Fishing in Baku opening scene.

Above: The opening scene to the “Fishing in Baku” trailer.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

What you won’t like

 It’s a little short — and it’s a little long

I finished the single-player campaign in about seven hours. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but I could have stretched it out more if I played it on a harder setting. It could have used more in-depth cutscenes. One annoyance is that some of these have a lot of dialogue, but you don’t see the actual characters talking. Rather, you see the image of an aircraft carrier sailing on the seas during a voiceover. That’s not very movie like. I would have gladly sat through more cutscenes to get a better flavor for the story’s nuances. In that sense, Battlefield 4 leaves you wanting a lot more story than it provides.

On top of that, the missions could be more plentiful. That’s where Call of Duty: Ghosts, which is also a short game, has Battlefield 4 beat. Call of Duty has more interesting places to fight, such as underwater and in space. If DICE had added more cinematics and a better variety of locales, it would have been a more fulfilling game.

One mission was ridiculous because I didn’t have the right armament. A Chinese tank had me and my squadmates trapped in a square. But I didn’t have an antitank weapon. Such weapons were plentiful in other parts of the game, but not in this one. Instead, I had about 10 land mines. So I had to chase the tank around, try to get in front of it, drop some mines, and then get behind it. Once I had mines laid in front of and behind the tank, I finally was able to get it to roll over one. It was pretty challenging, but it was a ridiculous way to fight a tank, and it stretched out the game longer than necessary. I would have given my kingdom for a rocket-propelled grenade.

In another scene, you wander through a few decks of an entire aircraft carrier just trying to find another member of your squad. It prolongs a dull conversation and simply serves to familiarize you with a bunch of decks that play small roles in the combat scenes. Such weak scenes destroy the cinematic experience of the game. You would never see such low-action scenes in Call of Duty.

It’s got some bugs

I was amid a big scene on an aircraft carrier when I saw a funny bug. At the edge of the broken ship, instead of jagged debris, I saw a body suspended in midair. It was just hanging there in space when it should have fallen off the edge. The scene was gorgeously rendered, except for that annoying image bug. That kind of retro-error can really pull the player out of the illusion that you’re playing a state-of-the-art game, and it makes you feel like you’re playing a PC game from the 1980s. I encountered a few instances of this kind of problem.

As for the PlayStation 4, EA had to issue a patch this week to fix problems that some players were having. And as I mentioned before, I wasn’t able to log into my existing Origin account on the Xbox One and play Battlefield 4 multiplayer. I had to create a new account. Once I was in, multiplayer worked fine for me on both systems. But EA has apologized for the problems that many have encountered on multiplayer.

Characters from Battlefield 4. Irish and Pac.

Above: Characters from Battlefield 4: Irish and Pac.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

Multiplayer matches are still hit or miss

On the PC, I’ve played some matches where there just aren’t enough players given the size of the map. You spend your time wandering around looking for enemies to kill. Then you find them camping patiently behind a wall. Or sometimes you have to make a long trek to get to where the action is taking place. You don’t see those types of boring situations in Call of Duty matches.

On the Xbox One and PS4, you’ll also notice some boring stretches, like Domination matches that last much longer than they really should. But I really did enjoy the variety of things you could do in Battlefield 4, like driving vehicles, compared to its rival Call of Duty: Ghosts, which is infantry-focused.

The battle environments could have more variety

If there’s a way to extend the experience of Battlefield 4, DICE should do so through the downloadable content releases coming later. As noted above, there’s more variety to the types of landscapes you fight in with the latest Call of Duty. With Battlefield 4, I felt there was just a little too much time given to the long levels fighting to recover a ship or taking on the Chinese in direct ground combat. Those levels could have been shorter, and it would have been more fun for the action to move to an altogether different place.

Conclusion

The first-person shooter wars have been an endless treadmill for the teams making the Battlefield and Call of Duty. It’s nice to see that a smarter approach to making a game, in this case by the EA DICE team, really pays off in a better experience for the player. EA could have tried to match Call of Duty by issuing a new game every year. But by taking extra care and publishing this game two years after the last game, the result is better quality. There are still some advantages that Call of Duty has over Battlefield when it comes to variety and adrenaline combat. But Battlefield 4 has gone a long way toward closing the gap, and it’s a better overall game.

I was fully prepared to rate this game much higher Call of Duty: Ghosts, which I rated at 80. But the words from EA’s own top brass is an acknowledgement of the opportunity they have lost as a result of the Battlefield 4 multiplayer problems.

DICE chief Karl Magnus-Troedsson wrote, “I am less proud to see that the game has experienced some turbulence during the launch period. While some platforms have had only minor problems, others have had more than their fair share of issues. Resolving the launch issues is our #1 priority. In fact, we are so serious that we have the entire team working to stabilize the game and we will not move on to other projects until we are sure that Battlefield 4 meets – and exceeds – your expectations. It is the right thing to do.”

EA’s new CEO, Andrew Wilson, also wrote, “We have had our challenges with stability issues on Battlefield 4, and the DICE team is 100 percent focused on understanding and resolving the problems that some players have been having. We won’t rest until we get things fixed, so here are two things we’re committed to doing while we work to get it right: 1) all players will get a Double XP bonus and a cool new piece of game content as a way of saying thanks for your patience, and 2) you’ll get open and transparent communication with updates from us around the clock via the Battlefield 4 Control Room.”

I’m not surprised that Call of Duty: Ghosts is outselling BF4 at retail, given this situation. And with that, you can see the final review score below.

Score: 65/100

Battlefield 4 debuted Oct. 29 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It was also released on the PlayStation 4 on Nov. 15 and Xbox One on Nov. 22 . The publisher provided GamesBeat with PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC versions of the game for the purpose of this review. I played the single-player campaign on the PC and parts of it on the Xbox One and PS4. I played multiplayer on all three platforms.

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