Battlefield 4 Review: Bipolar Warfare
Battlefield 4 is a game that’s equal parts exhilarating and frustrating.
First person shooters are the Hollywood blockbusters of the gaming world. They feature enough guns, explosions, and competitive gameplay to excite the majority of teens and college-aged dudes, and Battlefield 4 is no different because the men and women at DICE are determined to top their competition with more spectacle than ever before. In the first 20 minutes of Battlefield 4's campaign, your four-man squad will go up against and decimate dozens of armed soldiers, ascend a building under siege from a missile-launching helicopter, survive the predictable crumble of said building, and cut off one of your squad mate's squashed legs. And that's nothing to what follows in the rest of the ridiculous single player campaign.
But who are we kidding? You don't play Battlefield games for the single player, which this time around features an muddled story peppered with extravagant set pieces. I hate to almost completely dismiss what DICE undoubtedly put a lot of effort into, but you won't get much out of the campaign aside from some impressive imagery and a way to brush up on your Battlefield skills. In fact, I'm certain many players who pick up Battlefield 4 won't even touch the campaign. We're all here to participate in massive battles packed with dozens of players, tanks, helicopters, fighter jets, and crumbling buildings, after all.
I'm glad to say Battlefield's trademark multiplayer remains intact. You'll still choose from four classes after each respawn, including the anti-vehicle Engineer and the sniper rifle-wielding Recon soldier. In the classic Conquest mode, you'll be placed in a squad of five amidst a battle with up to 64 players on PC (32 on consoles). Every map has four control points to fight over, and the team that controls the majority of these objectives drains the other teams tickets, which work as a set number of lives per match. Tickets also go down with each death on either team. This all comes together to create one of the most exciting multiplayer modes around. While Battlefield 4 does include a total of seven game modes, including staples like Team Deathmatch, you'll find most people are interested in playing Conquest, and for good reason.
Common sights in a Conquest match–or any other game mode featuring vehicles, really–are a fighter jets soaring overhead as dozens of enemy soldiers charge at you behind a wall of tanks and light assault vehicles. As you defend your control point under the onslaught, it becomes an exhilarating experience to pop enemy soldiers or hop in an assault helicopter to gain an advantage. The sound design works wonders here, immersing you with gunshots whizzing by your head as planes thunder overhead. Because Battlefield 4 controls just as well as every other modern first-person shooter (aside from the series' infamously difficult aircraft controls), Conquest becomes one of two key strengths which set the game apart from its peers. The other strength is how every map in Battlefield changes as you play. Towers will topple and walls explode open, leaving new paths to control points and an ever changing battlefield. This allows the handful of maps to stay fresh and keeps lengthier matches from growing stale.
However, that's only when all the pieces work together. You may find getting the game running to be more difficult than it should be. Server troubles plague the online service, and with such huge battles taking place, the threat of lag and instability is ever present. Some matches run smoothly, and others stagger along. Many matches crash before they start or in mid-battle. Some matches can run upwards of an hour in length, so it's especially frustrating when the game freezes mid-snipe or just minutes away from victory.
Like many other multiplayer focused games, the enjoyment you get out of each match depends on how good your team is. If you don't happen to have dedicated friends to play with, every Battlefield 4 match runs the risk of a lopsided fight. Playing the lone wolf yields little success in most Battlefield 4 game modes because of the sheer amount of opposing players. And for all the praise I heap onto Conquest mode, it's unlikely that once a team begins losing they'll make a come back. This, of course, gives victory a superficial feel. On the plus side, the wealth of weapons, gear, and upgrades to unlock means you'll find a lot to keep going back for, even if you don't care if your team wins or loses.
I felt bipolar playing Battlefield 4 at times. One minute, it's an exhilarating online experience, but in the next it becomes a frustrating mess. Most of the frustration can be blamed on server troubles and other bugs, but a good chunk of it stems from the foundation of Battlefield and how it plays. Friends to play with become almost a necessity to make the most out of Battlefield 4 because it's unlikely you'll get a lot out of the single player campaign, and it's even more unlikely you'll consistently roll a good team to play with. Be that as it may, when all the pieces fit together, Battlefield 4 transports you into the midst of intense warfare like no other game can.
7 out of 10
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.