Here at EF we play a lot of games but we don’t often have time to revisit them as there are always new games to check out. Battlefield 3 is one game that we’ve been unable to put down and even two years after release we still made time for it every single week. We’re not going to be able to find the time any more thanks to the release of Battlefield 4.
The Battlefield 4 singleplayer campaign is easier to follow than the story told via flashbacks in Battlefield 3. You play as US Marine Sgt. Daniel Recker who is a member of Tombstone squad. The story is set some years after Battlefield 3, the US and Russia are at war and it’s looking likely that China are about to join in too.
You spend most of the campaign fighting alongside your other squad members. A new addition is that you can issue commands to your squad. To do so you simply need to look at an enemy and tap the left shoulder button to tell them to attack. It makes you feel like you’re part of a team and in control of how encounters play out. However it can be frustrating to see your squad sat waiting for you to tell them everything they must do.
Decent singleplayer campaigns seem to be a dying breed and Battlefield 4 does little to change that as it’s all so straight forward and incredibly linear. It will keep you busy for around six hours as you tackle variations on missions you’ve seen before in other games. These are packed full of spectacular set-pieces which are enough to keep you playing.
It seems to only exist as a way of showcasing the Frostbite 3 engine but there is fun to be had while it lasts. The quality of the character models and animation is staggering and we don’t think there is anything that comes close to Frostbite 3 at the moment. Once you’ve played through it you are likely to only revisit it to get the achievements that you missed.
Like with Battlefield 3 the multiplayer component of the game is the main event and the reason to play the game. Battlefield 3 vets will quickly feel at home but there are plenty of subtle differences as well as many enhancements to the gameplay.
At launch there are 10 brand new maps to play on each designed for up to 64 players. If you’re playing on Xbox 360 or PS3 then you can only play with up to 24 players like on Battlefield 3. The maps are some of the best we’ve seen from DICE and they really are huge in scale. This becomes a slight problem on Xbox 360 and PS3 as the maps can feel a little empty at times with the reduced player count.
One of the biggest new features of the multiplayer maps on Battlefield 4 has been given its own buzz word – Levolution. It makes us cringe every time we hear it but the concept is actually really cool. It takes destructible environments to the next level with the inclusion of game-changing events. These include small things like turning the power off to a building and raising bollard to block vehicles to destroying a dam and bringing a whole skyscraper down.
Another new feature is Commander mode which allows one player on each team to issue attack and defend orders. This is done via a tactical map that shows the whole battlefield from above. It can be frustrating with a group of strangers but when used properly with friends it is incredibly satisfying. Squads that do as you command unlock commander assets that you can use to help the team.
Vehicles have always been an important feature in Battlefield and there are plenty to choose from. In addition to tanks, jeeps, jets and helicopters there is now a big focus on amphibious assault craft too. Zooming around the water in the new attack boats is brilliant fun.
Favourite modes from Battlefield 3 return including Conquest, Rush, Squad and Team Deathmatch. In addition there are three new game modes – Obliteration, Domination and Defuse. Obliteration has teams fighting over randomly spawned bombs in order to plant them at the three enemy bomb sites. Domination is a Conquest-style mode for small scale infantry combat. Finally Defuse has an attacking team trying to place a bomb on the bomb sites belonging to the defending team.
Squad sizes have been increased from four to five players. This allows for more team work within a squad as well as giving you more options on the classes you take to battle. Battlefield 3’s specialisation system has been dropped in favour of a Battlefield 2142 style field upgrade system. Squads that work together and stay alive can unlock perks making them more effective. Each class has access to four upgrade paths – two shared and two unique. Playing as a squad is most rewarding when playing with friends.
Once again there is an incredible choice of guns and attachments on offer and what you choose will depend upon your play style. This time around there is a bigger choice of grenade types featuring frag, impact, smoke, flares, flashbangs, incendiary and even smaller grenades too. Other new features include Battle Pickups where players can get their hands on powerful weapons if they find them during battle. If carrying a compact weapon you can now also take more advantage of cover which allows you to just lean and peek around corners or over objects.
One of the most addictive things about Battlefield 3 was sneaking up on an enemy (ideally a friend) and taking them out with your combat knife. Doing so rewarded you with a set of dog tags and endless bragging rights. In Battlefield 4 this makes a welcome return but with the right timing you can now execute a counter-knife move when attacked from the front. This is tough to do but hilarious when you pull it off against one of your mates.
Everything you do in multiplayer is tracked and translated into XP and equipment unlocks. This is all available for you to check out via the BattleLog website and there are apps available for iOS and Android. One thing that made Battlefield 3 so successful was the DLC and extra features provided by Battlefield Premium. These are all planned for Battlefield 4 and players who take Premium will be fed new content on a weekly basis.
Battlefield 4 builds on the solid foundations of Battlefield 3 while tweaking, improving and polishing everything. We would have like to see a better campaign but it’s still an impressive game that delivers one of the best multiplayer experiences around. Frostbite 3 is a staggering achievement and the game looks fantastic on Xbox 360 and PS3. The best way to play is currently PC but that is about to change with the imminent arrival of Xbox One and PS4 – we hope to bring you a next-gen review in the near future so stay tuned.