Next to Call of Duty, Battlefield 4 is a bi-annual reference point when it comes to first-person shooters. This is particularly true when we look at its multiplayer mode, which both games have been able to exploit to the fullest. The fourth installment of Battlefield has double the pressure: on the one hand, it has to demonstrate that this version is better than preceding ones, and on the other, it must prove how well it's incorporated the Frostbite 3 engine, adapted to the new generation of consoles. Has it succeeded?
Few changes but successful ones
As expected, Battlefield 4 doesn't have a single player campaign that's going to go down in history. On the contrary, it’s boring, predictable, and emotionless. It's much better than the adventures you find in Battlefield 3, but nonetheless it's a game that shows its weaknesses when played alone.
In Campaign mode, Battlefield 4 is a succession of levels that set out to impress the player. There are lots of pre-programmed scenes, enemies with limited AI, absurd dialog, and scenarios that seem similar to other games. If you were intending to buy the game for it’s single player mode, then you’d be better off looking elsewhere: the campaign lasts 4 hours and really isn’t worth it.
The fact that the single player mode is little more than an extra bit on the side becomes perfectly clear when you look at the main menu of the game. The multiplayer mode is the first choice on the menu, and this is where Battlefield 4 can flex its muscles. And does it ever! Compared with the single player mode, the multiplayer mode is a completely different story.
Multiplayer mode doesn't change much with respect to previous versions of Battlefield. The style is unmistakable: it takes place in teams, divided into squads, requires quick but tactical activity, the use of vehicles, and gives a great feeling of playing on a giant battlefield. None of that changes in Battlefield 4 because it doesn't need to – those are it's hallmark features.
In terms of game modes, you will find the famous Conquest and Domination modes(which is like Conquest but on a smaller scale). Rush also makes a return, a fight between two teams in turns, where one defends and the other attacks.
Two new game modes have also been added: Obliteration and Defuse. The first is a fight to destruction over the possession of a bomb that's used to destroy the enemy's objectives. The action is centered on the bomb, so it's a very fast and dynamic mode. The second new addition, Defuse, is a similar game-playing style to Counter-Strike – the mode takes place in rounds and in each round you have one life; if you die, you become a spectator.
The new additions are interesting and complement the classic game modes well. That said, of course this wouldn’t have been possible if the maps weren't of the same quality. In total, there are 10, and although some are better than others, all of them are very well designed. The most characteristic of them all is the icing on the cake and the feature used by EA to really sell the game: "Levolution."
The maps have more or less random events that radically change the scenario that you’re playing. You’ll have seen the skyscraper collapse on Siege in Shanghai map a thousand times, but then something similar happens elsewhere: it could be a flood in the streets, a tropical storm, or any other factor. Some effects are better recreated than others and affect the game to a greater or lesser extent, but in general, the idea works well and it’s fun; because it doesn’t always happe; there’s a surprise factor that makes a very welcome addition.
Control is as good as ever
Although there are slight changes in the controls, Battlefield 4 basically remains the same as its predecessors. The most important new feature is that you can now take cover in the corners of walls and use them to peer around and shoot. It's an interesting tactical factor when shooting, but not a decisive one.
What still remains pretty awkward is the control of vehicles, an ongoing shortcoming in the saga that whether you’ve adapted to it or not, is still a better choice not to drive. In one of the games, I acquired a helicopter with three companions inside, and I had the misfortune of crashing it with all of us inside, meaning I had to waste four regeneration tickets. It was really embarrassing!
The progression of the character is the same as always; you gain experience in the different categories of soldiers who in turn, have the ability to unlock new weapons and attachments. Again, there is a sensation of ‘newness’ that permeates the game, but this is offset by the feeling of familiarity.
New graphics engine
Compared to the previous graphics engine, the Frostbite 3 engine is impressive. Battlefield 4 looks particularly good when you play it on a powerful PC; if you’re using a more average computer, it still looks okay, but is pretty similar to Battlefield 3. The forthcoming new generation consoles will be able to take advantage of these changes more than the current ones.
The sound of gunfire and explosions is tremendous, as always.
Fans of the genre will really like it
In all honesty, we expected more from Battlefield 4. The expectations were very high and it hasn’t quite met them. But make no mistake, Battlefield 4 is an excellent game that focuses on those that want to play online with others. It retains its identifying features, doesn’t change what already works, and adds some new ones, albeit not many. It's a game that very clearly intends to appeal to its most loyal users, but you know what? It doesn’t need to. At least not for the time being.