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Battlefield 4 Review: Multiplayer Masterpiece

Battlefield 4 Review: Multiplayer Masterpiece
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"War. War never changes." That mantra, borrowed from the incredible "Fallout" series, easily applies to the current crop of military first-person shooters (FPS) flooding the market. And while the single-player campaign mode of "Battlefield 4" falls into many of the clichéd tropes littering the genre, right down to the heavy-handed jingoism, its multiplayer component is off-the-wall fun. The fourth installment by EA and DICE sees the return of the series' Commander Mode, and an increased emphasis on teamwork helps to round out the package. But is "Battlefield 4's" multiplayer enough of a reason to drop $60 on the game?

Gameplay

If you've played any first-person shooter in the past five years, you'll feel right at home with "Battlefield 4." Players spend the majority of the roughly 6-hour campaign running from checkpoint to checkpoint with their AI-controlled squad mates, shooting nondescript Russian and Chinese soldiers along the way. Getting shredded by a machine gun? Take cover behind the nearest concrete barrier, log or wall to regenerate health, and march ever onward.

MORE: Sony PS4 Review

Players carry up to two weapons and two gadgets at a time, in addition to multiple grenades. Weapons range from your standard submachine gun to .50 caliber sniper rifles. Each gun has its own attributes that affect how well it fires hot lead at your enemies. You acquire guns by taking them from fallen foes or swapping them out at conveniently placed gun boxes. Incidentally, the positioning of a gun box is usually a dead giveaway that you're walking into an ambush or major battle.

Opening a gun box freezes gameplay, which, though admittedly helpful in a chaotic firefight, all but eliminates any sense of urgency to complete the stage's ultimate objective.

Gadgets include an array of rocket launchers, C4 explosives, anti-tank mines and the like. As with guns, you equip yourself with different gadgets at gadget boxes, which, again like the gun boxes, generally indicate you're about to throw down with a squadron of enemies.

Part of the allure of "Battlefield 4" is its realistic environmental destruction, which comes courtesy of the game's Frostbite 3 graphics engine. And though the engine's capabilities are certainly on display during the single-player game, with everything from walls to an aircraft carrier crumbling before your eyes, you won't get to experience Frostbite 3's full power until you jump into a multiplayer match. It's then that you'll be able to take down entire buildings with a few well-placed tank shells.

What sets the Battlefield franchise apart from its FPS brethren is its heavy reliance on vehicular combat: You'll find yourself rolling across Singapore in a tank and zipping across rolling oceans in an attack ship. But for the most part, you'll hoof it across "Battlefield 4's" single player campaign.

Story

"Battlefield 4" serves as a kind of sequel to "Battlefield 3." The game's world is the same as its predecessor's, but you play as a new soldier, Marine Sergeant Daniel Recker. The story starts as you and your fellow Tombstone Squad members, Dunn, Irish and Pac, are trying to escape Baku, Azerbaijan, with intelligence indicating that Chinese Admiral Chang is planning a military coup. If successful, Chang would receive the full support of the Russian military, which is already fairly peeved at the United States, and World War III would be underway.

MORE: PS4 vs. Xbox One--Console Comparison

What follows is one long military shooter cliché, as you and your squad face overwhelming odds as you try to avert a global conflict involving the world's three largest militaries. To do that, you'll kill faceless foreigners, watch a cut scene, kill more foreigners, rinse and repeat. Like most military shooters of its ilk, "Battlefield 4's" story is incredibly jingoistic, with the stalwart Americans seemingly always on the right side of any moral quandary. In a few instances, an American character's moral superiority is called into question, but it's only for a fleeting moment and then easily forgotten.

To its credit, the game does try to add some emotional elements, but they fall flat. Who would have thought it would be so difficult to care for people who haven't been developed beyond muscular caricatures of soldiers, whose every word is some kind of swear?

Multiplayer and Replayability

While the single-player campaign falls flat, "Battlefield 4" really shines in multiplayer mode. There's nothing like squaring off in frenetic, heart-pounding battles against up to 64 players (PC and next-gen consoles only) from across the globe.

Multiplayer is broken down into four character classes: Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. Assault is the default soldier and comes, appropriately, with an assault rifle and med kit. Leveling up gives you access to the defibrillator gadget, with which you can revive fallen teammates. The Engineer is the anti-vehicle class, and sports various rocket launchers and mines. Of course, you can also repair vehicles with the repair gadget. Support is your basic grunt and rocks a heavy machinegun and C4 explosives, while Recon pulls sniper duty.

Players do battle across 10 different multiplayer maps and 7 different game modes. Environments range from the urban streets of Shanghai to an island chain in the South China Sea to a frozen mountain prison to a city being inundated with floodwaters. It's during multiplayer matches that you'll be able to take full advantage of "Battlefield 4's" Frostbite 3 engine. On the Siege of Shanghai map, for example, you can topple a massive skyscraper, completely transforming how you navigate the map in the process. DICE calls the mechanic "Levolution," and it's present on the majority of the game's multiplayer maps.

The map Flood Zone, in particular, is a perfect example of how Levolution can change the way you play on the fly. In an urban area being slowly swallowed by floodwaters, players must go from running from building to building to swimming across the map in a matter of minutes. It's a unique mechanic that helps add an extra dimension to the multiplayer experience. Naturally, you'll still spend a lot of the game blowing holes in everything from buildings to trees with various vehicles including tanks, personnel carriers, helicopters and jets.

Game modes in "Battlefield 4" include mainstays such as Rush, Domination, Conquest, Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch, as well as new additions, Obliteration and Defuse. Obliteration sees two teams fighting over a single bomb that they must plant at the opposing team's bases. Once one base is destroyed, a new bomb spawns until all of one team's bases are destroyed. Defuse will be familiar to any Counter-Strike fan, and calls on players to plant a bomb at the enemy team's base. The twist, however, is that you can't respawn once you've been killed.

Happily, DICE has also seen fit to bring back the awesome Commander Mode that originally debuted on "Battlefield 2." In this mode, each team gets one person who acts as a commander and has the ability to call in missile strikes, gunships, troop resupplies and drones, and to issue team orders. But you don't just get access to these options at the start of the game. Each of the aforementioned abilities is directly linked to your team's performance. The idea is to foster teamwork, ensuring that each player works toward a single goal rather than focusing solely on their kills-to-deaths ratio.

MORE: Review: 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' — Modern Borefare

The new squad bonus function also builds on teamwork. As with the different abilities in Commander Mode, your squad's capacity to work together directly affects bonuses. Capturing enemy control points and the like will build your squad bonus, giving you passive ability boosts, including faster sprinting and more grenades.

But "Battlefield 4" hasn't completely abandoned the individual game experience. You're still able to personalize your character's load out, from your camouflage patterns to the guns you spawn with. You can even customize which squad bonus you want to use.

Graphics and Art

It's not an exaggeration to say that "Battlefield 4" is beautiful. The Frostbite 3 engine is capable of incredible things. Watching a massive skyscraper come crashing down around you as rocket fire rains down from every direction is absolutely mind-blowing, and the fact that the game engine can render all of this without skipping a beat is a testament to DICE's work. We were especially impressed with how amphibious vehicles reacted when driven into water, bouncing upward and slowly rocking back and forth before adjusting to the waves and sailing forward.

Lighting effects were absolutely gorgeous, with beams of light cutting through foliage and streaming through intense cloud cover. Explosions in particular looked fantastic, with bright flashes of red and orange ripping across the screen as each fighter jet fell from the sky and each tank blew up. Character models were also impressively detailed; however, at times they looked a bit too flat, giving the soldiers a lifeless appearance.

This kind of eye candy will only be available on a high-end gaming PC or next-gen console. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 users will still get a quality experience, but don't expect visuals anywhere near what you'd see on a more powerful system.

Music and Sound

"Battlefield 4's" musical score is your standard military shooter fare, complete with soaring orchestral pieces and low, thumping drums. Nothing truly stands out, save for the brief intro during which you hear the classic "Battlefield" theme song.

Sound effects, on the other hand, are above reproach. Bullets zip by with a distinct whiz, and gunshots ring out across open expanses and reverberate off of the narrow interior of a naval warship. Explosions offer a satisfying percussion, while the sound of tanks roaring by as you hide behind a nearby wall is enough to give you chills.

"Battlefield 4" vs. "Call of Duty"

If you're trying to decide between "Battlefield 4" and "Call of Duty: Ghosts," it really comes down to your taste in gameplay. Whereas "Battlefield" often requires more of a tactical approach, especially in Domination and Rush game modes, "Ghosts" depends on your fast-twitch reflexes, similar to "Counter-Strike." The expansive use of vehicles and destructible environments in "Battlefield 4" also adds an extra dimension to gameplay that "C.O.D." lacks. At the same time, the smaller maps in "Ghosts," along with its lack of destructibility and vehicles, makes for quicker matches, something "Battlefield 4" isn't known for.

Verdict

"Battlefield 4's" single player campaign is graphically gorgeous, but that beauty is unfortunately marred by a lackluster and overwhelmingly clichéd gameplay and story. However, those who purchase the game for its multiplayer mode will not be disappointed. The ability to drive, fly and blow up nearly everything on the map is nothing short of over-the-top, and you'll be hard pressed to find a lull in the maelstrom. If you're in the market for a new multiplayer shooter to obsess over, sign up for "Battlefield 4."

Publisher: EA
Developer: DICE
Genre: First-person shooter
Minimum requirements: OS: Windows Vista SP2 32-BIT
Processor: AMD Athlon X2 2.8 GHZ / Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHZ
Memory: 4 GB
Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 3870/ Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
Graphics Memory: 512 MB Hard drive: 30 GB
Release Date
: Oct. 29, 2013
Platforms
: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One

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  • 1 Hide
    cats_Paw , November 15, 2013 12:59 AM
    One of the things that bothers me a lot nowdays in gaming is that Studios relese new games with almost no improvment, only to drag multiplayer to their new title. This leaves previous titles almost empty, forcing everyone to buy the new game if you want to play multi.

    Even a free game like tribes ascend has suffered from this as so many titles really spread out the interest in one game or another. This deeply saddenes me as it means that the current generation of gamers is uncapable of truely loving a game and sticking with it (thus it probably also reflects their personality in human relations).
  • 1 Hide
    Heironious , November 15, 2013 1:51 AM
    Let go of old things cats_paw, you don't want that simple thing to turn into hording.
  • 2 Hide
    deadmeow , November 15, 2013 7:01 AM
    Battlefield 1942 is given away for free now by Origin, and there is no shortage of online players.
  • -1 Hide
    deadmeow , November 15, 2013 7:16 AM
    Battlefield 1942 is given away for free now by Origin, and there is no shortage of online players.
  • 0 Hide
    Christopher Shaffer , November 15, 2013 10:00 AM
    I understand the sentiment that "nothing has changed" but in many ways, that's a good thing about BF. There are some welcome changes from BF3, some things that are very different and some things people have complained/suggested to DICE that they want to bring back (which actually DO get taken into account by DICE) such as C4 for Support, rather than Recon.

    The weapon customization has been improved, the graphics are a nice step up, but not hugely better than BF3, although I found myself admiring how real somethings look during an MP game last night (only to get shot whilst day dreaming), and the maps are even bigger, and very well balanced for the most part.

    Even with the bugs that the game has had so far, I think any fan of BFBC2 and BF3 are very happy with the gameplay. Fans of older BF games have likely not seen as much as they want because of the modernization factors as well as the fact that about 1/2 the maps haven't been in cycle on a lot of servers due to specific issues w/those maps causing crashes.

    The only complaint I have right now is getting stuck on a cardboard box that "feels" like it's made of cement instead of cardboard (rather than BF3 where it would just smash like real cardboard).

    I would say if you were a fan of BFBC2 and BF3, you'd do yourself an injustice not to play this game.
  • 0 Hide
    drezzz , November 16, 2013 12:56 AM
    BF4 is BF3 with more bugs and atrocious netcode. If you don't know what that means, then you can safely buy BF4. I can't think of any reason I would recommend the game, especially to anyone who owns BF3 or BFBC2 (which BTW is still the best out of the 3).
  • -2 Hide
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  • 0 Hide
    Gypsymob19 , November 16, 2013 6:41 AM
    This game is garbage all the sessions keep failing you cannot play conquest. I am really disappointed. I am calling up and I'm demanding my money back I want a refund Another disappointment just like Battlefield3 Why can't they just fixed the servers
  • -1 Hide
    beauthree , November 16, 2013 8:00 AM
    @gypsymob19 wow... You are a perfect example of the shallow mouth breathers that infest the gaming community. i'm not saying that bf4 doesn't have issues because it clearly does, but every multiplayer game out there has issues when it first comes out. your disappointed?? If you actually played the game for more then 5 minutes and, have, at least, the mental capabilities of a lesser primate, would never be able to say that about any AAA game. hell i MW3 was terrible, but still, i would rate it at lowest a 6.5., and everyone knows the game was completely derivative. That may seem like a shock, but the truth is that most of these huge games are being pumped out and like royal families, their ingenuity and appeal to a humanityy is being scrapped away because they are sleeping with their cousins. If you knew anything about games, you should of been awestruck at seeing the capabilities of the frostbite 3 engine. Stop and think about how much work goes into making a game like battlefield 4. Saying it is garbage is offensive, to me inpart, because of your ignorance to see the hard work that was put into that game. Video games are, before all else, art. The creativity to make intricate maps and still somehow make all of the classes more or less balanced is a huge feat to their profession. You think that because you just bought the game for sixty dollars that you "own" it. you, my romanian friend, are naive. Along with most of the current generation, you are ignorant to the meaning and symbolism of the words you blurt (or type) over the hissy fits of getting kicked offline. their servers are having issues with the load of people playing it. It's not as simple as restarting a computer. Also, you should not try to demand a refund. you should thank them for creating something amazing like this game. Beauty lies in the flaws of the creation itself. you are being given the right and privilage to play this game. You own a mere copy of the game, which is like having a ticket to a concert, saying ya you can listen to the band, but you do not own the band. Read the fine print. Also, if you were old enough to play the legend of Zelda or the Original Mario Brothers, think how far gaming has come along. As, a hardcore gamer, i find people like you rash, immature, and maddening. You give the rest of us a bad name... Now, do the world a favor, please be quiet if you don't have something atleast resembling creative critisism to say. if you can't do that, i would suggest building a time machine, go back to a few weeks before your born, find your mom, and stab her in the stomache so your birth never happens and noone has to deal with you shit. GOOD DAY!
  • -1 Hide
    beauthree , November 16, 2013 8:15 AM
    @gypsymob19 wow... You are a perfect example of the shallow mouth breathers that infest the gaming community. i'm not saying that bf4 doesn't have issues because it clearly does, but every multiplayer game out there has issues when it first comes out. your disappointed?? If you actually played the game for more then 5 minutes and, have, at least, the mental capabilities of a lesser primate, would never be able to say that about any AAA game. hell i MW3 was terrible, but still, i would rate it at lowest a 6.5., and everyone knows the game was completely derivative. That may seem like a shock, but the truth is that most of these huge games are being pumped out and like royal families, their ingenuity and appeal to a humanityy is being scrapped away because they are sleeping with their cousins. If you knew anything about games, you should of been awestruck at seeing the capabilities of the frostbite 3 engine. Stop and think about how much work goes into making a game like battlefield 4. Saying it is garbage is offensive, to me inpart, because of your ignorance to see the hard work that was put into that game. Video games are, before all else, art. The creativity to make intricate maps and still somehow make all of the classes more or less balanced is a huge feat to their profession. You think that because you just bought the game for sixty dollars that you "own" it. you, my romanian friend, are naive. Along with most of the current generation, you are ignorant to the meaning and symbolism of the words you blurt (or type) over the hissy fits of getting kicked offline. their servers are having issues with the load of people playing it. It's not as simple as restarting a computer. Also, you should not try to demand a refund. you should thank them for creating something amazing like this game. Beauty lies in the flaws of the creation itself. you are being given the right and privilage to play this game. You own a mere copy of the game, which is like having a ticket to a concert, saying ya you can listen to the band, but you do not own the band. Read the fine print. Also, if you were old enough to play the legend of Zelda or the Original Mario Brothers, think how far gaming has come along. As, a hardcore gamer, i find people like you rash, immature, and maddening. You give the rest of us a bad name... Now, do the world a favor, please be quiet if you don't have something atleast resembling creative critisism to say. if you can't do that, i would suggest building a time machine, go back to a few weeks before your born, find your mom, and stab her in the stomache so your birth never happens and noone has to deal with you shit. GOOD DAY!
  • 0 Hide
    u_gonna_squeal_b4_we_cookya , November 16, 2013 1:38 PM
    @beauthree I think that gypsymob19 was complaining about the servers, not the game itself. Nothing you said in your TL;DR dis made any sense. Also, a Gypsy is a "Romani" not "Romanian". You would know that if you had "the mental capabilities of a lesser primate".
  • 0 Hide
    lekzero , November 16, 2013 1:49 PM
    4 stars its a master piece?
  • 0 Hide
    dancovich , November 21, 2013 1:38 PM
    @drezzz BF3 launched with a crapton of bugs. If you compare a just released BF4 to a 2 to 3 yo BF3 sure BF4 will have more bugs.

    Also the netcode was buggy at launch, with a huge sync error that made you die because someone shot a 3 minute old version of yourself to them. This bug was already fixed and I now find the netcode in BF4 very improved over that of BF3.
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