Battlefield 4 - EAs blockbuster fragfest/demolition simulator is better than ever and we put it through its paces on the Xbox 360...
Battlefield 3 is still one of EAs most successful games of all time, selling over 5 million copies in its debut week. But if 5 million sounds like a lot to you, bear this in mind - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 launched alongside Battlefield 3, and sold 6.5 million units in 24 hours.
When we visited DICE in Stockholm a few months ago, we were promised a game that that would take shooters to the next generation…
This was of course referring to the next generation version of Battlefield 4 - a version we have played but not extensively enough for review just yet. We will be adding our impressions of the PC version in the coming days but for now, the current gen version is in our sights (played on the Xbox 360).
Clearly, Battlefield 4 is a game designed with PC, Xbox One and PS4 in mind. If you're not planning on investing in any of those platforms anytime soon, is the current gen version still worth picking up? Lets take a look.
Battlefield 4: Campaign
As you'd expect the single player mode is - at best - the cherry on top of an online multiplayer cake. And as cherries go, this one is enjoyable, but you'll probably forget you ate it shortly after.
It opens up with the 'Fishing in Baku' mission that we were treated to at E3 and carries on along the same theme for a good 4-5 hours of gameplay. Some will complain that 5 hours isn't substantial enough for a single player mode, others will complain that they have to play it for the achievements so… potato potahto. You can't have your cherry and eat it, guys.
The gameplay is fun, but it's eminently forgettable. The wall-to-wall scripted, set-piece action template for shooters has been around since Call of Duty 4 now, and it's starting to feel a little tired.
The enemy AI does some really dumb stuff sometimes, even on higher difficulty levels. We've seen enemies run past us, and through our squad untouched, before turning and firing on us. We guess that counts as flanking but we don't think you'll find that one in any tactical manuals.
Battlefield 4's campaign is far from threadbare, but we expect most people won't feel the need to bother playing it, and more will only play it to get the achievements. Give it a go - you might like it.
Battlefield 4: Graphics
We will update with our impressions of the next-gen versions and PC version of the game when we have a chance to properly play them.
The Xbox 360 version we tested looks surprisingly good. When we tested Crysis 3, the drop off between the gorgeous PC version and the console version was huge, with texture pop, draw distance issues and all sorts.
By comparison, Battlefield 4 still looks great on console. Obviously, it doesn't hold a candle to the next gen and PC versions of the game - the textures aren't super-detailed and environments still look quite bare at long distance (more noticeable in multiplayer than campaign) but aside from that, this is as good looking a game as you'll find on current gen. DICE - we tip our hats to you.
Battlefield 4: Multiplayer
The multiplayer is Battlefield 4's bread and butter. This is why the majority will buy it, and it's the area that DICE had to get right at all costs.
Firstly, the official servers are back - which is fantastic news. The guys at DICE told us they'd be ensuring that there are servers supporting standard game types, which will hopefully avoid the private server issues that plagued Battlefield 3 near the end of its lifespan.
The usual mix of large-scale combat is not dissimilar to Battlefield 3 really, which is to say that it's still incredibly good fun. On Xbox 360 and PS3, the action supports a maximum of 24 players at 30FPS, whilst the PC, Xbox One and PS4 versions stretch all the way up to 64 players in a single game, all running at a healthy 60FPS.
Although we'll have to wait for the next-gen versions to give the new tablet-based Commander Mode a real test, the other major game changer is present and correct on all versions of the game. It's a concept DICE is calling 'Levolution' - in essence, the evolution of a map during a game.
For example, you can level a huge skyscraper in downtown Shanghai, totally changing the terrain and causing a vision-impairing dust cloud. Bursting a levee on the Flood Zone map turns an urban warzone into a maze of treacherous canals. As a match progresses on Paracel Storm, the skies darken and waves pick up as a storm hits the island, eventually wrenching a battleship from its anchor and crashing it into the mainland.
If we have one criticism, it's that a lot of these Levolution moments don't feel entirely natural. Like the single player, as incredible as these moments are they can feel a little scripted at times.
Most of them require specific targeting of an area to trigger the moment, whereas we suspect the idea is to create a battlefield that changes naturally due to the chaos within it.
That's a tiny gripe though really, and will probably be far less evident after a few weeks when everyone calms down a bit and just plays the game. And for the record, we think the maps in Battlefield 4 - complete with Levolution moments - are some of the best maps we've ever seen in a shooter.
On top of this, there's still a massive range of weapons, vehicles and gadgets to mess around with. All in all, it's the best multiplayer experience Battlefield has ever delivered. And it's only going to get better with Xbox One and PS4.
Battlefield 4: Verdict
If JJ Abrams and Michael Bay had an illegitimate love child, it would look a lot like Battlefield 4. When you're not blinded by rainbow lens flare, you're running through collapsing skyscrapers and earth-shaking explosions. If that's not what you wanted, you're probably in the wrong place. And you should probably come back for our imminent Call of Duty Ghosts review.
This is the best Battlefield DICE has ever made. Everything that makes the franchise great has been kept intact, or improved on in some way. Yes, the single player is a little lacklustre, but it does little to take away from the overall quality of the game.
Add in the superb additions made - mind-blowing Levolution moments, the second-screen tablet features coming to the next gen consoles and the stunning graphical performance, and Battlefield 4 is undoubtedly the FPS to buy right now.
Battlefield 4 release date: Out now
Battlefield 4 price: £40