Battlefield 4 Review: More Military Action
I’d love to have some smart, pithy statement on hand that will adequately sum up exactly what my experience with Battlefield 4 was. But, as it stands, it’s simply more of the Battlefield that so many have come to know and love. It’s overall a safe and tame sequel with minor tweaks that it borrows from previous entries in the series and is sure to sate the needs of diehard Battlefield fans everywhere.
Being that this is one of the greater military shooters in recent history, I’d be remiss to not start out this review by commenting on the game’s online multiplayer modes. The different modes are pretty much recognizable at this point, but each have a twist that makes them feel unique in their own way. Conquest returns once again as the definitive Battlefield experience starring a mix of vehicular and infantry-based combat, while other modes such as Domination and Rush scale things down a bit to keep the action feeling intense and refined.
EA’s biggest buzzword leading up to the release of Battlefield 4 was “levelution”, a strange portmanteau meant to describe the exaggerated destructibility resurrected from Bad Company 2 and incorporated into 4. Using levelution, you’ll find that a majority of the structures in every map have some amount of destructible potential that can play to a variety of tactics, from chipping away at enemy cover to changing the map layout by bringing down entire buildings. Using this destructibility is both fun to play with and a spectacle to behold, although it can sometimes feel ancillary on maps where it doesn’t serve much more of a purpose other than limiting traversal (I’m looking at you, Flood Zone).
Still, on maps like Heinan Resort, it’s an awesome feeling to bring down an entire 12-story building and take away vantage points from pesky snipers.
Each of the different modes have their own cadence and pacing as well, ranging from the fast and twitch-based Team Deathmatch to the more calculated Conquest. If you’re not a fan of fast Call of Duty-esque gunplay, it’s likely that you’ll find a mode that fits your style better in Battlefield 4.
Commander mode from Battlefield 2 resurfaces in 4 as well, and brings with it a whole new set of strategic options for those who play with big groups of friends. Commander mode allows for one person to serve as a commander for the entire squad, calling the shots and directing support to capture points and combat enemies with ease. Those who use it well will find it fun to use, and there’s no feeling of satisfaction quite like coordinating the perfect attack to seize a capture point.
This plays to the fact that Battlefield 4 is a game meant to be played with friends. I spent much of my time playing the game by myself with other random people online, and while playing alone and seeing how many points you can rack up within a match can be fun, using actual coordination and careful planning as part of a bigger team really does serve to make each of the modes feel much more varied and interesting. If you have plans to play it online, I highly recommend either swaying friends to buy it on the same console or finding a group online you can jump in with.
The maps are well-designed, each of them containing something players of every class will appreciate. Maps are literally littered with cover, utilizing large items such as shipping containers and walls to provide cover for players. Furthermore, nice verticality and foliage will allow for the savviest of snipers to set up shop and pick off enemies from afar.
It should be noted that the experience on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 is a significantly scaled down one in terms of online matches. Battles have been reduced to 24 players and 3 control points on a map as opposed to the regular 64 player count and 5 capture points on PC. It’s because of this that the matches often take a hit, leaving maps feeling a bit more empty and battles not quite as spectacular as they could have been. Of course, it’s a difficult balance to strike when designing the game for five different platforms (PC, current gen, and next gen), and as such, I find it difficult to fault the game for having to make some omissions in order to function on the lesser systems. Still, the maps feel a bit too large in some of the more open modes like Conquest, resulting in high traffic areas towards the center and areas on the outside of the map feeling about as empty as the backwoods of Montana.
Sadly, this review would not be complete without mentioning the sad excuse of a single player mode it contains. From awful dialogue to choking linearity, the game’s single-player campaign commits nearly every sin a shooter possibly can and crams it into a short campaign devoid of any substance. The summary? From what I could tell, it has something to do with a mounting world war between some of the world’s leading nations. And naturally, the only way to solve it is by rushing in guns-a-blazing. Honestly, I wish I could tell you what the general synopsis was with more interest and clarity, but it’s so poorly written and the characters are so vapid that I never cared about what was happening on screen in any capacity. It’s just more of the same jumbled mess of single player garbage that military shooters have sadly reduced themselves to over the last few years. It funnels you down hallways, forces you to play the game on its terms, and expects you to be wowed by the pretty explosions and “tense” moments throughout. In short, you’re better off foregoing the single player experience and just playing hours of multiplayer matches instead.
I feel obligated to warn potential players that Battlefield 4’s performance on a current generation system has been incredibly spotty at best. For a game renowned for its graphical prowess, it falls victim to rampant texture pop-in, awkward clipping, and severe frame rate drops that almost make the game unplayable in many cases on the Xbox 360. The game’s way of pushing current systems to their absolute limit also left my machine running hot and caused it to freeze upwards of twenty times while playing. Add to that the fact that the game is a buggy mess on the PlayStation 4, and it might serve people to wait on a patch that smoothes things out a bit before jumping in to play. I’ll update this review with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 impressions as well once we know more about the game’s performance on each system.
Poor single player and performance issues aside, Battelfield 4’s multiplayer is still a great time to be had and almost makes up for all the other issues it deals with. Modes such as Conquest and Team Deathmatch were often my favorite to play, thanks to the game’s increased destructibility, great shooting mechanics, and well-designed maps. No, you won’t find anything necessarily groundbreaking or novel in the game that will serve to shake the foundations of the franchise itself, but its smart way of combining some of the best elements of Battlefield games past serves to make Battelfield 4 a safe and reliable sequel at best.