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Battlefield 4 review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Multiplayer is genre-leading, again
  • Levolution and destruction is amazing
  • Single-player is much improved...
  • ...but the story is nonsense
  • Defuse mode falls flat

The Battlefield series has built its reputation on memorable moments. Some epic, some intimate, some barely believable--YouTube is filled with clips of people far better at Battlefield than you, doing amazing things (to people like you). Battlefield 4 wants you--yes, you--to experience even more thrilling, more epic moments than ever before with a beefed up single-player story and the addition of map-changing levolution events and show-stopping destruction online. That’s the aim… and in this respect, the game is a roaring success.

Battlefield 4 is a significant step forward from number 3, both on and offline. The change is more marked in single-player, where the story strikes a more intimate note, echoing the buddy-banter from the Bad Company games. Your squad mates Irish and Pac have more developed personalities, and there are some memorable little moments in between all the shooting and shouting. At one point, Pac starts subtly dancing to some lift music in a rare pocket of silence sandwiched between some intense gunplay. “What?” he asks baffled-looking squad-mates, “I love this song. It’s a great freaking song.”

Sadly, despite the increased likeability of the characters, Battlefield 4’s overarching story blunders from one set-piece to another, ignoring the gaping holes torn in its plot and taking little care to explain what the hell is actually going on (that's war, I guess?). At one point, right near the end of the game, I leaned over to a fellow reviewer to ask about the identity of a character in a cut-scene. Turned out he was the entire reason I’d been shooting the teeth out of Chinese and Russian soldiers for the last six hours (the length of the solo campaign).

It’s a real shame, because great efforts have been made to capture the magic of multiplayer during the solo mode. One huge criticism of BF3’s story was that it’s totally divorced from multiplayer. Not so here. There are epic moments to behold, like dams bursting and frenzied tank battles inside savage tropical storms. You unlock kit, and accrue points for kills--just like you do in multiplayer. It’s like a beautiful-looking training mission, with chatting. And on that note…

Multiplayer has evolved, too. I’m sure DICE would like me to write that it has ‘levolved’, but I’m not going to. All joking aside, levolution makes a huge difference to online play, as does the reintroduction of ‘proper’ destruction. While bringing down the skyscraper in the Siege of Shanghai map is a visual novelty, it genuinely changes the shape of the map. Other stages alter more dramatically, really forcing you to shift the way you play. The typhoon that starts to rage half-way through the Paracel Storm map looks incredible, and ups the importance of naval combat. Meanwhile, when you flood the whole city in Flood Zone, it significantly intensifies the conflict on the rooftops and small patches of dry land.

Next-gen destruction

PC players will notice some step forward in terms of visuals and destruction, it’s console players that get the biggest leap. The PS3/360 versions only support 24 players, which makes a vast difference in bigger modes. Maps scale to fit current-gen counts, so games still feel balanced, but there’s a lack of detail in the current-gen versions. Maps contain fewer objects, destruction is more simplified, and the draw distance is shorter.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the frame-rate, though, as current-gen is still locked to 30fps. As such, that slick, well polished gameplay enjoyed by next-gen is sacrificed. Our advice? Make this a next-gen purchase, if you can.

The fact that levolution is such a success is testament to the incredible level design in BF4. Most maps have multiple layers and areas, which means you’re often mixing up land, sea, and air combat with close-quarters firefights. In other words, the majority of maps will suit any playstyle, and allow you to get creative with the destruction. Yes, I drove a tank through a house, and collapsed it. Yes, I beached a jetski to roadkill a man. Yes, I sat on a tower with a sniper-rifle and shot a man out of a helicopter. Moments. Memorable moments.

There are some sour notes. Defuse, a new 5v5, one-life-per-round mode, designed to draw in the Counter-Strike crowd, falls flat because it puts tense twitch-shooting ahead of smart tactics and specialised warfare. Seriously, if you want to camp in the corner of a room for 10 minutes a) fuck off--that’s not how Battlefield works, and b) you could always play Call of Duty for that kind of nonsense--I’ll be enjoying Conquest, thanks. Commander mode is… a little dull. It’s a novelty to tactically influence the battle from a bird’s eye view, but when I sat there tapping away at my iPad, I was desperately wishing to be part of the battle down below.

Another new mode, Obliteration, is a fun single-bomb game type that feels different enough from Rush and Conquest to justify inclusion. Amusingly, everyone seems to chase the guy with the bomb like school-kids running after the ball in a game of playground football. All maps scale to fit each game mode, adapting to accommodate differing team sizes and objectives; another triumph of smart design.

Overall, multiplayer feels quicker and more aggressive, although--don’t worry--Battlefield 4 hasn’t turned into a COD-style twitch shooter. Classes are well balanced, and as far as I could see (and I played for hours with everything unlocked), there was no super-gun / kit that lets you murder everyone. And again, there’s no single class that dominates any single map--there’s room for everyone during each session.

Now, a bit of tech-talk. Don’t be scared. The game’s quickness is largely thanks to the fact that the PS4 and PC versions are locked to 60 frames per second, making both the single- and multiplayer modes feel smooth and lethal. Even when firefights get intense on smaller maps like Operation Locker, or huge levolution moments rock an entire map, like the dam breaking in Lancang Dam, the game stays slick and beautiful. I’m no tech nerd, but I can appreciate what a polished marvel BF4 is on PS4 and PC.

As a package, this is the best Battlefield ever created. While the single-player is far from perfect, it bottles enough multiplayer lightning to garner my rather faint praise of ‘worth a quick play through’. As ever, though, it’s online where BF4 shines brightest. You may not appreciate just how brilliantly designed the maps, modes, and classes are until you experience those trademark moments. Like when you’re charging around an abandoned factory on Golmund Railway, trying to fend off three tanks at once, mortar fire raining down on you from above, shaking your screen and creating unbelievable mayhem. Then--and only then--will you truly fall in love with this game like I have.

More Info

Release date: Nov 12 2013 - PS4
Oct 29 2013 - PC, PS3
Nov 19 2013 - Xbox One
Oct 29 2013 - Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS4, PC, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: DICE
Franchise: Battlefield
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

Multiplayer shooters don't get better than Battlefield 4. Incredible destruction, smart map design, and solid tech combine to produce a true showcase for PS4 and PC. While solo play still lags behind, it's a big step up from BF3.

This game was reviewed primarily on PS4 and PC and was conducted at a review event.

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31 comments

  • BladedFalcon - October 28, 2013 10:03 p.m.

    Hrmm... Glad to hear the single player has been improved. However, it still doesn't feel compelling enough for me to bother. It sure does look pretty though, specially on PC.
  • ObliqueZombie - October 29, 2013 10:21 a.m.

    The draw of these games, for me, is the sound design. I don't know if you've ever played this with a decent headset on, but DICE is unmatched in terms of immersive sound design. Seriously, no game in any other genre has ever come close to just how pitch-perfect DICE is. I shit you not, that's one reason I play the game--to just hear the battles play out. But yeah, in terms of current-gen consoles, I'd stay away. Next gen is a maybe, I'm not entirely sure how pumped up it'll be. If you had a PC though, my friend, I'll gladly play this with you. Playing with friends in a competitive/co-op game, even one you're not too interested in, makes the game a BLAST. I can think of a few examples where a buddy gifted me a game I had marginal interest in and then lost a weekend to that game and my friend.
  • Doctalen - October 28, 2013 10:19 p.m.

    I used to love shooters on my 360 but then I got bored. I've played battlefield bad company one and two but never got into them. however, if I were to get a ps4 or high end pc, this would be near the top of my list. I loves a lot of those vids from the beta and well it looks sexy. But it won't be a day one or launch purchase, hell it may not be in the purchase sights for another year. I'm still enjoying pokemon/xcom/sins. I love being mind fucked by the AI or a smart opponent too much now.
  • Swedish_Chef - October 28, 2013 10:25 p.m.

    I really wish they just abandoned single player and put all their resources into multiplayer, I know they can't and it's nothing but a pipe-dream as EA wants it to compete with Call of Duty as much as possible and taking time and resources out of improving the real reason people play the games in the first place. I miss the times in the past where I put hundreds to thousands of hours into Battlefield 2 a game where the single player simply consisted of playing multiplayer maps with bots. I just hope EA doesn't force Dice to tack on a crappy single player mode to the new Battlefront unless it's an enhanced version of Galactic Conquest.
  • AKALMoumen - October 29, 2013 5:43 a.m.

    I mean they can do well when given the freedom Bad Company had sweet funny story until spec ops that was the best story I've seen on an FPS ever and don't forget ME wasn't too shabby either... And come on a Star Wars game needs a story I just hope they get input from Lucas Arts and take their time... And for some reason online only FPS don't sell much even thou that what people want... Check out Defiance and Brink... And Mag has a following but it's not big enough to merit a sequel apparently... So maybe it adds to the package...
  • shawksta - October 28, 2013 10:44 p.m.

    Only 2 Negatives huh? So its not forced to be 3 anymore? Keep that format of not forcing it. Sounds great, nice to hear Single Player improved.
  • Sliet - October 29, 2013 5:04 a.m.

    We've already had a few with <3, but the layout for this one looks superb.
  • GR HollanderCooper - October 30, 2013 2:30 p.m.

    GO GO LAYOUT POWER
  • db1331 - October 29, 2013 5:26 a.m.

    "Seriously, if you want to camp in the corner of a room for 10 minutes a) fuck off" Truer words have never been spoken. That's why I can't play CS or S&D in CoD. It's not in me to play like a little bitch, so I'm always the guy that moves around and gets shot in the back by a camper, then has to watch other people play for 2-3 mins before I can respawn. I really don't care for how they've tied some multiplayer unlocks to the single player campaign. They make a mode that they know is going to be shit, and nobody will want to play it, so they take cool guns like the Rex and force you to play SP to unlock them. Lame. Just get rid of the SP altogether.
  • GR_AndyHartup - October 29, 2013 5:45 a.m.

    Hmm, perhaps some confusion here. Anything you unlock in single player is for use in single player only. Anything you unlock in multiplayer is for multiplayer only. So, you can get every weapon in the game - to use online - without ever touching the single player campaign. And single player is pretty good this time. Not show-stopping, but pretty good. Also, yes, I got in the back so many times by campers on Defuse. I'm a damn good BF4 player, and the way that mode makes you play is... unnatural.
  • db1331 - October 29, 2013 5:51 a.m.

    That's good to hear then. I was told otherwise. Someone said it was just like the co-op unlocked guns in BF3.
  • GR_AndyHartup - October 29, 2013 9:53 a.m.

    Just done some digging, and yes, there is one weapon per type that is unlocked in single player. Not cool. Not at all.
  • db1331 - October 29, 2013 10:10 a.m.

    Yeah, that's what I thought. Luckily it's nothing I NEED. If they had buried my .44 magnum in the SP campaign, then I would HAVE to play it. They should worry about making a SP that's compelling enough for people to WANT to play it. Not try and force you to play it to get things for MP.
  • Inthedistrict - November 5, 2013 11:28 a.m.

    Couldn't agree more regarding the multiplayer. I wonder though, what's worse...campers or the guys who run to the other side of the map and stand near respawn points and / or go behind them and kill all the players on the other team pointing toward the objective? Not sure I have an answer to that myself but probably the latter.
  • ivan-osorio - October 29, 2013 6:21 a.m.

    As a "single-player only" kind of gamer, I have to wonder why these guys still stick to a campaign. Sounds like an absolutely waste of resources... I doubt people like me will buy this game for the SP, and I doubt the MP-focused crowd will enjoy the campaign. Nobody wins... Alas.
  • john-manukyan - October 29, 2013 6:30 a.m.

    I WANT TO BUY THIS GAME BUT I CANT ONLY BECAUSE ITS ALLTHE SAME OVER AND OVER AND WHEN YOU PLAY ONLINE ITS ALL CAMPERS AND HACKERS AND YOU CANT EVEN GET A GOOD GAME GOING. SO I STICK WITH MADDEN AND THAT HAS LET ME DOWN WITH 25 IT FEELS SO SLOW LIKE EA JUST SAID LETS JUST TOSS IT OUT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS SO THE ONLY GOOD GAME THIS YEAR TO ME IS GTAV .
  • CitizenWolfie - October 29, 2013 6:41 a.m.

    Sounds very intriguing and I'm tempted to buy it to bump up my PS4 launch day. I'm glad the story mode is an improvement (I'm a fan of SP in general) and I don't mind the plot being silly. But I'm still unsure so maybe you can help: I bought Battlefield 3 and couldn't get on with it. I mean, at all. The MP battles were too chaotic for my tastes and I felt completely overwhelmed with the different class options. I felt like there was no "entry level" - you had to either be a perfect player or else you were a "CoD fag." I thought the amazing graphics came at the expense of being able to actually see anyone further than a few metres away in exterior areas and the bloom effect had me running blind most of the time. Add onto all this the fact that unless you play all day every day and unlock everything, the guys who paid extra for the equipment unlocks were the ones dominating. Obviously CoD gets a lot of grief but I do like the fact that you're never too late in a match to turn the game around, whereas if you're losing in BF it's a looooong, drawn out, miserable loss. With all this in mind, is BF4 worth buying as a self-confessed noob like myself? Or should I just call time on FPS games for good? I haven't truly enjoyed CoD since Black Ops 1 and I want to love BF as much as a lot of people on here seem to.
  • GR_AndyHartup - October 30, 2013 1:14 a.m.

    I think you'll be fine if you're playing this on PS4 (or XO). The PC version is definitely more competitive, and the hardcore really dominate that. I totally understand why you feel intimidated. My advice would be to learn how to play modes like Conquest and Rush - to understand the tactics behind them - and you'll be far more competitive. I'm by no means the quickest or most accurate player, but I'm usually in the top 3-5 per session because I support my team and do stuff like spotting enemies and capturing objectives. This is the best time to get back into BF because the next-gen version is bringing 64 player battles and 60FPS - something PC players have enjoyed for a while. So, you get the 'full Battlefield experience' but without having to dive straight into the bloodbath on PC. Oh, and yes, BF3 was pretty underwhelming. The SP was dire, and the destruction was poor. BF4 addresses those issues.
  • slimjim441 - October 29, 2013 9:49 a.m.

    '...if you want to camp in the corner of a room for 10 minutes a) fuck off--that’s not how Battlefield works, and b) you could always play Call of Duty for that kind of nonsense' Love it. If PS4 ends up getting keyboard/mouse support, I'll definitely have to get this.
  • ObliqueZombie - October 29, 2013 10:16 a.m.

    As far as I'm concerned, no. If, like FFXIV, they'll support keyboards for chatting but not much else. I would love to see that, too, though.

Showing 1-20 of 31 comments

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