The building toppling, chart topper is back! With new multiplayer modes, guns and vehicles to wreak havoc with, Battlefield 4 might just tempt you away from ‘that other shooter’ that’s out.
An all new singleplayer campaign introduced via a seemingly hopeless situation sets the bar high. Too high in fact. The opening mission follows you and your squad, somewhat appropriately named ‘Tombstone’ through a vicious encounter involving open fire fights, grenade launchers, an attack helicopter and a good old 80’s classic to round it all off. The inclusion of not only fast paced gameplay, but small, segmented breaks in the action gives off a much more gameplay-friendly feeling of pacing, a shame really that this doesn’t last all that long. After several missions in; looking back the memories are hazy, there was a bit in a boat and another bit in a tank. It’s as if they used all their creativity up on the initial mission and then just knocked off early for the rest. The plot does little to inspire much thought other than a resounding game of ‘what’s that Chinese guys name again?’ Granted, it does perk up again towards the end of it’s devilishly short span, but in the end, it’s more a feeling of relief than satisfaction.
Despite it’s short life, the singleplayer does offer replayability in terms of (surprise) collectibles, but also a medal system that initially seemed like a great idea. The idea being that you can earn a bronze, silver or gold for your performance throughout the level. The rewards often being new guns to use in the campaign, the problem is the scoring system. At one time I was quite happy popping heads from afar, judging distances and compensating for enemy movement with my trusty single shot rifle. But the game didn’t really appreciate those numerous, consecutive headshots, instead it rewards kill streaks, as in a short time between each kill, with a multiplier; that’s tricky to do when lining up that perfect, sway-free shot. So I played by the rules and ran in like a lunatic, constantly on the brink of death, hip firing as though I didn’t know there was an ADS button and massively raking in the score. So much in fact, that for the rest of the missions, I went above and beyond and received numerous trophies for exceeding the gold rank.
Well let’s just say that it’s a good job it has multiplayer for a change! BF veterans around the world rejoice as the newcomers try and invade your game once more. Although, thanks to the new training grounds, they might be a little more prepared. A new addition to the series; finally somewhere to practice piloting the notoriously hilarious helicopters. Selectable from the multiplayer screen, it lets you jump into any of the numerous vehicles BF4 has to offer, inadvertently slamming a jet time after time into the ground to the dismay of your teammates could be a thing of the past! A firing range is also present, letting you confirm that putting a 4x scope on an already wildly uncontrollable SMG would indeed be a bad idea. Targets are set out at multiple ranges to give an idea of bullet velocity, drop and also to help learn how to lead a moving target before setting your sights on a real foe that might well fire back…
The new gadget selection is a massive improvement, working especially well for the underused engineer class. Unlocked by using a specific class, you now have access to any two gadgets in your arsenal. Whether that be two set’s of mines or a bespoke rocket for anti-air, and another to deal with the impending ground armour. It was always frustrating on BF3 being the engineer and having to choose between tanks or aircraft to destroy effectively. Plus now, with the addition of a numerical damage indicator to accompany the generic hit markers, you’ll finally know how much pain you’re bringing that tank.
Numerous improvements to silly things that never should have been an issue have been implemented in BF4 over BF3. Such as being able to directly spawn into an unoccupied ‘deployment base’ vehicle after death or at the start of a round, saving that embarrassing queue for the jet at the start. Camouflage is also now available for weapons and vehicles letting you strut your stuff in style. Huge, semi-scripted destruction is also a factor to be aware of now too, as was shown off on one of the pre-release videos. Squad sizes have been increased to five instead of four, raising the option for more efficient teamwork and adding another all-important spawn point. On the deployment screen, an indicator notifies whether it’s dangerous to spawn on that teammate, hopefully eliminating the tedium of getting unfairly insta-killed.
For all the good points, there are a few inexplicable niggles lingering around however. Not being able to create a class setup outside of an actual battle is infuriating when you’ve unlocked a whole bunch of new toys to play with, as I like to relax whilst perusing my upgrades! Another decision I have an issue with are the battle packs, they work much like the system in Mass Effect 3 online where the only way to earn new weapon upgrades was to spend your hard earned points on a random box, hoping it contained something of use. Thankfully, it’s not as restrictive as that! You can earn all the weapons and kit via normal progression, but only very few of the basic attachments for each gun and there are a lot of attachments. For example the Type 88 LMG, a personal fave of mine, has around four out of fourteen attachments that can be unlocked via normal play, the rest rely upon battle packs, one of which gets rewarded to you every few levels. Why can’t I also grind out hundreds of kills for a flash suppressor? Very odd.
As ever, the singleplayer portion of Battlefield looks sublime, the audio, both online and off stands out as a huge selling point too. The music, although typically fantastic and rousing is slightly underutilised but not to a great extent. General textures online appear lacking in fidelity, but by the sounds of my wheezing PS3, I’m sure they’ve pushed this generation of hardware as far as it’ll go. BF4 on the next generation of consoles will undoubtedly look far prettier; along with a raised player count to accompany that, it will be something to behold.
In the end, I think we all knew what to expect, nothing ground-breaking, but a solid improvement over previous entries in terms of multiplayer. The singleplayer was slightly disappointing, but that’s not too much of a concern considering the online will hold your attention for months with it’s unrelenting grip of tactics, vehicle warfare and the never ending quest for the perfect class setup.
Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360, and PC. Versions will also be available on PS4 and Xbox One.