Battlefield 3 is a hell of a title to try and better. Not simply in technical terms but also in the sheer support it had from the FPS community. But, this early on, Battlefield 4 is having a damn good go at it.
Obviously everything looks better. The web-based Battlelog system has been given a facelift, and under the cosmetics there’s real functionality to help users to easily access the wealth of information, scores and stats available. In game, the third version of the Frostbite engine is handling things, and if you’ve got a relatively healthy system spec on your hands you’ll notice the difference. The campaign mode is as cinematic as as ever, and everything looks simply sublime. Scenery looks sharper, buildings look far more detailed, and explosions look more likely to singe your eyebrows. That’s not to say everything’s perfect. On the third mission during a non-hostile encounter, you can find yourself seemingly stuck on the outside of a friendly ship, unable to re-enter. Hopeless, you may run off to the rear of the ship where – after passing a glitched porthole – you can fall into the water with no way to climb back up. Definitely a “Restart Mission” situation.
The campaign glitch in unfortunate considering the general feel of a premium single player mode. However, as is often the case these days, Campaign is merely the entrée to the Multiplayer main. Here the sense of detail is something new entirely, and to appreciate just how much is going on in, say, a 64 man server, you can fly a jet or chopper to the top of the map and parachute the whole way down to the digital earth. Taking everything in as you do will give you a grand sense of how much is going on, being rendered and how well the game has been optimised since the open beta. Another thing to immediately notice is that the game seems louder. Not just louder; effects seem more urgent, punchy, puncturing the silence in a way not dissimilar to the acoustics of Bad Company 2. So if you’re unloading rounds from a primary, secondary, or vehicle-mounted weapon, the noise seems authentic. And authentic in a way which jumps the bar set by Battlefield 3.
Levelution is here too – having a very real impact on maps as destruction of walls and scenery does more than simply change the way things look. Blowing new routes through tunnels, flooding part of a maps and collapsing tall structures are enjoyable additions, making elements of the multiplayer seem a far better reflection of real-life engagements than previously. Raising that bar is a theme which runs throughout Battlefield 4. Players now have hundreds of unlocks to acquire, and will be made familiar with these from the early rounds.
Gun attachments, vehicular, personnel and squad upgrades are all back, and are accompanied by Battlepacks. Deluxe Edition owners start with some thrown in, and these virtual caches (containing a selection of upgrades and various boosts) are unlocked at ranked intervals. These serve to represent the many tweaks and changes which have arrived. But the changes are more than a passing note. Purists will realise that everything from piloting an attack chopper to gaining a melee kill has been reconsidered and – in the main – improved. Air vehicles are a little harder to get down than before, and if an opponent attempts to end your kill-streak with a knife…well, you can counter any frontal approach.
Undoubtedly though some of the biggest changes have come about with regards to team-play. Not only have squads been increased from four to five members, but Commander mode has returned. The former means you genuinely feel like you have a a good level of backup in taking objectives, while the latter can mean your team is well supplied with UAVs, vehicle drops and gunships to support your war-effort. Reaching rank 10 will open up this mode, and when with friends or clan mates it really adds a tactical element to battles.
The criticism here though is the lack of reward received by the Commander, who currently gains a fairly low amount of recognition for helping to change the course of the battle. This should really be addressed, as should current server instability and a few other game-based imbalances – the anti-air vehicle is somewhat overpowered in its current state. Still, this is only days after launch. For Battlefield 4 to truly succeed, developers Dice will no doubt continue to improve an already enjoyable, commendable and noticeably more in depth follow up to Battlefield 3. And that’s really not too shabby.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.