Battlefield 4 review
- Stunning visuals
- Superb multiplayer
- Great collection of maps
- Lacklustre single player
- Dumb AI
Battlefield 4’s appearance at the EA E3 keynote this year brought the house down by literally bringing a virtual building down. The live demo for DICE’s online fragfest showed a firefight in a multiplayer match involving 64 players in a map with a towering skyscraper at the centre of it.
As the battle reached its apex, the audience in the Shine Auditorium watched gobsmacked as the multi-storied building had its supports blow out. With a scream of tearing metal we then crashed into the map like a felled Redwood made from steel and glass.
A few months on, we flew out to DICE HQ in beautiful Stockholm to get our hands on the game and see how things are shaping up.
Battlefield 4: Environments
The Battlefield series has always put a premium on destructible environments - last seen in Battlefield 3 - but in the latest entry in the series, the scale for this feature is off the charts. Not only does it occasionally look spectacular as in the case of the tumbling skyscraper – which provides the centrepiece of the game’s Shanghai map – it also opens up a ton of new gameplay options.
For example, when the skyscraper drops, it creates new pathways through the map, although strictly speaking, players can do their own tinkering with their surroundings. They can, for example, use explosive and grenades against certain walls to create new routes.
The skyscraper drop also covers the whole map in a massive dust cloud that limits players’ draw distance and visibility. This makes ground troops harder to spot from higher vantage points and it makes providing air support a logistical nightmare.
DICE is calling this concept 'Levolution' - literally, the idea is that the map (level) evolves during the game, presenting you with new challenges to overcome, and tactical possibilities for taking on the enemy.
Battlefield 4: Commander Feature
To help coordinate the efforts on the battlefield, DICE have brought back the Commander feature from Battlefield 2, although it’s been slightly tweaked for this iteration. The Commanders on both teams view the battle from a top down point of view and they’re able to issue orders and deploy equipment, vehicles and drones for their side.
Their stock of resources, however, isn’t limitless. Rather, it’s linked to the amount of points their team acquire in the battle. While they’re still able to issue orders and make their team aware about enemy troop movements, they’ll require their team to rack up points for, say, capturing a point on the map and holding it for a time, before they’re able to send in better equipment or call in a missile strike. Commanders can take part in online matches from tablets, providing they have a decent enough internet connection.
Battlefield 4: Gameplay
On the ground, Battlefield 4 plays the way you’d expect it too. Players pick a class and head into the map with a couple of firearms and items of equipment. Once there, their objective is to keep the Commander well stocked with points by completing whatever objectives the match type requires of them.
Running on the Frostbite 3 engine, Battlefield 4 looks stunning; particles hang in the air in shafts of light in darkened environments and sunlight bounces off the HUD causing the odd, cinematic glint of lens flare. It’s hardly surprising that it’s one of the most widely used tools in EA’s game creation across most of its developers.
As mentioned, we got to go hands-on with the game in Stockholm, and... well, it plays a lot like Battlefield 3. It certainly feels the same. The version we played was alpha code, on a new map so it wasn’t looking as pretty as all the in-game footage we’ve seen so far. That said, the power of Frostbite 3 was very evident, with action looking incredibly fluid, and plenty of lens flare and motion blur really bringing a cinematic realism to things.
We were playing on PC so we can say little about next-gen console performance, but we’re told by DICE Creative Director Lars Gustavsson that there’s still plenty of work and polish to be done yet. We think it’s safe to assume that this game is going to look absolutely spectacular.
Battlefield 4: Battlescreen
Another accompanying app – Battlescreen – gives you a second screen map to play with much like Commander mode. In Battlescreen, you get a live tactical view of your current game, so you can see where your squad and team are currently, and where they’re headed, as well as an update on tickets and the like.
If you’re squad leader, you can even tap waypoints on your tablet in the app, and your squad will all receive a waypoint in game. You will need to be connected to your console but all of this happens instantly via the cloud – and it’s all pretty impressive.
You can even change games via the tablet app, without interrupting your current game. It’s a small thing, but helps to cut down the time looking for servers and that sort of thing.
Battlescreen will only be available to those playing Battlefield 4 on next generation consoles.
Battlefield 4: Obliteration
During our quick trip to see DICE in Stockholm, we had a chance to play a new game mode – Obliteration – on a Paracel Storm – a new map based in the seas south of China.
The map is reminiscent of Battlefield 1943’s Coral Sea map – it’s made up of a number of small islands, meaning you have to swim, or find transport across between them.
There’s also a large warship anchored just off the coast, which will come crashing into the island mid-game under certain circumstances. We can’t say exactly what circumstances, as we weren’t shown, but the latest Gamescom trailer seems to indicate something storm-based.
Obliteration is a new game type where both teams have to defend three objectives from each other. A single bomb spawns somewhere on the map, and the teams must get the bomb, then plant it and detonate it at an enemies objective. It’s frantic, and on a map like Paracel Storm, it’s tough. Vehicles and teamwork are both obligatory if you want to win (a.k.a. welcome to Battlefield).
Battlefield 4: Verdict
Battlefield 4 lives and dies on its multiplayer and all the signs are here that DICE should have another hit on its hands.
The gameplay hasn’t really changed all that significantly since the last iteration, but between the new environment transforming mechanics, the Commander mode, Battlescreen and an evolution of Battlelog, Battlefield 4 feels like a step forward for the franchise. Lock and load for the online war this November…
Battlefield 4 release date: 1 November 2013
Battlefield 4 price: From £38.00 (on PC on amazon)
Additional reporting by Pete Dreyer