Battlefield 4 (PC/360) Review
Cue the music, Battlefield returns to PC once more with more land, sea and air multiplayer action. The question is – is this a map pack or a true sequel?
The single player campaign storyline revolves around China this time. We won’t spoil it too much but to simply say it involves the assassination of a liberal Chinese presidential candidate. America is blamed for taking him out and so a large scale conflict erupts. It has some twists and turns but in all honesty just seems like a story that could’ve been written about any country. Where it’s a fill in the blank country name in the sentence and it could’ve been the Russians yet again used as the villains not China. As a member of a small team it’s time to go into China and do the missions others can’t. Which in reality is an excuse to show off all the shiny new graphics Battlefield 4′s engine can do with the first level having all the hallmarks of a tech demo with nothing but a handful of sentences about the story.
It wouldn’t been nice if there was a bit more thought put into it instead of picking any powerful communist nation that comes to mind that Americans would like to shoot at as the US Army, even if they (China) are really the victims in it all. There’s no signs of Chinese culture apart from some building designs. Essentially China works out in Battlefield 4 being little more than a generic dark uniform gamers shoot at like targets at a shooting range. The single player fills a hole and a tick box where Battlefield was only known for online play previously. The campaign here won’t win any awards or be remembered in six months time and for the majority of players they might not even bother loading it up if BF3′s player base was any indication. It’s a stepping stone, perhaps going and having America vs Europe fighting over control in Africa would make for a better villain setup in the next one, or at least more inspired than picking on China for no reason.
No one has ever played a Battlefield core title for the single player and we expect it to be the same here. A quick five or six hours to complete where it tries to give nothing but Michael Bay-esque popcorn moments with a thumping bass soundtrack. Finishing with a character performing a noble sacrifice ending as the credits roll. Where the true aim is to teach the gamer how to use the weaponry in preparation for online play.
That brings us to the reason anyone comes to Battlefield, it’s the multiplayer. There are several game modes but the basic principal hasn’t changed since the original Battlefield game. Two teams on a large map fight to control key points. Whichever controls the most points and takes out their enemies wins in a war of attrition. While generic flags exist for both sides no nations come into play, it’s simply one side of 64 player vs another 64 players (depending on game mode) where the objective is to take the points, kill the enemy and win. This is done by running around on the ground as an infantry soldier, flying a plane, driving a tank, boat or any number of other vehicles.
The initial spread of maps and vehicles in the base Battlefield 4 game is a little limited to anyone who is fresh coming off the large number found in Battlefield 3′s Premium DLC content. Though no doubt in a few months time there will be enough new vehicles, guns and maps to balance things out when the new DLC packs are released in short order. Starting with December’s release of China Rising adding several new maps then Second Assault, which itself will restore four Battlefield 3 maps found to be the most popular and bring them up into Battlefield 4 with a new polish. For new purchasers China Rising will be free in most cases but every DLC release after will have to be paid for either separately or by buying a group Premium subscription covering the purchase of all five expected expansions.
The game modes at launch include the classic Conquest, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch, Rush, Squad Rush plus Domination, Defuse and Obliteration modes. For those less familiar, Domination is infantry only for close quarters fighting. Defuse works like the classic Counter Strike and Obliteration is about destroying targets on the map.
The basic Battlefield 4 multiplayer maps you receive at the start are Siege of Shanghai (city skyscraper), Paracel Storm (island), Flood Zone (city streets), Golmud Railway (countryside), Hainan Resort (hotel), Operation Locker (prison), Rogue Transmission (radio telescope), Zavod 311 (tank factory), Dawnbreaker (city) and Lancang Dam.
Of all the maps Operation Locker is the one that will be seen most frequently in rotation because it works out just like Operation Metro in BF3. Tight corridors ideally placed with rat runs for anyone wanting to level up fast with quick infantry kills. Paracel Storm is a great reminder of Wake Island and Flood Zone is like Karkand. When all is said and done the two maps that stand out as the best examples of the Battlefield experience are Flood Zone which has the biggest switch in gameplay and Golmud Railway for it’s open tank battles. Easily the best vehicle map in the group for air or land encounters.
Each of the maps has a unique ‘levolution’ trigger. These triggers change the gameplay area significantly with some flooding city streets with water making it a rooftop dash from then on to another to shooting a dam to have boulders come falling down the map. The main ‘levolution’ moment of note is the Siege of Shanghai map where by shooting four pillars at the base of a skyscraper at the center of the map it will topple to one side before crashing to the ground. We’re kind of surprised it has been allowed given how sensitive 9/11 still is to the American public but as this is supposed to be bring down a building in China not the US it’s seen as OK. This screams of a double standard and something surprising hasn’t been commented on during the promotional period.
Taking politics out of it levolution, while still one of those silly E3 buzz marketing terms from this year does shake things up in terms of gameplay. It changes some maps significantly while playing but others there’s only really a footnote in what happens. One you could honestly never notice even if it occurs right in-front of you involving a train track and some explosives. Does levolution make the game better you ask? Yes. For one simple reason, it makes it feel like you have more maps even when you don’t. By forcing the same map to be restructured it completely changes gameplay on most and for that reason alone it’s a buzz item worth having. If it’ll be around to stay is uncertain, triggered events are funny that way so we may not see them in Battlefield 5, but for what’s coming the test will be if the next BF4 map packs include levolution events or not.
In many respects just about every element new to Battlefield 4 will feel old hat and a return to familiar territory to those who played the prior PC Battlefield 2142 title. New to return to the franchise, the Commander option, controlling the battlefield issuing orders and providing support was first introduced back in that title and the new spawn map shares similar icons to the 2142 spawn screen too. The rest is just as it was to be found in Battlefield 3 and that’s not a bad thing.
Graphics is both one of the finest aspects of Battlefield 4 and it’s weak points but it’s all down to the version purchased and personal setup. For example, console players on the Xbox 360 (a version we have playtested) will find a fun Battlefield 4 experience. The graphics are not as high as to be found on a PC (also tested) running ultra settings and the limit to 24 player multiplayer instead of 64 is disappointing yet their is something to be said for the reassurance of a solid high framerate and no need to play with a fiddly graphics setup with all the PC versions maps available.
On PC it’s a little more complicated. Powerful PC’s running Battlefield 4 on a 64-bit operating system will have the best experience of all with incredible graphics, great frames a second and a full 64 players online with some frantic multiplayer action. So long as it’s a 64-bit OS. Unlike every Battlefield title before it including the similar Battlefield 3 for some reason running BF4 on a 32-bit operating system brings up a notice that all the graphics have been set to permanently low or off settings regardless of hardware setup. A 32-bit player used to running Battlefield 3 on all high to ultra settings will be shocked to find themselves forced to play at a level where the graphics all look like a yet to be skinned alpha version for no logical or explained reason.
Of any negative for Battlefield 4 this has to be the worst of all. Once a gamer has given in and upgraded to a 64-bit operating system it’s business as usual but still forcing anyone to upgrade when no other title we can think of does the same is a little dubious. At least 32-bit players being forced to play with no thrills graphics guarantees a perfect frame rate for them. With little alternative you have to think positive. We haven’t had the chance to review on a next gen console yet but hope to do so soon and will update when we can.
Battlefield 4 is a worthy continuation of the Battlefield name.
Not groundbreaking, it does exactly what the user base wants and provides new maps with the same vehicle types to shoot at one another with in 64 player battles. There may be less vehicles right now but in a few months time when the DLC’s add theirs it’ll be back to full strength. The single player campaign is a footnote but isn’t really a consideration to the Battlefield audience to begin with. 32-bit PC players will feel cheated, 64-bit will be on cloud nine, current gen console players will love the new maps which feel like an extension of BF3 rather than a replacement and as for next gen we will have to see when that version becomes available for testing. Overall, positive for all concerned and a nice change to the claustrophobic maps of Call of Duty.