It was a brisk spring evening. I turned on my laptop only to stumble onto a tweet from an old Battlefield 2 clan-mate… “could this be??? #pleasegod #bf4″… Curiosity sinks in. A quick Google and seconds later I’m staring in awe at a black YouTube video embed, eagerly awaiting it to start playing… The darkness fades. Big metal tracks. An engine starts with an almighty roar. The tank begins to move. (Could this be? Only 2 years after Battlefield 3? It can’t be…) It picks up speed. The camera pans to the right. A black & white, dirt-stricken landscape is in shot. White and orange lights in the distance. (I know what this is. Anyone who calls them self a fan would recognise that colour palette anywhere.) The teaser closes with the 6 iconic beats that will make the spine of any veteran shiver. More flashes of white and orange… …I wet my pants.
Fast forward 576 days and I’ve been sinking my teeth into this beauty for nigh on a month now… and boy what a beauty she is. In all honesty I was a little sceptical during October’s beta – textures not rendering properly, physics not seeming quite right, trailing hitboxes and, the buzzkiller of them all, unexplained d/c’s and crashing. But DICE kept true to their reputation as a developer who listens and fixed it all… well, most of it anyway. I’m not prepared to give an opinion on all elements of the game yet, [when I find the time] I’m enjoying the carnage too much to stop and think. That said, I did recently complete the campaign and let me tell you it did NOT disappoint (unlike that of Battlefield 3). It starts like any game should, with a little Bonnie Tyler. From thereon in, the storyline is original to the series and compelling throughout. Not once did I get bored, so much so that I joined the ranks of many who completed the game in one fell swoop; though I definitely died a few times in the process. I didn’t want to admit that but let’s be honest – if you’re going to call yourself a veteran then you need to man up and click ‘Hard’ at the start, none of that ‘Easy’ rubbish. That said, the game definitely tested me – though as soon as I picked up my SV98 on the ‘Destroy the Dam’ level, it was game over for all who dare enter my line of sight. I confess that for 99% of the game I had no idea who Jin Jié was and what relevance he had to Chang’s sudden coup d’ état. My fault for not paying attention at the point where his link to the story was mentioned, that one time – thanks Garrison. There I was busting my balls on several occasions and all for what? This chicks husband who is more than he claims to be? Alas, I am a marine at the end of the day. My life belongs to Captain Garrison and I dare not question his orders (although Irish gives it a pretty good shot). From beginning to end the physics (albeit still in need of some fixing) continued to surprise me, with random destruction and game-changing events saving my bacon more than once. I understand why the jet plane slid off the Titan, it was sinking after all. But why I got 200 points +bonus for killing the two guys it crushed is beyond me.
“…I would have looked like a muppet to anyone watching – and we can’t have that.”
The AI seemed a little weak in my opinion, and by that I mean the AI of my team; Hannah and the rest of Tombstone squad. Enemies were hot on it, popping me with more rounds than they were carrying – ignoring cover like I was crouched behind piles of candy floss, but it was my own team who got me killed on more than one occasion. Be wary when you’re scaling across the scaffolding on the ‘Destroy the Dam’ mission, or even when you move up a set of stairs. Irish and Hannah like to get in your way to the point that you get stuck and can’t move – the only escape being falling to your death or time; time for the enemy to get in a better position and blow you to hell. Running and walking was irritating at times too, mainly when you’re aboard the Valkyrie or Titan. Despite the fact your squad calls an ‘all clear’ on the ships’ corridor they continue to walk forward while you’re stuck with the option of running for 10 feet, tripping yourself up in Pac’s legs and then waiting for them to get a way ahead. Frustrating. A ‘walk’ option would be nice. True I could have crouched, but I would have looked like a muppet to anyone watching – and we can’t have that. All in all Battlefield 4’s single player campaign was great fun, and the fact I ranked 1st above all my fellow PC gamer friends who’d already played it… well, that made my day. Great feature. The concept of ‘levolution’ that DICE is championing has definitely come a long way, to the point where it now feels like the environment supports the realism we love that the Battlefield series offers.
…And while we’re on the topic of realism/depth – any gamer should appreciate a game where shooting a fire extinguisher actually creates a cloud of smoke. Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) Publisher: Electronic Arts Platform: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4 Genre: First-person Shooter Player Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer Price: £49.99 – £54.99