Battlefield 4 Review
Don’t play Battlefield 4 for its single-player.
To many of you that’s like saying don’t mix gravy with a tuna melt panini, and if you’ve already resigned the campaign as being little more than just a word on the main menu then you have our respect.
It’s not even that Battlefield 4’s single-player is bad, necessarily. It’s just so mind-numbingly, painstakingly, excruciatingly forgettable that it’ll likely pass you by without you ever realising.
It’s like a vacuum that, somehow, quietly absorbs your free time without you even realising. Ignore it, boot up multiplayer and have done with it.
Battlefield 4’s Single-player
DICE wants emotion to be the prevalent factor in Battlefield 4’s campaign. DICE wants to make it a personal journey as our lives and the events of these otherwise innocuous soldiers blur into one.
DICE is dreaming.
It’s hard to make any military FPS games feel emotional when you score extra points for headshots. It kind of sullies the tone a tad.
And speaking of which, the introduction of a scoring system should have been praised – finally a military FPS game is acknowledging itself as the glorified shooting gallery they have always been.
But sadly the results are disappointing. There’s such a limited variety to the points you can score – at best you’ll get 50 for killing when low on health and 25 for headshots or melee kills – that without even trying you’ll reach gold.
What this means is that you’ll unlock new weapons to use in the single-player campaign, but it’s not like there’s any reason to return and try and outdo your scores, or those of your friends.
Frankly, the single-player is superfluous; at best it is a bunch of easy Trophies or Achievements, at worst it’s a waste of time.
To DICE’s credit the gameplay is improved over Battlefield 3’s; there’s less in the way of direct scripting and the environments themselves do feel a little more open.
There’s an element of flexibility here that regains some of that quality so many loved about Battlefield: Bad Company 2. You’re not lead by the nose, but instead by a particular obstacle to overcome.
It’s refreshing in that sense, even if Battlefield 4 never really moves beyond one set of kills to the next.
The focus on emotion is misplaced, though. The single-player is at its best when your popping skulls, not when you’re standing around listening to people talk at you.
FPS games are feeling increasingly tired by their use of silent protagonists; everyone seems to reference your character – Recker – and his keen leadership skills, yet at no point are you able to actually issue an order.
It’s a weird grey area where you’re not supposed to be following anyone – you’re the leader, after all – but somehow you end up doing. These games need to ignore all that for once and accept that we’re here just to shoot people. That’s it.
Battlefield 4 Multiplayer
But single-player is little more than an aside, a Sunday venture to kill some time and little else. It’s an ignorable aside for the real reason to play Battlefield 4: the multiplayer.
The good news is that, though there are some mechanical tweaks and changes to the multiplayer, this is the same Battlefield we know and love.
Large open spaces, an emphasis on teamwork and threat of an incoming tank or helicopter: these are the parts that come together to really sell Battlefield, and the fourth doesn’t mess with that set up at all.
The bad news, however, is that it isn’t really any different. That may even be enough for you; Call Of Duty is released every year and the that’s lapped up every time, why can’t Battlefield benefit from a similarly ingrained fanbase?
But it doesn’t really feel like much has changed at all, as though this is an expansion pack to the core tools of Battlefield 3, not a whole new numbered sequel.
The maps are more detailed than ever, though. Even large city maps find time to include a few superfluous details that help make the games feel all the more real.
The dynamic parts of the map – which DICE ridiculously describes as Levolution – do actually help to bring a minute tactical approach too.
Often these are very subtle things, such as raising or lowering bollards or window shutters. It’s often not hard for the enemy team to rectify the problem – it’s usually just a button – but it’s enough to cause your opposition to change their strategy, however brief that may be.
Destruction, too, returns from Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Tall tower blocks won’t be brought crashing down at your whim, not at all, but on the maps with smaller buildings they can be levelled.
It’s exactly the same as Bad Company 2’s, as well, so deal enough damage to the walls and the structure will creak and groan ‘til it finally caves in. It provides a necessary element of strategy to proceedings that will be a welcome return for many.
Put simply, this is some of the best multiplayer Battlefield has done. The weapons are solid, the gameplay as great as ever and the maps easily some of the best of the series.
But it’s more of a fine-tuning of the series, and not really a radical evolution that we might’ve hoped for. Battlefield deserves more.
Battlefield 4: Current-Gen Or Next-Gen?
The biggest problem with Battlefield 4, in its current purchasable state, is the constant reminder that what you’re getting isn’t going to be the best version – you’ll need to wait a few weeks for that.
Graphically Battlefield 4 isn’t much of a step-up over its predecessor; so the console versions still look similar to Battlefield 3, while even the PC version isn’t a huge graphical overhaul.
There’s more detail, as already mentioned, and the inclusion of more destructible terrain will certainly help to add to that immersion.
The biggest problem is the player limit. Battlefield 3 survived the PC/console crossover because its maps were better tailored to suit the limits in place.
Some were more direct or smaller, and with the exception of Caspian Border or Operation Firestorm – which were the least popular anyway – provided a range of smaller maps.
All of Battlefield 4’s maps are huge, however, and while they are actually all the better for it – particularly thanks to the scale and variety – on current generation the limits of 24 players is far more noticeable.
Forget graphical fidelity, traipsing around these maps will take minutes before you’ll encounter a group of enemies. Conquest just isn’t as viable as it was on Battlefield 3 since the scale just can’t match the maximum player count.
Having also played it on PC – where the 64 player servers highlights what is possible on the next-gen versions – it’s clear that the classic Battlefield mode is hamstrung on consoles.
If you simply can’t wait until the next-gen version of Battlefield 4 then take it from us, stick to Rush or Domination modes where the maps are constrained to recreate some of that epic Battlefield glory that you know so well.
Version tested: PS3