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Which Battlefield Game Is Best? We Rank Them All

by Matt Bertz on Mar 30, 2015 at 01:37 PM

Since its debut back in 2002, the Battlefield series has delivered an impressive lineup of successful games that any game publisher would be proud to support. But with such a varied history that includes World War II games, modern combat, future warfare, and even the cops vs. robbers motif introduced in Hardline, not everyone has the same favorite game in the series.

We polled the Game Informer staff to create some order to this chaos and rank the Battlefield games from worst to best, offering justification for each placement. Not a fan of our order? Make your feelings known in the comments below.

13. Battlefield Play4Free
PC – 2011

This awkward free-to-play hybrid is generally considered the weakest entry in the series. Combining the maps from Battlefield 2 with the classes and weaponry from Bad Company 2 sounds like a good idea on paper, but this execution left much to be desired. Given the microtransaction based economic model, players must pay for guns, gadgets, and cosmetic enhancements. Battlefield works best as a team-centric game where players switch classes on the fly to respond to the situation at hand. If a tank arrives on the scene, someone needs to respawn with an engineer kit to counter. For some reason, DICE did not allow players to switch classes in mid-match at launch. They also forgot to develop a ranking system to give players some sense of progression. These shortcomings hamstrung the experience and sent us back to the more well-rounded, full price offerings.

12. Battlefield Heroes
PC – 2009

Like Play4Free, Battlefield Heroes tried to retrofit a free-to-play economic model onto the classic Battlefield gameplay. The cartoony graphics gave the game a unique feel compared to its predecessors, which EA hoped would open the game up to a wider audience. Developer Easy Studios made other changes to further streamline the experience as well, removing the ability to squad up, reducing the number of classes to three, and preventing players from switching classes mid-match. The latter decision once again harmed the competitive balance of the game, and the serious lack of map variety made our journey into the Heroes alternate universe a short one.

11. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat
360, PS2, Xbox – 2005

The opening salvo in Battlefield's conquest of consoles, Modern Combat had some rough edges. DICE took its first stab at creating a proper single-player campaign, and the results were lacking (a problem that still persists for the majority of entries) outside of the hot-swapping feature that let you jump around the battlefield. It only shipped with two multiplayer modes, conquest and capture the flag, and network issues plagued the early launch (sound familiar?). The graphics also left something to be desired and the scoring system didn't reward teamplay, which are both rarities for Battlefield games.

10. Battlefield Hardline
PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, PC – 2015

The first proper Battlefield game developed outside of DICE, Visceral's first foray into the series takes an abrupt left turn from other entries. Hardline drops the military theme in favor of a more infantry focused, cops vs. robbers fantasy. Superimposing this kind of experience onto the Battlefield formula makes for some jarring world building – when have you ever seen a shootout between 32 criminals and 32 cops? But if you can get past these incongruities, Hardline still plays like a Battlefield game without the high-end ordnance. Some small tweaks to the classic Battlefield formula are welcome, such as an improved party system, allowing players to grab medpacks and ammo directly from players, and letting passengers hang out of the backseat of cars to fire at enemies. The jury is still out on whether the three new game modes introduced in Hardline will be well loved enough to cross over into other entries, so the true legacy of this game is still being shaped.

9. Battlefield 4
PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, PC – 2013

We all had high hopes for the first new-gen Battlefield game from DICE, the first console entry to feature 64-player battles. Eventually the game found its footing, but six months of networking problems and bugs soured the community and undermined what should have been a series defining effort. The fourth proper installment played largely from the same playbook as previous entries, opting to make minor tweaks to the successful formula than make wholesale changes. Slight tweaks to how the game awards points for flag capturing, bringing back commander mode, and the inclusion of the commarose to improve communication for those lacking headsets all helped encourage teamplay. However, the bloated number of game modes ultimately hurt the map designs, as some weren't conducive to good rush or conquest experiences. The B-movie single-player campaign once again fell flat on its face as well.

8. Battlefield Vietnam 
PC - 2004

After two years of supporting 1942 with the expansions Road to Rome and Secret Weapons of WWII, DICE transitioned to a more asymmetrical war with Battlefield Vietnam. The US and Vietnamese armies had drastically different loadouts – while the heavy firepower of the American forces could overwhelm the Vietnamese forces in a straight on firefight, the Man in the Black Pajamas could plant booby traps and punji sticks, use a shovel to create a mobile spawn point, and take out closely grouped squads with bouncing betties and time bombs. The game also introduced new features like the ability to airlift vehicles and chopper radios that blasted '60s music like CCR's "Fortunate Son."

7. Battlefield 2142  
PC – 2006

One of the most divisive entries in the series, Battlefield 2142 took the series forward into a near-future setting replete with mechs, lasers, and warships. The game only shipped with two modes, conquest and Titan, but the latter proved popular enough to attract a dedicated collection of hardcore fans who still clamor for a sequel to this day. This mode tasked each team with trying to destroy the other team's warship. To do so, you must first capture missile silos scattered across the maps to knock out the Titan's shields. Once the shields are down, players can either hold the silo positions to barrage the Titan's hull, or board the ship and destroy its reactor cores. This mode was later co-opted and renamed Carrier Assault for the Battlefield 4: Naval Strike map pack. A strong player progression system complete with ranks, unlocks, and awards rounded out this solid entry. 

6. Battlefield 1943 
PS3, 360 – 2009

This downloadable reboot may not have had a ton of content, but it nailed the essence of what makes Battlefield great. Using the Frostbite engine, DICE honed its map-making abilities while reconfiguring three classic maps from the original game (Wake Island, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima), introducing some much needed terrain elevations to cut out the long sightlines that gave snipers too much of an advantage. The streamlined classes and replenishing health helped make the game more enjoyable for novices without alienating series fans, a feat both Battlefield Play4Free and Heroes failed to perform. This formula proved successful, as within the first week it became the fastest-selling digital downloadable game on Xbox Live. The game went on to be the best-selling downloadable title of 2009.

5. Battlefield 3
PS3, 360, PC – 2011 

After alienating some of its PC faithful with the Bad Company spinoffs, DICE worked to win them back over with Battlefield 3. To appease the longtime fans, the Swedish studio brought back several fan-requested features, including fighter jets, the prone position, and 64-player battles (on PC only). Outside of the forgettable campaign and buggy first iteration of the Battlelog system, the series was generally well received, bringing in many new players and featuring some great maps like Caspian Border. More importantly, with Battlefield 3 EA finally figured out a good post-release content strategy, keeping its dedicated soldiers busy with a steady stream of new maps, weapons, and game modes over the course of five expansions. 

4. Battlefield: Bad Company
PS3, 360 – 2008 

After the mixed reviews of Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, DICE took a different approach to invading the console space with this spin-off series. Bad Company introduced us to the best characters the series has ever produced in Sarge, Marlowe, Sweetwater, and Haggard. Rather than drench gamers with another super-serious tale of the world being on the brink of elimination thanks to a rogue nation, Bad Company offered a Three Kings inspired lighthearted military romp of a group gone AWOL in pursuit of a giant payday. The humorous tone won over fans, as did the introduction of destructible environments and the new Rush multiplayer mode (then called Gold Rush). Now a series stable for the main entries, Rush creates a natural frontline where an attacking team tries to capture two points as the defenders repel their advances. As the attackers take the positions, the defenders retreat to another position. The game only shipped with this multiplayer mode, which allowed DICE to hone each map for this specific purpose. This resulted in some of the best regarded maps, like Harvest Day and Oasis. DICE eventually added conquest mode per fans' requests.

3. Battlefield 1942
PC – 2002

The granddaddy that started it all, Battlefield 1942 introduced the class-based gameplay, conquest mode, 64-player air/land/sea battles that still define the series to this day. By forcing players to hold positions across the maps, the game encouraged teamplay more than most of the multiplayer shooters of its time. So did the variety of play offered by the larger scale of warfare. Being able dogfight in a jet, parachute to capture a control point, and then hop into a tank all within one life was a revolutionary experience for many players. Every map was based on a real battle from World War II, and each challenged players to master different roles. For instance, while El Alamein demanded strong tank play, Battle of Midway required good pilots to pull off a win. The best maps of all, like the classic Wake Island, combined all of these elements into a thrilling tug of war. The game won several game of the year awards, and its legacy was so strong that EA didn't turn off its official servers until just last year. 

2. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 
PS3, 360, PC – 2010

Building off the success of Bad Company, DICE released its best console game in 2010 with the direct sequel. Bad Company 2 features the best single-player campaign the series has ever produced. The lovable cast of the first game returned to a more streamlined experience, and DICE expanded the multiplayer offerings while still keeping each mode centered on teamwork. That focus paid off with a great collection of maps (the best of which is Arica Harbor) that were aided greatly by how must destructibility played into the firefights. Players could level entire buildings, eliminating defensive strongholds and changing the tactical options available. Destruction has since been toned down in the series, which we think is a questionable decision. The introduction of spotting and a UAV gave players more tools to aid their teammates, and the hardcore mode introduced a stripped down affair that removed the controversial killcam and demanded more awareness and precision to stay alive. We hope DICE returns to this more streamlined, concentrated spin-off series in the near future. 

1. Battlefield 2
PC – 2005

The one Battlefield to rule them all, Battlefield 2 is the most critically acclaimed entry in the series and arguably one of the best mutiplayer shooters of all time. Bringing the series into the modern era introduced a whole new array of high powered weapons and vehicles for players to experiment with like fighter jets, grenade launchers, and APCs. The game within the game between commanders and the special forces class was also an interesting diversion; rather than fight on the frontline you could either issue orders to the team or work to destroy the communication tools of the opposing team's commander. The new squad functionality allowed up to six players to group together and spawn directly on the squad leader, and introducing a progression system that unlocked new weaponry over time, the game gave players long-term incentive to keep playing. A multiplayer game is only as good as its maps, and Battlefield 2 has the deepest collection of classics, each of which was scalable dependent upon player population. Fan favorites like Strike at Karkand, Gulf of Oman, and Sharqi Peninsula have reappeared in subsequent Battlefield games. This installment also introduced the popular Battle Recorder so players could share their over-the-top moments and triumphs, a forward-looking feature we wish would have never left the game. 

That's our list. What are your favorites? Share your memories in the comments below.