This game was reviewed on PC.
The Battlefield series has always been an example of large-scale multiplayer done right. Battlefield 4 continues this tradition, and adds naval battles to the land and air combat formula established back in Battlefield 1942. Unfortunately, its bevy of technical issues keeps it from being the stellar package it has the potential to be.
Battlefield 4 boasts 64-player battles featuring land, air, and naval vehicles that provide some of the most memorable moments in gaming – especially when combined with the game’s Frostbite 3-powered destruction modelling.
The game brings with it a refined multiplayer experience, and a number of noticeable changes from Battlefield 3’s multiplayer. C4 explosives have now been assigned to the Recon class, squads can now include five players instead of four, intra-squad voice chat has returned, while naval warfare and counter-knifing have made their series debut alongside the Battlepack system from Mass Effect 3.
The reintroduction of squad voice chat means that the multiplayer is more approachable to new players than ever before because tactics can once again be vocally communicated to strangers – perfect for those without a stable of Battlefield-playing friends.
The four classes (Assault, Engineer, Support, and Recon) remain largely unchanged from Battlefield 3 in terms of their roles. Assault functions as a field medic (medical packs and defibrillators), Engineer as the vehicle specialist (repair guns and anti vehicle tickets), Support as logistics (ammo packs), and Recon as the information gatherer (motion detectors and laser targeting systems).
One significant change, however, is the assignment of C4 explosives (as an early unlock) to the Recon class instead of the Support class.This means that Recon players are now able to play a more active role in combat, moving in closer to the action to reveal enemy positions with motion sensing mines and take out vehicles with C4. This made Recon the class I played almost exclusively, compared to in Battlefield 3 where I specialised in the Assault and Engineer classes.
An important introduction is the ability to counter-knife players who are cocky (or stupid) enough to try and knife someone while they are facing them. Counter-knifing is accomplished simply by pressing the melee button at the same time as your opponent, thereby earning you an instant kill. Players may argue that this means that trying to knife someone head on is suicide, and to them I say yes, yes it is… So just don’t do it. Use your gun instead. Smart players who sneak up on their victims are rewarded with an instant kill when attacking from behind.
The final, and arguably most important, change from Battlefield 3 to 4 is the introduction of Battlepacks; essentially a lucky dip containing everything from experience boosts, weapon skins, and attachments such as scopes. These range from Bronze through to Gold with higher value Battlepacks delivering better rewards. Originally, I was completely against the idea, as I believe that players should never be able to “buy” their way to higher levels and new unlocks. However, players are rewarded with Battlepacks for levelling up and reaching certain weapon milestones, which levels the playing field. Battlepacks positively shake up the traditional unlock path and, just like in FIFA’s Ultimate Team game mode, provide an extra sense of tension and relief (or disappointment) when opening a Battlepack.
As for modes/types, players can choose from Rush, Squad Rush, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch, and Domination, but series stalwart Conquest continues to be the main attraction. The Obliteration, Elimination, and Defuse game modes make their debut in Battlefield 4, with Obliteration requiring players to destroy a set of three enemy targets while protecting their own three targets, and the Counter-Strike-esque Elimination and Defuse modes featuring no respawns and functioning as Battlefield 4’s take on that series’s regular Deathmatch and Bomb Defusal scenarios respectively.
Though I had little experience with the new modes due to the lack of Australian servers running them, Obliteration played like a very simplified version of Battlefield 2142’s Titan game mode in that both teams had to attack and defend simultaneously in order to succeed. Both the Domination and Rush game modes continue to serve as easy ways to rack up kills (and unlocks), though Rush benefits greatly from the tactical advantages of the reintroduced squad voice chat functionality.
All of these other modes may be considered secondary to Conquest mode, which remains the premier reason to play a Battlefield game. This is largely due to the fact that the mode remains unchanged from Battlefield 3, where it singlehandedly provided hundreds of hours of balanced, exciting, and fun gameplay. For players new to the series, Conquest pits two teams against each other with the objective being to whittle down the opposing force’s pool of “tickets”. This is done by capturing a number of objectives on the map, or by killing enemy players. The team that controls fewer objectives at any given time loses tickets at a faster rate, meaning that it is not only important to kill and stay alive, but also to play the objectives by capturing points.
The best matches are the close ones, when each team is within a handful of tickets of each other, and revives become just as important as kills. Squads make final pushes to capture as many objectives as they can, while pilots hammer down barrages of missiles to take down the enemy jeeps and tanks rushing towards their team’s captured objectives. This game mode has provided me with heaps of moments of sheer exhilaration that, frankly, no other multiplayer game can match.
The maps featured in Battlefield 4 are the other part of this formula of fun. Simply put, the new maps are awesome. Unlike in Battlefield 3, where the prospect of playing on Operation Metro was an exercise in frustration (and instant death), the new maps are all balanced, and are a joy to play on. Even Operation Locker, which contains the “kill corridors” of its similarly-titled predecessor, has alternative routes on the outside of its central prison facility that facilitate long-range engagements and flanking.
The much-touted Levolution feature is a fantastic addition, as the changes in landscape caused by it give rise to different ways of playing the objectives. One example is on the map Rogue Transmission, where players can collapse a large satellite dish that is held by metal cables above the central objective. When it is fully formed, anyone on the surface of the dish is easy picking for any sniper perched on top of the crane holding the dish in place. Once the map’s Levolution feature is triggered, the dish collapses into a heap of broken ceramic and metal – providing plenty of cover from snipers above and from vehicles underneath.
One gripe with the Levolution feature, however, is on the map Paracel Storm, where the calm seas turn into storm surges as a result of an incoming typhoon. I understand that waves can get choppy and very tall, but it seems ridiculous that boats and jetskis go through them, and not just over them.
The multiplayer modes provide enough hours of entertainment that players will be able to forego the game’s tired and dull single player campaign that comes across as a checklist of elements adapted from other shooter campaigns: the tired everyone-against-the-US premise, a prison breakout mission, a cameo from a character from a previous game, and a squad of marines that conveniently find themselves in the middle of every critical situation.
You play as Recker, leader of squad Tombstone, and the game’s silent protagonist. Yes, despite other first person titles such as BioShock Infinite featuring fleshed out (and voiced) central characters, Battlefield 4 takes a backward step from its predecessor by placing players in the boots of a non-descript US marine. If the intention of having a silent protagonist in a war game illustrates the anonymity of soldiers in real life (e.g. in the original Call of Duty), this message has been executed poorly. Furthermore, how is a soldier without a voice supposed to direct, and therefore lead their squad?
The basic premise is that China is at the brink of war with the US, and Admiral Chang, the game’s primary antagonist, has implicated Tombstone in an international incident that turns everyone against the US. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is basically the exact same premise as the one that sets up the events of Modern Warfare 2.
One redeeming aspect of the single player campaign is the character Irish; an African American soldier who represents the “humanity” that soldiers are fighting for. Early on in the campaign, Irish endeavours to rescue a large number of Chinese civilians who have become refugees following an attack on Shanghai. This decision does not sit well with the other soldiers as they see the Chinese as their enemy – civilian or not. Irish is joined by Hannah, the Chinese-American double agent who outsmarts, and out-fights, her male counterparts more than once.
The tastefulness of these minority characters lies in the fact that they do not serve as the “token <minority> guy/girl”, nor do they have certain traits or characteristics because they are African-American or Asian; it is reasonable, and very easy, to believe that they would behave in exactly the same manner regardless of race or gender. These characters are not simply the embodiment of stereotypes.
Before you even take control of your character, you will notice the sheer graphical prowess that the Frostbite 3 engine can deliver. Whether it is the high resolution textures on the faces of characters, or the beams of light peeking through gaps in ceilings and walls, Battlefield 4 does not hide the fact that its visuals outshine those of those of Battlefield 3 (which was also beautiful).
While the game is very hardware scalable, PC players used to setting everything to Ultra in Battlefield 3 will need to scale it down to High to maintain the same frame rates. This comes down to the improved textures, lighting, and particle systems that, on multiple occasions, made me stop what I was doing to gape in awe at my screen.
The blinding blizzard that engulfs the outside portions of Operation Locker makes shooting and spotting enemies difficult, and the typhoon that engulfs the islands in Paracel Storm are truly sights to behold. All of this is aided by the differing use of colour palettes to provide visual identities to the game’s maps; Rogue Transmission features a lot of green and light brown, Zavod 311 is imbued with orange and dark green hues, and Dawnbreaker is composed of dark blues and browns with areas basked in the orange glow of a dawn sky.
This attention to enticing the senses also carries over to the sound design, where the mix of bullets whizzing past, mortar shells demolishing a distant building, and speeding jet fighters barrel-rolling overhead is something to behold. The sound also adds to the tension when a solitary player hears the engine of a tank hunting them down, or when the crumbling foundations of a building signal its collapse moments before it happens.
Speaking of which, it is about time I addressed the elephant in the room; the variety of issues that have plagued the title since launch. First of all, if you are hesitant to purchase the game based on the number of issues being reported, do not worry. DICE has addressed most of these issues, particularly the bug on the Siege of Shanghai map that caused half of the players’ clients to crash when the large skyscraper in the centre of the map collapsed. The netcode, which a lot of players claimed as being the cause of their poor performance, has been tidied up slightly. Honestly, the main issues I encountered (and still encounter) are the inconsistent hitboxes of obstacles (where you have a clear view of the enemy, but your shots are blocked by the low barrier you are standing behind), and the periodic loss of effects audio in Golmud Railway that can cause unnecessary deaths due to not hearing the echoes of a distant sniper’s missed shots.
All in all, these issues only slightly dampen the impact of Battlefield 4’s formidable multiplayer package. It is a testament to the quality of Battlefield 4 that DICE has held off the large swathes of negative press it has garnered since the game’s launch. The developer has brought a stellar multiplayer package in Battlefield 4 that is only marginally held back by a handful of technical issues, and a tedious single player campaign. In short, Battlefield 4 is the best shooter on the market right now.