IN the densely populated marketplace of multiplayer first-person shooters, Battlefield has always relied on the vastness of its arenas as a unique selling point.
Review: Battlefield 4 - Playstation 4 (reviewed) / Xbox One
Score: 8.7 / 10
For those left breathless by the taut, frenetic action perfected by Call of Duty, it instead offers sweeping, destructible vistas and sprawling armies whose survival depends on strategy as opposed to an insatiable bloodlust.
DICE’s emphasis on magnitude was not quite done justice by the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 4. It played superbly, granted, with excellent visuals, and will arguably come to be regarded as one of that console’s best multiplayer titles. Even so, it operated within set parameters defined by the technical limitations of a eight-year-old machine. Player counts were pared back and maps were hemmed in.
As a standalone game, it was both a scintillating experience and a commendable achievement on the part of the developers. Yet playing it in the knowledge that the next generation versions were imminent left a nagging feeling, not unlike receiving a mountain bike for Christmas, only to discover it was a hand-me-down from a distant elder cousin, now aloofly riding around on his new top of the range model.
Gap closed between PC, consoles
On Playstation 4, the gap between Battlefield on console and PC has been closed so as to have become intangible. Whereas the last gen machines could only muster games with 24 players, the developers are now able to implement the entirety of their vision. The roster is expanded to 64 players, while the maps now sprawl out in all the destructible glory with which they were designed.
It is difficult to underestimate the transformative this has on the series and console multiplayer gaming in general. The concept of an epic match, so often overused in moments of excitement, is routine in this definitive version of Battlefield 4. Forget improvements in resolution; the expanded scale of this game is one the most stirring examples to date of the opportunities presented by the new consoles.
Naturally, the game has also benefited from a facelift. The ravaged landscapes and structures dazzle with their level of detail while the sound design - already superb on 360 - is the ideal complement to DICE’s recreation of war, with bullets whistling all around. The much heralded Levolution feature also excels as fragments of rubble and dust clouds whirl around the battles.
The campaign, sadly, is the antithesis of its engrossing multiplayer counterpart. As with the 360 version, the narrative is lacklustre, the design stilted and the AI woefully inept. A feature using the PS4’s camera to take refuge from the action by ducking and weaving is interesting, but let but by questionable cover mechanics. Undistinguished on any platform, the single playet gameplay makes a mockery of the ambition seen elsewhere.
Completists aside, however, the endlessly invigorating online arenas are where the lion’s share of players will gather. The improvements to those modes mean the next generation versions of Battlefield 4 stand head and shoulders above its earlier releases, and with the ability to migrate the likes of rank, score and K/D radio from Playstation 3 to Playstation 4 or Xbox 360 to Xbox One, upgrading is the natural step.