Award winning multiplayer, disappointingly mundane singleplayer and a large number of necessary patches. EA and Dice ported Battlefield 4 onto the next generation of consoles with a veritable plethora of bugs, crashes, instabilities and many a vicious forum. Now that the dust of war has settled around everyone’s feet, let’s see how it holds up now that most of the issues have been addressed.
Having not been an enormous fan of Battlefield 4’s singleplayer experience on the last gen, due to it’s largely uneventful and predictable plot it still managed to surprise me how much power they squeezed out of the PS3 and Xbox 360. It looked fantastic, lighting and explosions were almost no match for the infamous Battlefield audio effects; crackling, recoil heavy gunfire only surpassed by the oxymoronic clear thud of a grenades impact. Whilst the overall effect on PS3 felt muted by dull colours, some bland textures, somewhat stiff facial and character animations, the PS4’s brute strength gives it that attention to detail that was sorely missed before. From a distance it’s better, up close it’s a different game.
It’s still a shame to see, for a series so well established in creating huge, open maps, the single player portions being choked down narrow corridors and funnelled through non-interactive areas of the map. The only time you do get to stretch your legs, is ironically, the tank piloting section, of which you can do yourself a favour/disadvantage and hotfoot it across open terrain with a palm full of C4, grimacing and hoping the AI doesn’t decide to insta-kill you. An interesting alternative would be to completely restructure the way missions are done, and set it in an open world environment, letting you drive to missions or request air support for cover or extraction. It may never work, but the way first person shooters are headed now, they’ll be no discernable reason to include single player anymore; despite their shortcomings, would be a very sad day.
For better or worse, Battlefield relies upon it’s multiplayer to captivate and conquer the masses. Whilst there isn’t a world of difference between the singleplayer portions on both current and last gen, the multiplayer is where the shock and awe lies. Gone are the days of scoping in, squinting, deciding ‘it’s just a rock’, only to get sniped in the back by an indistinguishable pebble. Gone are the days of low player counts, awful grass textures and sea that looks like wobbly concrete. Here are the days that bring eye popping hurricanes, 64 player matches, high frame rates and sea so choppy you’ll need a pocket full of Fisherman’s Friends.
The difference in fidelity between PS3 and PS4 is astounding, just loading up the test range gives you an idea in quality difference. No longer do maps feel barren and like a wasteland, scores of vehicles roar towards each other, battles include numbers of tanks that when spotted, feel intimidating for the lowly engineer. Before, seeing a tank slowly meandering it’s way towards you looked like free points, now, with a dominating team, a squadron of armour with accompanying air support looks like hell.
Returning to Battlefield 4 is the often intimidating, always cool, commander mode, downloadable on tablets for both Android and Apple it let’s you take the hotseat and see how much of a pretend commander badass you really are. Organising UAV’s, supply drops and countering enemy intelligence is all par for the fast paced course. Whilst difficult to get into, there are plenty of tutorials out there to help you get organising your platoon in a timely fashion. Just don’t expect people to always listen to you…
The connection, considering the potential 64 player mayhem on maps so large it embarrasses other shooters, is very good. Although, taking into account the mostly aggressive recoil, destructible environments and huge verticality, knowing whether or not you’ve been diddled a few bullets would be difficult at the best of times. I would still like to see a first person killcam for those incredulous moments when you just don’t have a clue what happened however.
Many of the issues that plagued both the last gen release and the pre-patch release of Battlefield 4 on PS4 still fundamentally haunt my experience. Fortunately, the list of improvements is ever expanding, as is the content being offered via DLC. Whilst other multi-platform games offer little other than a graphical overhaul, Battlefield adds more players, larger, more detailed maps and the true Battlefield experience.
Reviewed on PS4, also available on Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.