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“Lonely in Battlefield 4″: Xbox 360 multiplayer opinion

Friday, 1st November 2013 08:16 GMT By Dave Cook

Battlefield 4 is out now in the States and today across Europe. VG247′s Dave Cook has been playing it this week and came away with an ingrained sense of loneliness and despair. Find out why here.

Battlefield 4 Goodies

Check out our full Battlefield 4 review score round-up here.

Battlefield 4′s first DLC ‘China Rising’ has been dated for Premium subscribers.

We’ve also got a massive Battlefield 4 multiplayer guide and campaign walkthrough. I liked it.

I found a Mirror’s Edge easter egg in the Battlefield 4 campaign. Check it out here.

Here’s my write-up of the full Battlefield 4 campaign.

You may have seen the barrage of Battlefield 4 review scores dropping earlier this week.

From what I gather, all of the pre-launch reviews were produced from an EA event in Stockholm. DICE sat the press in front of high-spec PC rigs and next-gen consoles to let them experience Battlefield 4 as it should be, with 64 players, razor sharp visuals and a feast of technical wizardry forged in the same fire as Frostbite 3. Say what you will about the franchise, it looks simply fantastic, and I can’t wait to get stuck into the PS4 and Xbox One editions.

But what about the current-gen build? Well, as you can see from this video I’ve been playing the Xbox 360 edition and I have to admit it looks rather dog-eared without the texture pack installed. Even with the whopping 6.6GB installation it still falls behind the next-gen builds. I think it shows that, for DICE at least, its admirable technical ambition has now out-grown current tech. It was always going to happen.

I really haven’t been enjoying the Xbox 360 version, I have to be brutally frank here. This is mainly down to the current-gen builds being capped at 24 players online. It simply doesn’t work. What you have are maps built for 64 people that often feel barren by the notable absence of bodies. Marquee environment Paracel Storm boasts impressive dynamic weather effects that truly look a treat, but it feels grossly under-populated. If you’re one of those people who subscribes to the ‘Run, die, spawn, run, die, spawn’ stereotype that is often slapped on the Battlefield series, than you really won’t get along with many of these maps.

That’s a shame seeing as DICE’s map-building prowess really shines through here. Rogue Transmission is something of a delight as you fight on and below a sprawling radar dish, as is flying through the piercing blue skies of Hainan Resort. The maps have more ‘feature’ points – deliberately crafted zones that were built with mini-skirmishes in mind. The train warehouse of Zavod 311 was always contested when I played, while the central bridge in Dawnbreaker is a lethal hot-spot when played in Conquest. They’re superb areas, but feel too rare thanks to the empty spaces around them. This doesn’t apply to all maps however.

Levolution features are said to shake things up a bit, but I didn’t really see evidence of this while playing. I know the big moments, such as the breakable Lancang Dam and the rising tides of Flood Zone add dynamism to proceedings, but I rarely saw the player-triggered moments occur. I think this is squarely due to the pared back player count, so I’m honestly not saying these dynamic events are crap. I suspect that you’d see them kick off with more regularity on the PC and next-gen versions. Again, score one for the new builds.

This population issue was something I expressed concern over in my recent beta write-up. In my opinion there are moments where the game simply lacks heart on Xbox 360. You can run for a long time without encountering the enemy, which is made all the more likely when your team refuse to spot opposing troop to flag them on the radar. I’ll concede that this probably isn’t a lasting issue, as I’ve been playing the game ahead of its European release. Once all my mates get it and we start co-coordinating together, I’m positive things will improve. This is merely an observation from what I’ve played so far. It’s possible I’ll write a follow-up blog once the game launches here.

“For all people moan about some regular franchises failing to offer new content with each new sequel, I really do feel that Battlefield 4 is more of an incremental extension of what went before in Battlefield 3. It’s largely the same experience again with new maps and some tweaks.”

I can’t talk about Battlefield 4 without touching on the game’s USP, and I feel that small-scale destruction is no longer the star of DICE’s show. It’s all about the big show; ‘that’ falling skyscraper and other such cataclysms. Many of you know I have a soft spot for Bad Company 2′s map-levelling carnage, and it’s something I felt propelled the game ahead of Battlefield 3′s relatively static environments. This is just my personal take on the series, and I appreciate many of you don’t feel the same way. There’s no right or wrong answer here.

That said, destruction in Battlefield 4 has improved since its predecessor. Players can certainly blow up more bits of wall, tear down trees and chip buildings down to the girders, but if you long to demolish whole buildings you’ve come to the wrong war. It’s now largely about convincing surface damage rather than toppling structures, and that’s something I felt also detracted from Battlefield 3. The smaller Levolution moments add new dynamic events, but sliding train car doors open and shut, or raising bollards is hardly innovative.

One thing that really baffled me was the new vehicle control scheme. Hop on a quad bike and you’ll find that your left stick dictates acceleration and turning, while the right controls head-tracking. It’s a clumsy design that DICE has stated will give vehicles the same feeling as controlling a soldier on-foot, but for me it doesn’t work. I’m not sure what was wrong with the trigger method, but someone, somewhere felt it had to be changed. Luckily, you can revert back to veteran mode if you can’t stick the new method.

For all people moan about some regular franchises failing to offer new content with each new sequel, I really do feel that Battlefield 4 is more of an incremental extension of what went before in Battlefield 3. It’s largely the same experience again with new maps and some tweaks. However, those tweaks have still given us DICE’s best online multiplayer to date – not counting my personal favourite Bad Company 2. So while the Xbox 360 build seems to trundle along with a cough and splutter, I can already see that the next-gen releases will banish most of my complaints through being more populous alone. It bodes well.

So if there’s one thing to take-away from this article, it’s not that I’m a bitter gamer who’s purposely ragging on Battlefield 4 because I wanted Bad Company 3. Not at all. It’s just that the Xbox 360 really starts to show its age by giving us a mere 24 players online and by looking a bit tatty. This is a team-orientated series that is capable of delivering insane moments of emergent mayhem that you really can only get in Battlefield. But you need people to make that magic happen, and that spark has been lost in the current-gen build.

I’ll be sure to appraise the next-gen editions when they launch as well for the sake of balance, but right now, I just feel lonely.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this article, EA sent Dave an Xbox 360 copy of Battlefield 4.

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37 Comments

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  1. Llewelyn_MT

    Current generation started to show age with Battlefield 3. This time around that version is little more than a cash grab.

    #1 6 months ago
  2. Hcw87

    ”One thing that really baffled me was the new vehicle control scheme. Hop on a quad bike and you’ll find that your left stick dictates acceleration and turning, while the right controls head-tracking. ”

    You do know there is a ”Veteran” control scheme, right? Controls exactly like BF3.

    ”For all people moan about some regular franchises failing to offer new content with each new sequel, I really do feel that Battlefield 4 is more of an incremental extension of what went before in Battlefield 3. It’s largely the same experience again with new maps and some tweaks.”

    And you’re a CoD fan? :)

    Seriously though, i’m having fun with the game, the maps are better balanced than in BF3 (they’re smaller), and the sense of teamwork is far superior to its competitor where everyone just run and guns. It also looks as good or better than BF3 on my TV, which makes it the best looking FPS on consoles other than Crysis 2/3 this generation.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. VibraniumSpork

    Great article Dave – there’s not been much reportage on the current-gen versions online from what I can see as everyone else goes batshit for the next-gens.

    Even though the Beta gave the impression of empty current-gen maps, I’m still surprised to see that DICE didn’t limit the size of those maps for PS3/360. Can’t imagine that this was laziness on their part…maybe Levolution made the maps practically unalterable?

    Still, I’m picking this up for PS3 today so will see for myself. I’ve pre-ordered it for PS4 too, but the upgrade deal was a tempting way to spread the launch day costs a little and couldn’t resist getting a few weeks worth of XP and upgrades ahead of my mates ^_^

    @2 “You do know there is a ”Veteran” control scheme, right? Controls exactly like BF3.” – Phew. Hated the new vehicle controls on the Beta :D

    #3 6 months ago
  4. Gekidami

    “What you have are maps built for 64 people that often feel barren by the notable absence of bodies.”
    Hum? In the console version of BF3 map sizes were cut due to the lower number of players. That isnt the case with BF4?

    #4 6 months ago
  5. Hcw87

    @4
    It is. Current gen versions have less flags aswell.

    #5 6 months ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @2 “And you’re a CoD fan?”

    Why you! (shakes fist)

    Honestly, the change between Black Ops and Black Ops 2 is bigger than the change between BF3 and 4. I’m not dicking around here :D

    @4 That’s hard to tell seeing as I haven’t played the next-gen builds, but yes, they are massive. Paracel Storm is enormous.

    #6 6 months ago
  7. fengato

    My concern is that this is going to be many players first taste of the BF franchise – and they’re going to come away disinterested. The tech just don’t work well enough on the current gen systems to warrant a release in my view (same with BF3). It’s great to see Frostbite working properly on the new boxes.

    #7 6 months ago
  8. GrimRita

    Battlefield to me, will AWLAYS be about 64 player maps. You simply can’t deliver the same impact with 64 players on a console, as you can on a decent PC – even DICE echo that by using PCs to demo the game.

    This article kinda reminds when you play a 64 player map early in the morning and there’s like 4 of you running around, until more people join in.

    #8 6 months ago
  9. Erthazus

    @Dave Cook, “Honestly, the change between Black Ops and Black Ops 2 is bigger than the change between BF3 and 4. I’m not dicking around here”

    That’s bullshit. As much as I love your previews and opinions this is not true at all.
    There are a tons of things that changes the entire rules of FPS games in general and not just Battlefield. They introduced mechanics that will be in the future FPS games at all.

    It is the first game that has physics based engine that supports real-time wind that changes not only the world but changes the rule how you shoot. It is the first game that does that. The second game will be Watchdogs and to simulate Real-Time wind requires a lot of engineering, testing and requires some hardware capabilities.
    The game mechanically is much more complex then any Call Of Duty game to date with vehicles that require balance, physics and decent controls. They added a lot of customization compared to BF3 and to be honest that’s already too much. There is a Commander mode that everyone wanted since Battlefield 2142. You can even use your Anroid/Idevice to play the game being commander.
    Now it is possible to defend yourself from a melee attack.
    They added new vehicles that has a lot of different mechanics to them.
    Levolution – it’s not only about building destruction but it changes the rules of the entire level.

    Of course, destructibility is improved and it is somewhere between Battlefield 3 and Bad Company 2 and it depends on the levels.

    Of course graphics engine that has improvements in every aspect. From Self-Shadowing to Ultra beautiful environmental textures to Ambient Occlusion that is the best in the industry.

    and what is Black Ops 2 changes? More killstreaks and? And?

    #9 6 months ago
  10. viralshag

    Based ONLY on the demo Levolution was not that impressive. You’re either playing to cap the roof… or you’re playing to cap the rubble that’s left. Was it really different everytime? I didn’t think so.

    I’m going to get involved fully tonight/this weekend so maybe my opinion will change.

    #10 6 months ago
  11. Dave Cook

    @9 Black Ops 2 introduced the Pick ten system, a hugely seismic and balanced format for the series. It’s a big deal for anyone who was fed up of the old way of creating a class in Call of Duty. It also brought in score based streak systems that abolished killstreaks. The Ghost perk was nuked based on fan demand to the point where it wasn’t disruptive. The visuals took a massive leap.

    I could go on, but really, what’s the point?

    #11 6 months ago
  12. DSB

    @11 I’d say especially the visuals and animations.

    If you’re just relying on short term memory, it’s easy to tell yourself that nothing has really changed since World At War, but I recently went back to MW2 after playing a few free weekends of BLOPS 2, and I was astounded by how ugly MW2 looked all of the sudden.

    I’m not saying it isn’t mass produced and focused on cost efficiency on some level, but the improvements are really profoundly noticeable.

    #12 6 months ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @12 Black Ops 2 has changed a lot of things for the better. The problem with Erth’s post is that he’s bringing up invisible changes in BF4 such as physics and bullet-drop.

    On the surface people moan about Black Ops 2 being the same old, but once you get into your hands you understand that it’s not the case. It was as slick as fuck.

    Again, disclaimer: I also like Battlefield.

    #13 6 months ago
  14. stretch215

    REAL TIME WIND?!?!?! OH MY !!! I’VE BEEN WAITING SOOO LONG

    #14 6 months ago
  15. stretch215

    Are there kites for us to fly too??

    #15 6 months ago
  16. DSB

    @13 Yeah, to hell with being religious, I like Battlefield too.

    I just don’t think it’s as focused as CoD. CoD is aimed at giving you a very specific experience, and everything that’s in the game goes towards making that specific experience better.

    Whereas Battlefield is more of an “everything to everybody” experience. You got your paddle-jockeys, you got your C4-terrorists, you got your ever-useless-fucking-snipers, and the guys who like the stuff wot goes wroom.

    I guess it’s extremely logical that making those things fit together is so much harder than making CoD a complete experience, so DICE deserves credit for making it work reasonably well. But for me at least, it’s just not the same consumate thrill.

    #16 6 months ago
  17. Dave Cook

    @16 in short: ‘emergent gamplay’ and I agree that’s something Battlefield does better than CoD any day of the week. It’s definitely a plus-point in my book.

    #17 6 months ago
  18. Erthazus

    “invisible changes in BF4 such as physics and bullet-drop”
    They are not invisible. They change the rule of the game. They changed the graphics engine. You got yourself Levolution that changes the entire level. You got yourself Commander that can use different mechanics to control your team or strike the enemy.

    “Black Ops 2 has changed a lot of things for the better. The problem with Erth’s post is that he’s bringing up invisible changes in BF4 such as physics and bullet-drop.
    On the surface people moan about Black Ops 2 being the same old, but once you get into your hands you understand that it’s not the case. It was as slick as fuck”

    Basically META changes. Just like in every LoL/Dota 2 changes log. META is invisible to the gameplay. CoD devs each game change only That and killstreaks. In other words you said nothing that really changed the CoD formula.

    #18 6 months ago
  19. Dragon

    @Dave,
    Remember “pissing in the wind”? :D

    Actually, measuring the wind speed (and Coriolis effect) has a significant effect in sniping. As some would know, its one of the reasons snipers in real world are generally 2 man cell. All those calculations are important.
    However, gameplay wise, while BF4 may have increased realism (especially in sniping) because of it, its practically useless in CoD because of the type of close range shooting more prevalent there.

    #19 6 months ago
  20. Erthazus

    @Sony246, go back to Sony financials thread telling everyone that everyone is wrong. This is a thread about game’s mechanic.

    #20 6 months ago
  21. DSB

    @17 You mean the choice? Or how it fits together?

    It leads to some bad experiences for me. Like tabbing across a map with absolutely fuck all happening. Even on a 64 man server it can happen in BF3.

    I don’t know if that’s improved in BF4 or not, but in my book that’s really more of an undesirable result than a design feature.

    The best part of a Battlefield game is never those tabs, and it’s never going into a big ugly box of a warehouse to look for that one cunt who’s taken to hiding in there. That’s not my idea of fun.

    However, when BF3 “kicks off” and everything around you is chaos and you feel like one of those kids in Band of Brothers who is faced with his first orchestra of MG42s in some godforsaken French village, it’s unlike anything else out there.

    But… I always end up in some situation that doesn’t seem entirely thought through on the part of the designers. And maybe it has to be that way with all those moving parts, but it takes my buzz down a peg.

    And given the fact that people have complete control over the servers, and are free to force abominations like a 30 minute game on their fellow players, it just exasperates those faults. I’ve logged something like 30 hours in BF3, and it’s been fun. But it doesn’t have the same hook.

    #21 6 months ago
  22. Dave Cook

    @21 The choice yeah. It’s a good system but as you say its prone to fuck ups due to being unpredictable.

    @19 I do indeed ;)

    #22 6 months ago
  23. reask

    Hey Dave kinda off topic but did your 360 freeze up much?
    There kicking up a stink about it on the bf forums and during the beta both my ps and xbox kept freezing.

    #23 6 months ago
  24. Dragon

    @Dave,
    :D

    Although I would say that unpredictability is what makes BF franchise great.

    #24 6 months ago
  25. Dave Cook

    @23 It didn’t freeze, but my soldier got rooted to the spot a lot. I just couldn’t move so just stood there waiting to be shot.It got better as the days went on though.

    #25 6 months ago
  26. runbmp

    Battlefield 3 was a much needed improvement over the BF series. The bad company series really deterred me away from battlefield altogether. It didn’t do anything particular well in my opinion ( only played on pc, 360 is in the shed )

    Battlefield 3 definitely much tighter controls and fluidity. The engine felt solid.

    All I know is a spent 156H 39M in BF3, and it had been a long time coming since I fell in love with Battlefield game. Glad to see Dice back in the game ;-)

    #26 6 months ago
  27. sebastien rivas

    @2 and @ Dave
    Incremental extension, that is a good way to put it indeed.
    Is it better than bf3 is left to anyone’s feeling. I do not say this often to be honest but I was underwhelmed overall, and repelled by large emptiness around streets.
    Now Bf4 does not accept more than X total player per map? I cannot believe this is true at all unless the game is capped for 360 intentionally and/or not ported to 360 correctly.
    I have a good workstation but my workstation is good for working, I always had difficulties running BF3 and mostly remained at Low settings, though Bf4 was a freaking breeze at medium settings. I was impressed in that sense Dice started to make me believe in “optimization”. It sounds like Dice reduced the use of GPU and intensified CPU use, could it be the reason why 360 cannot really handle bf4?
    Will we see updates for Bf4 on 360? I really hope so. I mean it does not make sense to port a game that uses lots of CPU on a machine whose power lays in GPU, am I right? 360 is mainly GPU oriented, correct?

    @8

    Hell yeah, if not 128, 256 or better 512 players/maps!

    #27 6 months ago
  28. reask

    Thanks Dave.

    #28 6 months ago
  29. reask

    Hey Dave did you try domination?
    I heard the maps are much smaller and infantry only.

    #29 6 months ago
  30. CPC_RedDawn

    Completed the single player today in just over 4 hours.

    It was a pathetic shit storm of bad dialogue, horrible scripting, poor character development, laughable A.I, and some of the worst game breaking bugs I have ever seen in a “finished” retail game.

    I am playing the PC version on Ultra 1080p and performance on my rig is top notch. 60fps all the time and never a single dip.

    The game is just littered with bugs, getting stuck in scenery or progressing too far in front of your squad can get you stuck and when the game reloads it puts you straight back where you were stuck making you restart the whole mission again.

    The A.I is just so funny, in a lot of areas you have to kill all the enemies to progress… No seriously we are now back to 2001 gaming. I cleared many areas in the game and got to a door where my squad lined up. Nothing happened, nothing. I turned around and pulled up my visor to spot that two enemies remained and went back to kill them and once I did this the game continued!! SERIOUSLY!!!! ITS 2013!!!!

    It gets worse, the A.I is just completely dumb, they find the nearest cover to them and stay there. They don’t flank, they don’t talk to each other, they do nothing but shoot at you and YOU only! Your team mates do nothing but shoot aimlessly hitting nothing until you show them where the enemy is then they kill them instantly.

    Glitches also lie within flashing/stuttery animation. I shot a chopper down with enemies inside it before it landed. The chopper persisted to disappear and reappear again and again, stuttering around for a while then I hear an explosion and its gone again. This happened twice to different planes in different missions. Also, knifing is a little bugged as well with the animation becoming a cluster fuck of graphics clipping through each other.

    Apart from all this, and the occasional NPC getting stuck in walls, falling through the floor, and shouting the most random shit I have ever heard in a shooter. Literally the Chinese women shouted at me once “Recker they are shooting at you!”…. WELL NO FUCKING SHIT SHERLOCK it is a gun fight we are in not a fucking game of chequers.

    Oh and the ending… Its so good, you will NEVER see an ending so good in your life.

    SPOILER WARNING:

    You get the choice to sacrifice either Irish or the Chinese lady, I chose Irish as he was annoying and the Chinese lady was pretty hot. The ending then consists of the worse looking explosion in any game I have ever seen, then you in a helicopter flying off, ROLL CREDITS…. SERIOUSLY!! THAT IS IT!! I checked the other ending, and its the same but the other way round!!

    END SPOILER

    All this said I know this is only the single player but honestly for a triple A game, with big budget, and a somewhat new engine, it should of been better than this. BF3′s story was better than this. Apart from some of the graphics in certain set piece moments it is nothing really to shout about. On PC at Ultra 1080p it does look great, but honestly its more like BF3.5 to me.

    RANT OVER.

    #30 6 months ago
  31. DSB

    See, that’s interesting. Were you even rushing it to finish at 4 hours? The vast majority of people I’ve seen talking about the game say they finished it in two sittings, even people who usually aren’t hardcore all-nighters.

    Kinda makes you wonder why the fuck they’d bother to bring in top acting talent and make a campaign at all. Why does it even exist? Wouldn’t that time have been better spent on the multiplayer?

    Either way, at least it takes away any kind of sting I felt at missing out. It just doesn’t seem too sharp from what I’m hearing.

    #31 6 months ago
  32. viralshag

    MP is a buggy crashing mess from what I’ve seen so far. Started off ok but you’d be lucky to finish a games without your game or the server crashing.

    #32 6 months ago
  33. KineticCalvaria

    @viral, yeah it played okay the first day I played (via VPN, mwahahaha) but the issues are just getting worse and more frequent. The underlying game however is fantastic and it’s only a matter of time before it’s all sorted out… I hope.

    #33 6 months ago
  34. viralshag

    @KC, Yeah tonight has been a joke. I would say I’ve managed to finish maybe 30% of the games I’ve.

    What else is a joke, I think if you have an XP boost and you play a match for say 20 mins and then crashes, you don’t get any XP but still lose the time on the boost. Not exactly ideal.

    #34 6 months ago
  35. Hcw87

    @35
    Are you sure? I think your stats get synced every time you die/respawn.

    #35 6 months ago
  36. KineticCalvaria

    @36, No he’s right, I’ve lost a ton of progress, but I did read on the forums that if you don’t reconnect to that same server and just let it finish the game then you’re score will update at the end of the match.

    Don’t know if it’s true but worth a try.

    #36 6 months ago
  37. LearnedDoctor

    I would like to start by saying this is a very well written and agreeable article. I completely am on your side with just about everything you said. Especially with that I myself was hoping so much that this game would be a closer representation of Bad Company 2 rather than BF3. The destruction, smoothness of play, map sizes, and just about everything besides the graphics were better in BC2. I really felt that BF3′s maps were much too big for 24 players, while BC2′s maps rarely felt too big. My main issue with BF3 was the lack of smoothness in the multiplayer. I never played the campaign as I am a competitive player, but for some reason I have always felt that BC2 just got it right when it came with running and gunning and the sniping aspect to the game. It worries me a lot that BF4 has not realized this and at least reverted back a little bit to BC2. I was really hoping that they would leave prone out of this game due to how unrealistic it looked in BF3 and how much better multiplayer was without players being able to go prone.
    This was the first multiplayer review I have read on BF4 and honestly it was very disappointing, but not unexpected that BF4 is a close continuation of BF3. Anyway thanks for the review it was very informative. I am considering not buying the game at all now and just waiting for something better.
    I’m going to go play Bad Company 2 now. Haha.

    #37 6 months ago