Battlefield 4 Review: Multiplayer At Its Finest
Multiplayer: Battlefield, Refined and Enhanced
Thankfully, my thoughts on the multiplayer in Battlefield 4 are about as far from my feelings on the campaign as possible. In a word, Battlefield 4 multiplayer is brilliant.
I invested several hundred hours into Battlefield 3, despite the fact that I knew I was playing a flawed game. The vehicle play, Conquest mode, and big team play in BF3 glosses over so many of the smaller problems — no spectator mode, no Commander mode, a frustrating-at-times customization menu, and some very mediocre level design at times. Battlefield 3 always felt a bit rushed to me. The core game is, and was, fantastic, but some of the details felt overlooked.
I don’t get the same impression from Battlefield 4.
Battlefield 4 feels like a multiplayer experience on a mission. DICE looked at what it couldn’t do in BF3, be it because of technological limitations or time constraints, and fleshed those features out. The end result, at launch, is ten maps with seven game modes, coupled with some very detailed kit customization.
- Flood Zone
- Zavod 311
- Lancang Dam
- Golmud Railway
- Paracel Storm
- Operation Locker
- Hainan Resort
- Siege of Shanghai (also known as “the beta map”)
- Rogue Transmission
Each map has its own distinct feeling, even if some of the assets make multiple appearances. Dawnbreaker and Siege of Shanghai are both city maps, but they feel incredibly different once boots are on the ground. Shanghai has a very symmetrical and vertical feel to it, with the Golden Egg (skyscraper) smack dab in the middle. On the other hand, Dawnbreaker uses a late-day setting coupled with more internal building scenes and a highway overpass. BF4 takes you from high-end vacation destinations to the most desolate, unforgiving prisons the world has to offer. The level variety is there, and it can all be blown to smithereens.
Along with the right settings, DICE has really stepped up the level design used in Battlefield 4, at least initially. I can’t speak to the expansion levels yet, but first run of maps cover all the bases. Interested in an Operation Metro-like grind for flags? Operation Locker is perfect for you. Or are large-scale armor battles more your speed? Golmud Railway has more tanks than you’ll ever need, coupled with a moving, train-based flag in Conquest. Every level has its own distinct personality, and the lot should satisfy Battlefield fans of all types.
Levolution, despite being a tired marketing buzz word, is used so effectively in Battlefield 4. We all know about the collapsing skyscraper on Siege of Shanghai, but the levolution variations from map to map are both ingenious and diverse. GoldenEye-like satellite dishes collapsing, exploding damns, and flooding slum-scapes all make for such a varied and exciting experience from level to level. Levolution isn’t just about looking pretty and showing off the latest version of Frostbite; the changes in the levels absolutely change how teams push, flank, and gun for the objectives.
Operation Locker is a very tight map, with prison bar doors blocking approaches, small hallways acting as chokepoints, and a central guard tower that acts as the flashpoint in most of the game modes. The levolution on Locker is bringing the guard tower down, which collapses the entire central room of the prison. The collapse offers new ways to get from the top floor to the bottom, and the fights to control that space quickly steal the focus from other objectives. Levolution has evolved from diminishing cover in Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3, to honestly changing map strategy in Battlefield 4. It’s a game-changer, if you can get past the marketing speak.
Battlefield 4 ships with seven game modes, with more to be added with DLC, I’m sure:
- Conquest/Conquest Large: This is Battlefield as you know it. Three to seven control points per map.
- Obliteration: The bomb mode for BF4. Each team must defend three bomb sites while fighting over one backpack-sized bomb. Think of it like reverse CTF.
- Domination: Or as I call it: Conquest, Jr. Smaller teams (32 server size) fight over control points. This is infantry combat only, so no vehicles.
- Rush: Like the mode from BC2 and BF3 — one team defends two bomb sites at a time, the other attacks. This is the most linear multiplayer mode.
- Squad DM: Four squads of up to eight fighters each try to hit a kill total first.
- Team DM: The classic mode returns.
- Defuse: Call of Duty’s Search and Destroy mode with a Battlefield coat of paint.
We pored over every game mode and map combination during the Battlefield 4 review event. Some modes I scoffed at (Defuse mode simply doesn’t hold my attention), while other new modes are absolutely brilliant. Obliteration will be getting as much of my playing time as Conquest, without a doubt. You don’t need a full 64-man server to enjoy Obliteration, and I think the mode will be really popular on middle-sized servers (30-48 slots). The new bomb mode maintains the ebb and flow of Conquest while keeping much of the fighting at one or two central locations. It’s slightly-more-organized chaos. You still need to flank, cover your ass, and manage vehicle assets, but the main firefight will always be where the bomb is.
Conquest and Rush are unchanged, except for the inclusion of the Commander, of course. Eyes in the sky aside: If you loved or hated these modes in previous Battlefield games, you will probably feel the same way this time around.
I think the only mode in BF4 that’s wasted on me is Defuse. DICE wants to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, so I understand its inclusion — gotta get those Call of Duty players somehow, right?! What matters most is that the modes many of us love Battlefield for — Conquest and Rush — are the best they’ve ever been, and some of the new modes — Obliteration, without a doubt — only add to the excitement.
Some maps and modes don’t pair well together, though — the 40-minute-plus round of Obliteration on Operation Locker was called “The World War I of Battlefield 4,” as there was no definitive winner before DICE finally killed the match and moved on. Long rounds like that have their place, so long as you’re expecting a long round. Obliteration is fantastic, as is Operation Locker, but together? You might get sick of it.