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PlayStation 3 Review: ‘Battlefield 4’

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Recker is impressively silent as Battlefield 4’s campaign protagonist. Most soldiers would gasp in fear as their jeep faced down a missile firing helicopter. Not Recker.

But, maybe Recker knows there is no danger. This sequence is scripted and performed under the illusion of interactivity. The point in which Battlefield 4 forcibly takes over is greeted with a technical skip, as if the designers are ripping the controller from your hands much like a selfish child.

It is different when a building collapses or a dam is shattered. Those sequences are cinematic rides, nothing more, aided in their film-like substance with a dreadfully boring orange and teal palette. The helicopter sequence is different in its intent. Recker leans from his seat with a rocket launcher (they always pop up when needed) and fires. He won’t miss. The game says so, creating illusory control.

Battlefield 4 is flushed with moments determined to competitively dissect the first-person shooter. EA’s struggle to capture an audience embedded in the camp of Activision has brought us to this often punchy campaign. Tombstone squad is out to squelch a Chinese government coup percolating in a city center. Swirl up some Russian animosity and China’s defectors as international borders are breached (spectacularly) because America said so. Oohrah.

It’s an excuse to shoot things, and Battlefield remains persistent in its brand identity. While punctuated with awe, levels lock into their mixture of open field warfare scrunched between those uncontrolled highs. Battlefield remains a product of choice with regards to its encounters, sprawled over fields or weirdly barren downtown sectors. Battlefield is the rare shooter which lets air breathe and the power of its best in class audio design saturate as opposed to the stubborn insistence of residual music to amplify drama. In actuality, the gunfight should be enough to elicit sparks of tension. Cinematic scoring can act as a bandage to push artificial pacing. Battlefield wants none of it.

For its nonsense regarding foreign enemies and often haggard approach to character definition, Battlefield pushes the sullen. Hostility erupts internally over miscalculated decisions leading to Tombstone squad in-fighting. Distrust forms from a newcomer, and despite valiant end game material, it is a shame Battlefield remains cornered in explicit genre rules. Something bubbles under the surface begging for narrative expansion while marketing dictates it’s time to shoot things. Why talk when there are foreigners waiting to be maimed?

No wonder this genre maintains a strictly American audience. Few have been developed with opposing perspective, and even less care to. Asian countries barely recognize U.S. military shooters, and why would they? Battlefield levels thousands of Chinese opponents over an instance of negligent secrecy merely to display brute military force. Boldly rendered interludes depict invincible American warships as unsinkable even as their hulls flush with fire.

There is a need to wave metaphorical and physical flags of freedom before it’s five hours are up. Battlefield 4 rushes into patriotism because single player is relegated to second tier, and people need their fill even if it’s brief.. Of two discs in the Xbox 360 version (PlayStation 3 is a single disc) story elements quite literally sit underneath the vaunted expanse of multiplayer.

Dice’s hallmark franchise is energetic, even from sideline perspectives. Swatches of aerial conflicts meet with devastating destruction to imbue Battlefield with the expanse of scale. Call of Duty vigorously compacts its stages to better suit stop and pop fireworks. Battlefield’s positive lethargy is thus pronounced. Even here on PlayStation 3, outstretched landscapes house vehicle heavy Conquest without compromising integral series traits. Available sniping perches blend with the close combat capture points. Kills take work and perseverance.

EA is wisely reaching for additional online crowds, spurred on by Defuse’s five on five bomb capture. Defuse exists to boost pace (and kill counts) despite being set in separated rounds of play. Touches of strategy mingle with the rabid need to gain headshots. Opposite world delivers Obliteration, with a single bomb detonation as a goal.

Mixed into everything is the painfully branded “Levolution,” a gratingly stupid marketing term which refers to ongoing map alterations in diverse forms. Shanghai’s tower collapse has been marketable exploitation since E3 reveals (plus through the beta), and sufficiently drapes the map in fog while creating an express change in positioning tactics. Elsewhere, floods hasten the need to secure rooftops and storms unsettle surrounding waters.

PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are not the way to take in Battlefield 4. Despite the surprising number of live animation routines and successful conversion of (ugh) “Levolution,” this is a shooter sprinting on next gen and PCs. Here it’s more of a haphazard trot. Video games are more than their technical acuity and frame rates – or rather, they can be. In terms of what Battlefield 4 is doing in multiplayer spaces, those minutia do matter. Splitting frame rates in half and introducing gross levels of draw-in (in conjunction with dismal resolution) are impacting to elements of scale. Current console adaptations are scrawny, the rejected runt of this cross generation release. While perky in terms of pushing seven year old circuitry, crossing player counts down to a trifling 24 (from 64 elsewhere) and condensing map sizes to suit feeble numbers are ultimately damaging.

Tides are shifting, but 150 million people are still clutching to the man made seas of Xbox 360 and PS3. EA cannot let them drown (lest their sales do) so it throws them this life raft plastered with the technical suggestion these waters are no longer safe.

Battlefield 4 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.