 also had decent handling traits, but aside from the bolt-action rifles, random bullet deviation would occasionally make medium range firefights more frustrating. I refer to random bullet deviation informally as the Kantai Collection factor, because it’s a reflection of how Kantai Collection is fully dependent on random chance to play. While some folks swear by it, I prefer a bit more consistency in my games.
- For my return to Battlefield 4 and the process of picking up screenshots for this discussion, I ran with the medic pouches. These pouches are capable of healing one ally at a time and can be thrown, whereas medic crates are dropped onto the ground and have an area-of-effect. Medic pouches in Battlefield 4 do not track as strongly as their successors in Battlefield 1, but they will still be thrown in the recipient’s general direction. I generally run with pouches because they allow a more mobile play-style, whereas crates are better in defensive scenarios.
- This post, a rebuttal to Youth Are Awesome’s Dean, actually had been in the works for quite some time: as the story goes, in the late summer of 2014, I became curious to learn of any methods behind acquiring the convention’s “secret” pins. At the time, Otafest had just started on releasing their own convention merchandise, and pin trading quickly became something I got into. Aside from common pins, some of these “secret” pins were cast in brass gold and possessed unique designs that made them sought-after. After doing some searching, I came upon an article at Youth Are Awesome, a locally-run blog, detailing one attendee’s experiences during Otafest 2013. Upon finishing this post, I had a better measure of how the secret pins were acquired.
- What had caught my eye was a related talk in Battlefield 4. The game had been about a year old at the time, and back then, Origin had given players a ten hour trial of the game. When I finished reading through Dean’s post, however, I was left a trifle disappointed: rather than anything insightful about Battlefield 4 itself, the post had simply stated that Battlefield 4‘s medics were lacking empathy because they were not reviving him often enough, and that, given how various charities exist to help others, there’s little excuse that medics in a game couldn’t do the same. Dean’s perspectives are consistent with youth, being idealistic and optimistic, but perhaps not the most pragmatic.
- At this point in my summer, the Giant Walkthrough Brain project had reached a stopping point and had been all but ready for the Beakerhead festival, so I had quite a bit of spare time left over to myself before graduate school started. I thus played through the campaign during the trial and spent a few hours in the multiplayer, as well. With a few hours of the multiplayer under my belt, I considered drafting out a rebuttal of sorts to Dean: motivating this was a comment from Carol Zhang, expressing agreement with the sentiments in Dean’s post.
- While Carol is correct in that life is not a zero-sum game, and that people could stand to help one another more often in reality, Dean’s own experiences in Battlefield 4 do not necessarily reflect on medics behaviours in the community and their relation to real-world attitudes about rendering help. In the end, I drafted out a rebuttal, but with my first term in graduate school starting, I ended up shelving this reply because my schedule immediately filled up as I took on both my programme courses and TA work. In this time, Youth Are Awesome has closed commenting to Dean’s post, so I will not have the chance to provide this rebuttal in the original article.
- However, I still hold that this exercise is worthwhile for two reasons: it allows me to take a look at exploring how game mechanics and real-world behaviours impact medic decisions in Battlefield 4, and secondly, it did give me a reason to return to Battlefield 4, which I’ve not otherwise played for quite some time. Despite the fact that I’ve not played a multiplayer match here since Battlefield 1 released, old habits remain, and I found myself performing more or less as well as I previously did in most matches, especially in infantry-focused rounds.
- Here, I will remark that I’m probably the sort of medic Dean would wish to see in his lobbies: I regularly revive and heal teammates (so long as it is appropriate for me to do so). While capturing screenshots for this discussion, I ended up unlocking a Defibrillator medal during one match. Medals and ribbons are something from Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1 that I greatly miss: both games, along with Battlefield 3, had a thoughtful system for rewarding players who carry out role-specific tasks, but since Battlefield V, ribbons have disappeared entirely, and medals can only be unlocked once.
- I see myself as a player of intermediate skill, performing well enough to help my team and maintain a win rate of around 55 percent in Battlefield 4. I would’ve been interested to see Dean’s Battlefield 4 stats to determine whether or not his sentiments surrounding medics were justified, but with this being said, outside of my group of friends, I’ve encountered any Battlefield players from the Calgary area. It appears that folks with similar interests to myself are exceedingly rare in my neck of the woods: even among my group of friends, no one else is big on things like military-moé or slice-of-life anime.
- Having said this, my friends do have an interest in FPS, and this has allowed me to previously experience Battlefield 4 more wholly: while I’m below average when I solo, I remember a team-building event I hosted back when I was working with my first start-up. After we picked up burgers, we spent the afternoon playing Battlefield as a squad, and ended up tearing up every server we joined during that afternoon. While Battlefield is a game about knowing the maps, weapons and gear, teamwork is an even larger component of a successful match.
- Having squadmates calling my shots, travelling with them and being present to immediately hand out resupplies, medic pouches and revives meant that afternoon, we won all but two of the matches we played. Having a coordinated squad is the best way to enjoy Battlefield bar none, and the gap in the experience is such that, even on occasions where we’d lost, it still felt like we’d won because we had such a good time. I’ve previously noticed this about Halo, as well: as fun as it was tearing up servers on my own in Halo 2: Vista, the best memories I have of Halo 2‘s multiplayer come from LAN parties.
- Looking back, while Battlefield V and Battlefield 1 have both improved in core gameplay elements, what makes Battlefield 4 enjoyable is the depth of its customisation system. Unlike Battlefield 1 and V, the modern and near-future setting means that there’s all sorts of room to incorporate current weapons, vehicles and equipment. Of all the Battlefield games, 4 has the most sophisticated setup, allowing weapons to really be fine-tuned to how one prefers to play. Looking back at my own inventory, I’m a little surprised to find that despite not having played very much (I only reached level 45), I still have most of the attachments and unlocks for my preferred weapons in Battlefield 4.
- I have heard that Battlefield 4‘s launch was very rough, with the game being virtually unplayable in multiplayer after it’d become available, and even high-end machines struggled to run the game. It took almost a year for DICE to bring Battlefield 4 to a playable state, and by the time I started the trial a year later, the game had been in a solid place. On the other hand, Battlefield 1 had a very smooth launch: the game worked out of the gates, and the only real gripe I had was that the progression system and customisation was exceedingly limited. This was, however, offset by the fact that new content was regularly being added to the game.
- A quick look around Youth Are Awesome finds another series of articles from an author called William, detailing his experiences with Battlefield 3, from the open beta right through to launch. In his first post on the open beta, William argues the game needed better player visibility, destruction and a fairer progression system, calling them “necessary improvements”. These were non-issues in the full game: 3D spotting makes it easy to keep an eye on foes, destruction is plenty dynamic, and the starting weapons are excellent, so those starting the game can still perform well enough if they play strategically.
- William would go on to write impressions of the multiplayer in a short post that does little more than imply that he’s an uncommonly good player capable of carrying the entire team on his own. Although youthful writers occasionally may be a bit more boastful than they should, people do grow out of this phase of their lives. As it stands, while I’ve seen and experienced cases in Halo where a lone player could wreck havoc on a server, I’ve never seen an individual player single-handedly carry a match of Battlefield precisely because of the scope and scale of matches.
- In the present, I’ve found that Battlefield V has offered an experience approaching what I remember of 3, 4, 1: while the game is missing iconic maps from World War Two, and content has been coming out at a snail’s pace, the gunplay mechanics are solid. I note that Dean hasn’t written any new articles about Battlefield V or 1 . In fact, his latest posts for Youth Are Awesome date back to Valentine’s Day of 2015. A part of me wonders if Carol’s comment in his Battlefield 4 article, and the subsequent lack of interactions in articles where he subtly hints at being single, may have contributed to a decline in his interests in writing for Youth Are Awesome; Dean’s probably missed that readers commenting on an article does not correspond to an interest in a date.
- Having said this, a subset of readers in Carol’s age range may also misinterpret admiration for a writer as romantic feelings. Regarding this, I do have one final remark for Carol: while Battlefield players in Calgary are rare, Calgary is a larger city, and there do exist players (i.e. myself) that are worth talking to. It further helps that, unlike Dean, who indicates he’s published a book (but a thorough search finds exactly zero results), I’ve actually got a handful of published conference papers and a graduate thesis: I’m reasonably confident that for Carol, I’d make for a more interesting conversationalist over coffee than Dean would.
In his post, Dean views the actions of Battlefield 4‘s medics unfavourably and compares them against charities like the YWCA and Food Bank, which have been serving those in need for over three decades. With these charitable organisations as inspiration, Dean argues, there should be no reason for medics not to carry out their duties (even if it means legging it across the map to revive a lone player who was downed). However, even in reality, not all help rendered might be helpful. Some organisations, for instance, may take a cut of donations given to them and reduce the actual amount of help that can be delivered to their intended recipients. In other cases, helping others may come at an expense to oneself (e.g. if a friend is struggling with something, and one is also going through difficult times, one might not be in the best position to be helpful). Reality is multi-faceted and complex. While Dean’s sentiments might be admirable, they also mirror on the naïveté of youth. I’ve now been a volunteer judge at the local science fair for upwards of five years, and one of the most enjoyable aspects about this work is that there’s always been a charm about seeing what youthful minds are up to. Without constraints of the market, or other forces, youth are free to be themselves and explore avenues that adults typically do not consider. However, the other side of this coin is naïveté; without experience guiding their decisions, there are cases where the thought processes from youth can, understandably, come across as incomplete. In this case, Dean’s thoughts on Battlefield 4 and its relation to charity, while well-intentioned, are not entirely correct. Much as how help should be given only when appropriate, in Battlefield, medics do have the responsibility of assessing a situation before switching over to the defibrillators, and downed players must understand they are not entitled to being revived, especially if their cause of death was rushing a corner blindly and falling to a squad of foes who out-played them. Rather than griping about the absence of revives, then, one must simply apply the lessons learnt from such an engagement and strive to become a better player.