Review

Battlefield 4

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With Battlefield 4, EA and DICE deliver the latest game in this decade old first-person military shooter series known for enormous team-based vehicle- and infantry-based combat as well as (in recent years) destructible buildings and environments that mix up the gameplay with dynamically transforming battlegrounds.

How does Battlefield 4 improve on the familiar formula?

What You Need to Know

While the focus of Battlefield 4 is squarely on the feature-rich, wide-ranging online multiplayer modes, character progression and the unpredictable nature of the sandbox combat when fighting against other players, DICE has again put significant resources into creating a globe-trotting singleplayer story-based campaign involving multiple characters and political turmoil in China, which did a great job of introducing me to the weapons, vehicles and team play necessary to survive in Battlefield multiplayer.

After starting out incredibly strongly and despite some genuinely impressive set-piece action moments involving aircraft carriers splitting in half, the destruction of an enormous dam, helicopter chase scenes and intense claustrophobic fire fights, the campaign ultimately turns out to be Battlefield 4′s weakest component, making way for multiplayer and the real reason that I would recommend the game to first-person shooter fans.

On PlayStation 4, the introduction of a full complement of 64 players (32 per team) on most multiplayer game types on console (as opposed to 24 total on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) makes an enormous difference to the excitement and flow of the battles, both for the better and worse, while playing at 60 frames per second with higher fidelity visuals makes firefights feel a lot smoother compared to gameplay on previous generation consoles.

Battlefield4Artwork

What’s New?

Battlefield 4 is for all intents and purposes an evolution of Battlefield 3, so there’s a lot similar to DICE’s last game but with many small and a few large refinements, additions and improvements.

In singleplayer, for example, you’re able to spot enemies for your squad to react to and then execute attack orders on your signal, which while a little unpredictable can lead to some moments where it really felt as though I was in control of where and when my soldiers would focus their attention. Weapon crates (where you can refill ammunition and customise your weapon load-out during a mission) are a welcome addition from Battlefield: Bad Company 2, as well.

In multiplayer, however, the most noticeable addition to Battlefield are the ‘Levolution’ moments and interactive levels. In one map, an entire skyscraper can collapse into a heap in the middle of a city, while in another the weather can transform a series of small islands from a paradise into a combat nightmare as a vicious storm picks up and visibility is reduced to nothing. These changes are more than cosmetic, too, changing the position and importance of capture points forcing players to switch up tactics on-the-fly.

All of the multiplayer maps are new, too, while Squads now comprise five players (as opposed to four) to give you more opportunities to spawn at strategic positions, while the spawn preview window is a life-saver showing you what kind of situation you’ll be getting yourself into ahead of time. Commander Mode is another big addition (and returning feature) which allows two players to make valuable contributions to their respective teams’ progress by spotting enemies, sending in support drops and obfuscating the enemy commander.

What’s the Same?

If you have ever played Battlefield 3 multiplayer, you’ll be right at home in Battlefield 4 and despite a few tweaks to the things you might have already known (like control layouts) you’ll find classic game modes like Conquest, Team Deathmatch and Rush alongside interesting new modes like Defuse and Obliteration.

Unfortunately you’ll need to begin that character and class progression grind all over again which is just as daunting as Battlefield 3, but DICE has made a few smart changes to ease the process, such as allowing certain weapons to be used across classes as opposed to being locked to a single job.

You’ll Enjoy Battlefield 4 If You Liked…

… Battlefield 3.

… Other Battlefield games, specifically Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1943.

… Team-based multiplayer games in general. I might stop short of recommending that hardcore Call of Duty fans have to try Battlefield 4, but even if you’re merely curious about the series there are lots of different game modes to cater to your tastes and slowly introduce you to larger modes like Conquest or Rush.



What I Liked

- 5.) Marking enemies in singleplayer and feeling the tension ahead of a firefight before I let my squad loose on my targets feels great (when it works as you expect, at least).

- 4.) The visuals and audio in Battlefield 4 are a cut above the rest, and even though I thought the Xbox 360 version of the game looked impressive, the game is that much sharper on PlayStation 4 and I once again had to stop for a few moments to enjoy scenic views or soak in the intense atmosphere of a gunfight as soldiers screamed and shouted frantic battle chatter.

- 3.) The ‘Levolution’ moments, when experienced for the first time, are truly awe-inspiring and when playing on day one of launch on Xbox 360 it was clear that the concept was new to other players, too, as everyone stopped what they were doing to watch the central command structure of a prison crumble into rubble, or helplessly bear witness to a tanker crashing onto an island, tearing up the landscape like an unstoppable monster, making for some of my favourite moments in gaming this year. On PlayStation 4, Levolution moments play out very smoothly with more detailed debris and atmospheric effects adding to the impact of the moment.

- 2.) There’s an excellent range of multiplayer modes in Battlefield 4, from small-scale and fast-paced matches in Defuse to massive, plodding matches in Conquest, and everything in-between, while the improved server browser and filtering tool to search for matches is very welcome.

- 1.) The unpredictable nature of multiplayer matches in Battlefield 4 is the reason I’ll continue playing for months to come, because I’ll never be able to know what to expect from a given match, and with the inclusion of 64 players on PlayStation 4 I was never left wonting for something to do and a method of quickly zipping from ‘A’ to ‘B’ thanks to the number of vehicles driving, flying, rolling and dashing through the world at a given time.

Favourite Moments

In the campaign, two characters speak about the trustworthiness of a piece of military hardware that was supposedly made in Sweden, which means it’s a quality product. Knowing that DICE is based in Sweden, and given the timing of the joke, I got a good chuckle out of that.

In multiplayer, however, I’ve experienced many of those ‘Battlefield Moments’ you always hear about, the most vivid of which was when I and another player were protecting a capture point against all odds before an enemy player literally blew the walls down around us with a rocket launcher, forcing a rapid exit.

As the walls tumbled down around me, I jumped down one floor to the ground right in front of an enemy tank that slowly adjusted its sights to cut me down. Before I could react, a jet zoomed overhead and the tank was destroyed in the blink of an eye, while two grenades exploded to the left and right of me and a friendly tank crunched into view to to reinforce the position. A true ‘moment.’



What I Didn’t Like

- 3.) The story of the singleplayer campaign quickly falls apart. It’s poorly paced, short and extraordinarily linear, and even less well explained providing tenuous links between your previous actions, current actions and the overall motivation of the narrative with some eye-roll worthy lines of dialogue. There are some attempts at emotive storytelling, but it all falls flat.

- 2.) The silent protagonist approach to player agency in Battlefield 4 is painfully noticeable and simply doesn’t work as other characters vacillate between acknowledging and speaking to you while looking to you to solve their problems, to ignoring your influence and commanding you to open doors, search for equipment and destroy tanks while they hang back in safety.

- 1.) While game modes of a larger scope play out well on more open and expansive maps with lots of players and vehicles on PlayStation 4 with 64 players, indoor levels suffer from their inherently small environments. Natural choke points in smaller maps often attract the attention of over fifteen players from either side who will engage in a lengthy war of attrition, throwing dozens of grenades and explosives down hallways while firing hundreds of rounds into nothingness in the hopes of taking down their opponents – it’s not fun to watch or take part in, but difficult to try to flank around the battle without support.

Least Favourite Moments

Watching no less than fifteen members of my team hunker down in front of an entrance to a hallway to try and claim the passage and move on to another objective, only to be continually mowed down and demolished by fifteen members of the opposition while both sides carelessly toss grenade after grenade into the tunnel in the hopes of getting a lucky frag.


Battlefield 4: Single Player Story Trailer

Battlefield 4: Multiplayer Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

Battlefield 4 introduces players to various aspects of the game in the extensive ‘Test Range’ facility to give you a chance to try out different weapons and vehicles, and capture objectives, which is a nice addition and an effective free-form tutorial for those new to the series.

In singleplayer, there are various medals to earn by accruing a certain number of points per mission, which are replayable allowing you to jump back in and complete challenges. In multiplayer, however, there are weeks and months worth of equipment unlocks to earn to customise your weapons and vehicles to precisely match your playstyle.

The Bottom Line

While the solo campaign is disappointingly not a good reason to recommend Battlefield 4, the potential of the game’s multiplayer is enough of a draw to keep me coming back for months because when the action clicks just right, there’s no other game quite like it, able to generate truly awe-inspiring, memorable moments thanks to the immense sandbox of toys and tools to play with.

With the full complement of 64 players on PlayStation 4 (as well as PC and Xbox One), I’ve finally been able to experience the way Battlefield games should be played and most of my previous complaints about the series on previous generation consoles have been wiped away – this is the definitive edition of Battlefield 4.


Battlefield 4 was reviewed on PlayStation 4

Note: This review has been updated with features and impressions from the PlayStation 4 version of the game – read the original review over here.



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