'Battlefield 4' Review: Still FIghting The Last (Gen) War?

'Battlefield 4' is the latest in EA and DICE's long-running series of massive mutliplayer-focused warfare sims. It's out on 1 November for Xbox 360, PC and PS3, with next-gen versions to follow at launch.

Key Features:

  • Land, air and dynamic sea battles with a huge range of vehicles
  • 'Levolution' takes battlefield destruction and level editing to the next… level
  • Obliteration Mode - a new multiplayer experience
  • Revamped graphics
  • Weather effects vastly improved

The Pitch:

"Immerse yourself in the glorious chaos of all-out war. New maps, more vehicles,

weapons and destruction allow you to create your own path and play to your strengths. Absolutely nothing compares to the sheer scale and scope of Battlefield 4."


To the untrained or lazy eye, 'Battlefield 4' looks like just another current-gen shooter. Because in most respects it is - this is a genre military FPS game, for genre fans, with all the big guns, bad single-player dialogue ("If you’ve survived a nuclear explosion like I have...") and Sisyphean multiplayer matches you expect.

But BF4 has always set itself apart from the pack - and its big rival Call of Duty - by one particular measure: scope. And in this respect the new game totally delivers, adding a huge range of new vehicles (including full sea combat) and some seriously jaw-dropping dynamic events, which really are unlike anything you've seen before.

To this end, the term 'Levolution' has been thrown around during the BF4 press tour to an almost insultingly extensive degree. But behind the PR fluff lies something pretty extraordinary. Set up a chain of specific events during a multiplayer match, and Big Things will happen - and you your world, and tactics will completely change. Why? Because a skyscraper has just fallen down. Or a hotel has blown in half, or a dam has collapsed - and you're left in the wreckage, trying to remember what it is you were trying to do before the lights went out.

These are not aesthetic or shallow changes either - they completely change how a level works, and how you have to approach the game. Can your tanks still pummel the enemy now they're blocked by the rubble? Are you able to attack by sea with a storm raging like somebody's dropped a nuclear bomb on Poseidon's head? And why did that satellite just fall from the sky?

Yes, these events look damn cool. The new Frostbite 3 engine copes brilliantly with a huge range of landscapes, from dank prisons to the open seas, and we can't wait to play this game on the next-gen machines, or a high-end PC. It already looks pretty impressive on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and we're looking forward to seeing even more later this month.

The game also lets players make smaller, but still important impacts on the game world, wrecking individual houses and knocking out pillars to create new paths and defendable territory.

For an average player then, BF4 has lots to enjoy, including a fairly lengthy (about 5-6 hours) and varied single player campaign. But at its core this is a game for expert-level digital warriors - and to be fair, that's where it leaves us a little behind. Commander Mode lets a player leave the front lines to direct attacks, strikes and strategy from above, for instance, but we quickly found ourselves on the wrong end of a near-mutiny as our tactics immediately proved inadequate. Frankly we wished we could just find a dark corner of a skyscraper in which to hide before the damn thing falls down again.

Even the minor changes in the game - how sniper bullets move, or how sneak attacks now invite counter-attack moves - are big edits to established players, and it's difficult for non-experts to appreciate those nuances.

Fundamentally, however, this is a very solid, fun and deep game that includes a range of new multiplayer modes (Domination is infantry-only and more focused than Conquest, while Defuse is a close-knit tactical chess match), great graphics, and lots more maps and space for hardcore players to get their deadly kicks.