The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
As someone who originally enlisted in
Battlefield 1942, tracking the series' trajectory has been
interesting. What originally started as a multiplayer-only hardcore
PC shooter has steadily evolved over the last decade to achieve mass
success. Along the way, developer DICE has built on its solid
foundation of team-focused air, land, and sea battles with impressive
new features like destructible environments and deeper progression
systems. At the same time, the studio has struggled to branch out
with engrossing cooperative or single-player experiences. As if
acting off muscle memory, Battlefield 4 follows this same pattern,
with another strong dose of large-scale multiplayer and a forgettable
Battlefield 4's multiplayer largely
takes its cues from the pre-existing playbook, mixing some long-lost
ideas with a few innovations that enhance teamwork. To help console
players better communicate with one another without the need of a
headset, DICE carried over the commo rose from PC to consoles. By
holding the right bumper (which handles spotting as well) players can
request ammo, health packs, and repairs. To encourage soldiers to
play the objectives in team-based games, DICE also tweaked the point
system. Flag captures and M-Com arming aren't all-or-nothing
propositions anymore, so players earn points incrementally. If you
get capped at the last second when trying to disarm an M-Com station,
at least you get rewarded for trying to save your team.
The 10 new maps deliver a nice variety
of environments. During any given mission, you wind through urban
streets, roll through fields in a tank, and make amphibious assaults
via boats. Each level features a "Levolution moment," which is
essentially an opportunity for DICE to showcase its technical
prowess. The quality of these experiences wavers from impressive to
gimmicky. When the tsunami kicks up in Paracel Storm it makes
shooting from boats much more challenging, testing the skills of the
best machine gunners. In other levels, I wish DICE had left the maps
alone. Watching a skyscraper fall is cool the first time, but as you
play more matches in Siege of Shanghai, you realize the map is so
much better with the tower standing tall. Some of these fallen
buildings are also tough to navigate, as your soldier often gets
caught on the awkward geometry.
While the best maps, like Hainan
Resort, work no matter which of the seven modes you are playing, some
maps were clearly designed with one style of play in mind. If you
like Team Deathmatch or Domination,
you may enjoy Operation Locker, but the corridor design makes it a
terrible option for the new Obliteration mode.
Perhaps the best new mode to be
introduced to Battlefield since Rush, Obliteration places a bomb in
the middle of the map. From here, teams must vie for possession and
then try to detonate it at one of the opponents' three objectives.
The first team to detonate all three wins. The best way to win this
tug-of-war is to coordinate with teammates, picking up the bomb
carrier in a vehicle and rushing across the map in a convoy. These
matches have a great sense of urgency and almost give you the
sensation of participating in a team sport.
The second new mode, Defuse, is a
Counter-Strike style, five-on-five competition where each player only
spawns once. You can win by either eliminating the other team or by
detonating a bomb. This game mode goes quickly, so it's a great
change of pace from the lengthy conquest and rush modes.
The infantry-focused modes like team
deathmatch and domination aren't nearly as compelling. Simply put,
not many of these maps stand up to the offerings from competing games
like Call of Duty, and they also mitigate the value of splitting
players into different classes. The engineer class is hardly useful
in these battles, and the game doesn't have the same attraction
when you remove vehicles from the mix.
One of the big problems previous
Battlefield games faced was the steep learning curve of more
complicated vehicles like helicopters and jets. To help soldiers who
would rather learn how to operate vehicles without the threat of
constant fire, DICE added a test range for practice. This should cut
down on the amount of battles where a soldier hops into a helicopter
and crashes it immediately. However, since you can't have more than
one person in the test range at a time, players still need to join
live-fire battles to master subtleties like knowing when to fire
No matter what mode or class you are
playing, you continually earn rewards thanks to the deep and varied
progression system featured in Battlefield 4. The variety is
staggering, with more types of sights, grips, knives, rocket
launchers, and camo than any previous Battlefield game. Some are
unlocked by ranking up your class or weapon, and others can be
acquired at random in a Battlepack, which you receive roughly every
three levels. Battlepacks offer the chance to get a great attachment
early on, but the randomness comes with a price. Since the items
contained in a Battlepack are determined by pure chance, you may
receive attachments for several weapons you haven't unlocked yet.
Ever since it was abandoned following
Battlefield 2, a subset of hardcore fans has lamented the loss of
Commander mode. DICE resurrected the mode for Battlefield 4, with
several significant alterations. As a commander you don't spawn
into the world like a normal soldier. Instead, you make all of your
decisions from a tactical map, which makes it an attractive option
for players using tablets. From here you can launch UAVs to reveal
enemy locations on the map, create EMP blasts to neutralize the UAVs
of the opposing team, and direct squads to attack or defend specific
locations. Your other options are controlled by how well your team is
performing. If they lock down several control points in conquest,
then you are given access to powerful ordinance like cruise missiles
and AC-130s that can turn the tide of battle. Not many commanders
were present in the majority of my matches, so it's tough to gauge
how impactful they are in a match's outcome.
Commander or no, the deep multiplayer
stands in stark contrast to the forgettable single-player campaign.
DICE promised an emotional connection with its star characters, but
not even the magnetic actor Michael K. Williams (Boardwalk Empire,
The Wire) could find success with this B-movie-level script.
The story follows a squad of American
soldiers caught in the middle of the action when a civil war erupts
in China. On a mission to extract a couple VIPs from Shanghai in the
midst of the madness, the crew shoots its way back to its fleet, only
to find the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed off the coast completely
decimated. From here, they shoot their way through Chinese airfields,
prisons, and remote outposts. The story culminates with a
choice-driven ending, but given my lack of attachment to the
characters I hardly felt engaged enough to weigh my options
The combat is improved from Battlefield
3 thanks to the removal of quicktime events and the inclusion of
Crysis style micro-sandboxes that let you choose how you want to
engage the enemy. You can give the squad at your side basic attack
commands, but in most cases you can wipe out an entire brigade alone
before your allies can take one enemy out, so I often left them to
their own devices. The bullet-fodder AI hardly presents a challenge,
and often pop in out of thin air right in front of you. I would
expect an army that has that kind of technology to be much more
formidable. Thankfully, the campaign is short, clocking in at roughly
Battlefield 4 doesn't advance the
series in any significant way, but the subtle improvements provide
enough incentive for multiplayer fans to invest heavily in the land,
air, and sea battles. Given the underwhelming performance of yet
another story campaign, maybe DICE was on to something in ignoring
single-player altogether in Battlefield 1942. Imagine what the studio
could do if it invested all that manpower into making its already
good multiplayer experience even better.
Review note: Battlefield
4 is also releasing on PlayStation 4 (November 15) and Xbox One
(November 22). Though we played these versions, we were not
able to fully test all features to the point that they could be
included in this review. As a result, this text pertains only to the
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.