- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: DICE (EA Digital Illusions CE)
- ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Pros: Amazing Map Design, Stunning Graphics, Levelution, Deep Customization
- Cons: Lackluster, Glitchy Single-Player Campaign
Let’s get through this briefly – the single-player campaign in “Battlefield 4” is more engaging than those who write it off completely might expect but too familiar and downright buggy at times in the way it treats enemy A.I. It reminded me of “Spec Ops: The Line,” although it’s not as ambitious. It does have a similar structure in that you move from combat zone to combat zone, casing the area for enemies, marking them, and taking them out. The campaign has a frustrating lack of common sense at times in its reliance on room-clearing to move on. There was one point where a hangar door wouldn’t open because I had missed an enemy who was behind cover about 200 yards behind me, basically, it seemed, cowering for his life. I had to find him, headshot him, and move on. That’s just silly. The door should have opened without the clearing. I had another point on a boat where the enemies wouldn’t engage me for some reason and so I had to restart to a checkpoint. And bad guys will often move like wooden ducks in a shooting gallery. They take cover, they pop up, you head shot them. Which is not to imply that there aren’t VERY difficult chapters in the campaign and the whole thing looks great. It’s more of a case where the outdated AI issues stand out more against the ambitious narrative and remarkable graphics.
What really matters? The multiplayer. It’s hard to pick my favorites. Domination on Siege of Shanghai. Conquest on Rogue Transmission or Operation Locker. Obliteration on Hainan Resort. You’ll soon know your favorite modes to play on your favorite maps but the truth is there’s not really a boring option in terms of gameplay choice or where the chaos will ensue. The standard modes are here – Deathmatch, Conquestion, Domination, and Rush – and they’re joined by two new modes – Defuse & Obliteration, the latter of which is one of my favorite gaming developments of 2013. Each side has three targets to destroy with a bomb that randomly spawns in the environment. Find the bomb, take it your enemy’s target, blow it up. Try and do it again. The constant solitary target (the bomb) makes for absolute, mind-blowing chaos, as tanks, helicopters, and other weapons of mass destruction are unleashed. It’s incredibly fun.
The level of detail in the design of the maps for “Battlefield 4” is so remarkable that one begins to take them for granted (unless they’re thinking about it for a review). Whether you’re stealing a jet ski to get to a shipwreck in Paracel Storm or jumping off a building in Siege of Shanghai, there’s an attention to detail here that is simply missing from most multiplayer games. The development of these multiplayer arenas was so accomplished that the game captures something spontaneous every minute. It feels like you could play for days and not have the same multiplayer experience twice. And, let’s be honest, as much as I love my “CoD” maps, there’s a play-and-learn quality to them in that one often finds the tricks, the rooms, the areas in which they have the best chance to succeed and then exploits those habits. “Battlefield 4” will have some sniper spots and some corners that you’ll learn to master but it feels stunningly in-the-moment, as the world is collapsing around you.
Sometimes literally. There’s a development in map design here called “Levelution” in that the maps will change over gameplay time. Some Conquest matches can take 20 minutes or more and weather will change as storms come in while buildings will collapse from tank or helicopter fire. The shattering of the wall you’re using for cover has long been a staple of the “Battlefield” series but it’s never been more remarkably accomplished than it is here. These levels feel real, as if the ground beneath your feet isn’t quite safe.