Other publications may have rushed out their review on this giant title, but here at GD we have learned that certain games need a little more time to settle in or to show their enduring problems. Like a patient sniper we wait and watched Battlefield 4 emerge from the undergrowth. With our keen eye we are looking to see if the game stumbles from server crashes and graphical glitches or manages to stand bravely against the onslaught of competing FPS opposition.
It's been almost a month since the release of the latest installment in the iconic Battlefield series and only now is it a good time to give you the review that can help tell fellow gamers know who should buy this game and who should avoid it.
Single Player Battlefield 4
Let's kick off with the BF4 single-player campaign that gives the same vibe and impression as that experienced in Battlefield 3's campaign.
And that impression is one of a TV commercial. A commercial where the actor talks for far too long, throws one liner clichés at the viewer, while beautiful images explode onto our retinas. The campaign seems to serve a greater, and very ironic purpose to make you want to buy the game. Thankfully, that's where the metaphor ends. Because despite these shortcomings the campaign was actually quite enjoyable to play. The game feels refined and slicker than its predecessor.
DICE wanted to introduce more of the Battlefield multi-player experience into the single-player campaign, with the perfect example of this being an introduction to the role of squad leader. As Squad Leader you have the ability to give orders to your fellow squad members, which provides you with something of a strategic element, as you run through an otherwise linear single player experience. Alas, this update to the single player BF4 campaign largely fails as there is no noticeable improvement in the AI. Enemies yet again ignore your grenades, and your squad members are still of barely any help, except for the times you remember you can boss them around, or when their actions are scripted to a certain event.
The BF4 single-player also lacks any depth of choice when it comes to options for completing a level. Each mission still consists of killing every enemy in it, and the only choice offered is at the very end of the campaign, which means it has no real impact on the events of the story. It's a bit of a shame that Battlefield keeps attempting to plant its flag on top of the "most innovative game of the year" year after year, but in reality fails to keep up with other titles that manage to succeed in this department.
In short, don't get your wallet out for the BF4 single player campaign, even though it is a relatively fun experience. The single-player levels are linear, events are heavily scripted and the overall plot lacks depth and player choice.
Playing Battlefield 4 Multiplayer
But, as we all know, single-player Battlefield is always the least important aspect of the game and the same is true for BF4. So let's take a look at the Battlefield 4 multi-player experience to see if you should pull out your wallet for this First Person Shooter, or if you ignore the latest version of Battlefield.
Well I am afraid that first impressions can't be described as anything other than just "disappointing".
Battlefield 4 multiplayer crashes. A lot. It tends to crash during loading. It can randomly crash during the actual session. And most annoyingly it certainly can crash just before the end of a session. Just like Battlefield 3, one of the things to keep you interested in gaming online is the levelling system and the rewards that come with it. And while you gather experience points during the session for killing opponents, capturing points, or other challenges, the system only really accredits you those points at the end of the session. So that means that if you have been working your butt off for half an hour, only for the game to crash on you near the end, you lose all you've worked for in that time. Something which, I think we can all agree on, is pretty damn frustrating.
We don't always have a lot of time during a week to grab some quality gaming time; long work days, seemingly longer commutes, household chores etc. So when we boot up a game like Battlefield 4 for some quick fun, that's exactly what we expect from it. I want it to be fun, and I want to get to that fun quickly. Much to my disappointment, I have learned that wanting to play with some friends that happen to be online isn't the quickest, nor the most fun way to play this game.
Battlefield 3 could really have used significant improvements in this area and yet Battlefield 4 seems to have addressed none of those connectivity/social issues. Time and time again you are dropped into a different squad or even a different team from your real life buddies, who you want to run and gun alongside. Meaning the automatic team sorting system is still a joke. Getting you paired up with a friend is a struggle, someone with as little time as myself shouldn't have to go through. For a game that relies so much on its multiplayer experience you would imagine this is what they would focus on, isn't it?
Simply put, what I wanted from BF4 after my Battlefield 3 experience, and didn't get, was:
- An easy way to invite friends into your party via Battlelog and could therefore easily enjoy a multiplayer session
- A voice chat system for a Battlelog party. Right now, Steam or Skype are still your best bets for an easy and successful voice chat conversation.
- Keeping the Battlelog party together as a squad for actually playing a multi-player level.
The most fun I had playing this game was clicking the "Quick Match" button in Battlelog, finding the squad that seems to be working together the best (green dots fairly close to each other instead of scattered across the map) and be a part of the squad.
The levelling system hasn't changed much, nor have the rewards for levelling. And it didn't need to. It still gives a sense of accomplishment to unlock new weapons and gadgets, and the addition of Battlepacks that are essentially pre-packed groups of rewards is a welcome one. Also new in comparison to Battlefield 3 is the re-introduction of the Commander Mode. It is a feature that was last seen in Battlefield 2142 but has been removed since. But now in BF4 Commander Mode is back and improved. The commander has a strategic role that effects the entire team. Directing squads to attack or defend certain key points on the map, while bombarding the enemy with cruise missiles and EMP blasts AND still being able to play as a regular soldier on the map.
Other improvement for the multi-player section is that a squad can now have 5 members again, like in BF2, instead of only the 4 in BF3. Maps can contain up to 64 players in total (even for the next gen console versions of the game) and the destructible maps are even more... well, destructible.
So, setting aside my grievances towards the crashes, and the difficulties of getting a party of friends together, I have to admit, letting loose among the BF4 multiplayer battles on my own was a lot of fun and satisfying.
Battlefield 4 Graphics
As one of the graphical gaming giants of the year, Battlefield 4 deserves a dedicated graphics mention. We saw a large amount of what made Battlefield look great in the previous BF3 version but it's easy to say that BF4 has moved forward and still looks great. Really great.
During my time in-game I have heard Battlefield 4 visuals being compared to Crysis 3 on more than one occasion. Upon hearing that I revisited Crysis 3 to check, and while I wouldn't go as far as to say Battlefield 4 multi-player looks as stunning as the graphical behemoth that is Crysis 3, but it does get close, and that's saying a lot.
Compared to Battlefield 3, if that is more of a reference for you, this sequel looks much better. And whether you are playing on low or maxing it out, the visuals are nothing to complain about.
Most of the BF4 complaints come from performance issues though. These include graphical glitches, floating graphics and random frame rate drops. Over a month after its release and BF4 has had its first DLC called China Rising and yet the game is still not the stable experience we would expect from such a big hitting title.
If you have a low end rig, be sure to check the requirements on the GD the game page and ask for opinions. Whereas if you think you can max it out I suggest the same because BF4 is not always delivering a balanced performance across all rigs.
If my rig is a good reference point for you, I have here the benchmark results. Taken on the 19th of November, 16 days after the release, and with the latest drivers, on the maximum settings, during a multiplayer game session.
Minimum Frame Rate For Battlefield 4: 33 Frames Per Second
Average Frame Rate For Battlefield 4: 53.5 Frames Per Second
Maximum Frame Rate For Battlefield 4: 95 Frames Per Second
Should You Buy Battlefield 4
When the game gets going, and you are not being instantly killed by rockets shot by an invisible commander from the other side of the map and you are in a cohesive, well balanced Squad, that is receiving coherent direction from your own commander, the game is pure bliss. If you then manage to play alongside your real world buddies and the shonky Battelog system doesn't crash you to desktop 30 seconds from the end of a round then it is easy to advise you to grab a copy, because multi-player shooting does not get much better than this. On the other hand, if all that stuff goes wrong, you can quickly lose an hour of your life and be wondering why you are trying to play this pile of crap. And that is unfortunately the gaming lottery we are faced with.