Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: Electronics Arts
Release date: October 29th, 2013 (Most versions), November 15th, 2013 (Playstation 4), November 22nd, 2013 (Xbox One)
Available on: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Reviewer’s note: I played the Playstation 4 version of this game. There may be differences between versions.
Call of Duty only really has one real competitor anymore. Medal of Honor is now officially on the back burner after 2012’s lackluster Warfighter and the impressive looking Titanfall isn’t even due until 2014. Anyone else has pretty much been steamrolled by Call of Duty. Everyone else except one game: Battlefield. With Call of Duty’s recent entry failing to live up to the rest of the series, does Battlefield do any better? Short answer: Yes.
There is a caveat to that though: Battlefield 4’s singleplayer campaign never really raises above the level of “okay”. It’s a big improvement over Battlefield 3’s extremely meh campaign, but it doesn’t rival Call of Duty’s by a long shot. Battlefield 4 puts you in the role of Recker, a member of a United States squad of soldiers known as Tombstone. During a mission to recover intel from the Russians things get completely FUBARed and your squad ends up stuck in a jeep slowly sinking to the bottom of a lake. With no other options you’re forced to leave your commander behind, becoming the new squad leader. The game then follows Tombstone squad as they carry out missions for the US trying to prevent a civil war in China that would give Russia an edge it needs to attack. The game’s story doesn’t really do much and is pretty predictable from there. Hell, I saw the game’s “plot twist” coming from a mile away. It’s pretty heavily orchestrated and foreshadowed way too heavily. On the other hand, the squad you fight with is pretty fun. Irish, Pac, and Hannah all come off as pretty believable characters, something that can’t be said of the cast of Call of Duty: Ghosts.
There are a few minor changes to how Battlefield 4’s single player plays, but it’s not too different. Unlike Call of Duty, which is more faster paced and twitchy, Battlefield is a much slower game. More emphasis is put on careful aiming, controlled shots, and use of cover. Every time you kill an enemy you get points and if you get enough on each level you can unlock a few new guns to use. Outside of that there’s no real use for these points though. During the game you can find guns and dog tags to add to your current arsenal and for online customization. Simply by finding and using an ammo crate you can swap your guns for any gun you’ve found, which is a really nice element as it allows you to change your weapons around on the fly. One new feature is that you can order your squad to attack specific enemies simply by aiming at them and tapping a button. Not only will it order the squad, but if you’re hanging out with a helicopter or tank it can direct their fire as well. You also get a special pair of binoculars that lets you highlight enemies and see them through objects. These binoculars can also highlight ammo crates and useable vehicles if you see either. One good thing is the removal of quick time events from the game. They never really fit in with Battlefield 3 and I don’t find myself missing them.
Of course, Battlefield 4 loves the spectacle set piece moments. In the first level you’ll find yourself on the top of a collapsing building, sliding down while still firing at enemies. Not moments after that you jump into a jeep and try to outrun an enemy helicopter before leaning out while hanging onto the door to take shots at it with a grenade launcher. In a later chapter you find yourself on a sinking aircraft carrier that is splitting in half, dodging falling planes and making jumps across the cracking ship to not fall into the sea. These moments match some of the best seen in FPS games, and they’re the highlight of the campaign. It’s just a shame there’s not more of them, they could have helped. Probably worse is that the ending to the campaign is so sudden and random that it feels like they cut off a chunk of the game to just end it there.
Multiplayer is where Battlefield has always shined though, and it’s better than ever. As expected Battlefield’s two biggest modes, Rush and Conquest, return in Battlefield 4 (the latter of which now supports 64 players on consoles). Likewise there’s also Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch, but neither is really as fun as those two modes and Battlefield’s game play doesn’t work well with Deathmatch modes. There’s two new game modes introduced in Battlefield 4. The first is called Obliteration and has the two teams fighting over a bomb that randomly spawns on the map and trying to lug it over to the other team’s objectives to blow them up. The other is called Defuse and plays similar to Call of Duty’s Search and Destroy mode. Both are good additions, though I found myself leaning towards Obliteration far more often than Defuse. The game is also already promising the return of Air Superiority and Capture the Flag in future expansions so there’s a little something here for everybody.
Playing online is going to require you to become effective at the use of vehicles as well. They have a limited presence in the single player, but vehicles play a very important part in the multiplayer. You’ll need to know when you can take one on and when it’s best to call a squad mate with weapons better suited for the situation. You’re put in a five man squad and you’re expected to work with these five people to complete goals. Working with your squad really is for the best. You get more points for supporting them and you’re allowed to spawn on their location. So long as your squad doesn’t get wiped then it’ll keep you in the action and from having to spawn at a random location. The game features four classes, each of which pulls some kind of duel purpose. The assault class works well against other people at all ranges thanks to the useful all-round assault rifle, but he also can deploy medpacks and revive fallen teammates. On the other side, the recon class has a long ranged sniper rifle for picking off specific enemies and can also help spot targets for other players by deploying a UAV.
The biggest new addition to the multiplayer comes in the form of “levolution”. Each map has one major thing that can be changed about it that heavily changes the playing field. In one map you can knock down a skyscraper in the center of the map, which will fill up the bay in the middle and turn a large section into little more than rubble. Another map lets you break a dam and flood the level, turning streets into rivers and changing up how you can advance. From crashing battleships to getting hit by mid match hurricanes each of these levolution is an exciting and unique addition that helps keep the games fresh. Of course, the regular destruction is back and you can knock out walls and wreck buildings to create new environments and eliminate sniper spots or cover. Packing an explosive weapon feels like it’s always a good idea.
To get one more high note in my praises I really want to note the game’s graphics. I normally don’t, usually the screenshots do that well enough, but Battlefield 4 is really one of the most impressive looking games I’ve played in a long time. Everything is very well done to the point where it’s almost creepy how good the game looks. Best of all has to be the character models, which all show a level of facial emotion and expressions you don’t usually see in games.
And to bring it back down, I also have to note the almost absurd amount of times the game crashed on me. By the time I was done with the single player the game had crashed around 7 times. One of these crashes also erased all my progress in the level, while I was seriously running towards the ending. One of my friends (who also experienced several crashes) said one crash deleted his saved game and he had to restart the entire campaign. By the time I got to the multiplayer I only crashed one more time in the middle of a match, but it seems they’ve at least started to patch up the crashing issues. I have also noticed having some difficulty in joining my friend’s matches with the game not telling me when he was in a game. This seems to have been mostly sorted out now as well, but buyer beware the game may still be crash happy.
Overall, I’m still loving my time with Battlefield 4. The game’s online just simply can’t be matched. From blowing up buildings to hunt down snipers to some how stabilizing my helicopter after being hit by missiles. From sneaking around the entire enemy team to get a drop on them with a shotgun to being in the middle of a massive firefight ducking and dodging from cover to cover while returning fire when possible. There’s nothing like it and Battlefield 4’s multiplayer components make the game worth it all on it’s own. If you’ve always played Battlefield it’s now better than ever. And if you haven’t then now’s the perfect time to get started. Battlefield 4 is easily some of the most fun I’ve had with an online shooter.