Few franchises approach the same level of destructibility and gunfire as the Battlefield games. This primarily PC-centric series has been one of the highlights of multiplayer gaming every year a new title is released, although those limited to consoles haven’t been able to enjoy the full Battlefield experience until now. Thanks to the release of two new, powerful consoles, Battlefield 4 is finally as fully-featured as it has been on PC for years, complete with some pleasant and unexpected improvements.
The biggest problem with DICE’s previous Battlefield title was its shoehorned single-player campaign that seemed so cobbled together in both level design and narrative that it was hard to take seriously. While Battlefield 4’s solo sessions aren’t going to light the world on fire, they manage to include the one thing the last game sorely lacked: open environments. Most of the game’s missions take place in larger environments absolutely full of enemies, some complete with vehicles and some of the other standbys you would otherwise find in the multiplayer. This alone is a huge breath of fresh air.
Sure, the campaign still forces you down very specific paths and its narrative is messy, but this is the game’s biggest and most surprising improvement. Enemy AI, while not exactly the smartest on the planet, manages to put up a good enough fight to make each encounter feel meaningful. There are some missions that drag on way too long, especially those that limit the scope of the campaign back down to narrow corridors, but generally, it never felt like a slog unlike DICE’s previous efforts. If you’re not into military shooters, Battlefield 4’s single-player component won’t win you over, but for those looking for a decent solo experience will find some enjoyment here.
Of course, you’re never going to pick up a Battlefield game to play alone. The series always has been and probably always will be about its large-scale multiplayer modes. Thankfully, those without decent gaming PCs are finally in luck: both new consoles’ versions of the game feature the same exact multiplayer modes, maps and options as the PC version, making it the first time a proper game in the series has made a successful transition to consoles.
The modes you know and love are all here: the gigantic Conquest mode, featuring the series’ biggest and most destructible maps, as well as the smaller (yet still satisfying) Rush and Team Deathmatch modes. Unlike a lot of competitive shooters, teamwork is essential, especially considering the sizes of each team and the large maps you have to traverse in order to complete objectives. No matter what your role is, whether it’s leading the assault into enemy territory, supporting your squad by reviving them or taking to the skies in a helicopter, you’re almost always guaranteed to have a good time.
Map destructibility has always been a huge part of the recent Battlefield games, and it works better than ever here. You will quickly learn that any piece of cover you find, including large buildings, can be destroyed within seconds with the right amount of effort, making sure you stay mobile as much as possible. There are few things more satisfying than taking down an enemy’s cover, as well as an entire building, with a tank on the way to completing an objective. The vehicles, and there are a lot of vehicles, are just as destructible and easy to take down if you’re not careful. I’ll never forget finally destroying that helicopter that was taunting our team for half a match and watching it crash into a building the enemy team was taking shelter in. Moments like these are what make Battlefield such a memorable multiplayer experience.
The newest mode is Obliteration, which features two teams and a single bomb to capture and plant in the opponent’s different bases. This mode is never going to replace the classics, yet it adds yet another compelling take on the Battlefield formula. During certain situations, the firefights become downright chaotic as teams huddle up in certain areas desperate to grab the bomb and make a run for it. Some of the smaller maps turn this mode into a bit of a slaughterhouse, which can become tedious, but in most situations it’s still an exciting alternative to the game’s more popular options and an excellent addition.
If you’re not as into the game’s grander modes and maps, there are a couple of smaller options available, including Squad Deathmatch, a mode that pits four tiny teams against one another, and Domination, a lower-player count version of Conquest. These modes don’t highlight what makes Battlefield unique among the rest of the competitive multiplayer shooters around, yet they still manage to entertain during those shorter game sessions.
Unfortunately, if you’re playing the game on PS4, you may be limited to the smaller modes for the time being. The PC version runs perfectly and, in my experience, never had any problems with any modes or maps. The PS4 version, however, is suffering from some serious connectivity issues. Getting into Conquest matches is almost impossible, while some of the smaller modes, such as Rush or Obliteration, have some stability issues leading to games dropping entirely. These problems are being ironed out and, as of this review, seem to be steadily improving, yet it’s still an unfortunate problem for those looking to jump into the game’s otherwise-fantastic multiplayer.
Once again, DICE proves it is the team to beat when it comes to crafting magnificent and addictive competitive multiplayer. The single-player campaign is still problematic, yet it also manages to make several key improvements that turn it from a mediocre experience not worth trudging through into something that’s actually enjoyable. If you’re looking for a new multiplayer shooter to keep you busy for months to come, you can’t go wrong with Battlefield 4.
Pros: Improved campaign, fantastic visuals, brilliantly-designed multiplayer
Cons: Campaign still drags at times, PS4 multiplayer connectivity issues