Battlefield 4 Review

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, for two different 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 experience, 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, well, it’d be a close race, I'm certain of that. Yes, the Battlefield 4 campaign is rather short, taking you a maximum of 4 – 5 hours to work your way through it. Now obviously, that's a shame too, because at times it feels like DICE have nailed the Battlefield formula in a single-player format, but just when it opens up into wide-open sandbox combat and it starts to suck you in, it pushes you into another infantry-based FPS corridor section. 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 comes thick and fast. From a “story” perspective though, it’s predictable, hardly captivating and offers no real incentives to keep on playing on. 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 become a medium scale bomb-centric game – and a smaller, more groan-infused hello to a game mode called 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 now go up to 5 people – the new lean-and-peak mechanics, Spectator mode and battle pickups – think Halo’s power weapons which are dotted throughout their maps. 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.” 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 actually evolving the gameplay and enhancing the experience.

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 less than stellar 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!"

Unfortunately for the current-gen version of Battlefield 4, we played through the next-gen versions first, which only goes to show the gapping chasm between them in terms of quality. The next-gen versions were gorgeous with stunning textures and mind-boggling light effects, while the current gen versions really failed to shine. With pop-up, low-res textures, buggier enemies, the odd occasion of choppy frame rate – which wasn’t present in the next-gen versions - it’s clear that the current consoles are struggling, even with the much inferior version. The distinct lack of any real evolutions – other than the levolution stuff – is the major disappointment for current-gen suitors though – it can’t even pin its hopes on the 64-player madness and 60 frames per second goodness. It’s just another Battlefield game if we’re being honest, which in some ways is great, but in other ways, hardly what we wanted.

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 for long periods of time, you know, instead of causing mayhem in tanks or with rocket launchers. Yes, makes sense. Easy 1,000 here, folks, but that doesn’t make it a good list now, does it?

There’s no disputing that Battlefield 4 on current-gen is a great game, but we’ve got next-gen eyes now and having played said next-gen version simultaneously, everything makes the current-gen version seem like something much more ordinary. The 60 frames per second, 64-player online and the vastly improved visuals of the next-gen version is what makes Battlefield 4 a standout game, and without them, it’s a matter of more of the same. If you’re buying next-gen, I’d wait and savour the experience there. If not, you’ve still got a great game on your hands here. I guess it’s a win-win situation.

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 the soundtrack, only let down by some fairly ordinary voice acting.

We have next-gen eyes! We can’t take them off! After playing the next-gen version, the current-gen version looks dated already. Boy, we didn’t realise how much anti-aliasing was an issue this generation till right… about… now!

It handles like Battlefield. What else is there to say? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The enjoyable and short campaign will become nothing but an afterthought after you get invested in the epic multiplayer with some great micro and macro destruction. No 64-player improvements either means that it’s essentially Battlefield 3.1.

They’re easy and uninspiring, and there’s not even 50 of them, which is disappointing since we’re at the arse end of the generation.

While Battlefield 4’s next-gen outing offers something new and exciting in terms of multiplayer – 64-players – and in visuals – it looks fantastic and runs at 60 frames per second – the current gen version is more of the same, with no real evolution aside from a few instances of "levolution." A great game if you’re sticking around on current-gen for the foreseeable future, but worth waiting for if the next-gen of consoles is on your horizon.

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