Battlefield 4 PS4 review – An almost amazing start to DICE’s next-gen ambitions

Battlefield 4 review PS4

Interesting discussion (argument) I had while reviewing Battlefield 4 is what constitutes next-gen. Is it just good looks? Or is it something you couldn’t have experienced on a previous console generation? Battlefield 4 manages to deliver a partial tick on both fronts with some of the loveliest looking warzones on PS4 and, on the multiplayer side of things at least, an online spectacle that’s likely to leave you gawping in mute amazement as planes crash into mountains, flaming helicopters drop out of the sky and 64 people turn the map orange with gunfire.

[For comparison you can read Joel's Battlefield 4 PS3 review here.]

Battlefield 4 PS4 review

The peaks definitely come from the multiplayer, which is likely to be almost traumatic to anyone used to PS3’s 20-odd sized games. The maps here are huge and that 32 v 32 player count creates the kind of chaos that has to be seen to believed – this really does feel like a war instead of a deathmatch. Planes dogfight overhead, tanks battle it out over hills while the rest of the troops slug it out in scattered skirmishes that can individually feel bigger than entire PS3 matches.

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In only a few days I’ve had multiple memorable stories. A shot down helicopter falling on me mid-battle so that mine and the enemy’s squad scattered in panic from burning wreckage tumbling down the hillside. There were incredible scenes on the Operation Locker map where the entire game’s headcount met in the middle at complete loggerheads for a 15 minute stand off in a tiny tunnel. Or just prowling the periphery: crawling through bushes as a sniper waiting for the perfect mile-long headshot. Stuff like that’s incredible in a way PS3 could never manage. The first time a tropical monsoon rose up on the Parcel Storm map I just stopped to stare in awe as driving rain rattled trees and distant lightning flashed across black clouds.

There’s a big ‘but’ to all this though. The multiplayer’s currently unstable as all hell. Sound can drop out, leaving you in silence,
and the game’s likely to crash at any point

There’s a big ‘but’ to all this though. The multiplayer’s currently unstable as all hell. Sound can drop out, leaving you in absolute silence and the game’s likely to crash at any point. At time of writing it’s averaging about one ‘unexpected error’ blue screen of death per hour. No warning, just ‘pow!’ back to the menu. One night I failed to bank a point of XP because I didn’t see a single match to completion.

Battlefield 4 review PS4I would say it’s inconvenient more than anything else except one of these crashes also corrupted my single player save as well. While I was able to re-download it via PS Plus the evening’s single player progress was lost. Bearing in mind that on PSN battlefield 4 is also one of the most expensive games on PS4 it’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t fully function. EA has even managed to somehow make the Share function – a core PlayStation 4 feature – not work, with no sound on the captured video. And it’s disabled Commander mode while looking into the issues.

The single player at least avoids crashing although it does suffer instead from being very, very familiar. That’s not Battlefield 4’s fault though really, it’s just getting to that point in the contemporary military FPS’ lifecycle, much like when WW2 shooters simply ran out of war. Call Of Duty’s having the same problem -  there’s only so many combinations of man/tank/gun/boom you can string together before you start to feel like it’s all happened before, and much like Activision’s entry this year there are entire levels that feel like HD remakes of previous encounters. If I had to line them all up then COD’s got the better single player mode. Embracing the ridiculous and running with it bayonet clamped firmly between the teeth. While Battlefield 4 has a far more impressive multiplayer. Even with the problems the scale and impact is impressive.

Battlefield 4 review PS4The single player is less so. Mainly thanks to the pushing-a-pull-door AI which are hard to forgive – they run to their marks once triggered and then rarely move an inch. The combat is less about dynamics and more about removing all the people to continue. Levels, while looking gorgeous, can seem clearly designed for a purpose as obviously delineated boxy combat arenas. At one point you have to take a tank out. A tank that patiently orbits a little circular road, waiting for its inevitable explosive end. It’s not uncommon to approach an area, leaving a corridor to discover a clearly marked out box designated as ‘the bit you fight in’. All games have them but Battlefield 4 barely even tries to hide them.

It’s a bit of difficult relationship in all honesty. I love the multiplayer – I don’t think I’ve ever played anything online with such a sense of scale, or that looked this good while over sixty people hoof it about on foot, wheel and wing. But the frustration of crashes and lost progress means it comes with a guarded recommendation: it’s amazing but brittle. The single player, even with its problems, can still entertain, mostly thanks to the graphical power shamelessly thrown on screen. But, while there are highs, there are also lows that make an otherwise exciting experience somewhat flawed. The issues aren’t ruinous, and in the case of the multiplayer more an inconvenience that EA needs to address than anything else – but it’s enough to take the shine off what should be one of the best shooters on PS4.

Our Score

Score: 7