When it comes to Battlefield, I’m a member of the old guard. Sweaty LANs in dark and seedy scout halls filled my pimply teens when Battlefield 1942 changed our world forever. I remember lining up with three of my buddies out the front of K-Mart (we didn’t have an EB Games store within 200 kilometers of us at the time) at 8:30am, just so we could run in, grab Battlefield Vietnam, and rush home to start playing. I know myBattlefield, and despite the number of technical issues I’ve had with the Xbox One version of the game, I can confidently say that Battlefield 4 is the best of the series since 2005′s Battlefield 2.
Just like its predecessor, Battlefield 4 features an action packed single-player campaign for those who want to experience a lot of “ooh rahs” and be knocked off their feet every twenty minutes for king and country. This time the Chinese are teaming up with Russia to take over the world, and after a gigantic EMP blast leaves the US team at sea with no communications or navigation, things are looking pretty grim. It’s actually a decent setup for a modern military shooter, one that I genuinely thought would take me on a few twists and turns. Unfortunately it plays out in seven short missions, with an ending that made me question why I just wasted my entire Sunday playing through this contrived tale of nothing.
While the narrative of Battlefield 4‘s campaign leaves more to be desired (I’ll be doing a follow-up article next week), the tone of the adventure is spot on. The locations are varied, and thanks to the impressive graphics engine, everything is a delight to gawk at. It really is frustrating that DICE weren’t able to provide a narrative with substance, because everything else featured in the campaign is above and beyond what Battlefield 3brought to the table.
But let’s be honest, Battlefield has never been a single-player franchise. Large scale multiplayer warfare has always been the main dish on offer, and Battlefield 4′s suite of multiplayer offerings is absolutely perfect.
Battlefield 3 lacked a true identity. It knew that the Battlefield aficionados would want more of the same, yet the obvious pressure from the Call of Duty franchise meant that they needed to provide jump in, run and gun gameplay to bring in a new audience. The result was a mess of maps and modes that had promise, but lacked the heart and soul that founded the series strong online community.
Battlefield 4 manages to meld the best of both worlds into a multiplayer experience that truly caters for everyone. Conquest and Rush still offer large scale, push and pull battles that have you sitting on the edge of your seat until the early hours of the morning. Obliteration and Capture the Flag drop the player count and map size to provide a less daunting task for those who want a sense of scale, but don’t want to deal with a 64 player count (64 players on PC, Xbox One and PS4). Domination, Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch throw you into close quarters, but are finely tuned to the shooting and suppression mechanics. As a result, these are some of the most intense close-ranged battles you are likely to find online.
Yet it’s Air Superiority that really captured my attention straight away. For those who have signed up toBattlefield 4 Premium, you are given access to an entirely new game mode that is fought entirely in jets. You fly throughout the sky and battle your foes as you protect capture points until the game is over. This alleviates one of the biggest frustrations for newcomers; usually big maps only have one or two jets, and for someone who hasn’t spent time behind the cockpit of these highly powered vehicles, it usually ended in death and rage quits quickly. Now everyone gets a chance to fly throughout the skies, and it’s a super exciting game mode to boot.
While the single-player had potential, and the multiplayer is the best the series has seen in eight years, I found a number of technical issues with my Xbox One copy of the game. Regularly the game would lose my save game progress, which was extremely annoying as I was playing through on hard trying to unlock every achievement. This has happened five times in a week, and I know that DICE are well aware of the issue and are currently working on a fix in the future.
I also experienced a number of drop-outs from games for no reason. I would be booted out to the dashboard, and then the connection to Origin would be lost. Once again, DICE are aware that servers are troublesome right now, and a fix is on the horizon.
Perhaps the most annoying problem is the inability to join friends games with ease. Origin doesn’t seem to be working correctly, as when friends sign in I see “[Persona Name] signed in”. I can see a number of servers my friends are playing in, but to find out which friend is playing on what server I need to open the Friends app, see which map they are playing, go back into Battlefield, and then join their game. Once again, I’m sure a fix will come soon, but it’s worth noting that if you’re picking up the Xbox One version, there are teething problems.
Those issues aside, Battlefield 4 is without a doubt the best entry in the series since 2005, and will surely dominate the online space for years to come. It falls short in the single-player campaign, but for armchair soldiers worldwide, this is the modern shooter you will want to sign up for.