There is no denying that EA quickly managed to make Battlefield 3 one of the most popular, and most enjoyable, multiplayer games available on the PC and consoles. And it will surely hold that position for this latest installment, the imaginatively names Battlefield 4. However, playing the game on the Xbox360 or PS3, which the majority of players will be until the next gen consoles release in a couple of weeks, will result in less than the perfect experience that I am sure the bosses at EA want us to enjoy.
But the next gen consoles are not out yet. PC gamers are the lucky ones at the moment, providing their hardware is up to scratch, as they get to enjoy the cutting edge visuals and multiplayer for up to 64 like-minded gamers. The Xbox360 version is, by default, last gen and, whilst the game still manages to be hugely entertaining and rather pretty, it is not as good as it could be.
But the Xbox360 version is what we have our hands on, and so it is this that we are looking at today.
Whilst many of the greatest storytelling videogames are mocked for their seemingly tacked on multiplayer experiences, Battlefield 4 takes things in the other direction. A multiplayer game at heart, the single player story mode in Battlefield 4 is short, cliché-ridden and about as involving as an eighties action movie.
The player takes on the role of Sergeant Recker and, along with the rest of Tombstone Squad, gets involved with an East vs West conflict that, while I am sure is theoretically possible, just doesn’t seem plausible. However, this doesn’t mean that the story isn’t a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. It just doesn’t promote any investment from the player. After the five or so hour story concludes, players will come away with a sense of awe at what they just witnessed, but no sense of satisfaction that they played a part, and absolutely no feeling for the characters what so ever.
But one thing that the story does get right is the cinematic feel, perhaps in keeping with the eighties action movie vibe. However, I am sure that no eighties movie ever managed to look so impressive. Players on the Xbox360 do lose a lot of the impressive graphical details to the next-gen or PC players, but when a factory is collapsing around you and you are sliding down the crumbling floors, it doesn’t really matter. While it may be that the most exciting situations in the single player game only exist to make for interesting trailers, they are no less exciting when you play through them.
So, whilst the single player mode looks incredible, it remains kind of throwaway. But then, the real star of the show is the multiplayer game, and that would be really difficult to replicate in a single player game. It doesn’t really matter though, as most players picking up Battlefield 4 would be doing so for the multiplayer and the chance to team up, or fight against, their buddies in a chaotic, more serious online shooter.
The differences between Battlefield 4 and its predecessor are few. Battlefield 3’s multiplayer proved so popular, the formula brought almost to perfection, that too many changes would increase the risk of reducing the overall quality. It is a method that has worked for Call of Duty for years, so why shouldn’t it work for Battlefield?
What Battlefield 4 does offer over its main competition, the hugely popular Call of Duty series, is massive and interesting maps, the now well known vehicles that can be used, and a more grown up shooting experience, something that seemingly replicates the chaos and gravity of war. It doesn’t matter if you are a ardent Call of Duty player, you have to accept that Battlefield’s multiplayer game is impressive.
So, coming in new for this even more cinematic multiplayer experience are the daftly named “Levolution” events. Essentially, they are massive events that, once triggered, will reward the player not only with some impressive visuals, such as a skyscraper collapsing, but also change the map, forcing players to change their tactics part way through, as in by activating a flood on the map. Combining these massive events with the ever impressive destructible scenery and players will find themselves fighting on changing maps. It may not make any big changes to the actual gameplay, but it certainly does its bit to stop things getting boring.
Then you have Commander mode. This can be accessed once the player reaches level 10 and gives them a strategic overview of the map from which to send in supplies, point out the enemies or even set objectives for your team in the field. What makes this mode interesting is the ability to play it on a tablet using a downloaded app. The amount of difference a player in Commander mode will actually make to the game depends on how much their team actually listens to them as much as how good they are, but it is a nice addition that raises the game to another level.
DICE are really showing off their expertise at designing great multiplayer maps with the selection that is available in Battlefield 4. The wide range of maps offer a variety of different experiences, from the smaller, close quarters combat maps, to the massive, vehicle heavy maps. The larger maps do perhaps suffer somewhat in the Xbox360 version due to the fewer supported players, but that doesn’t stop them from being awesome to play on.
Whatever your flavour, Battlefield 4 has a multiplayer map for you. Whether it be flying around in a jet on one of the wide open maps, some wet play with boats in the heavily water covered maps, cruising tanks down the city streets, or simple close combat as you run across rooftops. It is all here. And what is even more special are the ways that the maps change through the “Levolution” events, and the ways that some maps allow the player to interact in other ways. All of the maps look stunning, even with the concessions made on the Xbox360.
The different multiplayer modes included in Battlefield 4 offer plenty of variety when it comes time for some shooty action. Conquest, surely the most popular game mode, is available in all of its glory, along with a selection of other modes. New for Battlefield 4 are the Defuse and Obliteration modes, offering something a bit different for the veteran players.
The vehicle-free Defuse mode will have players attacking or defending a bomb in quick rounds that have no respawn. Obliteration on the other hand will have players running for a randomly appearing bomb and taking it to the targets while the opposing team try to stop them. They are both great fun, but will only act as a break in-between Conquest matches.
While the single player mode is disappointing, and the advancements over the previous game are almost non-existent in the Xbox360 version, Battlefield 4 remains one of the best multiplayer games available, offering a substantially different experience over its main competitor. The multiplayer maps are astounding, especially with their game-changing events, and the options to the player are massive. If you are already a fan of the Battlefield series, then grabbing this latest version is a must. However, I would wait for the next gen version, or grab the PC version, if they are an option.