Battlefield 4 was clearly rushed for release with the new consoles. So, a rushed, unstable release on a rushed, unfinished console OS was never going to be a great recipe for success. However, when it worked, you could clearly see why we were early adopters of the next-gen consoles. The Battlefield experience had been levelled up! Higher frame-rate. More detail. More special effects. More players. We told EA support about the bugs, mouthed off about quitting the internet in protest and went back for more. So, a few months down the line, itís easier to recommend the game for purchase. If youíve never played Battlefield before, thereís a lot here to discover and if you get sucked in, you might even not play anything else for weeks at a time. If you are a Battlefield veteran, you will find flaws and then not play anything else for weeks at a time.
There is a totally forgettable story mode with laughable scripting and role confusion. Am I in charge? If so, why is everyone bossing me around? Upon reaching the end, you may well think ďWait, is that it? How does it finish?Ē. Much like BF3, it jumps from location to location, but this time, the characters remain fairly consistent, so there is almost time to build up an empathy with their plight, but itís over pretty quickly. If you are buying BF4 for the single player game, donít bother - it's not terrible, but many won't get much out of it and those that do will find it too short. A better plan might be for EA to fund a totally separate single player Battlefield series rather than wasting money on this, whilst having the guts to release MP-only Battlefield games.
So, the Multi Player game then. If you are only used to previous console versions, you are in for a treat (now that most of the bugs having been ironed out), with frantic 64-player battles and changing game worlds. Collapsible buildings fall and crush, weather changes can reduce visibility to a few hundred meters, and waves around islands roll up and down like a roller-coaster. If you are new to Battlefield, youíll be amazed and confused in equal measures. There is so much to take in and so much to learn that it can be initially chaotic, but sticking with it is well worthwhile. The thrill of running up to a tank, slapping C4 on it and running far enough away to detonate safely, without getting shot by a huge tank shell should not be underestimated. Or the sheer ďIím in a John Woo filmĒ feeling of driving around in a jeep while veering around buildings trying to avoid streams of bullets from a chasing helicopter!
BF4 has introduced a training ground where you can go privately to do things like learning to pilot a helicopter (an art form in itself) or experimenting with sniper bullet drop. Oddly, joining a Hardcore server can be an easier way to discover whatís going on Ė if you avoid the objectives, you can observe in relative safety without being discovered and shot too often.
Itís an incremental step in terms of gameplay from Battlefield 3, but graphically itís a whole new level. Be amazed as you lob an incendiary grenade into a dark corridor and watch the enemy run around in the resulting fire. Climb to the top of a huge tower and enjoy the view of the entire map and beyond. Watch in terror as a chopper crashes nearby and bits of helicopter break up and fly inches over your head. If you arenít impressed a few times, thereís clearly nothing left for you to see in this world.
ďLevolutionĒ Ė DICEís name for levels that can change. Certain levels have events that can alter the gameplay. Sometimes subtly, like a tall tower that falls across the map, turning into a walkable tunnel. Other times fundamentally like flooding the entire map. These are triggered by players and often require quite a lot of effort combined with the right weaponry, diverted away from the main aim of the match mode; this means that it's a lottery whether you see them or not in a particular round. There are no instructions, so websearch is your friend. Whilst not quite the revolution hinted at, they are a good inclusion, mixing things up a bit and I expect them to return bigger and better in the next instalment.
The increase from a maximum of 32 players to a maximum of 64 is mostly good, although some levels suffer. Metro in the ďSecond AssaultĒ Premium download content maps is particularly dull with four different choke points remaining choked through the entire round. Conversely some of the larger maps are now much more action packed. Snipers may not be quite so excited because there more people searching for them.
For those with tablets, the Commander mode is available Ė totally unbalancing a match if only one Commander is online, but if two are playing, it can make for an interesting change in tactics required by all parties, especially on Normal servers where suddenly, staying hidden isnít so easy. Certainly witnessing a Commander launched Cruise missile attack close-up warrants the use of words like "Epic".
Overall, itís frustrating at times, but only because you are having such a good time for the rest of it that bugs are really jarring. Maybe next time, DICE could concentrate on making a playable game at launch instead of loads of fancy but ultimately frivolous companion apps. At the time of writing, itís one of the few games that really come across as next-gen. Once in, itís difficult to escape and countless hours will disappear. Except itís not actually countless because BF4 will tell you if you want. Danger.
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