Here we are at the dawn of the next generation of console gaming. While the gaming community is busy salivating at screenshots and videos of what they can expect over the next few months we still have developers absolutely pushing the limits of the current generation to their maximum. Their attempts are valiant ones I’m sure but you can’t help noticing the limitations in the current gen build of Battlefield 4. It’s pretty, sure, but the cracks are there and they hold back BF4 from being a much better title.
I always like to start out with the single player campaign in any game I play. I know that Battlefield has been built on its multiplayer strengths but I always hold out for a good story and single player offering nonetheless. In the ‘Fishing in Baku’ reveal DICE made it look like we were to have a fast, frenetic and engaging storyline to power through but in the end it seems like the video was nothing more than a carrot being dangled in front of us to showcase how glorious it will look next gen. What we actually have is a campaign that is short and falls flat on its face with clichés and over the top scenarios.
Placed in the boots of Sergeant Recker of Tombstone squad you and your cohorts are put smack in the middle of a US, Russian and Chinese conflict. It seems that every situation you encounter has a decided ‘I saw that in a cheesy 80’s movie’ feel and in its attempts to have you feel some sort of emotion the game instead leaves you feeling almost nothing at all. Considering the campaign is a measly 5 hours or so you don’t even have enough time to truly become attached to the characters (who aren’t all that likeable to begin with). Without an investment in the characters you’re surely to be left in the cold when it comes to seeing it to a conclusion that matters or makes you feel anything. The simple fact of the matter is that Battlefield started out as a multiplayer only franchise and in its attempts to be everything to everyone it waters itself down with lukewarm single player experience. If you’re not going to do it right it’s best to leave it out altogether and focus on what you’re really trying to do.
That being said, we all know what DICE is ultimately trying to do in Battlefield 4. They want to bring you the most explosive and badass online shooter experience available and to that goal they largely succeed. Charging forward with their ‘levolution’ gimmick we get massive scale maps that are destructible in ways we’ve yet to see on any Battlefield multiplayer maps to date. I guess calling the feature what it is in real speak wasn’t exciting enough so instead of ‘dynamic interactive maps’ we get a phrase that’s just as goofy to say as it is to read. These ‘levolution’ moments are awesome though, let me be the first to say that. Whether you’re bringing down a skyscraper, creating oil spills or triggering a flood the whole way you approach a map will change once the event has been set off. Of course sometimes it’s more work than it’s worth to set the cogs in motion but the end result is still significant and forces opponents to completely rethink their strategies. On a smaller scale the environments themselves are obviously destructible as well with cover crumbling as you scramble from barricade to barricade.
The most notable of the new modes offered is clearly Obliteration which in a way is a glorified capture the flag. You’ll be tasked with picking up a bomb (the flag) on the map and dropping it at an enemy objective (home base) to blow it to shit. As always this is easier said than done and I found myself embroiled in a few games that lasted far longer than I thought they would. A fun twist on an old convention I’ve put in most of my time here than anywhere else. I’ve put significantly less time into Defuse, another new MP mode that offers you one solitary life to live, largely based on how much I suck in comparison to the pros who tend to brave it. I don’t last long… at all.
The much lauded Commander mode is back as well giving players another option to interact in the game. If you have the aim of a cross-eyed crackhead like me perhaps you’re better off dropping in supplies and calling in artillery strikes than shooting and Commander mode gives you that. It’s a fun addition and more so than anything a great way to showcase second screen integration in gaming as we’ll see a lot more of it in the future.
Battlefield is certainly a real treat to take in visually but as I mentioned before the limitations of current generation systems are being tested. I noticed a lot of frame rate issues, screen tearing, clipping, you name it. We’re talking about a game that is meant to usher in the next generation though so in a way it’s an understandable hiccup. That doesn’t mean I have to like it however and I found it to be a huge annoyance. Add on the issues with connecting to games, the freezes, the load screens and at one point the complete disappearance of my campaign and frustrations ran wild.
Being in the position of having an impressionable young 5 year old running around the house I chose to spend the large majority of my time playing with my headphones on. I must admit that I got a laugh out of taking all the sound in with my Call of Duty branded headphones. Clearly though it was the way to go as the world really came alive with bullets flying and radio chatter all over the place. The chaos that unfolded on screen was perfectly represented in my ear holes too.
Battlefield 4, with its huge maps and high attention to detail is just screaming next generation. Playing on maps built for 64 players with a mere 24 seems like not only a disservice but lacking in punch too. Imagine maps filled to the brim with insanity rather than seeing a concentrated group in one small area of the map. With that in mind I’d say that if you plan on purchasing a next gen system it might be best to wait for that one. That being said though, Battlefield 4 is still a very capable and enjoyable current generation shooter. If you can look past the obvious hindrances of the current gen hardware to reach DICE’s grand vision you’ll still have a lot of fun with it.