EA Battlefield 4: Killer Gameplay, Killjoy Bugs (review)

Our gamer FP Zhang conducts an in-depth review of EA’s Battlefield 4. His conclusion: Great gameplay, but bugs destroy some of that experience. Here’s how.

aNewDomain.net — After my miserable disappointment at Call of Duty: Ghosts, I was looking forward to EA’s Battlefield 4. First-person shooter fans like me were expecting a screen-gluing, relationship-dropping, ass-kicking game of the year.

We didn’t get that. But we did get something really cool. Let me explain.

Let’s start off with the campaign. Previous Battlefield campaigns have been repetitive spec-ops stealth missions where, mainly, you’re stuck always fighting Russians.

BF4 multiplayer

The Russian opponent thing gets old quickly and, yes, Modern Warfare people, I’m looking at you.

This time, though, Battlefield players have a new antagonist. In Battlefield 4, EA has taken us where no first-person shooter game has ever dare gone — and in depth. There’s a Chinese antagonist.

That sound you hear is my mind being blown.

Now, personally, I don’t care all that much who I kill in shooting games. Over my FPS career, I have shot Nazis, Russians, Cubans, you name it.

I guess there’s been something  taboo about fighting Chinese. Maybe it’s because after THQ’s shooter Homefront, and its need to change the enemies from Chinese to North Korean, the bulk of FPS games shirked from Chinese-antagonist plots. One exception: Black Ops II — to an extent.

BF4 shanghai

I admire Battlefield 4‘s boldness of including a Chinese enemy, if only because it freshens up the game series. And it gives the campaign a more-cohesive and realistic back story, without the need to include a tale of how some Neo-Soviet party somehow took power in Russia and caused some new hot war against the U.S.

Rather, Battlefield 4 has no campaign back story. The player gets nothing at the beginning to that effect. Instead the story actually unravels to the player as the campaign goes on.

The player really starts in medias res with America at war with a newly-risen militaristic China.

Later on in the story, the pieces come together as the player finds out that a new reformer in China named Jin Jie was deposed in a militaristic coup by game antagonist, Admiral Chang. It turns out Chang has hard-lined policies that lead to a war against the U.S.

Now notice that I just gave you one giant fundamental piece of background information that the campaign never explicitly tells you. You get, in part, through the characters.

Battlefield 4‘s campaign, overall, is in the end extremely well-written. It has epic conflict, character development, betrayal, it just needs a good beginning, a good ending and some briefings in-between. Yet I digress.

As for game play, Battlefield 4 plays like most FPS games. But EA has managed to include a few perks that make this series unique.

For example, there are weapons crates in all levels. That’s handy, especially considering that the pistol is almost useless in most situations.

I prefer a machine gun with a sniper rifle.

But the best part of the campaign? Levels are mostly Marine-style. You fight through your plethora of enemies in a classic shoot-em-up way. That’s a big contrast with the stealth missions commonly found in Black Ops II and other games.

I mean, this isn’t some James Bond movie where you sneak around sniping random people, you light them up hard and often.

But the big gripe with Battlefield 4 is that, despite all these strengths, it’s too buggy. There’s the sniper rifle bug, where a player puts the enemy in the crosshairs, fires and misses. It then misses again several times before taking the enemy down.

BF4 Campaign

This is, without a doubt, a glitch. And it’s a glitch with table-flipping proportions of frustration.

On one level, where you have to break out of a Chinese prison, there are guards firing at you from the towers. But the number of CTDs — crashes — that come from the PC version of the game is simply astounding. You’ll quickly know Mission Six as the unbeatable mission. Sadly, that’s just because the game glitches up and crashes right around that point.

Really, EA? This is lazy and slack.

I expect companies like EA to put more effort into their games and to better endear themselves to their audiences. Instead, they rush to market in an apparent attack to make money.

It’s true that Battlefield 4‘s graphics are stellar. Its rendition of downtown Shanghai is simply beautiful. And the fact that the player can see the whole time — with political riots exploding all around — well, that’s just masterful.

And then there’s that part of Battlefield that everyone loves — the multiplayer action. From Battlefield 3 to Battlefield 4, the number of players has doubled. The game now supports 64 — count em! — 64 players in one multiplayer game.

Of course, if you’re playing Battlefield 4 on PC, the sheer amount of players on one screen will cause a giant-ass lag, turning the most-powerful of computers into useless pieces of metal. So play multiplayer Battlefield 4 on a console.

I should add that Battlefield 4 also adds helicopters, tanks and other vehicles into the mix. You get a halo-like feel. And this improves game play and tactics exponentially.

Now, of course, it’s up to  players to come up with new ways of victory — though it’s easy to imagine most snipers just running wild across an open field, facing corner-camping, assault-rifle-wielding players. But that’s as it should be, I suppose.

I should add that multiplayer Battlefield 4 also comes with a large amount of classes and customization options, so you’re able to specialize and go with whatever works best with you.

The bottom line?

Overall, I give this game a seven out of 10. Yes, the campaign was pretty-well conceived, a pleasant surprise in a series up until now. It probably won’t  disappoint long-time Battlefield fans. Except for the bugs.

Those bugs and glitches should be an embarrassment to Electronic Arts. Better to be late and great than early and glitchy.

Until next time, this is Fegelein Puching Zhang signing off for aNewDomain.net.

Based in Chicago, Fegelein Puching Zhang is our gaming scribe at aNewDomain.net.  Read more of his work here or contact Fegelein at puching@anewdomain.net.

BF4 Ship

Battlefield 4