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Battlefield 4 Xbox 360 Review!
on 1 November 2013
You will be coming from one of three categories. Those of you that have never bought or played Battlefield 3, those that did and thoroughly enjoyed it and those of you that bought it but didn't care for it all that much. Those in the last category more so than the others will be wondering the most is this better than it's predecessor and worth getting on current gen or should I wait for the next gen version to come along?
Firstly I want to set out my standpoint, I pre-ordered BF4 from a high street retailer and not Amazon, Why? Well the last game I pre-ordered from Amazon failed to arrive for 3 days after release, as a result I'm much more cautious about where I pre-order games from. Needless to say my copy arrived last night, a day earlier than expected and I played the single player all of last night and went on the multiplayer this morning when I knew it was safe to play.
I was and still am a huge Battlefield 3 fan, it had some of the best designed map layouts and featured endless amounts of weapons and customization (which you had to earn and unlock principally by using that weapon more and racking up kills with it). Unlike many of Battlefield 3's competitors where by you just run around and shoot and then run some more, Battlefield 3 was a game in which you required "tactical thinking" to succeed, running around like in a call of duty game for example would get you killed multiple times. Teamwork was also essential to surviving and winning a game rather than charging an objective on your own. Well Battlefield 4 follows the same basic premise, Teamwork again is essential and now squads have been increased from 4 to 5 (you can spawn on players in your squad and they show as green markers on the map). The total players remains the same on current gen consoles as it did on Battlefield 3 at 24 players (12 per team), 64 player maps have been reserved for PC and next gen versions of the game out later this month.
Firstly I want to say a little regarding the Campaign, it is nothing special and for the most part is quite boring even if it does have some high octane scenes and shootouts. While the characters may be interesting in their own way they fail to shine through and show us what they're made of, sadly their human side isn't translated into their combat side because as AI they are useless, even when you direct them to fire on a specific target. Having just finished my first play-though of the main story I have to say it left me uninspired and in a sense short changed. Graphics wise it looks remarkably similar to Battlefield 3, there have been no graphical strides forward regarding this current gen version (even when you install the texture pack, which I would advise you to do). Perhaps the only main difference is the destruction engine which I can confirm has been improved and looks much more like what we saw in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 with full and proper damage, it is worth pointing out that the destruction engine is at its best in multiplayer mode where you can bring whole buildings down upon an enemy team. I take a different viewpoint than most people in that I think a decent single player has the potential to make or indeed break a game and this particular one is one you will soon forget about after your first run-through. Audio wise the game is top notch and I have no criticisms about it, everything sounds as it should and glad to see they have carried on this trend from BF3. Other things i have noticed during the campaign are enemy AI have a habit of spawning in areas you have already cleared, snipers and rockets are under-powered, Enemy AI can hit you while in cover and jumping down from heights greater than 10ft will kill you.
Moving to the Multiplayer side of the game and what will be the most contentious part. Having spent many hours over the past two years playing Battlefield 3, I was hoping that this would be the next stage in the cycle and take the very good foundations of bf3 and build on them. Sadly there are quite a few problems, bugs, glitches and general issues that must be noted. Before I do, it is only fair to point out that this game has only just been released in the UK and they are bound to patch it given time but having said that the game has been out for a few days now in the US and a few friends from America have told me the problems still exist. Please understand that everything I note about the multiplayer below is my first impressions of the game having played around 4-6 hours online and if they change due to a patch later down the road I will post an update at the bottom of this review.
The screen tearing is atrocious especially around the "levolution" where by buildings fall. You physically see the screen judder before the short animation occurs, now this is apparently due to current gen hardware not being capable of processing it fast enough nor having the capability to do so. Hit detection is appalling and I really do mean appalling, the amount of bullets it takes to kill someone is ridiculous, if I used the same amount of bullets in real life from the same weapon the person in question would be a pile of unidentifiable sludge on the floor. Some servers seem to have issues with the queue system in that it doesn't work so you have to keep pressing the join button hoping there is enough room (meaning you can't nip to the toilet and come back to find you're in a game). I also see getting shot around corners has now become the norm too, after you are killed unlike BF3 where you get a close up view of the enemy player who killed you (and don't get to know where they are), in this you are greeted by a "zoom to" from where your body is and the enemy is identified in red (now making it easy to located where they are camping). The amount of times I have been killed by people that were around a corner is unreal, I work off the viewpoint if I can't see them, then they can't see me.
Nobody and I mean nobody plays as support ergo "the guy with the ammo" anymore as everyone plays as assault in this, so literally after spawning and killing about 3 players you are out of ammo (made worse in that if you reload mid way through a magazine you now lose the remaining ammo in that magazine, which may be realistic and fine if there were enough support players dropping ammo which there aren't). Moving onto health packs, they are now that small it's hard to notice them and half the time when you throw them they fall through the floor (if you are on the first/second floor of a building or indeed the roof).
If in doubt everyone now uses grenade launchers, (think BF3 but because everyone goes assault class everyone uses it). There is no safe spawning either, so you spawn on a team mate only to be instantly killed by a player who was not there on the mini screen that is suppose to give you a pre-view of what you're spawning into! Quick scoping/no scoping has also made an appearance on Battlefield 4, for the love of god "WHY DID YOU ALLOW QUICKSCOPING DICE?" I can already see the thousands of 5 year old that avoided bf3 because it was too challenging getting this game as it suits them perfectly!
Maps are also made smaller for xbox 360/PS3 with fewer objectives compared to what they were designed for. You get the sense this game was designed for next gen but then they realised "oh, what about people sticking with current gen?" and did a quick fix to make it compatible. Many of the graphical issues and map sizes I would argue are here simply because those parts of the game weren't designed for current gen consoles. Indeed some of the maps seem far too big for 24 players.
In a nutshell I am not enjoying this game online and I speak as a veteran BF3 player. For sure I expect many of the problems will be patched but also I'm going to guess that many won't and I can say that because they didn't patch all the problems in BF3!
I have to ask what was the point of the Beta a few weeks ago and why so close to release, they evidently haven't learnt anything from the beta as all the problems still exist. They even messed with the controller layout compared with bf3, changing it to a COD style layout. When asked about the BF3 layout they said you can change it so it's similar but not the same. Why change it if it's not broken?
PROS: Same great graphics of BF3 with added destruction to the environment * maps are nice and have a good layout although they've been cropped to fit current gen systems (i.e. they were designed bigger) * return of commander mode will please old school fans * 5 man squads * weapon graphics do look nice * Audio is fantastic!
CONS: Far too many bugs and problems with the online side of the game * someone who has just put down a copy of BF3 in order to play this will more than likely pick up bf3 again * single player story lacks gravitas and despite the trailers we've seen on the internet and tv is forgettable * weapons online are not consistent from kill to kill and some are overpowered * quick scoping now exists * grenade launchers are overused * standard controller layout is rubbish compared to bf3 * no safe spawn * huge lag issues at "critical" moments * Screen tearing and juddering especially around levolution (like when you bring a building down) indicates this game wasn't designed for current gen.
VERDICT: I am gutted and saddened at how poor this game is compared with it's predecessor. It has become a faster paced "run and gun" game rather than the tactical shooter Battlefield 3 was, it maybe that these issues apply to current gen versions only and that the next gen will be significantly better, but on current gen this game suffers and in a big way. It doesn't look all that impressive at 720p and those high octane moment where the developers want you to see something specific look choppy at best.
It didn't strike me until a friend mentioned it but when he said it, it made sense. This game feels like Medal of Honor but played on larger maps! All they had to do with the multiplayer side of Battlefield was to bring some new maps and weapons, update a few things and make the graphics look better and gameplay smoother yet they have totally mucked with it to the point it's not the battlefield we have all come to know and love. How on earth any professional reviewer can give this 9/10 is beyond me and clearly never played BF3 all that much!
Very disappointed and I hope a patch sorts many of the issues I mention out, if you want to know is it worth getting this gen or should I wait for the next gen version I would probably wait and see what impact any patch may have (I will post an update below when that happens). Right now however, Battlefield 4 is a total mess!
UPDATE 10th November 2013: I have purposely waited well over a week since the launch of this game (10 days in fact) to see how it has changed, evolved and indeed improved. Despite there being a 120mb patch that was suppose to improve multiplayer experiences i have to say that i found the so called patch has done little to improve things. little bugs like servers crashing or indeed consoles freezing while at a loading screen seem to have improved but the hit detection system is just as bad as it was at launch and medical packs still disappear when you drop them, also half the time they don't work. It still takes a whole magazine to kill someone and the amount of times i have been killed by someone CLEARLY out of sight around a corner i find unforgivable. Also, now having spent time using the in-game interface for weapon customization and squad setup i have to point out how complicated and boring they have made it, there are too many options crammed onto the screen and then the bars that you scroll through are too small, making weapon setups a painful experience in itself!
The biggest problem that i have found though is with the map design for certain game types. In battlefield 3 the main game type i played was "RUSH" where by one team attacks and one defends m-com stations, usually two at a time and when two are destroyed the defending team fall back and defend the next two. The attackers win when all m-com stations are destroyed on the map and the defenders can only win when the attackers have used up all their re-spawns and there is at least one m-com station left. The problem with Battlefield 4's maps is they are far too open for RUSH mode and allow the attackers too much room to surround the m-coms. I have yet to play a match of rush and win on the defending team let me put it that way, so much so i have started playing conquest and domination mode on a more permanent basis and i can say the maps seem better suited to those modes! It isn't helped by the fact that regardless of which mode you choose EVERYONE and i really do mean EVERYONE runs around like it's a team deathmatch. I feel saddened at the state bf4 finds itself in especially as it was the one game i was banking on to offer team based tactical play but it seems i was mistaken.
UPDATE 23rd November 2013: There has been another update today weighing in at 250mb. It was to address the game crashing in certain circumstances and to improve general stability issues, game-play remains the same!
UPDATE 7th December 2013: There was a 3rd update out today although they made it a farce to download (it doesn't pop up like a normal update and instead you have to press "X" for game info at the dashboard. In there you will find "update 3". It weighs in at over 250mb and only affects the online side of the game. Hit Detection has been dramatically improved with the vast majority of shots now counting although it is correct to point out that some shots still don't count. Other small issues like ammo crates and health packs that would disappear now stay where you drop them. However, there are still issues surrounding weapons not appearing when you spawn, games crashing and indeed i have had my single player save file corrupted even though since downloading the update i have only played multiplayer. The gaming experience has definitely improved thanks to the hit detection issue being largely addressed although i will add the caveat that sometimes it is now too easy to kill or be killed.
UPDATE 18th December 2013: There has been another patch today with a long list of fixes, many issues mostly surrounding server stability and smaller glitches seem to have been resolved FINALLY! Having said that my game froze while attempting to join a server earlier and there was a problem with weapons not appearing still.
UPDATE 17th February 2014: There has been another update out today with another long list of fixes, the game is getting better but more need to be done!
Besides what i have stated in these updates the rest of my original review stands true. The campaign side has remained the same but if anything changes beyond today i will update this further.
UPDATE 10th August 2014: I have now traded this game in, for the past few weeks i have hardly touched it. I went on it briefly before selling it and many of the problems that existed back in February still exist. Player numbers have definitely reduced significantly too!