Better late than never. That is the best way to describe both this review and this game. It’s not that the game came out late but rather it came out a bit too early thus releasing with a ton of game ending bugs on both the campaign and multiplayer side of things. Because of this I didn’t feel it was fair to give the game a final verdict until it was “fixed” and was running stable. So after 3 title updates, finishing the campaign, and logging nearly 200 hours online I finally feel like the game is where it was meant to be when it launched.
I’m just gonna come right out and say it. This single player campaign is pretty lackluster. It’s almost to the point where DICE either needs to grow a pair and do something different with their campaigns or just drop it altogether and focus 100% on what really sells this game which is the online multiplayer component. What I mean when I say “something different” is that they need to stop trying to be Call Of Duty with the plot twists and turns and a major set piece on every level. I’d love love love for them to try and reboot the reboot of Medal Of Honor and focus on something based in “reality” and dive back into the Tier 1 world. But hey, that’s just me.
The story here is such a throw away that I didn’t care enough about it to even pay attention. It’s got a bunch of shoehorned drama and is basically a way to show off the technical power of the new Frostbite 3 engine that was used to make the game. From a visual standpoint the game is just outstanding and it does offer some really cool set pieces. But the AI in the game is weak at best. You are able to issue some basic attack commands to your squad mates but they will often allow bad guys to run right past them without raising a weapon and it seems that no matter how much I stayed out of sight and would try and flank the enemy they always knew exactly where I was and only focused their fire at me rather than my squad. I just feel like this is something pretty basic that a lot of games got right a loooooong time ago. One other thing that I found to be funny was you are placed in command of your squad yet the character named Irish shouts orders at you all the time. It’s pretty restricting and has a “on the rails” feel to it.
So….yeah…the campaign is just kind of there if you feel so inclined to play it. While it’s visually very stunning it’s just as forgettable.
Let’s not kid ourselves here, the real reason that people buy a Battlefield game is for the insanely good online multiplayer it offers. This time out console players, Xbox One and PS4 owners, get a taste of the 64 players based combat that the PC players have sampled for all these years.
The core game play hasn’t changed much in terms of what was offered in previous Battlefield titles. The players, guns, gadgets, weapons, and vehicles all handle as well as you’d expect them to. While there are a few new items here and there and some small changes to soldier classes you can use the game is very familiar. That’s not to say that there haven’t been any changes made though.
In previous titles one of the key selling points was that the game environments had a certain level of destructibility to them and could be used to change the way one looked at a map or went about assaulting an objective. That has been taken to a new level with their new “Levolution” system. Now instead of bringing down a single wall or a small garage to change the field of play you can bring down an entire skyscraper, blow up a dam that will flood the map and bring boats into play, or you can run a derelict battleship ashore and wipe out an entire supply depot in the process. Each of these drastically changes the way a map is approached and can also relocate the position of a key objective. When they happen they are a thing of beauty and will almost without a doubt leave you with your jaw hanging open.
DICE has for the most part kept the key gametypes intact by offering Team Deathmatch, Domination, Rush, and Conquest. Team Deathmatch and Domination should feel familiar as almost every online game out there has these offerings while Rush is a fun take objective based gameplay in which you either have to attack or defend a certain set of objectives and only have so many team lives to do it in. Conquest will put you in a 32v32 player slugfest where you will battle for locations on a map. The key is to hold more locations then your opponent At times Conquest can feel very overwhelming where the other gametypes are fun but at times feel a bit empty. To me the sweet spot of Battlefield 4 is the new to the series gametype known as Obliteration. This is pretty much a 16v16 Neutral Bomb scenario. A bomb is placed in the center of the map and each team has to attempt to grab it and then plant it at any one of three enemy plant sites. The goal is to destroy all 3 plant sites or have more destroyed then the other team when the time runs out. The good news is that that the bomb can be defused once planted so the game become a giant game of Tug O War. You can also see the location of the bomb at all times which really helps in cranking up the action. The game is a constant flow of action and adrenaline and never really seems to overwhelming in the way that Conquest can at times.
Another new feature, well……. a new feature for console players, is the ability to play the game in “Commander Mode”. Here you are given a tactical map of the battlefield and can issue attack and defend commands to any squad in the game. Holding certain spots on the map will earn you, the Commander, the ability to call in supply drops for troops on the ground, promote a squad which can give them a ammo upgrades, you can run a UAV scan of certain areas on the map to spot troops or vehicles, and you can even call in a AC-130 Gunship or Cruise Missile strike. What’s great about this is you can play from your console or PC or you can play it on your tablet should you own one(using drag and drop touch controls) from the comfort of your couch while doing something else. Yes, I have been watching TV at night while playing as a Commander via my tablet. It’s a great feature and a good Commander can often make a big difference in a game.
Technically speaking the multiplayer offerings are top notch. The graphics don’t stray to far from the mouthwatering visuals found in the campaign and the sound design is just fantastic. The ambient environmental sounds and sounds of war do a great job of putting you right in the action. The one thing I do find puzzling though is the inability to form a squad before you enter a game server. If you want to play with your friends you will need to go in solo and have them join you and then try and get on the same team and form a squad. It’s kind of a pain in the ass at times but more often than not you will eventually all end up together.
All in all Battlefield 4 is a very solid next gen launch title. It has some major shortcomings in terms of what is offered as a single player experience and the absence of any type of co-op experience is disappointing but the multiplayer experience is nothing short of brilliant despite all of its early bugs, title updates, and lack of a squad feature. If you turned your back on Battlefield 4 early on due to some of these issues then you should make a u-turn and head back as the waters are now safe and quite warm.