Sometimes you just can't win. I've spent years outside of the tug of war between Activision's Call of Duty and Electronic Arts' Battlefield franchises. Like every major diametric war, each side has its evangelists who spout their chosen platform's pros and cons. I reviewed Call of Duty: Ghosts and found a single-player campaign with a poor story, poorer characters, boring level design, and some amazing set pieces. Battlefield 4 surpasses on some of those issues and falters on some others.
The tale presented in Battlefield 4's campaign is about as hokey as the one in Call of Duty, but at least it's populated by more interesting characters. The story tries to lend some weight to your supporting cast: Irish (played by The Wire's Michael Williams, not USgamer's Michael Williams), Pac, and Hannah. It works sometimes and BF4's cast is more interesting than Call of Duty's Ghosts, but I wouldn't say they're amazingly compelling. Irish and Hannah drive most of the game's emotional moments, while you sit back and watch. You play Sergeant Recker, who spends the entire game following the others around and taking orders, despite nominally being in charge of the team. It's odd for a soldier to yell, "Open this door!" at his superior, right? Especially when he could just open the door himself? The AI isn't at its best, even when you order it to take down targets, so you'll be clearing most of the shooting galleries yourself.
Ghosts does trump Battlefield 4 when it comes to its antagonist; BF4's Admiral Chang spends most of the game being talked about, but gets relatively little screen time compared to Ghosts' Rorke. Of course, they're just the guy you cap at the end of all the faceless minions, so it doesn't matter either way I guess.
On the bright side, the campaign might be light, but Battlefield 4 doesn't forget that it's a game, not an action movie. While Ghosts' campaign is a straight run-through with a few Rorke Files as collectibles, Battlefield 4 has options galore: dog tag collectibles, a bronze/silver/gold scoring system, and unlockable weapons via finding them or achieving the aforementioned medals. The Weapon Crate system means you can use any weapon you've unlocked in any level, which goes a long way towards making the campaign more enjoyable. This had the side effect of making my RPG OCD go into overdrive: I checked every single fallen enemy to see if they were carrying a new weapon. A few missions in and I already had a favorite loadout of weapons. Much better than being stuck with whatever weapon the developers decided I should have.
DICE's Frostbite 3 engine is a true workhorse and Battlefield 4 looks great on PlayStation 4. If you're buying for that next-generation graphical 'Wow', BF4 is up there with Need for Speed: Rivals, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and NBA 2K14. Some levels do kick it up a notch, like a beachhead assault in the middle of a hurricane or a hunt in the corridors of a sinking battleship, but otherwise you're looking at great graphical polish on boring campaign scenarios. Battlefield 4 just doesn't rise to the occasion like CoD: Ghosts does over the course of its campaign.
The graphics are not quite up to gaming PC levels; the PlayStation 4 leaps with gusto, but just misses it in certain areas. If you're sticking with console gaming though, DICE doesn't let you down. The maps are bumped, fog and smoke are quite volumetric, water makes everything shiny, and the digital trees are sufficiently physics-laden. The image quality is just short what a decent gaming PC can do, but honestly if you're a console-only player you probably won't notice. If you want to know more, check out Digital Foundry's comparison of the game on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Everything isn't all god rays and tessellation in Battlefield 4 for PlayStation 4. My game went through a fairly bad crash in the middle of the campaign - after I finished a frustrating vehicle level - that corrupted my save game. No way to come back from that one. Luckily, PlayStation Cloud Saves came to the rescue. I had lost my progress from that day, but the day before's progress was just fine. I deleted the save game on my system and downloaded the cloud save. The corrupted save issue is joined by online connection problems which EA and DICE are still working on. DICE is expected to have an update fixing the issues out "early next week", but you've been warned.
Like Kat said in her review of Battlefield 4 for PC, the multiplayer is uneven. Certain maps like Flood Zone are interesting twists on the classic first person shooter level, but other offerings are just the same old thing. Here's a office park, here's a wartorn town, pick this class, take this gun, go shoot that guy. The multiplayer really takes off in certain levels which up the player count, like Rogue Transmission. At its best, Battlefield 4 crams a ton of players, vehicles, and environmental destruction into a satisfying experience. Some of the levels take environmental destruction to the next level with Levolution, where players can trigger large-scale destruction that shifts the map entirely. You're probably better off finding out which maps are your favorites and filtering the rest out in your server searches. On a personal note, I could probably spend all day vaulting over stuff in multiplayer like a next-generation Mirror's Edge, but people keep shooting me. Sadness.
I enjoyed my time with Battlefield 4 on PS4. Will I continue playing it on a regular basis? Probably not, but it is a legitimately good game that impressed me more than my time on Call of Duty: Ghosts. If you were to put a gun to my head and tell me to choose between the two, it wouldn't be a difficult choice for me. Got a PlayStation 4 and you're into the shoot-n-loot? Pick up Battlefield 4. At the very least you can prove to your significant other or family members that next-gen is worth the $400. It's not up to snuff compared to a powerful gaming PC, but it's a damn good start for the PlayStation 4.
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