So DICE, I’m going to ask a question. Ever since you stared at the piles of money that Call Of Duty has accumulated and said “I want all that and more”, why did you not just focus your energies on your multiplayer? Battlefield 3, as unbalanced and glitchy as it was, blew other competitors out of the water with its sheer sense of scale, but its single player content was lacklustre to the point of mediocrity. Battlefield 4 boldly tries to bring the openness of the multiplayer component into the campaign, but it feels so rushed in its execution that, once again, I ask: “Why Bother?”

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Reviewed On:  Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer:  EA Digital Illusions CE
Platfroms:  Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC
Genre:  First Person Shooter
Release Date:  October 29, 2013

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Believe it or not, I am frequently willing to look the other way when a story in a game is less than stellar, but Battlefield 4 utterly fails to create anything resembling a cohesive narrative. The story involves secret black ops that might draw the Chinese into conflict with the United States, which is still fighting a massive war against the Russians. You play as the leader of Tombstone Squad, a somewhat ragtag squad that frequently faces overwhelming odds and scripted shenanigans.

Pictured: Shenanigans

Pictured: Shenanigans

*Spoilers ahead*

If you’ve played any modern military shooter, you’ve played this game. It hurdles from set piece moments to cluttered shooting galleries, at a pace which leaves gaping plot holes in its wake. A sequence where you meet a character from a previous game feels entirely pointless when the character is killed off in a hilarious black screen conversation, after which Tombstone mysteriously teleports to a city hundreds of miles away through enemy territory.

The cutscenes between missions, which in Battlefield 3 actually gave you some much needed context, are handled in a bizarre way. Mostly they consist of a long shot of the aircraft carrier Valkyrie, and some disembodied voices which convey exposition, essentially everything that could have been done with a text screen. A lot of the sequences are handled in this lazy way and it’s impossible to overstate how much of the game’s impact is lost with them. With the amount of effort put into the awe inspiring graphics and sound design, the story just lets all of that effort down.

Battlefield 4 - GOTY FOOTAGE_ Battlefield 86

However, what makes the story somewhat work, despite it’s myriad of plot holes and uneven execution, are its surprisingly strong characters. The standout is Irish, your squad mate, who gets a decent amount of development, and he also manages to inject some humor into the other wise super serious plot. All of the major characters get their chance to shine and, thanks to some excellent voice acting, they manage to wring about as much as they can out of the predictable script. One particular speech by your commander managed to pump my blood for battle quite effectively before we were dropped into the hell storm of battle.

So what’s improved? Well, DICE can actually write characters now, and their unique mastery of scripted sequences provides the same thrills the series has always had. It’s all for naught though, when the story structure is about as stable as a house of cards in a wind tunnel.

The biggest problems with the game, outside of its laughable attempt at a story, actually reside in the much vaunted gameplay. Quite frankly, It’s a mess from start to finish. For starters, the gunplay has actually managed to take a step backward, mostly due to the fact that every enemy is now a bullet sponge, often taking full hits from sniper rifles without flinching.Coupled with the “realistic” leanings of the recoil and bullet drop, and you get to the point where almost every single gun becomes useless at actually dealing reliable damage to your enemies. It was infuriating trying new guns out and utterly failing to be useful on the battlefield. Curiously, it’s actually easier to take out fully armored vehicles and helicopters than flesh and blood infantry.Of course, the game includes caches scattered throughout the levels filled with weapons you’ve picked up, but has no option to customize them, meaning that, once again, you’ll never use anything other than your preferred load outs. In a game which ostensibly rewards creative thinking, not a lot of it went into the design of this campaign.

Pictured: An easier kill than a soldier!

An easier kill than a soldier!

The game also attempts to incorporate some of the squad mechanics, via ordering them to focus fire on enemies, and this actually manages to work against you. To unlock a few guns in the multiplayer you need to get high scores in the single player missions, but to do so you are going to have to do things yourself, or else forfeit a huge chunk of your score to your squad mates. It’s similar to the Co-op experience from Battlefield 3, which was not very well received, so it’s baffling that such an infuriating system is forced onto the single player mode.

The game does have a lot of organic combat areas, certainly more open than Call Of Duty‘s campaign missions, and it was quite the thrill outwitting a tank with land mines, or hijacking an enemy AA tank and bullet hosing everything to death. The levelolution mechanic also allows for quite a bit of creative destruction, but the gunplay and misused squad mechanics ruin everything.

The same rote structure of set pieces and scripted sequences continues on, but they actually don’t detract from the experience as much as previous games. I should note that I did die more during these sequences than I did during the rest of the gameplay. DICE should thank the gods that its actors, musicians, and artists actually have enough talent to carry these moments, or else this game would be laughed out of the room by Activision. It’s such a thin line that separates bad from good in this game, that it’s a small marvel that it doesn’t collapse completely.

Even considering the sheer number of things that do collapse completely...

Even considering the sheer number of things that do collapse completely…

I know the 360 is going the way of the Dodo soon, but it manages to handle Battlefield 4 quite well, delivering some gorgeous lighting and graphical performance. Seriously, some of the lighting effects in this game, without the blue filter of Battlefield 3, had me staring in awe, and the massive battlefields you fight through pack a surprising amount of detail into the mix. Animation quality is also top-notch, I actually had myself comparing the characters to real people, though the faces can sometimes fall into the uncanny valley. You win some, you lose some. If the big blockbusters of the past year prove anything, it’s that the current generation is going out with a bang graphically, and Battlefield 4 is one of the best looking games ever made for the Xbox 360.

Battlefield 4 Screenshot

I actually grew to love the Battlefield 3 soundtrack. Devoid of the bombast of the usual orchestral score, it’s focus on texture and mood allowed for a more visceral experience. Battlefield 4 repeats many of the musical decisions from the previous game, but it adds just a tiny bit more energy into the tracks. It’s nothing new, but it’s actually an effective soundtrack, underlining every moment with the appropriate emotional cues.

You already know the sound design is awesome, heck, it will likely win every major award possible. It’s that good. On War Tapes, every single sound is pumped up to insane levels, though dialogue does get drowned out frequently by the sonic maelstrom of that setting, so I would recommend playing on some of the normal settings to get a great experience. The level of detail packed into seemingly minor details like footsteps, gunshots, and the rasp of your uniform blow every competitor out of the water. There’s not a real equal to the sound design in this game.

No other game sounds quite like it!

No other game sounds quite like it!

Battlefield 4 is one of the most impressive technical feats in gaming history, and I have no doubt that it will push even next gen systems to their limits, but it utterly fails to create a compelling single player experience, thanks to some regrettable gameplay decisions. There are hints of promise here, like the improved character writing and brave but misguided attempts at unifying multiplayer and single player elements, but, at this stage of the current generation, promise is no longer enough, and Battlefield 4 wallows in disappointment as a result.

The multiplayer is what people will come here for, but they won’t stay for the single player when the servers go dark. Once again, the question must be asked: Why bother?

2_5-stashs

Pros:
Cons:
+ Gorgeous graphics and lighting

+ Award worthy sound design

+ Moods and outfits influence how well you learn, adding an extra layer of strategy

+ Irish is a great character

- Gunplay is frustrating

– Poorly implemented squad mechanics ruin everything

– The story has plot holes galore!

– Laughable execution of exposition

 

 

About The Author

Associate Writer
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I am a composer/Writer and general video game badass who stumbled into a heck of an opportunity here at Twodashstash. I now spend my time plowing through games at ungodly hours of the night, then I make videos about them.