The Battlefield series has traditionally been seen as a behemoth in terms of multiplayer, while its campaign mode always tends to be a bit of a damp squip. The latest edition is no different. Battlefield 4’s brief and linear campaign is a little nonsensical but the single player portion of the game is still fairly good fun, with varied environments, vehicles to commandeer, buildings to blow up and loads of weapons and gadgets to collect.
There’s the usual blend of excessive explosions and high octane set pieces we’ve come to expect too. From the opening prologue that sees your team trapped in a car underwater – having evaded countless enemies and outwitted attack helicopters, you embark on a jaunt across the globe from Shanghai to Singapore and Suez. There’s emotional conflict, loss, confusion and plenty of Oorahs and expletives… the usual stuff.
Even from the outset, you get the sense the game wants you to become emotionally connected to your character, Recker, and his colleagues. Deciding whether to sacrifice members of the team by shooting out that car window when underwater is a case in point. Sadly, it never quite works… and frankly, I found myself a little indifferent when my AI buddies were getting shot at – or buildings were falling in on them. Well, they rarely helped me out much anyway! In fact, this is highlighted by the fact you can highlight enemies by holding RB and order your team to open fire (surely they could have figured this out themselves!).
Points are accrued depending on the number or kills, headshots and so on, with achievements awarded accordingly. Everything is tracked, which will no doubt add to the likelihood of replaying the game in the future as you try to beat your scores and unlock any missing achievements. As usual though, multiplayer (nestling on a separate disc) is where it’s at, the various game modes likely to dominate your time long after the story missions end.
There are seven variations – offering either largescale all out warfare or more intimate close quarters skirmishes, and each comes with a short tutorial to explain the basic principle. You can choose from Conquest, Team Deathmatch or Squad Deathmatch or the likes of Obliteration and Defuse where planting and detonating bombs adds an element beyond simply shooting opponents. Defuse is a real personal favourite, the lack of respawning and fast-paced rounds making for a hectic playthrough. The objective-based Domination games – which lack vehicles – and Rush are also great fun.
Of the ten packaged maps, Paracel Storm is among my top picks, involving a fight against the elements as your team darts between tropical islands. Negotiating a shipwreck or breaching a heavily fortified command post is a fantastic experience with rain lashing down and a storm in full swing. I enjoyed many more hours playing through the wide open areas and bottlenecks in the prison in Operation Locker, set in the snow capped mountains of China. Whatever your preference, the maps are many and varied and will offer countless hours of fun.
Selecting one of four classes – Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon – there are loads of opportunities to tailor your soldier and customize loadout, with plenty of options for primary and secondary weapons, a couple of gadget slots, camouflage and so on.
For those well versed in Battlefield’s acclaimed multiplayer, this is another example of squad-based perfection, far more satisfying than anything Call of Duty has to offer. This feels far less arcadelike than its mega-selling rival and really makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a warzone. For newbies or solo players coming up against close-knit teams though, you’ll most likely die in a firefight mere seconds after you’ve chosen where you want to deploy. This is a game all about tactics and working together as a team.
Most of the maps are vast and you can wander about for some time before even straying across an enemy. It’s great then that there are so many vehicles at your disposal to traverse the huge areas. Next gen versions that offer an increase on the player limit should reduce this sense of space somewhat, which can only be a good thing.
Despite reports to the contrary, I personally found playing online a breeze, with lobbies quickly found and games underway without much waiting around. A few games suffered from audio issues, with the constant buzz of white noise resulting in the mute button being needed – but otherwise, everything was lag free and enjoyable.
The Xbox 360 version – reviewed here – comes on two discs, with a customary installation required to improve the textures and graphics. On the whole, it certainly looks attractive, with decent lighting effects and a reasonable level of detail. Textures are still a little shaky, however, and the visuals can look exceedingly basic in places – especially in multiplayer. There were also countless graphical glitches both in campaign and online multiplayer modes, with players sometimes getting trapped or walking through one another. And collapsing buildings often looked a little weird too.
You’ve no doubt seen the many trailers and screenshots promoting the next gen versions and cooed at the prospect of the lush visuals and frame rates. Clearly, the 360 and PS3 versions can’t quite muster such attractive environments and detail, but considering these machines are now in their twilight years, the development team has done a pretty decent job of cramming in as much as they can and pushing them to the max.
DICE’s fantastic Frostbite 3 engine ensures destructive environments can be used to your advantage, helping alter the terrain or wipe out opponents. The so-called “Levolution” feature also ensures that maps are dynamic, with explosions or weather immediately impacting gameplay. Buildings collapsing or storms gathering strength certainly grab your attention and make things interesting.As usual, Battlefield really excels in the sound department. Don your headphones or hook your console up to your surround sound system, ramp up the volume and your ears will bleed with aural goodness. Every bullet, footstep, explosion and yelled order is perfectly captured, transporting you right into the midst of the action.
While there’s plenty to keep you occupied, however, it’s a real shame that EA and DICE saw fit to can the co-op missions we saw in Battlefield 3. Still, the multiplayer game modes alone will ensure you keep your itchy trigger finger happy until the next inevitable instalment.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.