The war has never been larger. The experience never more dynamic. The technology never more impressive. In every respect, Battlefield 4 is a true evolution of military first-person shooter sensibilities!
But it would have been a lot easier to appreciate if it wasn’t such an unstable, finicky product.
At its core, regardless of which platform you play it on, Battlefield 4 is an outstanding multiplayer experience, and arguably the best on next-gen consoles at this point. Even the single-player campaign is noticeably more fun and interesting than the dull, awful campaign of Battlefield 3, however slightly. That’s when the game works properly though. Some platforms are worse than others in terms of technical issues, but Battlefield 4 demands a fair amount of patience regardless thanks to the amount of times it will kick you out of matches, fail to connect to servers and lobbies, and even crash outright, forcing you to reboot the game.
When the game works however, it resets the bar for an engrossing online multiplayer suite, thoroughly dwarfing its main competitor, Call of Duty: Ghosts in terms of scope and ambition. This is on top of being powered by EA’s revolutionary new Frostbite 3 engine, boosting the destruction and realism of the series to unprecedented heights! Frostbite 3 is clearly optimized for next-gen consoles, granted, so it doesn’t shine nearly as impressively in Battlefield 4’s Xbox 360 and PS3 builds, but on PS4 and Xbox One, and especially PC, the engine sucks you into the action like never before!
The beauty and scale may come at a price, but if you’re willing to fight through some unfortunate launch hiccups every now and again, Battlefield 4 will bring your online warfare experience to the next level!
Thanks to the power of Frostbite 3, Battlefield 4 leaves its rivals and predecessors completely in the dust, often literally!
This game features arguably some of the most breathtaking and dymanic military shooter environments in the history of the gaming industry to date. Gale-force winds blow rain and mist through a Singapore backdrop. Waters surge and flood a street of apartment complexes. Ash bursts from explosions as sand and dirt is disturbed and scattered throughout a construction site. No matter where you’re fighting, whether in single-player or multiplayer, Battlefield 4 is consistently breathtaking!
Again however, this is significantly more true on next-gen consoles and PC. The difference between last-gen console builds and next-gen console builds may be rather slight in generation-hopping games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but in Battlefield 4 however, there’s a much larger difference!
That’s not to say that the game is ugly on Xbox 360 and PS3. Character and weapon models still look impressively detailed for example, and you’ll still get a good sense of destruction and mayhem in both the campaign and multiplayer. Environmental design takes a huge hit on last-gen consoles however, which are almost entirely missing the many impressive dynamic field effects you’ll witness continually on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
One of the main touted features of Battlefield 4, that being ‘Levolution’, which has the environmental effects change multiplayer map layouts on the fly, is also a bit of a joke on last-gen consoles. While collapsing buildings and exploding vehicles unfold in superb displays of true-to-life physics and lighting in the next-gen builds, the effects seem fuzzy on Xbox 360 and PS3, on top of just having polygons and models vanish into the ether on many occasions. It looks unintentionally hilarious at times, and it’s some of the best evidence that Battlefield 4 really isn’t designed with last-gen consoles in mind.
The Xbox 360 and PS3 builds suffer especially during key sequences in the campaign, which are clearly meant to show off the Frostbite 3 engine. On next-gen, the campaign’s set pieces look stunning, but on last-gen, both environmental textures and battle effects look ill-defined and washed-out more often than not. The PS3 version has quite a few framerate issues and extended load times in comparison to the Xbox 360 version too, though Xbox 360 players will have to put in an entire second disc to install a bunch of visual assets, so things even out to a degree for last-gen players.
You’ll get the most out of these ambitious, high-powered graphics on optimized PC settings, where their integrity and resolution is captured best and at its smoothest. On PC, Battlefield 4 is arguably one of the most gorgeous shooters ever made to date! The PS4 version does come pretty close to the optimized PC build of the game, delivering mostly the exact same graphics with only a bit more loading and occasional framerate hiccups. On Xbox One, the game is still beautiful all-around, though not quite as smooth and seamless as on PS4. Xbox One players will have to put up with a more liberally stuttering framerate than PS4 players as well, on top of the expected cap at 720p resolution.
Regardless however, Battlefield 4’s incredible visual ambition can’t be ignored on any platform. The Frostbite 3 engine may tax Xbox 360 and PS3 a bit too much to get the full effect that the game is going for, but even on last-gen consoles, it’s easy to see the incredible amount of painstaking detail that developer, DICE has put into every aspect of Battlefield 4’s gameplay. With that said, you’ll appreciate said effort a lot more on next-gen consoles and PC.
Even on last-gen consoles, Battlefield 4 leaps out of the screen thanks to its stellar audio job! The incredible amount of powerful, imposing authenticity given to each and every weapon immediately makes the combat very visceral, and the shattering of glass and buckling of foundations wonderfully give way to so much impressive environmental carnage that you’ll be inflicting against both A.I. foes and opposing players.
Another dubstep-flavoured soundtrack complements key moments in the campaign, just like the previous Battlefield 3, which is slightly re-tuned, but otherwise feels exactly the same. It’s still a bit of an obnoxiously macho fit, and may get on the nerves of some players once again, but if you liked this kind of music in Battlefield 3, you’ll still like it in Battlefield 4.
The voice acting is also pretty sharp all-around, even if you can sometimes hear the actors struggling with a few of the script’s more questionable lines. Many players will no doubt burst out laughing when they hear someone begin a sentence with, “When you survive a nuclear explosion like I have!”, and it’s undeniably head-shaking when it seems that the game is completely unaware of the rampant stupidity in much of the dialogue, yet plays it all straight. At the very least, your squad has much more personality than the borderline-nameless drones of Battlefield 3, but it’s still a far cry from what we know EA and DICE are capable of, specifically in the Battlefield: Bad Company games.
As expected however, the real star is the incredible amount of auditory detail lent to the actual battlefield. Never has a military shooter sounded more destructively gripping, and never has one engrossed players in the fight as effectively as Battlefield 4 does!
Battlefield 4 is essentially a refined upgrade to the sensibilities that already existed to found Battlefield 3, specifically, an emphasis on persistent multiplayer with a story campaign to serve as an appetizer that gets you settled into the controls and various play styles.
Battlefield 4’s gameplay, progression and content is completely identical across all five of its platforms, next-gen and last-gen alike, even if the Xbox 360 version has a couple of unique loading bugs, and the PS3 version shuffles the locations of a couple of campaign collectibles for some reason. While the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are considerably less dynamic and detailed however, they’re still the same game as the Battlefield 4 releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
The one major disappointing downgrade outside of the visuals on Xbox 360 and PS3 is the multiplayer cap, which is shrunken down to twenty-two players split into teams of eleven, at maximum. On PS4, Xbox One and PC, multiplayer matches can accommodate a much larger sixty-four player cap, allowing large-scale maps and Conquest matches to achieve their full, massive potential. The severely reduced player count will lead to many larger maps feeling too empty and many larger matches feeling too slow on Xbox 360 and PS3, so last-gen players will likely prefer to play smaller-scale, close-quarters matches over large, epic warfare that their games don’t really properly allow.
On next-gen however, with full teams of thirty-two players squaring off in a huge Conquest match, the experience is unmatched! The sheer scope of Battlefield 4’s largest multiplayer conflicts is staggering, and while the multiplayer suite still has a high learning curve with loads of hyper-competitive, ruthless players across all five platforms, once you get into it, you’ll find that other online shooter suites just don’t compare, especially when DICE has gone to clear efforts to address some key criticisms of Battlefield 3’s multiplayer. Chief among these is a new Test Range, which allows you to practice with new gadgets and piloting vehicles, without fear of continually crashing and being blown up, nor pissing off your more skilled and seasoned teammates as you learn the ropes.
Also welcome is the return of Commander Mode from Battlefield 2, made all the better thanks to a mobile companion app that can be used with any of the five versions of the game. Using your smartphone or tablet, you’re patched into communication directly with various squad leaders, and can give orders from afar to direct multiple fireteams of online players in large-scale matches. You need to reach a certain rank to be authorized for Commander Mode, and for good reason, as it adds an incredible new degree of strategy to online matches, with more competent commanders easily trouncing a lesser commander on the opposing team!
Occasionally, Commander Mode may be ruined by insubordinate players and trolling commanders, but most of the time, it displays lots of incredible potential for second-screen gameplay in an online console and PC arena! The best part is that the two commanders don’t take up a space on the player cap, not counting towards the twenty-two players allowed on Xbox 360 and PS3, nor the sixty-four players allowed on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
One thing that will truly make multiplayer matches tense and compelling however is the new Levolution feature, which allows players to change map layouts, or occasionally deal with the forces of nature changing maps of their own accord. They can also include minor effects like setting off car alarms that give away your position, shooting fire extinguishers to create smoke clouds you can escape with, and of course, destroying buildings, Battlefield: Bad Company-style, which was a very sad omission from Battlefield 3’s multiplayer!
On a grander scale however, one of the more popular maps, Flood Zone allows players to bust a dam that floods the inner streets, forcing players to high ground if they don’t want their mobility severely hampered. Other maps have typhoons blow in that affect movement and visibility, while others will shift from night to day, forcing players to modify their strategies and loadouts on the fly if they want to retain victory. It’s an incredible new mechanic that really feels like a next-gen way to play online shooters!
It definitely works better in some maps than others however, especially since manual Levolution effects can take many minutes to pull off for either team. One map downs a satellite that really only affects vehicles, and only barely. Another map closes off a valuable underground passage that just needlessly limits tactical options for both sides. It’s nice that DICE didn’t want to leave any maps out of the Levolution idea, but they seem to have found better applications for it in certain maps over others, so maybe it would have been better if some maps hadn’t bothered with it.
Fortunately, there aren’t any real weak links in the actual multiplayer variants, especially since you can still build and track down custom play servers on any platform. Conquest, Rush and Domination all return from Battlefield 3, along with traditional modes like Team Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Two new modes join the fray for Battlefield 4 as well, those being Obliteration, a very enjoyable large-scale mode where two teams rush to secure and plant a bomb on either side of the map, and Defuse, a smaller round-based variant without respawns that has you trying to arm and defend an objective. Yes, it’s clearly ripped from Counter-Strike, but it’s fun all the same!
The four multiplayer ‘kits’ have also been refined from prior games, once again consisting of Assault, Support, Recon and Engineer. There’s once again tons of ribbons and accolades you can earn for performing well in multiplayer, along with some achievements/trophies in the console versions, and each kit offers more flexibility, since they’re more based in gadgets this time, rather than weapons. For example, Recon players can now equip DMR’s for better range, and Support players can now use mortars, allowing a greater sense of unity in the weapon loadouts between the four kits available in multiplayer.
One last note in regards to multiplayer is that the Xbox One version of Battlefield 4 supports both head-tracking and voice commands using the console’s Kinect sensor. By tilting your head, your character can peek around corners, and by shouting certain words, you can signal multiplayer allies to give you ammo, revive you, or even thank them for an assist. It’s a bit redundant, especially since you could just as easily use a headset for actual speech, but at least the head-tracking can be somewhat helpful at times. Xbox 360 players aren’t offered any Kinect functionality, but that’s no big loss.
The Xbox One version of the game will also get DLC maps first, particularly for Battlefield 4 Premium subscribers, though this doesn’t mean much right now, with DICE suspending the game’s DLC releases indefinitely so the game’s technical issues can be fixed.
Before many players chase ranks and climb leaderboards however, they’ll probably want to get their feet wet with the campaign. Battlefield 3’s ill-received dedicated co-op mode has been removed from Battlefield 4, so there’s just a dedicated single-player campaign and a dedicated online multiplayer suite now, but that’s fine.
Unlike Battlefield 3’s campaign, which occasionally lept perspectives, you’ll assume the role of Sergeant Daniel Recker throughout all of Battlefield 4’s campaign, which takes place in 2020, six years after the conclusion of Battlefield 3’s campaign. Recker is part of Tombstone Squad, which also consists of Staff Sergeant Kimble “Irish” Graves and Sergeant Clayton “Pac” Pakowski, who are tasked with opposing an evil Chinese warlord named Admiral Chang.
The campaign is at least a considerable improvement over Battlefield 3’s trite, derivative single-player offering, consisting of more exciting set battles and an effective score-chasing direction that earns more guns to be accessed from weapons caches if you play well, on top of collectible guns you can find lying around, functioning much like the arsenal you could build up by collecting guns in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Battlefield 4’s campaign still ultimately sputters and descends into the same bland, clunky corridor shooting in its second half, but during the opening moments, some of the ambitious single-player missions border on semi-impressive!
It’s still over far too quickly though, as Battlefield 4’s campaign only spans a paltry seven missions, clocking in at a meager 4-5 hours before the credits roll. The campaign may be noticeably improved over that of Battlefield 3, but it still feels like an afterthought, and once you amass every potential reward, collectible and achievement/trophy offered in the single-player component, you’ll probably never touch it again.
Even during the campaign, the technical issues of multiplayer will rear their ugly heads too. The PS4 version seems to be the worst offender at this point in terms of stability issues overall, with random crashes that boot players back to the PS4 menu whether you’re playing multiplayer or the campaign, rampant connection issues that prevent you from joining servers, even in Quick Match, and both matches and lobbies occasionally booting you out for seemingly no reason. You’ll run into these issues on the other platforms as well, but they’re at their worst on PS4, even if they’ve been made slightly less frequent with some patches.
As impressive as Battlefield 4 is as an overall product, you can still tell that EA skipped over several steps of quality assurance to get the game out in time for the PS4 and Xbox One launch. This will force players to put up with technical issues and connection failures that they really shouldn’t have to, and may deter less devoted fans from making an early purchase of what’s otherwise a superb online shooter.
There’s not much to the ‘storyline’ of Battlefield 4, which, as mentioned, still feels largely like an afterthought in what’s unapologetically a multiplayer-focused game. Even with the efforts to improve the story over Battlefield 3, every military shooter cliche is checked off like clockwork. Prison breakouts, disobeying orders, double-crosses, them Russians, you name it. At least Battlefield 4 admirably avoids incorporating nuclear weapons or Middle-Eastern terrorists, but it still borders on oblivious self-parody with how dopey the whole affair turns out.
Ultimately, the campaign still offers a lacklustre plot that plays fast and loose with military protocol, and doesn’t largely make sense when you really think about it. The gameplay may be striving for realism, but the plot still feels hysterically removed from the actual real world of military service.
Dima’s demise in particular is laughably abrupt and forced, even occurring off-screen, which is unintentionally hilarious when he makes such a big deal about surviving the nuclear explosion that obliterated most of Paris in Battlefield 3. He shows up in the fifth mission, which follows up on the post-credits tease of Battlefield 3, in the worst way possible. He just appears as an inexplicable plot device, having no defined reason to be in his current location, and then buys the farm just as quickly, clearly evidence of a pointless character arc that DICE didn’t feel like exploring in the end.
Lt. Hawkins’ death is equally frustrating, particularly since she numbers among one of the only playable female characters in any shooter back in Battlefield 3, which is a bit sad when you think about it. She teases series fans by offering air support in the first mission, then just gets shot down and blown up unceremoniously. Seriously, DICE?! At the very least, a female Chinese intelligence agent hangs out with Tombstone Squad for most of the game, and there is another eccentric female officer, Major Greenland introduced in the sixth mission, but neither are playable. Greenland also squanders her opportunity as one of the story’s most memorable characters by ultimately being another shallow plot device and nothing else.
At least Agent Kovic is given a proper death scene, even if it’s brief and swept under the rug immediately after.
Again, Battlefield 4’s story really isn’t much better than the cliched, laughable ‘plot’ of Battlefield 3, so don’t expect too much if you’re a returning fan of the previous game.
Battlefield 4 would have been a masterpiece had it continued to place emphasis on a better-written and meatier campaign, and not suffered from so many unfortunate technical issues and connection woes. The latter can at least be smoothed out with patches, even if it will no doubt take at least a few months to fully fix, though you do have to give EA and DICE credit for recognizing the issue, as all of DICE’s future projects, including all Battlefield 4 DLC, the new Star Wars: Battlefront game, the Mirror’s Edge follow-up, and a prospective Battlefield 5, have all been suspended indefinitely until the bugs of Battlefield 4 have been cleaned up.
You can get angry at the obvious corporate negligence that led to Battlefield 4 being rushed to retail before it was properly stabilized and playable without issue, but the game still stands as an outstanding multiplayer endeavour that brings online shooter fragfests fully to the next generation of gaming hardware, right out of the gate! It’s still a challenging and cutthroat online arena that takes time and dedication to get even competent at, let alone master, but as with Battlefield 3’s impressive online suite before it, Battlefield 4 will provide a destructive and rewarding playground to indefinitely sink time into.
The game is at its absolute best on PC, with the only disadvantage to the PC build being that it doesn’t contain achievements/trophies to collect, and can only be downloaded from Origin. If you’re a strict console gamer however, then do everything in your power to get ahold of either the PS4 or Xbox One version of Battlefield 4, since those are the platforms its Frostbite 3 engine and capabilities are best optimized for. If you have to wait for a console upgrade, these versions are worth waiting for due to their many technical improvements and much higher multiplayer cap. Only invest in the last-gen Xbox 360 or PS3 version of the game if you won’t have the means to upgrade your console for a long time, and absolutely don’t want to miss out on the newest Battlefield game.
If you’re skittish about the technical woes, you may want to hold off on a purchase for now, especially with inevitable price drops to consider, but when you feel safe jumping in, Battlefield 4 stands as the new benchmark for next-gen online gaming!
- Excellent, dynamic multiplayer
- Breathtaking next-gen graphics
- Persistent play incentives
- Major stability issues
- Downscaled last-gen ports
- Campaign largely unimpressive