So, Battlefield 4 is upon us, like a sweaty psychotic trying to stab a knife into our throat under the guise of taking our ‘tags’, and it’s really quite good. I have not finished the single player campaign, but that doesn’t matter, for I’ve loaded some truth-bullets into my word gun and I’m going for a kill streak.
Let’s start with the single player. Battlefield 3 had a rather unfortunate solo experience; bullshit of the highest degree mixed with some accidental social commentary as Marines were literally unable to open simple doors until ordered to do so by command. Interesting implications sadly not touched upon by the game in any narrative or thematic fashion.
After that prior outing I probably would have steered clear of Battlefield 4, but I am committed to being your intrepid warzone correspondent. I’m doing this for you, the reader… Also, playing through the single player campaign unlocks weapons for the multiplayer, which may have had something to do with it.
My dedication to (pretend) wartime journalism paid dividends though, as the campaign actually has quite a lot to offer. It wantonly abandons all pretence of gritty realism in the name of set-piece after impressive set-piece, a formula which enamored me to the Call of Duty campaigns over the years.
From the opening bars of a particular Bonnie Tyler classic to “emotive” growls like ‘A trapped wolf will chew off its own leg to survive’ it remains a gung-ho show of military might, starring manly men doing manly things. Let’s just say anyone expecting socio-political commentary akin to Spec Ops: The Line may come out disappointed. I haven’t quite reached the end, so I can’t guarantee that it doesn’t evolve into an intelligent deconstruction of the American military machine… but I’m harbouring doubts.
The stand out moment thus far: After encountering some Chinese Special Forces near the top of a Shanghai hotel, a very brief and one sided firefight ensues as you spray your UMP out of some elevator doors and take cover. The elevator doors close and the elevator continues to ascend, with your witty squad-mate commenting “Holy shit, did we just invade China?”. Yeah, yeah we did.
It’s a perfect distillation of the entire campaign in one brief moment.
It can become a little dreary to play, and while the campaign gives you a certain sense of autonomy in the meat and potatoes of man-shooting, the actual door opening and story beats are taken right out of your hands and expositioned in your face with unsubtle, barked dialogue.
They’ve done away with the co-op in this latest outing, which is a shame. I’ve had some really enjoyable moments teaming up with a buddy to run screaming around Parisian office buildings, which is frowned upon outside of video-games. But the multiplayer that’s long been the main draw-card for the series is still here and just as amusing/infuriating as ever – though with more explosions, unlocks and new ‘Battlepacks‘. These packs are such a blatant attempt at monetisation, I’m surprised you can’t already buy bundles of five for ten quid.
They’ll get away with it though, because Battlefield is the best at what it does. Helicopters thunder overhead, snipers dash across rooftops, machine guns rattle from windows, and the atmosphere of a tense battle (on a field) is second to none. The drip-feed of unlocks is well balanced and the squad mechanics do a good job of forcing people to play together. I play a lot of competitive multiplayer and in my experience, the best way to encourage cooperation is to give players a big reward; In this case, Battlefield 4 pours experience points and boosts all over, you so a squad working well together are going to unlock pretties faster and be more potent doing it.
The jury is still out on the single player, but if you like shooting people with friends, and if you have friends then you should get Battlefield 4 – it is after-all the premier team-based FPS (First Person Shoot-that-guy-in-the-face-with-a-gun-or-mangle-him-with-a-vehicle-er), and half the reason you’d have Origin installed.
[If you’re more into the solo experience, I played Shadow Warrior this week too, and that was fun. I might talk about that more later? I don’t know.]