Battlefield 4 Review

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The legacy of DICE’s Battlefield series has grown even bigger with yesterday’s launch of Battlefield 4, promising even more massive, dynamic warzones that feature destruction on an unprecedented scale. Vehicular and on-foot combat, its bread and butter, don’t disappoint with realistic weapons, vehicles, a returning squad system and a relaunch of Battlefield 2’s multiplayer Commander Mode. The real gem of the experience lies in its scaled-up multiplayer, but Battlefield 4 embarrasses itself with a single player that could have been left out of the final product without anyone noticing.
 
 

Single player campaign
The single player campaigns in the Battlefield series have always been a mixed bag. Battlefield Bad Company, the iteration that first introduced destructible environments to the series, banked heavily on humour to drive forward its ultimately successful narrative ensconced in a fairly open world. However, as with Battlefield 3, the fourth game in the series suffers from friendly fire. Its single player seems to be an attempt to showcase the astounding, 60 frames per second Frost Bite 3 graphical engine that builds on the success of Bad Company (complete with amazing dynamic weather effects) by creating truly cool set pieces, then ignoring its trademark open-world concept by pushing players through them on rails. Disintegrating buildings, battleships and dams may look great, but it’s a bummer banging into not-so-invisible walls as you’re trying head off troops approaching from a half mile away. You do get a taste of freedom in some sections, most notably the ones that take you through the air in a helicopter or on the road in a vehicle.

On paper, the narrative should be interesting, as your character runs an guns through a time of uncertainty between three factions on the brink of war: the US, Russia and China. Instead, it’s a litany of explosions (seemingly at random) and unresolved tension that doesn’t amount to much. IGN’s Mitch Dyer hit the nail on the head when he wrote that it’s every first person shooter cliche wrapped up in a single game: “Tank mission, boat mission, stealth mission, jailbreak, sewers, sudden but inevitable betrayal, dastardly Russians, defying orders, and, of course, a torture sequence.” There are no real moral choices for the game’s characters, which is a development in game narratives that has been become increasingly crucial to this generation of gamers. For a half-baked campaign, it is, however, really, really good-looking whether on PC or current generation consoles.
 
 

Multiplayer
Everyone remembers their first Battlefield moment: when all the moving parts of the game converge into one frenetic, completely unscripted whole. Battlefield 4 promises many more of those thanks to the scale of destruction that is now possible, giving a new definition to dynamic multiplayer. The ability to destroy small structures such as homes and sheds returns, but DICE also introduced catastrophic events such as collapsing hotels and radio towers that can have drastic gameplay consequences, opening new avenues for attack and closing others. For example, in one level, a dam can burst to flood the embattled warzone. What was once a street becomes a canal for boats, and what was once an on-foot level becomes a swimming pool (often to great annoyance). However the levels are affected, we must admit giant structures busting down look amazing. In a level where a massive skyscraper can collapse onto the city below, it is not uncommon for every single player to drop what they are doing to watch the ensuing chaos.

These destructive events can easily change how different game modes are played, especially when coupled with dynamic weather systems. Typhoons can grow worse as a match is played on a tropical island, making it easier to stealthily advance on capture points in Rush mode or Obliteration, which tasks both teams with carrying a bomb into enemy territory. Conquest’s point by point tug of war mode also makes a return.

These modes and more scale to support up to 64 players on PC, PS4 and Xbox One—24 on Xbox 360 and PS3—creating a hell of a lot of chaos. Reining them is in the relaunched Commander Mode, which gives one player on each team a top-down view of the battlefield. This player is tasked with directing multiple squads for coordinated attacks, dropping supplies for embattled teammates and generally keeping track of what’s going on, making the symbiotic relationship between a competent commander and his men on the ground the deciding factor between a team that wins and a team that loses. Furthering this relationship, squads can capture certain control points that give the commander abilities such as missile strikes that can support their endeavors.

Back, of course, are the handful of classes for players to use, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. However, customization has also been scaled up in this Battlefield, with each class having scads more gear and gadgets to choose from than before, thus making the classic recon/support/assault/engineer choices less limiting. Customization options are also available for tailoring vehicles to suit specific needs, whether you prefer to bomb infantry from your jet plane or go head to head with other ace pilots.

Next-gen consoles
Battlefield 4 looks like a next-gen title, feels like next-gen title and plays like next-gen title, but currently it’s only available for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. What gives? Quite paradoxically, it’s also a launch title for the PS4 and Xbox One, which drop in just over two weeks (Nov. 15 for the PS4, and Nov. 22 for the Xbox). For those seeking the next-gen experience despite buying the game on day one, DICE has implemented an interesting buying option. Owners of the physical disc versions of the PS3 and Xbox 360 games can choose to upgrade their copies to a digital version on their corresponding next-gen console for $10. The next-gen versions promise comparable graphics and 64 player games, unlike the current generation of consoles.

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