If you’ve already played Battlefield 4 on Xbox 360, you’ll be well aware that the single-player campaign is a dull and forgettable load of old nonsense. Battlefield 3’s yawnsome story mode set the bar pretty low back in 2011, but BF4’s campaign is longer and even less interesting than that. There are two saving graces here: firstly, the game looks marvellous on Xbox One with crisp and shimmering visuals, and a few large-scale action setpieces that will stun you in ways that they simply couldn’t on the 360. And secondly, as is the case in most installments of Call of Duty, here your enemies don’t keep respawning until you move past a certain point in the level, so if you’re playing for achievements on Hard mode, you can always just hang back and take everything at your own pace.
Battlefield 3’s co-operative modes have been trashed altogether, and while that decision is completely understandable – they were glitchy and not really a whole lot of fun to play – a few ho-hum co-op modes would have been preferable to a tedious campaign, if only because being able to bring a friend along for the ride eases the pain of even the most mediocre mission in a first-person shooter.
A disappointing single-player component can’t change the fact that each new Battlefield game is always worth buying for the multiplayer alone, and Battlefield 4 is definitely no exception. A few familiar gameplay systems may have been tinkered with to keep things fresh, but this remains one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time; fast-paced, tactical and gorgeous to behold, it leaves most of its competitors looking thick and drowsy in comparison.
It’s generous, too. Even if you don’t partake in a Battlefield Premium subscription (which entitles you to early access to five upcoming map packs) there are ten superb levels available from the get-go in multiplayer, including a stone-cold classic called Paracel Storm. For long-term console players, the big selling point on Xbox One is the fact that Conquest now allows you to play with 63 other players simultaneously, and the experience is absolutely dazzling.
Not only does the increased player count frequently make for a more frantic and exciting experience, the Xbox One version handles the mad chaos of it all amazingly well. For example, getting skimmed by a tank shell in multiplayer is flat-out incredible: the audio dips, the visuals shake violently and debris and dust are flung all over the place. It might not quite match the PC version in terms of sheer visual sheen – though at points it comes pretty close – but the lunatic frenzy of Battlefield has never been conveyed this well on a console before.
In a clear attempt to rival the annual breadth of each new Call Of Duty package, Battlefield 4 is awash with an additional set of brand new gameplay modes. Defuse is a take on COD’s ever-popular bomb-defusing romp Sabotage, and even though it’s scaled down to 5v5, it works surprisingly well. Obliteration mode on the other hand is sheer insanity; a pretty standard bomb-the-objectives game that has its craziness amplified tenfold thanks to Battlefield’s unique squad-spawn ability. It’s never anything less than hilarious, and even great success means dying a heck of a lot.
Needless to say, Battlefield 4’s new “Levolution” features are at least ten times more impressive than they were on the 360. If you’re not familiar with that rather ludicrous word, it describes what happens when a part of a level is interacted with or destroyed, subsequently re-shaping the map to (in some cases) create a batch of entirely new areas. Levolution can be something as simple as raising some bollards to prevent enemy vehicles from entering a specific zone, or destroying a large building (or a dam) to alter the level to your advantage, often bewildering your opponents in the process. With all of these exciting new gameplay possibilities it’s disappointing to see that almost all of Battlefield 4’s achievements are campaign-related, but you can’t have everything.
However, it’s unfortunate to report that (at the time of writing at least) the online side of things isn’t in anything like a perfect state yet. Large games of Conquest periodically kick players out into the main menu at random and whenever you utilise the server browser, every server is inexplicably listed as being empty; so good luck if you’re trying to play something specific and/or DLC-related.
It’s a real shame, but the talented people at DICE will fix these problems: they always do. And while that day can’t come soon enough, when Battlefield 4 works, it works like absolutely nothing else. If you want your cold January evenings to be all about teamwork, awe-inspiring destruction and more content than you can shake an assault rifle at, then step right up and get your ticket.