DICE comes out aggressively swinging for the fence with their latest massively destructive shooter, sporting the enhanced Frostbite 3 engine, intensifying the series experience for the better. Battlefield 4 succeeds with an all new layer of gunplay satisfaction, taking the series to new heights, while not changing too much of series signature nostalgia. A quick glance might not necessarily reveal an eye-popping visual significance over Battlefield 3 on current-generation consoles, however I assure you every aspect of BF4 has been considerable overhauled.
For starters the game looks fantastic. There will be no quick glances here as textures and dynamic lighting comes screaming off the screen in impressive fashion. From character models showcasing great attention to detail in their clothing and equipment, to environments which can become dynamically effected by the elements of nature, it is difficult to keep your eyes off the screen. Add to this the games larger than life explosions which are passionately fueled by the magnitude of clear nerve pounding sound effects and shooter fans on the fence about BF4 should know that they are certainly in good hands.
DICE makes it obvious that BF4 is a multiplayer game that offers a campaign by placing the ‘Multiplayer’ option ahead of the ‘Campaign’ option in the main menu. Yet, thankfully for players who fully appreciate a well-paced and heart-pounding race to finish campaign, Battlefield finally delivers. Forget everything you heard or suffered from the lackluster BF3 campaign, this is a completely new ride you will not soon forget. DICE assumes you are eager to jump into the games addictive multiplayer, so don’t expect an epic 10-12 hour campaign, in fact don’t expect 7 hours. The campaign while being rather short does an excellent job of being just the right amount of intense gunplay for the duration of 5 to maybe 6 hours on the normal difficulty setting. I was actually able to push through it on my second play through in under 5 hours. From the beginning, the campaign is a chaotic rollercoaster of thrills forcing players into cover, fine-tuning your trigger finger and accuracy for the games robust multiplayer.
You play as Recker, a member of a four-man Marine special forces group know as Tombstone. With China and Russia instigating a civil war, your team is sent in to thwart the established bad guys, rescue key individuals and gain classified intel from the agitators. Along the way as loyalties are betrayed, and members of your elite squad are lost, you ultimately find yourself forced to make the hard decision.
For the duration of the campaign DICE was able to capture a well balanced level of character development in the midst of what sometimes seems like impossible odds. You grow to appreciate the powerful personality of Irish (played by Michael K Williams) who is driven by loyalty with a big heart. Or the straight lace approach of PAC, who doesn’t want to break orders. Similar to the narrative in Bad Company without being as humorous, you find yourself paying careful attention to the character dialogue in order to learn more about their backgrounds. There is even a measured level of tension between Hannah and Irish which builds upon each enemy encounter, establishing the game to be respected for being more than just an event of shooting the bad guys.
Playing as Recker who never really speaks his minds, doing all the talking with his assault rifle and blade, you have the privilege of surveying areas and tagging enemies with a location scanning device which targets enemies with red indicators and locates your team’s next area reach point.
This time around DICE has also added a simplified rule of engagement option allowing users to place targeting measures on the enemy enabling members of Tombstone to focus their firepower. This suppressive maneuver enables users to gain an advantage for flanking and repositioning, making for a fierce showcase of AI interaction. Speaking of AI, while the enemy AI isn’t something you’ll be bragging about, the campaign surprisingly avoids the act of feeling like a shooting gallery. This is supported by well developed level designs imposing their will on the user. Enemies are strategically placed throughout maps, some more aggressive than others, and we’re not even talking about the vehicular enemies or short but sweet tank battles. Adding variety to each encounter, as you progress through each of the seven missions, players will unlock an assortment of weapon types, from assault rifles, sniper rifles and handguns to shotguns, sub-machine guns, grenade and missile launchers, which can be acquired at nearby weapons caches located on your maps radar.
Levels are varied, the combat is scripted with great set-pieces and over-the-top seamless cut-scenes drops you right back into the action. The BF4 campaign delivers and becomes a more than entertaining compliment to the games main event, the all important multiplayer.
Once you’ve watched the credits roll upon completing the campaign, a new and similar multiplayer experience awaits. DICE places emphasis on their popular multiplayer series by adding a more accessible approach to the overall experience without it feeling like a convoluted mess of options. Veterans of the series however, will be right at home as the chaos and destruction is more tamed with team work at the heart of each game mode. Newcomers who need to tighten up on their skills can head over to the non-hostile Test Range and practice piloting vehicles and handling weapons.
Quick matches and server browsers return, running along the same lines as BF3 ready to embrace users with modes consisting of Conquest, Team Deathmatch, Obliteration, Rush (my personal favorite), Squad Deathmatch and the more intimate affair of Domination and Defuse. Again, the Frostbite 3 engine makes BF4 shine online. Yes, even on current gen consoles. More than just a simple rinse and repeat update, each mode is complimented with a well- balanced approach to gunplay and map design. I’ve yet to encounter players with overpowered weapons and vehicular control plays well into the hands of newcomers who should have a better time mastering the jets for example, than previously with BF3.
Now the destructibility doesn’t feel forced, it just happens with little to no lag. The control of the weaponry is probably one of the biggest and most appreciative findings. Without losing their realistic feel of recoil and pushback, users can more accurately put an enemy player down with more weapon types. DICE also gives users more gameplay reach by allowing users to reach high roof tops forcing players to always be alert as death can come from all angles and in multiples ways.
The biggest approach to the BF4 mulitplayer experience would have to be the new ‘Levolution’ integration that continues to amaze. Levolution uniquely changes the climate of a battle by dynamically altering the maps landscape. Now a team which may have had an advantage could very well find themselves in a losing effort, as the playing field is literally shifted. Skyscapers come tumbling down, massive ship carriers crash into islands while enormous dams can burst flooding entire maps under water. Of course this isn’t a common occurrence at the moment for the majority of player’s knee deep in the games online matches, they are certainly incredible events that have added an incredible level of excitement and a unique feather under the cap of DICE.
Every once in a while users will experience texturing pop-ins to begin a match but don’t expect this too often. Respawning in on your buds will sometimes have you free falling into a match just before pulling your parachute open allowing users to take in sights and sounds with weapon in hand and no pop-in in sight.
BF4 is a fast paced online shooter without feeling arcady. Matches regardless of their core objective, systematically breathe teamwork, in fact you don’t want to go it alone. Upon seeing a fellow teammate in a melee encounter you’re compelled come to their aid while explosions are happening all around you ever increasing the sense of realism.
While DICE has placed a fine-toothed comb to the online component of BF4, you’ve definitely been here before. Fortunately you don’t need a microscope to see the improved differences over its predecessor. BF4 looks better, plays better and sounds better with a much more satisfying campaign, a uniquely impressive Levolution element mixing up the improved multiplayer and companion app tools making a great argument as a must have shooter.
Ultimately, the full extent of BF4 is to be experienced on the PS4, Xbox One and PC as the visual fidelity of the games rue ambition brings a heightened awareness to your sensitivity. Regardless, I would encourage console shooters fans awaiting the arrival of the next generation consoles not to wait for BF4 on PS4 or Xbox One. Jump in now and start building your rank online because as soon as your next gen console arrives you’ll be able to trade in your current gen BF4 and upgrade to the next gen version for dirt cheap while maintaining all your current gen BF4 achievements for the next gen console.
BF4 is a great shooter. While it doesn’t revolutionize the genre, what it does bring is an exclusive take of online warfare that is particularly its own. DICE continues to make destruction looks fantastic even if its once surprising spectacle of annihilation has lost a bit of its grip on our senses.