“Battlefield 4” was released during the awkward transition period before a new generation of video game consoles. Currently released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC and set to launch alongside the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions make it fairly evident this game was intended for systems that are more demanding. At its best, the game provides large-scale modern warfare combat, but enough technical problems plague the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions to make them seem like a low-grade preview for the PS4 and Xbox One versions.
Building upon 2011’s “Battlefield 3,” “Battlefield 4” is the next in a series that’s mainly iterative — though successfully executed. At the forefront of the game — and the first option on the main menu — is large-scale multiplayer combat. Classic modes such as Rush and Conquest return from the previous game and join new modes such as Obliteration, which features two teams fighting over a bomb that can be planted in the opposing team’s base. Also included is a much more dense equipment-and-loadout system. After recording about eight hours of multiplayer play time, one only scratches the surface in terms of unlocking guns, attachments and other equipment.
However, the current generation’s versions of the game pale in comparison to the PC version and soon-to-be-released PS4 and Xbox One versions. Player count is heavily reduced on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, allowing a maximum of 24 players in a game, while next-generation versions of the game allow up to 64 players on certain game modes, something not many other games can offer. The frame rate in the next-generation consoles runs at 60 frames per second, while the current-generation version barely runs at 30 frames per second.
The graphics are inferior in comparison to PC or PS4 footage; the lighting effects are not as vibrant, the particle effects are barely existent and the textures can be flat-out ugly. Beyond these limitations, the technical problems are the most offensive shortcoming of the current generation’s versions. Firefights can result in large amounts of slowdown, crippling the frame rate and even sometimes crashing the console.
Despite such problems, there still is some fun to be had. Multiplayer modes such as Domination, a condensed version of Conquest in which teams fight over territory on a map, cap the player count at 20 people per match, making the game manageable for the current generation’s consoles. Anyone getting a PS4 or Xbox One will be able to upgrade to the next-generation version of the game for $10 while maintaining equipment and statistics, so those wanting to double-dip won’t have to pay twice for the same game.
“Battlefield 4” also features a single-player campaign that, although improved immensely from the single-player campaign in “Battlefield 3,” feels unnecessary. Even though the plot is as ridiculous and dumb as that of every other modern military shooter, it at least has the courtesy to quickly shove you into the action and avoid any pretense of complexity or attempt at plausibility.
The level design is large and open-ended, making each firefight more dynamic than the typical corridor-to-corridor level design seen in most military shooters. Yet no matter the improvements, computer-controlled enemies simply are not as fun as fighting other human players.
“Battlefield 4” is a game meant to be played on the latest hardware. Those experiencing the game on a PS3 and Xbox 360 are in for an incomplete experience. But those experiencing the game on PC and next-generation consoles should expect a near-perfect form of the “Battlefield” experience.
Art Siriwatt covers video games. Contact him at [email protected].