When it comes to exploding stuff, filling stuff full of holes, and generally killing more people than Earth could ever even support, online shooters are the way to go. No one gets hurt, everyone has fun, and generally you get to see awesome stuff happen that could never happen in real life because war doesn’t operate like it does virtually, but only under one condition. You must play the f***ing objective. In Battlefield, lone wolves might have their own fun, but operating as a tight knit squad, communicating movement and threats, and getting the job done is way more entertaining. Play your role. That’s the only way to be successful in Battlefield.
This is truer in Battlefield 4 than ever before and that’s part of why it continues to make the franchise so satisfying. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Try a different class. Try that tank that just appeared in your base. Eventually you’ll unlock a sweet new rifle, a new rocket launcher… pretty soon you’ve learned every inch of a map and gotten some fancy dog tags along the way. Battlefield 4’s graphics and destruction don’t look as hot as on PC and next-gen, but as its Levolution mechanic critically decimates the map around players it’s easy to recognize how DICE have focused on reengaging the primary target: you.
What I mean by that is that DICE does a better job in presenting a more even and complete package at launch with attention to how the player will be awed by their Frostbite 3 engine. The campaign itself is better written a focuses more on the player’s experience and less on militaristic jargon. Those scenes in BF3 where guys in an office somewhere talk while the next level loads are gone. Instead you’ll take on the role of Recker, a US Marine caught up in preventing World War 3 by way of an aggressive Chinese general with plans to stage a coup. You don’t switch soldiers, you don’t get thrown back and forth between two theaters of war. It feels not unlike Bad Company’s presentation in that your squad mates are persistent as well, with one or two interesting change ups.
The campaign itself is only about five hours long, but it provides decent challenge and it did have a genuine emotional impact by the end. Battlefield doesn’t tell the clean cut, Hollywood produced stories other shooters tell, and in that way the marines themselves become fallible, likable, complex heroes (and heroines). Some of the franchise’s best voice acting is present in the single-player story (while some of the multiplayer voice work sounds copy and pasted from BF3).
Obviously, Electronic Arts would love to sell you all five planned DLC packs at launch with another Battlefield Premium subscription, but you may actually want to buy now if you’re a fan of the franchise. Battlefield 3’s DLC added a ton of new favorite game modes and not all of them return for Battlefield 4. Gun Master, Air Superiority, and others had unique gameplay and progression benefits and I wish they were back for BF4’s launch. The Premium subscription is doubly enticing because it lets you carry your game and progress over from PS3 to PS4, but I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a greedy thing. You’ll have to decide.
Looking at the package on day one, Battlefield 4’s multiplayer offering is still one of the best in the business. 10 maps ship on the disc and all of them feature some kind of destruction wow-moment. In Dawnbreaker the city itself is lit up by neon, but it could be a little more lit up so each team can fight to turn on both pump valves causing an explosion down the map’s main city street. Flood Zone literally floods a city while you’re fighting in it, forcing everyone to move to higher ground. Golmund Railway is more vehicular-slaughter focused so lots of explosive devices litter the map and cause craters and other destruction. Teams can destroy sides of the resort building in Hainan Resort and Lancang Dam predictably collapses in that map. My favorite is definitely Rogue Transmission.
In one Conquest match, I quickly hopped in a tank and decided to patrol the perimeter of the massive satellite dish that covers most of Rogue Transmission. The map is sprawling, with just as much action around the dish as under it. Fighting under the dish looks really cool as an infantry because light shines through certain sections and enemy combatants can still hide just out of sight beyond the dish’s curve. I was a little reluctant to drive my tank in and capture a point though. With such reduced visibility, rocket fire could come from anywhere. Eventually a friendly Engineer partnered up and I felt safe enough to venture in, but just as I was about to cap the point someone triggered the map’s Levolution.
In many maps it’s as simple as blowing up a support column or focusing fire on the map’s big signature structure. In Rogue Transmission, someone has to blow a tower holding the dish receiver up by wire. That’s what crashed on me and blew up my tank. While I waited to spawn I got a gorgeous view of the structure collapsing and altering the layout of the map. Infantry could explore the dish’s surface now while vehicles were rerouted. Levolution is impressive, driven by players, and just as entertaining to die by as it is to kill others with.
Maps can’t be completely destroyed as they were in Bad Company, but the variety doesn’t really stop. Depending on what mode you choose to play in, maps can flex and change. You might be progressing from one end of a map to the other in Rush or visiting the other team’s half of the map only when you have the bomb in Obliteration. One thing you’ll find quickly is that Siege of Shanghai (the beta map) almost never goes without an un-destroyed skyscraper.
Players have to learn both versions of a map and it introduces a cool new dynamic to the tried and tested Battlefield formula. Whether you’re in a jet or a jeep or laying out on a ridge with your favorite sniper rifle, the destruction can get you at any time. Unfortunately, it’s just not as impressive on current generation consoles. While the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of Battlefield 4 look drop-dead gorgeous, things can get kind of rough around the edges on current-gen.
The game’s frames-per-second can’t hold up when there’s a lot of action on screen and the PS3 version of Battlefield 4 doesn’t support 64 player servers like PC and next-gen versions do. If you absolutely can’t wait for this new Battlefield (and I can’t blame you there as I’ve been a fan of the series since 1942 debuted), this version will do but you want to upgrade as soon as possible.
It’ll take dozens of hours to master the weapons and combat scenarios that might pop up throughout Battlefield 4’s giant-sized maps. EA and DICE have a proven track record of ongoing support and have actually delivered their multiplayer component in great shape on launch day. With a campaign this good and plenty of graphically astounding action in single player and multiplayer, Battlefield 4 is complete shooter package.