The heart of the Battlefield experience has and always will be the freedom
SRP: £54.99Building on the past is kind of what all video games do at this point, love it or hate it every successful property is forever finding new ways to keep you playing the same experience over and over. First person shooters are a prime suspect for this, constantly changing and adapting the way that you interact with the simple process of pressing a trigger until your opponent takes an involuntary nap.
Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by...
FreedomWhen it comes to drawing on its past, Battlefield has a more varied and extensive history than most to lean on. From the weird body snatching of Battlefield 2: Modern Combat to the flavoursome humour and destructibility of Battlefield: Bad Company; DICE has been playing with the formula for years but maintaining its core of wide scale unpredictable vehicle-laced warfare.
The heart of the Battlefield experience has and always will be the freedom afforded by the range of vehicles, sprawling maps and extensive class system. To this day it remains liberating; as a self confessed shooter addict it still takes a few matches to readjust to the pace of combat. No more holding down the run button and firing at everything that moves, remembering that there are classes beyond the go-to Assault setup and vehicles, lots of vehicles.
The four distilled classes from Battlefield 3 return with the Assault class assuming medic duties while Support, Engineer and Recon fill their roles as usual. The class system now relies far more on equipment to define the differences between each loadout. Recon now has access to C4 and claymores along with support; while Carbines and DMRs (Designated Marksmen Rifles) can now be equipped by any class. Gone are the days of enjoying shooting down vehicles but being outgunned by the assault rifle toting opponents. It’s a smart change which doesn’t really alter the dynamic of the classes as much as you first think. The defining elements of each class remain, Support still hands out the ammo, Recon still lasers targets and Engineers are still responsible for keeping tanks alive
The tangible mechanics of shooting remain the same, taking into account real world physics, meaning a lot of leading targets and aiming for the head. Interestingly zeroing now makes an appearance, mainly on Sniper Rifles and DMRs allowing you to set your sights to a specific range for better target acquisition. It’s a nice touch which really conveys the level of detail maintained here, from fire selection modes, to the extensive weapon customisation, the unlock and rank system has enough options to more than accommodate the average shooter fan.
LeveloutionThe same treatment is applied to vehicles, from Humvees to helicopters there are unlocks and upgrades to be had in abundance. In a lesson each veteran will learn the second they try to dust off in a helicopter the default controls have been changed for more ease of use; the emphasis on a “right stick to move” control scheme rather than the old system which relied on bumpers and triggers, though an application of the “Veteran” settings in the menu will set things right for those stuck in their ways.
The real news to get your teeth into only comes into view when you stop fiddling on the class screen and jump into the action. Each of the ten maps has been outfitted with large scale interactive elements which often significantly change the level design. Siege of Shanghai has a collapsible skyscraper, Flood Zone does what it says on the tin, while Paracel Storm not only whips up a decent storm but then crashes a destroyer into one of the objectives. These moments do their job; when first experienced they are a jaw dropping deviation from the normal static maps of multiplayer, and even better they are usually initiated by the player, hammering the support pillars will eventually bring down the skyscraper and pounding the dam will open the floodgates.
Every now and then I fall apart
It’s yet another layer of interactivity, destruction has been a large part of the series for a while and robbing someone of cover with a grenade launcher is still as satisfying as ever. There are a few more additions such as raisable bollards, lifts and window shutters which provide further options to use the level to your advantage.
StrategyThe large scale events are the most significant change to the formula and have a great impact on the gameplay, a “post evolution” map often plays very differently than before; reduced visibility, different objective layouts and, in the case of Flood Zone, changes the main method of transport from foot to boat. Some are more successful than others, personally I hate Flood Zone post flood and Siege of Shanghai is simply a more interesting map when the tower remains up, yet Paracel Storm is a fun switch of pace when the winds pick up. At launch these events are simply a beacon that players gravitate to, eager to see the new feature in action, however in time an added level of strategy could open up where, say, tank possession in Shanghai becomes important to stop the other team bringing down Point B which you are relying on as a strategic platform for all your attacks.
Zooming out even further there is more strategy to be had with the returning Commander Mode, a fan favourite from Battlefield 2. Taking up the role of Commander allows a player to direct and support his infantry teammates in a variety of ways. By following his orders and capturing objectives, squads can gain extra support in the form of missile strikes or circling gun ships. The Commander can deploy UAVs, shorten respawn times and provide supply drops as well as general overall coordination of the battle. On both ends of the equation it’s a beneficial arrangement which is a fun change of pace if you can jump into the first come first served hot seat quick enough. Make sure you do your job though, as players can mutiny and have those bars ripped off your shoulders if you don’t perform well.
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
MayhemIf all the unpredictable mayhem, non stop action and watercooler moments get too much you can always fire up the campaign, an element DICE confusingly still include whilst concentrating on less and less. Pre-release gameplay showed a lot of promise, with the first level “Fishing in Baku” hinting at a much more interesting and character-focused outing this time round. That level remains an excellent pilot for what is possible from the franchise. But after the Bonnie Tyler song fades anything remotely worth recommending fades away with it. Gameplay falls back to a series of sandboxes where you spot, shoot and then move towards the next objective whilst the dull as dishwater characters turn the cogs on a yawn inducing set of events; culminating in a choice where I was genuinely disappointed that suicide was not an option.
Battlefield 4's launch on the Xbox One (and indeed every platform) has been fraught with bugs, crashes and glitches making the game a frustratingly unplayable series of menus for those without endless supplies of patience. A recent patch has allowed the game to be played as intended. Which takes the 360 and PS3 versions and transforms the neutered offering into a fully fledged "next gen" experience. The increased resolution gives greater detail and sharpness and the 60 FPS frame rate brings a smoothness which can be tangibly felt, especially during the large map changing events as particles and effects collide without a hint of slowdown; keeping you deep in the action as the Frostbite engine takes the visuals to welcome new heights.
The thing that truly elevates the next gen versions though is the player count, as a result the maps are bigger and more heavily populated, there are more vehicles and the scale of the conflict feels larger. It's easier to inhabit support roles as there are more patients and customers for ammo, the chaos is amplified by the boosted numbers and as a result the game feels less like a series of small skirmishes and more like a large scale war.
I was falling in love
- Freedom, choice, mayhem!
- Commander Mode
- Increased Players, resolution & frame rate
Now I'm only falling apart
- Worthless single player
- Still some shaky launch issues persisting
Battlefield 4 Xbox One ReviewThe Xbox One version of Battlefield 4 finally realises a vision console players have been aspiring to for a long time. The higher player count, resolution and frame rate not only make it a more technically proficient game but they directly apply to making this a better battlefield game. In a title which thrives on chaos and unpredictability, adding more agents of chaos and unpredictability only increases the frequency of those emergent Battlefield moments which make the series a nightly staple for many.
At the launch of a new console, launch games often fall into a few categories; there is the eye candy, which helps ease the pain in your wallet as friends ooh and aah at the might your new console presented on screen. Then there is the long game, the title which will hopefully keep you going through the inevitable barren waste land of releases following a console launch and give you a reason to power on your box nightly.
Battlefield 4 is both of those things.
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