Battlefield 4 Review – A Tale of Two manshooters

I’ve lost my single player save file 4 times. The game crashes to the home screen at the most inopportune times. I can honestly say I haven’t played a major console release with bugs this bad. By our review rubric, a game that cannot function correctly should get the lowest of the low scores. And yet, there is something appealing about this game that behooves me to give it another chance. Battlefield 4 might as well be the Jekyll and Hyde of console games.

Above And Beyond Single Player

Battlefield 4
A scene from campaign. It looks better than it plays.

In the single player campaign, you… no. No, I’m not even going to bother. The single player campaign is seven missions long and lasts around 4 to 5 hours. It starts out strong, with you as a member of Tombstone Squad. You end up in the middle of a conflict that could spiral into war… and then a lot of nonsensical things happen, levels begin or end with explosions, people show up, die, and then end up not dead for literally no reason, and what starts with grandiose expectations ends with a fizzle.

Even on Hard difficulty, enemy encounters simply require you to find cover, and then wait until enemies poke their heads out. Shoot them in said heads, and move forward to the next fight. The only encouragement you have to keep playing is to beat your friends’ scores in missions, and to try to earn enough points to earn Trophies. One level has a storm and makes it hard to see. I guess that’s different.

I didn’t think that a campaign could feel worse than Battlefield 3’s, but Battlefield 4 gets even flatter. In the end, you don’t feel like anything happened for any really good reason.

Squad Up

That’s okay, though. You don’t play Battlefield for campaigns anyway. The multiplayer once again is the centerpiece of this package. Battlefield differentiates itself from its competition with its large-scale battles, on foot and in a wide variety of vehicles. New to Battlefield 4 are different kinds of boats, and you can earn experience and level up in 4 different classes, and in each vehicle type. The four classes are essentially unchanged from Battlefield 3: Assault troops use assault rifles and can heal, Engineers can repair vehicles and are best suited to destroying them, Supports use light machine guns to suppress enemy troops, and Recon troops are adept with Sniper Rifles. Many guns are interchangeable among these four classes, such as shotguns and DMR’s, whereas other guns are limited to a single class. Another change is that some equipment does this as well: Recon and Support can both plant C4, which is a fantastic way to blow up a tank.

If you’re used to Call of DutyBattlefield 4’s scope and pace may bewilder you. The maps are huge, but you can find yourself a long way from where the action is, and end up having to trudge through a decent walk to get to your desired position. Running and gunning will get you killed; it’s better to carefully sweep an area. If you can make the mental adjustment, you’ll find the game rather rewarding.

Real Soldiers Don’t Unlock Double-Jump Boots

There are more kinds of unlocks than ever before. You’ll unlock new guns and equipment as you level up a class, and expanded options as you level up vehicles. You can unlock scopes, grips, and other gun attachments by earning kills with specific guns, or with Battlepacks. Battlepacks are earned at certain levels, with bonus Battlepacks being given to Premium Subscribers. There are also a limited number of Battlepacks available through Slim Jims: You’ll need to eat 6 Slim Jims to get all the available Battlepacks. Certain items are only available through Battlepacks, and although it’s possible to get everything for a weapon through weapon-specific Battlepacks which are earned for high amounts of kills, this is likely how EA will implement microtransactions for BF4. I don’t recommend paying for them.

The additional unlocks per gun allow a greater level of customization. You can really dial into the aspects of the gun that you like while trying to mitigate other factors. Add a foregrip to increase stability. Add an adjustable, togglable zoom to your sniper rifle. There are far more unlocks this time around, and they all feel better.

Second-Screen Gaming

Battlefield 4
Commander mode is addicting.

The Battlelog app for tablets and phones allows you to customize your loadouts for use in multiplayer, and gives you a quick look into social feeds, etc. This is nice, especially since you cannot customize your solider’s loadout from the Battlefield 4 main menu. Another neat feature for tablet users is the ability to join multiplayer games right from the app, and for the app to serve as a minimap for your game.

The real fun is the Battlefield Commander app. This allows you to join a live game as a Commander (something you can do anyway from the console version). As a Commander, you see a top down view of the map, and can deploy specific assets by dragging them onto the map. Scan an area, revealing all hostiles, or block enemy scanning. You can drop supplies and even vehicles at target locations. Some of these abilities are locked to certain control points on the map, giving your army a reason to fight for a single specific objective. You can designate orders for squads to follow, such as attacking or defending a point. You can promote a squad, letting them earn more points for kills, or give them rapid deployment, cutting their respawn time. If a target enemy is being a pain in the ass, designate them as a VIP, earning the killer more points. You can have a real effect on a game without even really playing it, from the enjoyment of your tablet. You’ll even earn real experience and possibly level up! This is really addicting and easy to play, and the tablet integration is a big deal with Battlefield 4.

Quebec Alpha is FUBAR

Battlefield 4
Direct capture from the PS4.

With all of the amazing things I have said about multiplayer, now I have to talk about the worst part of Battlefield 4. I have never, ever seen a console game this buggy. While it has been patched since launch, 10-25% of my games would end with a crash to the PlayStation 4 main screen. My single player save file is wiped regularly, forcing me to backup from PlayStation plus. Since certain multiplayer guns are locked unless you complete the appropriate single player objective, this is inexcusable. For a while, Commander Mode was disabled after it was identified as the cause of bugs. Finally, the signature Conquest mode, with 64 players, was not even available until a week and a half after the game launched.

Progress is being made, but my save file was wiped again the other day. It’s not perfect. There recently was a one-hit kill bug that was patched out. Who knows what other bugs will see in the future. DICE has committed to fixing the bugs and stabilizing the game before releasing any additional DLC.

Nevertheless, you may be better served waiting a few weeks/months before you hear the all clear from the general public. Undoubtedly, this will all get cleared up.

Wrap Up

This is a great multiplayer only game. Pretend single player doesn’t exist, and this is a great package… when the bugs get fixed. Right now, this is still basically a broken mess. We don’t update review scores after release, so this score represents my feeling at this time. I can honestly say that one day, this will be definitely worth your time.

Ted played through campaign in one sitting over 4 hours because his save file kept getting deleted. He completed the game on Hard, got the gold score on each mission, and saw all three endings. He is currently rank 15 in multiplayer and rising. A review copy was not provided by the publisher.

6/10+ Amazing multiplayer.
+ Great tablet integration.
+ Meaningful progression system.
-Severe bugs. Crash level bugs. Save wiping bugs. The worst bugs I have ever seen.
-Single player is laughable.

Available on: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4

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