It seems like such a long time ago that Battlefield 3 wowed us with some breathtaking visuals, masterful multiplayer and provided real competition to Call of Duty. Now, two years later, on the cusp of a generational fracture, Battlefield 4 aims to continue the sterling work that its predecessor achieved in making serious waves in the first-person shooter market. Unfortunately though, the current-gen version of Battlefield 4 creaks and stutters along the way, hampering the otherwise sterling gameplay.
Seemingly a title destined for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and high-specced PCs, DICE have created a title that excels in multiplayer, disappoints in single player and huffs and puffs as you begin like a marathon runner whose decided to sprint the first mile.
Bright Lights And Scary Sprites
Undoubtedly a stunning title, relatively speaking, the PlayStation 3 version pushes the visual fidelity capable on a machine seven years old once again, with lighting effects that have you mistakenly squinting, explosions unlike any other, textures so good that they take an age to load, and environmental destruction that creates a simply stunning overall effect.
It treads an extremely fine line between breathtaking and technically flawed, occasionally slipping into the latter as the need for next-gen hardware becomes apparent. Upon entering a new mission, especially in multiplayer, there can a good thirty seconds or so when the game has not fully loaded; textures progressively pop-in and vehicle sound is non-existent then miraculously the engine kicks into gear.
It does obviously reduce loading time – though they are not exactly swift in the first place – but it can create a jarring experience, more so the first few times where by it seems as though the game is just broken.
Once everything has slotted into place however, Battlefield 4 is both a visual and auditory masterpiece. DICE have always excelled with their sound design and this is no different, with tremendous use of the Battlefield ‘wob-wob’ sound, the whirring of helicopter blades from above, the ringing in your ears after a nearby explosion, or the hugely satisfying pop of gunfire.
A lonely life is a sad one
As a seemingly minority that enjoyed its predecessor’s single player campaign, its hugely disappointing that Battlefield 4’s solo experience is an inconsistent mess that does little to excite. At a measly seven missions in length it’s easily completable in under four hours – a paltry offering that’s only saving grace is that it was over rather swiftly.
Revolving around the actions of Tombstone squad and the USS Valkyrie in the midst of a 2020 war between Russo-China and the US. It’s a linearly played out narrative (aside from a prologue) unlike Battlefield 3 with protagonist Sgt. Daniel Recker and his team tasked with, ultimately, saving the day several times.
The interactions between the characters jumps between paranoid distrust and unrelenting faith without any real explanation as to why. Their personalities are unimaginative and droll and whilst the voice acting fits the bill it’s nothing particularly noteworthy.
Tactical binoculars allow you to spot around and mark enemies which can make clearing out huge areas considerably easier, whilst tapping the right trigger will command your team to fire upon the selected target – a feature retained for the commander of a squad in the game’s other mode.
Not that such a feature is of much use within single player given the total ineptitude of your squad mates who seem to be firing blanks most of the time. In an environment with perhaps twenty guards you will dispatch of all bar one of them most likely as they watch the Recker show in action.
Enemy AI is atrocious, events fail to trigger occasionally, and if you run too far ahead you can unwittingly stumble upon your foes spawn points allowing you to rack up some impressive kill streaks. Level design and variation are perhaps the only worthwhile thing about the campaign – aside from acting as a long practise session before the game’s real meat.
Shoot, shoot, bang, bang
One thing that is consistent between both single and multiplayer modes is the terrific gameplay of Battlefield 4. Whether it’s the recoil from the guns, the feedback you get upon a successful hit, or the perfect blend of speed and weight when you run, DICE have finely tuned Battlefield into a tremendous first-person shooter.
Company is where the heart sings
Now really the only worthwhile component of Battlefield, the multiplayer is a well designed and executed iteration from two years ago, tweaking and improving the core into both a more friendly environment and one substantially more enjoyable.
From the get-go you’re giving more equipment than previously – with two pieces of equipment, two attachments on foot – making it more lenient for starters. This is also true within vehicles meaning you can jump into a plane and not struggle for the first few hours as you have nothing to defend yourself with.
As for game modes, Conquest, Domination and Rush all return with Obliteration and Defuse the new additions. Each team has to take control of and deliver a bomb to each of three enemy locations with the winner being the team that can successfully take out the oppositions trio of locales first. It’s a fantastic game mode that is exhilarating tense at times and requires effective teamwork and tactical use of the vehicles – of which are back with a vengeance including all sorts of boats.
The buzz word of the pre-release marketing was the absurdly named Levolution, which is actually a brilliantly implemented system that can both subtly and drastically alter the layout of a map and, as a result, change the tide of battle. Each alteration thankfully doesn’t come with a giant red sticker altering you that this is a game-changing event which is pleasing.
The squad system – which now accommodates up to five – means that gearing up with friends is still the best way to play. Cooperation and communication between teammates goes a long way to determine whether your team wins or loses, so being able to do so easily with those you know can obviously be a big help.
Battlefield 4 sits in an unusual place, both between two console generations and two types of players. If you’re looking for a long-lasting and tremendously enjoyable multiplayer mode then you just can’t go wrong, but if all you’re after is a single player campaign then you’d best look elsewhere. It does struggle on the current-gen systems so it’s likely that the next-gen instalments will alleviate all of the technical issues; however, do not consider that a deterrent from getting it on either PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.
One of the best multiplayer shooters on the market is nothing to sniff at, it’s just a shame that the accompanying mode is so poor and it’s not as technically smooth as one would expect.