Battlefield 4 launched last Tuesday on current generation consoles and the PC and it’s been kind of a bumpy ride. There are things I really love about the game that will still persist after all of the instability has been patched, so let’s cover the bad stuff first.
When Battlefield 4 came out last week, it was virtually unplayable, and that didn’t change until the evening of November 3. To start there were severe rubberbanding on every server and more often than not the servers or the game itself would crash. This is frustrating considering that Battlefield 4 has a very deep unlock/ranking system, even compared to the previous games in the series. When you lose essential unlocks like the defibrillator and have to unlock it five more times before the game actually lets you complete a round and save your stats, it gets pretty annoying.
Fortunately, that has pretty much been ironed out. The netcode is still wonky, what with enemy players killing you while you’re behind cover or even before they round a corner and the rubberbanding still persists when flying air vehicles. In short, DICE and EA are continuing their sterling legacy of making every Battlefield game virtually unplayable for about a week. Even though they’re working hard on it (there have been about six server-side patches in the last week with more to come) having to wait a week to play a game is always a demoralizing experience.
Now let’s talk about what I like about Battlefield 4. The map design is greatly improved; since BF4 is coming out on the PS4 and the Xbox One in a couple short weeks, DICE apparently felt like they could spend more time making every map either as large or as open (in terms of flanking and alternate routes) as possible. Battlefield 3 was hamstrung by the PS3 and 360’s limitations, so it’s nice to see that DICE can once again stretch their legs.
These are some of the best Battlefield maps ever created. Flood Zone, Hainan Resort and Zavod 311 are instant favorites of mine, especially when the levees break in Flood Zone and the streets get filled with water, forcing you to fight over rooftops or swim underwater to access buildings (swimming is now less of a chore since you can use your sidearm).
While all the maps are excellent, except for Golmud Railway which is a little too much on the large side, the new concept of Levolution is a tricky beast. The small ways you can influence a level, like closing doors or gates or springing up other obstacles, works well, but in some maps the big changes bog the gameplay down. Siege of Shanghai is noticeably less fun when the tower falls. The destruction is almost back to the scale of Bad Company 2, which was greatly missed in Battlefield 3.
The classes have been slightly tweaked this time around, with efforts being made to give a few classes actual options to compete with Assault’s domination of infantry fighting. Carbines are now an all-kit weapon, meaning that Engineer, Support and Recon have access to a gun that can almost compete with assault rifles. Shotguns and Designated Marksman Rifles (DMR) are all-kit as well, but DMRs suffer from taking far too many shots to down an enemy, leaving them easily outclassed at every range.
The breadth of unlocks is staggering in Battlefield 4. DICE wisely gave every gun four attachment slots this time around, so you have more options in how to kit out your weapon. There are sights, under-barrel attachments, gadgets and barrels galore, meaning that you can adjust every gun to fit your playstyle. With the new magnifier or canted iron sight attachments you can make it so your gun is useful in both close-quarters or long range. The amount of versatility here is awesome.
The vehicles leave a lot to be desired, especially where attack boats and jets are concerned. Most of the jet-compatible maps allow you to use both the Stealth or Attack variant, which are focused on air-to-air and anti-ground roles, respectively. What this means is that you no longer have to build your jet to handle a variety of tasks, but when one team has two good pilots who can dominate the air and the ground, it leaves the other team with very few options to retaliate. Do you want to go for the Attack jet to free up your tanks? Well then the pilot flying the Stealth jet will just take you down.
The attack boats are incredibly over-powered, especially on water-heavy maps like Paracel Storm. They have fast-firing powerful main cannons and two miniguns on the side to deal with other threats. While they are susceptible to TV-guided missiles or good strafing runs, infantry are at a loss against them, especially since the starting Engineer rocket launcher is too weak to make a dent against them.
Overall, I’m greatly enjoying Battlefield 4. There are some issues that need to be addressed with both performance and gameplay and there are a ton of bugs, but Battlefield 4 takes a lot of my complaints with BF3 (bad maps, poor unlocks, crappy UI, unbalanced classes) and addresses them. Battlefield 4 has nowhere to go but up, but for the first while it’s going to be very choppy. If you’ve been on the fence and you’re not a hardcore Battlefield maniac, I’d suggest waiting for a sale or at least a month or so. There’s always the single-player but I think we all know how that will turn out.
Has anyone else played Battlefield 4? How has the launch been for you?