Battlefield 4 Review
Written : Tuesday, November 12, 2013
By: Dan Webb
If there’s one thing that the upcoming generation of consoles is unleashing on us as an industry, it’s this whole cross-generational development malarkey. You know, one game on four consoles, across two generations. For us as reviewers it means playing four versions simultaneously – not exactly at the same time, because that would be ludicrous! – which ultimately means that a.) it takes us twice as long to review a game; and b.) the next-gen versions are going to make the next-gen versions look like turds, and while the latter isn’t completely true when it comes to Battlefield 4, it’s not far from the truth.
"Ooooohhh, moody... just like half the cast! Baddumtsh."
Like the single-player portion of your Battlefield 4 portion, let’s get that out the way first, and to say that it might take you longer to read this portion of the review than it would finish the single-player campaign, it’d be a close race. Yes, the Battlefield 4 campaign is rather short, taking you a maximum of 4 – 5 hours. It’s a shame too because at times it feels like DICE have nailed the Battlefield formula in a single-player format. Just when it opens up into wide-open sandbox combat and it sucks you in, it pushes you into another infantry-based FPS. The fact that you don’t even get to use any air vehicles means you can’t even use it as a warm up for the entire multiplayer shenanigans.
Is it entertaining though? I guess you could class it as that. The action is frenetic, fluid and the explosions and destruction is aplenty. From a “story” perspective though, it’s predictable, hardly captivating and offers no real incentives to keep on playing. It essentially tries to tell a squad orientated drama like Bad Company, but with a more serious tone and less likeable characters, whose interactions with one another are fickle and erratic at best – one minute characters will hate one another, the next they’re kindred spirits. And don’t get me started on the completely pointless multiple endings, I could be here all night ranting about that. Ultimately, it’s enjoyable, but all rather forgettable. There’s definite missed opportunities here.
You’ll know as well as I do though, that Battlefield always has and always will be about multiplayer, and that’s where Battlefield 4’s strongest hand lies. The classic modes are back, like Conquest and Rush, as are the newer deathmatch modes and Domination. Battlefield 4 also says a big hello to the Obliteration game mode – an impressive and addictive mode that almost combines Rush and Conquest, to have a medium scale bomb based game – and a smaller, more grunt-like groan at Defuse – a fast-paced, one life only Counter Strike style-mode.
"It wouldn't be Battlefield without explosions... or any FPS, actually."
Then there’s the usual amount of depth in terms of customization, unlockables, rewards, progression unlocks, ribbons and battlepacks to collect, medals to achieve, assignments to complete, and so on. What is new though is the bigger squads – which are now 5 people – lean-and-peak, Spectator mode and battle pickups – think Halo’s power weapons which are placed on the map. Battlelog has also been fleshed out and the classic Commander mode also returns, allowing you to tactically assist players in a match via your controller or smart device. Hardly groundbreaking advancements in themselves, but they all combine to add value to create a much more cohesive and fully-fledged sequel.
There’s 10 maps in all, each of which boasts this supposed game changing ‘levolution’ – which is basically marketing twat speak for “shit that blows up and crashes through other shit.” That’s not actually the case in all circumstances, but it is for the most part. Whether you’re blowing up a skyscraper in Shanghai, flooding the streets of the aptly named Flood Zone, crashing a tanker into the shores on Paracel Storm, destroying the large satellite in Rogue Transmission or setting off a bomb on Zavod 311 to bring down the huge industrial chimney, it’s all rather chuffin’ excellent. It doesn’t really tend to change the levels all too much, but you can most certainly use it to your advantage if you want to get back into the game or further extend your lead. It’s easily Battlefield 4’s greatest addition when it comes to actual gameplay evolving.
From a macro and micro destruction standpoint, Battlefield 4 seems to be a slight step more towards the Bad Company 2 destruction levels rather than Battlefield 3’s tame effort. That in itself is a good thing, but the inability to completely topple houses or small structures like we did back in Bad Company 2, well, that saddens us a little.
"Watch that skyscraper crumble! Watch it! Wowzers!"
Considering that this is the first batch of next-gen console games, Battlefield 4 is surprisingly smooth and bug free. Not once did we suffer any pop-up, stability issues or frame rate issues. It was high-res textures, stunning light effects all the way and the usual incredible sound design from the get go. That’s not to say the next-gen versions are perfect or without their issues though, oh no, in fact, with the new firepower you can’t help but be disappointed by the crash animations of air vehicles and the fact that some enemy planes can disappear out the sky when you pick them off as a jet, rather than crash to the ground spectacularly. It’s actually quite jarring.
From an achievement perspective, to say this is the worst Battlefield list in sometime is no hyperbole. It’s boring, easy, uninspired, and for one of the achievements you’ll be using your pistol in multiplayer, you know, instead of causing mayhem in tanks or with rocket launchers. Yes, that makes sense. Fairly easy 1,000 here, folks, but that doesn’t make it a good list now, does it?
Those few issues mentioned supra are essentially us being nit-picky, on the whole DICE’s next-generation outing is otherwise a mitigating success. Not as evolutionary as you’re meant to believe, but taking part in 64-player Conquest battles and having them run smoothly at 60 frames per second, that’s the main reason you’ll be wanting to pick this game up. Granted, the PlayStation 4 version does look slightly better than the Xbox One version, but it’s not enough to get up in arms over as the Xbox One version is still silky smooth. As a package, Battlefield 4’s not as game changing as it probably should have been – possibly due to it being cross-generational – but if this is the start of the next-generation era of shooters, the standard has been set, and it’s rather high.
Battlefield 4 takes its achievements as best audio design and builds a skyscraper on it. Stunning across the board when it comes to sound effects and its soundtrack, and only really let down by some fairly ordinary voice acting.
I’m not sure what we were expecting from next-generation visuals, but we were hoping to be blown away a little more. It’s beautiful, for sure, but there’s still room for improvement. It's 60 frames per second though!
It handles like Battlefield. What else is there to say? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The enjoyable and short campaign is nothing but an afterthought after you get invested in the epic multiplayer with some great micro and macro destruction. 64-player madness too?
They’re easy and uninspiring, and there’s not even 50 of them, which is disappointing since we’re at the dawn of a new era.
It’s a new generation, but this is the same old Battlefield. Nothing too genre defining from DICE’s debut on the next-gen, but the lure of 64-player multiplayer matches running at 60 frames per second, effectively recreating the most satisfying all-out warfare experience available on consoles, make this a must buy.
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