Having been a Battlefield fan since the series’ inception, it seems odd to see a sequel so quickly after a major title such as Battlefield 3. It is apparent that EA is trying to capitalize on this generation’s fixation with modern military shooters. This, combined with battling their competitors at Activision has caused them to try to replicate Call Of Duty’s annual model. With Medal of Honor’s obvious failure, it is up to Battlefield 4 to shoulder the burden and on the surface it seems that little has changed from the third entry. Upon closer inspection, series fans will notice major improvements within the campaign and the series selling point, multiplayer.
Dice continues with Battlefield 4 to try to combat Call Of Duty by matching features as best they can. With Battlefield 3 it felt that the campaign was only there because Call Of duty had a campaign, and the broad strokes were so similar to their competition but failed to realize why people enjoy Infinity Ward and Treyarch’s work. It felt like a soulless imitation, it wasn’t that it tried to copy shamelessly but it also just did not retain the crux of what Battlefield is about. As a result there was a huge disparity between the campaign and multiplayer in Battlefield 3, at most times making the two modes end up feeling like different games. Battlefield 4’s campaign tries to alleviate this issue and in many ways it does.
The campaign has dropped the classic modern military shooter trope of having a dozen or so short, bite-sized missions. Each filled with set pieces and linear shootouts. Instead, the campaign is still short but cut up into larger sections. Containing half as many missions but each becoming lengthy and varied as a result. On top of this the missions are much more open, reminding one of the Halo series more than their direct competition. They contain stealth options, large vehicle sections where the choice to use them is entirely up to the player and much more of the series trademark destructibility. At times making it possible to use explosives to open up holes in walls and flank enemies. This is to the campaigns benefit as it feels like a different experience. It never reaches the heights of those it imitates but it also never sinks to the deplorable lows that Battlefield 3’s campaign hit. The result is a more consistent and re-playable campaign that contains a scoring system involving gun unlocks and medals. The campaign is much improved but still suffers a short run-time and still an overall lack of freedom compared to the multiplayer.
The story also see’s major improvements, while not necessarily the best plot you will take part in, this or any year, it still is much stronger than previous releases in the series. Smartly focusing on the relationship of your squad and keeping with one single soldier through the campaign, it wisely drops the confusion of broad Clancy-lite political intrigue and the middle-eastern warzone schtick that has become so tired. Great but not good is the mantra for the campaign. Unlike Battlefield 3 I actually remembered character’s names and hope to see them return, especially with actor Michael K. Williams (of The Wire fame) playing Irish, the most interesting character in the game. The plot focuses on your squad returning to your post from behind enemy lines, and it is a harrowing experience as a result. It definitely feels different compared to other modern shooters. Even the final scene in the game is a more intimate moment between you and your squad with a difficult and rather unexpected moral choice segment. It is by no means the best of first person shooter campaigns but it is also leaps and bounds above Battlefield 3’s linear and frustrating, basically on rails shooting.
Battlefield 4’s multiplayer is the best it has ever been. The changes seem minor at first but ultimately make for a much better experience. There are 10 new maps that all contain the series biggest addition “levolution”. At any point in the match, usually brought on by other player’s own volition, the level can undergo a significant change. In the Siege of Shanghai map, the one shown at E3 and was part of the Beta, the big change is the center skyscraper can be collapsed. This ostensibly changes the map. In the aptly titled Flood Zone, at one point the map can be filled with water, making the slums a series of canals, causing players to use boats and have to swim around the streets. Forcing them to move combat to the rooftops. Some of these moments are awesome, changing the map dynamically and giving at a new spin, others such as the one in Siege of Shanghai are cool initially but make you quickly realize that the skyscraper is where the best gameplay took place. Luckily, despite these moments occasionally detracting from the experience, the maps as a whole are great. The only real sore spot being Operation Locker, which is a mostly indoor map revolving around a prison. It ends up in absurd bottlenecks involving nearly all of the 64 players in a match. This makes for a great time but ultimately little is accomplished during these massive stand still’s.
The class system has undergone a little fine-tuning for the better, the 4 classes from Battlefield 3 return but are much more balanced. The assault class being a key example; the defibrillator now has a recharge time, players cannot be revived more than once, and the number of revives is limited. Recon sees the addition of C4 to their arsenal, engineers use sub machine guns and the ability to zero sights has been added for snipers. Mobility and general gameplay has also been changed slightly. There is a sense of momentum and speed when sprinting is built up. Players cannot quickly go from zero to max speed to escape scraps. Shooting has been tightened up and the melee system now includes a counter, making for some intense close quarters engagements. Vehicles and the combined arms of Battlefield 4 are as great as ever, making it the best multiplayer entry in the series and the best multiplayer shooter to be released in a long time. I have a hard time believing the competition will be able to top DICE’s efforts with Battlefield 4’s multiplayer.
Visually Battlefield 4 is one of the most beautiful games on PC bar none. The effects are gorgeous and the animations on your squad mates are eerily realistic. The motion capture on the faces especially crosses into uncanny valley territory. Maps are large and beautiful and luckily the destruction is less cosmetic like Battlefield 3 and goes the way of Bad Company. Whole buildings collapse and tanks can drive through buildings. Battlefield 4 revels in sensory overload and it’s beauty is unmatched.
With Battlefield 4 DICE shows obvious growth. The campaign is much better than Battlefield 3 and they wisely chose to get away from cheap imitation and focus on the strengths of the series. Multiplayer only gets better with each game and see’s its peak with this entry. DICE has moved itself further out of Call Of Duty’s shadow making for the strongest entry the series has seen in a long time. While it is hard to believe it will ever be able to compete sales wise, Battlefield 4 is winning the battle in terms of sheer quality.
+Multiplayer is incredible as always
+Visuals are jaw dropping
-Campaign still has some growing pains
-Short in length
-“Levolution” isn’t always a good thing