Battlefield 4 Review: Multiplayer At Its Finest
Tech, Commander Mode, and Vehicles
The maps and modes are only as good as the engine they run on, and Frostbite 3 does not disappoint — far from it, in fact. I know plenty of jokes have been made about how Frostbite 3.0 is really “Frostbite 2.5,” but the engine and the graphics are a true step up in some ways. The background art in many of the levels feels real to me now, instead of just being a beautiful painting with moving fire effects like in BF3. The solider vehicle models might not be where the biggest improvements are, but the cityscapes, skylines, and effects all look better than an already-impressive (for 2011) Battlefield 3. Watching buildings, dams and other structures collapse shows improvements in physics and particle effects, to the point where particles are downright annoying. Playing Siege of Shanghai after the skyscraper goes down is tough at times because the air effects cloud your vision. Annoying? Yes, but realistic? You bet.
Battlefield 4 puts the new next-gen hardware to work right off the bat. My multiplayer time was split between the PC and the Playstation 4, and both versions of BF4 look fantastic for a large-scale multiplayer effort. And while this next bit did not factor into my review, Battlefield 4 looks exactly the same on the PS4 and Xbox One. There is no difference, as far as I can tell, so all next-gen console buyers will be happy with this game.
Battlefield 4 MP still breaks down into four classes: Assault, Engineer, Support, and Recon. These classes, while tweaked for BF4, still serve the same purposes by and large that they served in Battlefield 3. The Assault class can go the Medic route, or you can load up on grenade launchers and other firepower for a more “ground and pound” approach. The only major kit tweak is C4, which is available as a gadget in both the Support and Recon classes. The Support class still gets some fantastic toys, like all the heavy machine guns, the mortar, claymores, and the XM25 grenade launcher, while Recon focuses on sniper rifles, DMRs, and trackers. Recon has always been just as much of a “support” class to me as the actual Support class, especially when you factor in tech like the laser designator, the T-UGS ground sensor, and the mini-UAV, among others. Assault and Engineer will always be the frontline classes to me, and that doesn’t change in Battlefield 4.
The biggest and most welcome change in the Loadout section is how gadgets work. In Battlefield 3, the Assault’s Medic Bag was locked into the Gadget One slot. In BF4, you can put the bag in either of the two gadget positions, or you omit it from your loadout altogether. The same can be said for any gadget and any class. Battlefield 4 finally gives you the kind of customization freedom you’ve been asking for since Battlefield 2.
Commander Mode is finally back after a prolonged seven-year absence. I can’t believe the last Battlefield game to include a Commander was 2142…it’s been too long! The Commander cannot fight on the ground like in BF2 and 2142, but the tools at your disposal more than make up for the absence. UAVs, supply crates, and vehicle drops will all come in handy when you’re smack dab in the middle of a massive Conquest round. Some of the new additions, like the ability to remove spawn timers on a squad, have an immediate impact on the round at hand. If four of five members of Alpha squad are dead, but the fifth member is hiding safely near an enemy flag, the Commander can kill the squad members respawn timers. Having all the dead squadmates spawn in at once can turn the tide at a flag or M-COM station instantly. Other offensive weapons, like the Tomahawk missile, are dependent on the map (offshore warships/cruisers need to be present on the map for missiles to be available).
Vehicles and weaponry have been retooled from the ground up. Vehicles can take new kinds of damage, like mobility hits, while the kinds of weapons they’re exposed to have also been changed. The M320 grenade launcher did little to no damage against a tank in BF3. Now? A shot to the butt of a tank will do 11 damage — enough to kill a tank that’s already been peppered by RPGs. Engineer rockets won’t one-hit-kill helicopters anymore, but heavy machine gun rounds do significantly more damage. I like most of the changes, especially now that you don’t have to earn every single vehicle unlock. The jet starts with missiles, as a jet should, so the nickel-and-diming routine has been dampened a bit.
Mobility hits, or damage that makes a tank move slower, are tied to where the vehicle has been hit instead of a stock damage counter like in BF3. While vehicle battles aren’t completely unpredictable, the mobility factor adds some spice to confrontations.
New vehicles are a welcome addition as well. The new Attack Boats are my favorite vehicle in the game, hands down. The stock boat, complete with 25mm cannon and TOW launcher, is fantastic on its own, but the unlocks…surface-to-air missiles, dumb-fire rockets, AA cannons…it makes the Attack Boat the most versatile, and deadly, vehicle in the game. Even the Plain Jane AA tank has some new tricks.