Battlefield 1942 is still my favorite entry in the Battlefield series. It pretty much blew away my expectations for an FPS game at the time, and even today, it still blows me away at how it was technically possible. Many Battlefield games have attempted to recreate the success of 1942, with some failures, and some success.
While I wasn’t that impressed with last year’s attempt in the form of Battlefield 3, I can safely say that I’m enjoying 4 quite a bit more.
First things first — some people buy FPS games for the campaign, and in true Battlefield fashion, it’s nothing to write home about. Despite Michael K. Williams’ best efforts, the story is just not that enthralling, or memorable. Almost immediately, Battlefield 4‘s campaign struts its stuff in a big way, showing off the new Frostbite 3 engine in spades. But quickly after the opening moments, the excitement subsides, and the new physics and visuals become an expectation.
An expectation that isn’t exceeded through the course of the story, as the narrative takes a decidedly “been there done that” approach with a US, Chinese, and Russian conflict. Many “gotcha” moments jump out with a mild amount of surprise and grace, but you’re never really taken to a place you haven’t before, or greeted with anything as unique as Black Ops II‘s optional story paths. In short, the campaign feels like an attempt to ape Call of Duty, but without the same amount of heart.
Of course, the bulk of your playtime is going to come from the multiplayer component, and it’s as solid as it’s been in years. The squad-based gameplay of past games continues (now with support for five man squads), along with the return of Commander Mode on consoles, which allows pro players to tweak the match to their liking. Vehicles of course return, and help make the battlefield frantic and exciting, as you capture points and grab your favorite.
New modes join the fray, including the interesting Obliteration gametype, that tasks players with chasing down a bomb somewhere on the map — it’s a cross between football and capture the flag, and it’s a pretty fresh to play. There are 10 maps, all of which are interesting in their own right given the large scale of the franchise, even if they skew towards sniping if all you play is conquest.
The “Levolution” mechanic, in spite of the odd naming convention, is a cheap way of saying that maps are dynamic, but it gets the job done for sure. Whether that’s creating floods, oil spills, or skyscrapers that can be brought down, the concept is executed in such a way that the end result is a ton of fun, and something different for a change. Beyond Levoultion though, destruction of maps in general is a lot more noticeable. You’ll see holes in the ground, as well as noticeable bullet effects, and broken walls in all their glory.
But there’s only one issue with the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game — the grossly reduced player count. Rather than engaging in all out war with 64 players in the PC, and the upcoming Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game, the PS3 and 360 are hard-locked at 24 players. To be blunt, it’s just far too low. The maps are built for 64 players, but on the current generation you end up with less than half of that actually populating the map. Essentially, Battlefield 4 feels less like an actual “battlefield” on current gen consoles. Having said that, it’s still a great multiplayer experience — just more pared down than I would like.
If you don’t plan on playing it on the PC or a next-gen console, I would heartily recommend Battlefield 4 if you’re an FPS fan. It’s an improvement over last year’s iteration, but if you’re getting a next-gen console, you definitely want to wait to upgrade for feature parity with the PC version. The lower player count really hurts the game in the long run in terms of multiplayer, especially when you feel like you’re rummaging around a huge, sprawling ghost town. But since it’s such a solid shooter, it actually has me excited for the next-generation’s higher player count, provided all of the other bits fall into place.
This review is based on a physical copy of Battlefield 4 for the Xbox 360.