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Battlefield 4 Review - Only in Battlefield

Justin Clouse | 4 Nov 2013 23:00
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Battlefield 4 Screenshot 5

Multiplayer however is a whole other game practically, and it's honest what most folks will be buying the game for. Battlefield 4 is without a doubt the best large scale multiplayer shooter experience around. For the current gen consoles, 24 other players, which works on some maps and modes, but it does sometimes feel a little anemic and lonely compared to the chaos that is 64 on the PC and next gen consoles.

Battlefield is at its best on big open maps, with just enough structures and cover so that infantry don't get murdered by tanks and helicopters all the time, and most of Battlefield 4's better maps adhere to this formula. The best of the maps use a cunning mixture of indoor and outdoor sections with some stunning verticality as well. You can have frantic point-blank firefights while jets zip around outside, until a tank busts through the wall. There's also a well-needed increased emphasis on combat on the water, rather than it just being an obstacle to get to the ground combat. New attack boats can quickly bring a lot of firepower to an area, and many of the control points are conveniently close enough to be captured while still on the water.

Map destruction is on full display in Battlefield 4, whether it's simply blowing a hole in the wall with a grenade launcher to kill someone on the other side or engaging the map's "Levolution". The Levolutions are events that can be triggered on the map that have major effects on the landscape, though there's also a increased number of smaller interactions - like raising barriers to block off vehicles or metal detectors warning you of enemies passing through them The Levolutions range from gimmicky and forced to having some actually significant impact on the map, like on the Siege of Shanghai map. More important than the spectacle of dropping a whole skyscraper after the first few times you see it is the effect it has on the control point. Once the defenders dig in on top of the tower, it's pretty hard to wrest control away when you only have helicopters and elevators to get up there. So collapsing the tower, or likewise defending it from being knocked down, becomes an interesting angle to that map and your strategy.

Managing your team's strategy, and returning from Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142, is the commander role. Each team can have one player taking themselves out of the fight in order to get a bigger picture of the action. The commander will need to allocate supply drops and radar sweeps to assist squads defending objectives while also helping to assault another control point with missile attacks or sending a gunship to loiter overhead that team mates can spawn into, bringing its heavy firepower to online. When it all comes together it's an incredibly enjoyable experience, and getting hooked in with a good squad on a good team will make you want to sit there for hours on end.

The core gameplay is otherwise intact with a few new, or retreaded, modifications to enhance it. Battlefield 4 retains much of the heavy customization that was found in Battlefield 3. Your weapons can be finely tuned with modifications and sights to suit your particular play style. The developers have also moved towards defining the classes more by the gadgets they can carry into combat and less so by their primary weapon. DMRs, carbines and other unlocked weapon classes can be fitted to give a soldier a hybrid or middle ground feel. If you'd like your Recon to be more of a scout than a sniper, you can modify your loadout.

Further refining your customization and reinforcing squad-based tactics are the field upgrades. Field upgrades are an unlocked path of perks that raises and lowers during gameplay based on how your squad is playing together. Reviving your squad mates and accomplishing objectives together will unlock little advantages for you based on your selection - combat medics heal better, offensive characters run faster, etc. You can however lose your progress through actions like the whole squad being wiped out. The whole system gives a subtle edge to the team that's working together better, incentivizing squads instead of solo lone-wolf, without throwing the balance off too far.

There have been a few out-of-the-gate issues with XP bonuses not applying, crashing and server browsing, but most of these have been addressed or Dice is at least aware of the problem. The only other time the multiplayer really runs into problems is the occasional mismatches between the various game types and maps. For instance, playing Infantry Only on a map that has you spawning out on the ship turns the first defense point into shooting fish in the barrel for defenders as you have no vehicles to safely transport your over and Obliteration, a tug of war based mode that involves moving a single bomb to enemy control points, is a real drag to play on a specific map that can be flooded, all but forcing the act of moving the bomb forward into a stand still.

Battlefield 4 is certainly grand. The scale and freedom in the gameplay makes for some truly unique and unscripted moments. Whether it's parachuting out of helicopter to knife a sniper, crashing a tank through a barricade only to have you run up and blow it sky high with C4 or ramming your boat onto the beach and squashing some poor dude in the process, each little moment is pure grin-inducing fun.

Bottom line: As Battlefield 4 takes over carrying the flag for its franchise it comes with much the same baggage as the last iteration. The multiplayer is as amazing as it's ever been, but it continues to be saddled with a sore excuse for a campaign.

Recommendation: The chaos, spectacle and customization all mixed together make Battlefield 4 the best multiplayer shooter out right now. "Only in Battlefield" couldn't be more apt.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Game: Battlefield 4
Genre: Shooter
Developer: DICE (Digital Illusions)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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