The Battlefield series has a long standing history, specifically on the PC. It was once a niche experience, molded for those with the desire to experience a more realistic dose of military combat. It's hard to think that the series once lacked any single player campaign; It was all about the online combat. Now, with the popularity of other first-person military games; EA and Dice have refined what we know as Battlefield to make it more appealing to the mainstream audience.
In theory that may seem like a bad thing. However, this transition all began with Battlefield 3, and I consider that to be one of the best military shooter experiences in the past two years. Now we're introduced to Battlefield 4, which is trying so hard to improve upon what Battlefield 3 introduced. Sadly Battlefield 4 has suffered from rocky beginnings, and as a result it struggles to push the limits on what Battlefield 3 has already done for the genre.
Battlefield 4 features a campaign mode, and aside from the performance of Boardwalk Empire star Michael K. Williams it's dully uninteresting. Sure there's some exciting set-piece moments that are sure to raise your pulses, but aside from that it gets boring after the first three stages. It's also short enough to run through in a few hours, assuming you're a good shooter. This shouldn't really come as a surprise though, as it's safe to assume you're buying Battlefield 4 for the multiplayer. In this game, the campaign is just an extra.
Much of what makes Battlefield 4 appealing across the board is that now console gamers will get to experience it much like PC gamers do. Battlefield 4 will support 64 players on consoles, so now the maps won't feel as open and empty as previously to those playing on the platforms. Not only that, but the next-gen consoles will ensure that console gamers get to see the game with all its polish. Battlefield 4 is every bit as beautiful as its predecessor, if not more-so. If you're on a high end system you'll really reap the benefits by playing it on ultra.
There are some excellent maps in Battlefield 4, many of them giving snipers the advantage. Thankfully there are two things to help balance this out and keep the snipers on the defence. Firstly there's the destruction that Battlefield has been known for. Vehicles allow you to collapse recon friendly buildings and structures, and air vehicles allow you to get up high and obliterate campers.
Then there's "Levolution" which introduces catastrophic changes to the environment. Each of the 10 maps provide criteria that must be met to initiate these changes. Once Levolution kicks in, you have little choice but to switch up your strategy to take advantage of the changes. Surprisingly, the highly promoted skyscraper collapse on the Siege of Shanghai map is one of the more lackluster of the Levolution catastrophes; mainly because it does little to actually alter the balance of the game. A better example would be Flood Zone, as it encourages the use of boats once the map becomes a giant swamp. Swimming will leave you incredibly vulnerable, so you better be utilizing either a boat or one of the tall buildings if you want to stay alive.
In addition to the more popular game-modes in Battlefield such as Conquest and Rush; two new modes are introduced in Battlefield 4; Obliteration and Defuse. While the two modes aren't exactly appealing to me personally, they will suit those who like to participate in fast paced objective based gameplay. Both modes are focused around bombing the opposing team, with Obliteration forcing players to battle for control over an explosive device which they must arm at the enemies base. Defuse however allows both teams to take turns attacking and defending. Both modes play well, but they may end up being short lived to long-term veterans of Conquest.
Another benefit of sticking with Conquest is being able to witness the new commander mode in affect. It's not exactly new; as commander mode has been in older Battlefield titles, but its new in the sense of how it's been implemented. Once you hit level 10 you're able to jump into a game as a commander from either your PC or console. But the real excitement comes from the ability to command from your tablet device via a downloadable app.
Once a commander is online they are able to issue objectives to their team via the tactical map. Not only that but they can warn of incoming enemies, highlight enemies for attack and send in supplies or vehicles. Commanders are also able to highlight opposing players with high kill streaks, and if the team responds by taking them out they are rewarded with high score boosts. Commanders can affect the success of a team in a big way. You'll often find that the winning team ends up being the one with the most logical commander. Thankfully players are given the opportunity to fire a useless commander, and this helps balance things out for those who suffer from a less experienced commander.
It can be upsetting for those who are trying out the mode for the first time, but the upside is that there will be plenty of opportunities to try the mode out as there are usually servers dedicated to newer players.
You always fell well rewarded in Battlefield 4. Much of this is because the guns you'll start out with aren't great, so it feels like there's a lot to be unlocked in terms of new artillery and attachments. On top of this you can also unlock "Battlepacks" every few ranks which instantly provide you with a bunch of new items when opened. There's even incentives to continue with the campaign as you can earn medals for completing point based challenges, and you're able to unlock new guns within the mode. Rewards do a great job of keeping you playing, as the better results you get in game the more options you'll have at your disposal.
Unfortunately technical difficulties have let Battlefield 4 down over the past month. As I am playing the PC version I have had to suffer numerous game crashes, and shots that haven't been registered. There have been many times where I find myself performing well in a match, when suddenly my client crashes and I am forced to terminate the client abruptly. What's worse is that this counted as a quit on my battlelog record every time. There was even a time where I was unable to finish the last two missions of the campaign due to it repeatedly crashing every time I launched it.
It has slowly improved over the past week, thanks to EA and Dice scrambling to fix it. However, as someone who paid £90 for this experience (Premium included) I can't help but feel some level of resentment. This frequency of crashing would have been acceptable during the launch week, as multiplayer games are known to suffer from the strain during the launch window. However, the fact that it has continued even a month after release presents a huge problem.
I haven't been able to play the console versions, but from word of mouth It appears they have thankfully been more stable than the PC version. Still it's upsetting that a game so embedded within the PC culture was allowed to suffer from these issues. I have every faith in Dice that they will fix these issues completely, but the damage has already been done for many.
In closing, Battlefield 4 doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel. However, it does enough to replace Battlefield 3 as the number one military FPS next to the dominating force of Call of Duty. Those who already know how to play Battlefield will feel right at home. Newcomers will likely be overwhelmed, and perhaps put off by the learning curve.
It's also important to note that Battlefield is a game that is heavily supported throughout its two year life-span, with new content and improvements being added periodically. So what we have now is only a small amount of the content the game will have by the time a new Battlefield is ready to roll out. If you plan on staying with Battlefield 4 long-term then the Premium service is definitely worth it. Unfortunately, with all the issues that have plagued the first few weeks of the games arrival, it may not be worth rushing to get it right away unless you're a new console owner.
This review is based on a retail copy of Battlefield 4 for the PC.