|Retail and Digital|
|Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Single Player and Multiplayer|
Just a few years ago the interwebs were abuzz with the war between the two first person shooter kings. Which series is better? The close quarters intense twitch based blood fest of Call of Duty or the massive scale destructive squad based slaughter of Battlefield? Now that battle is less prevalent, as new games like Titanfall and Rainbow Six: Siege try to take over the reins. Old champions like Halo are trying to recapture the crown. Even a semi-new genre of shooters has emerged and taken over the conversation, including the likes of Destiny. BF3 vs MW3 was the huge debate, and it’s tough to say who definitively won that specific battle. One may say that the ongoing war is still being won by Call of Duty, but the battle of the ‘3’ was won by Battlefield. So here we are with Battlefield 4. The massive scale is supposed to be like nothing else we’ve ever played with epic multiplayer, amazing graphics, gripping campaign, and endless hours of fun. BF4 is developed by Dice, Dice LA, Visceral games and Bioware. Dice has created great games in the past. With such high expectations, including a live demo at e3 2013 that saw a gigantic skyscraper come crashing to the ground alongside the audience’s collective jaws, what could possibly go wrong?
The campaign in BF4 is built to be full of emotions, characters you care about, and high action. I appreciate the lofty goals but the final product doesn’t quite hit the mark. The story itself is rather traditional. It’s really hard to do anything new anymore; people die, things explode, yada yada yada. We do see some brutal situations that from behind a controller we aren’t too shocked by, but behind a real gun in real war, would be life-altering. Sometimes in video games the giant set-piece moments are completely over the top and unbelievable. Like if you’re in a helicopter crash with ten other guys and you happen to be the lone survivor that gets to live another day. I call these moment, “oh come on” moments. When it happens once you think, man this guy is lucky. When it happens seven times in a few hour campaign you think, this is just getting stupid. BF4 walks this line to many times. There are a few set-piece moments that seem semi-believable, like shooting a window of a sinking armored car to escape while tragically leaving a comrade behind. But then other moments, like falling out of a ten story collapsing building or quite a few others that I’ll won’t spoil, are way to over the top and bring the player out of the believable setting into a superhero-esque setting that destroys the tone. The campaign itself takes about five hours to play all the way through.
The characters are for the most part likeable. You play as Recker, and the squad you run has a lot of personality. They argue with each other, joke around with each other, they have slightly over the top behaviors, but they are for the most part believable. But the biggest complaint, and it’s a huge one for me, is the fact that Recker literally never talks. Can we PLEASE end the days of the silent protagonist in this style game? It just looks and feels so stupid when someone like Irish, one of your comrades, looks you in the eyes and screams out for answers and help in the moment of insanity and you just stare at back like a deer in head lights. Are you a mute Recker? The biggest douche bag ever? What’s wrong with you? In a fantasy game or a classic pixel game of old or something of that nature it’s possible and even sometimes the right choice to make playable character completely silent. Maybe it’s best that Link and Crash and Jak stay quiet. Certainly in a game like Journey, Limbo, or the upcoming Rime it’s best to keep the protagonist quiet so the gamer can be sucked into the living brilliant vibrant world. But it’s absolutely ridiculous in a modern military shooter when everyone around you is engaged, questioning, screaming, shouting, staring into your soul as you just stand there dazed and awestruck like a speechless twelve year old child who just opened up his dad’s porno stash for the first time. This is admittedly a problem in many games, including Call of Duty. But it’s never been worse than in BF4 because of its attempt at a gripping emotional story with interesting relatable characters.
The biggest complaint in BF4 is the inexcusable glitches. I for one have never been more genuinely upset, frustrated and downright angry at any glitches in any game I’ve ever played. We’ll go over the multiplayer problems in a moment. In single player there are multiple glitches that can totally ruin the game for the player. Along with silly, strange, and forgivable visual bugs there are multiple campaign glitches that completely lose saved data. I personally got through the first four missions, of the campaign, including almost every single hidden item in those levels, before taking a break and going to multiplayer. When I returned I was shocked and irritated to see that none of that was retained by the game. I then heard from Swaggers (my friend and co-writer on this amazingly awesome website) that many people had to play the entire game in one sitting to make sure everything was saved. So I did that, including every hidden item in the game all in one six to seven hour sitting. This time the game remembers that I beat every level and collected every dog tag, but it forgot half the weapons I found. On top of that it didn’t save any of my high scores. How can I beat the level without posting a score? So basically the game is saying I beat the level without killing a single enemy. I’m either the greatest stealth player of all time or this game has worse memory than Dory from finding Nemo.
Multiplayer in Battlefield is where the money is made. After the success of BF3, Dice has to pick up right where they left off and improve on the BF formula while adding new and innovative features. And Dice did this magnificently, right? No… The map design, gun and equipment feel, and vehicle feel are all for the most part on the same page as BF3. Snipers at mid to long range, which is 75% of the time in BF, are still overpowered. Shotguns are still worthless unless on a few specific levels. Vehicles in the right hands still equal god mode. These things feel just like BF3, but then the changes come into place, and very few of them are the right changes. The movement and player control feels clunky and slow, and after many complaints, Dice finally decided to add a patch which states that “Changes have been made to soldier movement so that it closely matches the one in Battlefield 3”. So in this case Dice is literally going back to BF3, basically admitting that it’s the superior game in this aspect. Dice also introduces “Levelution” which is a dynamic level altering system to go along with the series’ stellar destruction mechanics. Specific areas of most maps have elements that can be destroyed via explosions or gunfire. This can be anything from bridges crumbling to whole skyscrapers collapsing. In the case of the massive building coming down, the way it completely changes the map flow and just how sweet it looks never gets old. But some of the others fall flat. If Dice had been able to implement more skyscraper-type levelution into all the maps it could have been one of the game’s strongest points.
There are massive fundamental design flaws in Battlefield and they shine through in BF4. From inside the game, there is only one way the player can edit each class, and that’s in the middle of a match. For some unknown reason there is no way to simply alter the Recon, Assault, Engineer, and Support classes from an out-of-match menu. This is just stupid, no nice way to put it. It’s great as an added feature that I can edit those classes mid-match, but that should be optional not the requirement. This is a design flaw, but on top of that there is a ridiculous glitch that still exists nearly a year later that deletes and resets the player’s class. So this is how 80% of my matches started; Right away I’d open up my class because I remembered that I just unlocked a new camo and scope for my sniper, so I spend the first minute of the game doing this when I should have been able to do this in the lobby between matches. The very next game I’d jump right in, pick my class, let’s say assault class, and rush right toward the objective. One problem, my new launcher, red dot sight and ego grip that I recently added to my class are nowhere to be found. What happened? Now I either wait to die or kill myself to re-edit my class. Then I’d notice that this has happened with all my classes and I need to re-edit every single one, which takes some way to long. Meanwhile the enemy team is barraging my base and I’m attaching my flashlight to my M9. There’s another way you can edit your classes, and this is on the battlelog website or app. The app is glitchy, I’d recommend the website. The website itself is very detailed, full of content, and extremely useful. But again there’s so much here that I should be able to do in the game itself. There are assignments in the game that give the player rewards like new guns, equipment, and dog tags. This is a cool feature that creates great replay value. What’s the problem? There is no way to access these in game. It’s entirely possible to play the game for hours and hours and wonder what these random assignments are that are unlocking midgame and what they mean. Any assignments you have progressed in are visible at the end of that match; but without context it’s confusing as to why they exist. And even if the player knows, it’s obnoxious to jump back and forth between the game and the website to see what assignment should be worked on next and how close they are to being completed. Why this isn’t in the actual game itself is beyond me. All I know is that as someone who is a completionost and someone who enjoys “side-missions” in multiplayer this is taxing and strenuous.
Battlefield 4 is a beautiful game. In the campaign the brilliant lighting shines through, the environmental effects pop with brilliance, explosions burst with color and the facial animation breathes life into the characters. My only complaint is that it’s missing the added umph. Technically it’s incredible, but it’s lacking the magic that can propel some games by creating a tone and game feel that genuinely pull the players into the world. In multiplayer the graphics take a big step back, but this is to be expected considering it is 32vs32. Things like plants and minor explosions can tend to look bland. But considering how much is going on and how many players are battling it out at the same time, it’s truly remarkable. Point black BF4 is just a pretty game.
Battlefield 4 is a definite misstep in an otherwise very strong franchise. The series still has a large following, but a good chunk of them certainly feel burned with this entry. The biggest problem is without doubt the massive amount of glitches. Small bugs can be forgivable, there’s always some random impenetrable rock that somebody learns how to get inside and reek havic. But as long as they are cleaned up quickly it’s not a big deal. But the sheer amount of glitches in Battlefield, how they completely ruin the experience for the players, and how long it’s been with so many of them still being present, it’s impossible to give Dice a pass here. I still haven’t been able to finish my own campaign achievements and I’m dreading going back in. If Dice could build a time machine and fix every single bug before the launch of the BF4 it would have completely changed the view of BF4’s success or lack thereof. But even without the glitches BF4 still could have been better. The campaign feels like just another campaign. There’s not much innovation and it’s yet another crazy ride of unbelievable death defying moment. I do like the emotion and characters, but that’s almost completely ruined by how strange and stupid it is that Recker is a silent protagonist. The multipayer at its core gameplay is a lot of fun, a nice addition to the BF series. But it’s still not as good as BF3. And the lack of features in game, like being able to edit the class and look at assignments, feels incredibly old. We’ve had features like this in online FPS games since the early 2000’s. Battlefield Hardline got pushed back by a few months, and I’m truly hoping it’s because Dice has seen the many issues in BF4 and want to make sure Hardline doesn’t duplicate them. As far as I’m concerned, I really hope they get their act together before StarWars Battlefront is released, because Dice has the talent and ability to make it a phenomenon, but with recent history I’m very skeptical. All in all Battlefield 4 is a game that feels rushed and broken. It’s still a lot of fun in multiplayer, but wading through the various glitches can be painful. Here’s hoping this misstep was just a hiccup and not a peak at the future of Dice starting to be “levolutioned” to non-existence. Also please give me Bad Company 3…
1) Beautiful Graphics
2) Fun Massive Multiplayer
1) Terrible game altering glitches
2) Lacks features in game that are industry standards (Forces you to use website)
3) Feels unfinished