Genre First-Person Shooter / Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE) / Publisher Electronic Arts
Platforms Played On PC (primarily), Xbox 360
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When developing Battlefield 4, DICE has taken this cliché as its motto – it has kept what worked from Battlefield 3, changed what required fixing, and added a splash of innovation, too. What’s come out of this concoction is a shooter that is as amazing to look at, as it is to play… in most cases.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way; Battlefield 4‘s single player campaign is borderline mediocre. The narrative attempts to tell a story about a squad who is put through the wringer, just trying to survive. When you think everything is going to be alright, another disaster occurs. Eventually, it becomes all too predictable.
The single player would be at least bearable if the gameplay was fun. Unfortunately, that is not the case. While the shooting feels smooth and responsive, the enemies might as well be running around unarmed. Even on the hardest difficulty, the enemy AI is mostly horrible. For a large portion of the game, I was able to plough through the enemies as if they were a team of rookies who had never been taught how to use a gun. In one instance, I watched an enemy fire a whole clip at me, and not one bullet hit me. It turns what could have been a fun five-hour-experience into a “Why am I doing this?” experience.
If anything, the single player portion of Battlefield 4 is there to show off the graphical power of the Frostbite 3 engine. DICE has crafted the levels of the campaign in a particular way to showcase the amazing lighting effects and animations of its new engine.
Frostbite 3 screams next-gen. From the rays of light shining through a collapsed roof and illuminating a plant, to the floating debris left in the water of a sinking ship, to the spectacle of an explosion lighting the whole screen up with some of the best fire effects in video games to date, Frostbite 3 is like nothing I have seen this generation. DICE’s engine brings video games one step closer to photorealism, and it’s scary.
The sad thing about the campaign is that it has so much potential. The vehicular warfare sections of the game, though short, present the idea of single player gameplay on a massive scale. It was obvious at times that DICE wanted to create something to rival the blockbuster of Call of Duty’s campaigns. While these moments looked great, they were few and far between. The Battlefield franchise could work as a blockbuster – with explosion after explosion – but Battlefield 4 does not know what it wants to be, single player wise.
Multiplayer is a completely different story, and it’s also the reason why you’ll want to buy Battlefield 4. The multiplayer here is very much reminiscent of a Battlefield game. If you liked Battlefield 3’s multiplayer, you’ll like Battlefield 4’s. If you didn’t, there is not much that will change your mind. With that said, why change a formula that works and is enjoyable?
Battlefield 4‘s marketing slogan is “Only in Battlefield,” and it’s true. Only in Battlefield can you fight from the sky, from the land, and from the sea in one map. Only in Battlefield can you create your own path through the back of a building to escape an enemy tank.
The scope of Battlefield 4‘s maps is quite extraordinary. In the one map, three, four, sometimes five different fire-fights can be in progress at once. With 64 players, the action is immersive and chaotic, but, most importantly, it’s tonnes of fun. You may suddenly come into contact with another squad of infantry units. However, when you escape over a hill, you see two tanks taking shots at each other, while engineers rush in to make repairs. It’s an amazing feeling, and one that you cannot experience in any other game.
With the return of Commander mode, you feel more like part of a team than ever. The Commander has the ability to see the battlefield (no pun intended) from above. They are able to set orders for squads, call in UAVs, launch gunships, call in missile strikes, and much more. With a good Commander, victory can become that tiny bit easier for the team on the ground. Commander mode can get overwhelming with 32 players to keep track of, but with a little practice, it is manageable.
Battlefield 4 has something to fit every type of player. There are maps that suit infantry, and maps that suit vehicle combat. Smaller maps create more intimate affairs, while large-scale maps are for those wanting to pleasure their eyes and ears with all that Battlefield 4 has to offer.
All of the game modes return from Battlefield 3, with a few new additions. Obliteration, one of three new game modes, tasks teams to have a tug of war over a bomb which they will use to destroy objectives. It forces the action into concentrated areas, as everyone rushes towards the bomb carrier. Obliteration is a great new addition that is possibly one of the most fast paced ways to play. Every game mode in Battlefield 4 is enjoyable and there is plenty of variation to prevent boredom – but there is no reason to be bored anyway.
The biggest change to Battlefield 4 multiplayer comes with a feature called “Levolution.” Levolution revolutionises the way Battlefield is played. The environment can be interacted with in more ways than ever. You can close gates to block off pathways, bring bollards up on some roads to stop vehicles from passing, and even turn the lights off in a building, plummeting it into pitch black darkness. The environmental interactions add a strategic layer to the shooter genre.
The biggest thing Levolution adds is the dynamic changes to level layouts. In some maps, whole buildings can be destroyed. This opens up new pathways, and closes down others. In one map, the streets can be flooded by destroying a wall, forcing players to head to the rooftops to do battle. Levolution forces players to think on their feet. It can also provide the breakthrough for a team to change the outcome of a match. It’s also really cool to see a whole building collapse before your eyes!
The console experience
Battlefield 4 on consoles is largely the same as it is on the PC. The single player campaign is still mediocre, and the multiplayer is the reason you will be playing.
However, I do have some problems with the console version. The Frostbite 3 engine does not translate well to the dated consoles. The facial details are on par with those of the PC version, but everything else is downscaled. From my experience, this presents visual problems. Frostbite 3’s lighting engine often made enemy players hard to see in multiplayer, and single player. Instead of being lit up like the PC version, the maps looked as though there was barely any light getting through.
No matter how much I tried, I could not fix the lightning effects on the consoles. I tried increasing the brightness and tweaking an option that smooths out visuals, but nothing fixed the issue. Due to this, most of my time with Battlefield 4 on consoles was a frustrating experience.
Furthermore, some of the maps feel too big for the 24 player limit. The maps, which have been designed for 64 players, have only been shrunk a tiny bit. Consequently, the maps feel vacant even when all 24 player slots are filled up. There is little atmosphere present because it takes a while to reach a fire-fight, and you do not hear gunfire and tank blasts going off all around you, because there are usually not any nearby.
Battlefield 4 is best when played on the small scale maps and game modes, but that does not fully capture the reasons why Battlefield 4 stands out from its competitors.
While Battlefield 4 is enjoyable on consoles, Frostbite 3 definitely shows the effects of a prolonged console life cycle.
Battlefield 4 is a shooter that I will be playing for many more hours to come. It maintains everything that was good about Battlefield 3, and makes some changes where necessary to create an improvement on a formula that didn’t necessarily need changes. The result is innovation in the shooter genre, and the creation of a great game, both graphically, and mechanically.
+ Frostbite 3 moves the Battlefield franchise into the next generation
+ Made improvements where necessary
+ Large-scale warfare
– Single Player