As a longtime Battlefield fan, I was pretty hyped when Battlefield 4 was released. DICE promised a new and fulfilling entry (not just an expansion) to the series that would improve on the franchise’s formula while still staying true to its enjoyable fundamental mechanics and structure. Battlefield 4 has delivered on a few of those promises, but the game ultimately remains unchanged from past iterations. But, that being said, more of a good thing can’t be too bad, and DICE does deliver a another great experience through Battlefield 4.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
The Battlefield series’ single player campaigns are usually seen as superfluous, tacked-on experiences that add nothing to the game (except to earn the exclusive multiplayer weapons). Even I’ve primarily passed off the singleplayer campaigns as a waste of time, expecting them to be riddled war scenario cliches and flat, uninteresting soldier archetypes whose depth in the story only goes so far as “I’m a badass. Watch as we do cool, badass things.” However, Battlefield 4 answers this perception with a singleplayer campaign that is surprisingly full of wit, tragedy and moral conundrums. The plot itself is pretty straightforward and conventional as you jump from set piece to set piece, mission after mission trying to quell a war in a relatively standard FPS fashion. It’s the characters, though, that bring the charm to Battlefield 4’s singleplayer.
Battlefield 4 places you within Tombstone, a special ops squad at the heart of conflict. For most of the game, you’re accompanied by Irish and Pac, the two characters that bring some heat to the ordinarily tepid Battlefield stories. While they’re not the most complex or flushed out characters, DICE has done an excellent job of portraying them as believable characters with multiple motivations and implications behind their actions. I found myself becoming very attached to what happened with them and how they would react to certain situations. It’s clear a good amount of work and effort was put into creating the cast of Battlefield 4, though that level of potential still needs to come forth through the pacing and the plot.
In regards to the graphics and sounds of the game, DICE has once again shown that the Frostbyte 3 engine is highly capable and aesthetically impressive. It’s clear that many of the same assets as Battlefield 3 found their way into the game, the graphical detail within Battlefield 4 has received a welcome upgrade. Light refraction (glass), hit detection, environmental and player sound effects, model detail — all of these shine in comparison to its predecessor. Nonetheless, there is one piece of the aesthetic design that still needs a load of work: rendering and texture quality. Many textures have trouble rendering and when they do, they’re still of a lower level of quality than the aforementioned aesthetic elements that impressed us. It’s not too noticeable and the game still looks stunning, but there is definitely missed potential.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
The gameplay in Battlefield 4 remains mostly unchanged from its predecessor Battlefield 3, delivering a familiar, solid experience. Most elements have been slightly tuned like fluidity in the controls, the physics of the game, especially the way destructible environments crumble — small things that offer a re-tuned game rather than an upgraded one. There are a few new gameplay mechanics, such as the ability to now counterattack a frontal melee assault, but these are mostly to balance the multiplayer rather than innovate it. The description that Battlefield 4 is more an expansion pack rather than a stand-alone game is partially correct in terms of multiplayer. Nevertheless, close-quarters combat modes as well as large, expansive battlefield modes still feel just as fun, especially in terms of vehicle use and team play.
There is one major feature that DICE has added to Battlefield 4, however, that must be discussed: Levolutions. In each level, there are certain set pieces that are capable of being destroyed, altering the map’s layout and potentially the way you approach the game. For example, in the Siege of Shanghai Conquest mode, there is a towering skyscraper in the middle of the map that houses an objective point on its roof. The entire building can be sent crumbling down, creating a massive cloud of dust and debris as well as moving the objective point to ground level near the river. These spectacular occurrences are breathtaking to watch and to experience firsthand. It’s a truly awe-inspiring moment that adds to the ferocity of the match. Yet, in regards to its purpose of changing the tactics of the round and forcing players to change their strategies, it falls short. Most of the time, however, I felt that once a Levolution had occurred, my play-style and the tactics of my teammates didn’t change at all.
Battlefield 4 is an impressive, enjoyable game that finds a good middle ground between reaction-based shooters, arcade shooters, and hardcore, tactical shooters. The singleplayer campaign was far more impressive than I expected it to be, drawing me into the characters’ motivations and making me want more. Graphics are definitely a step up from the previous title, Battlefield 3, yet could still use some improvement. The gameplay is still fast-paced and entertaining with great controls and only a few in-game bugs in my experience. Multiplayer customization and unlocks promise hours upon hours of gameplay and the multitude of modes offer a unique Battlefield experience. I would definitely recommend this title to fans of the FPS genre whether your new to it or a hardcore fan.
Final Score: 8.5 / 10
Written and edited by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review