Battlefield 4's campaign is an emotional ride packed with an impressive amount of graphical prowess. If you have the right hardware, Battlefield 4 will dazzle you with jaw-dropping detail and production value.
I have a similar reaction the second I get my hands on the new Battlefield or Call of Duty game: multiplayer. For reasons beyond my control, I wasn't able to check out Battlefield 4's online effort in time for my review, so I'll just be looking at the single-player campaign.
With the next-generation systems only a few weeks away from being released, I decided to opt for the PC version of the game to really get a taste for what kind of visuals the next iteration of Battlefield was capable of delivering. This is the same basic experience available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, though with my rig, it's safe to say I played with visuals on par with what the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will provide.
I played the Battlefield 4 single-player campaign on two slightly different machines, a desktop running an Nvidia GTX 680 GPU and a high-end Digital Storm gaming laptop with two GTX 680M SLI graphics cards packed in. I also installed the latest Nvidia driver R331 that's been crafted with Battlefield 4 in mind. Surprisingly enough, the laptop slightly outperformed the desktop (with settings nearly maxed out in 1080p). But regardless of the machine I was playing on, Battlefield 4 simply dazzled. If you have the means and the right kind of hardware, prepare your jaw for dropping.
The game is astonishingly gorgeous, with enough visual effects and lens flares to make J. J. Abrams jealous. There's a striking sense of immersion Battlefield 4's campaign is able to generate thanks to the impressive level of detail each environment brims with. From the sound of your uniform flailing in a breeze to the falling debris left by an explosion, there's no lack of polish on any front.
People always ask me what to visually expect in next-gen gaming and my half-snarky response is usually, "Do you like foliage? Well, trees and grass are going to sway more." And while that's mostly true in every next-gen game I've previewed, there's something to also be said about what kind of engrossing weather effects can be afforded as well. A lot of Battlefield 4's campaign happens during hurricane-like conditions, which really characterize the general mood and atmosphere of the gritty tale being told. It's all a blast to lose yourself in, especially from the comfort of your couch and not the frozen-over exteriors of a jail in the Kunlun Mountains.
The Battlefield 4 PC experience presents an ambitious feature set, with multiple multiplayer modes and "missions," where players can set up shared objectives that everyone involved has 48 hours to complete. My playthrough wasn't completely hassle-free, though -- I experienced a few instability issues at certain points in the game where it would hang or freeze. Overall, it was mostly painless. I'm not an enormous fan of the game's reliance on a Web-based landing page to launch game modes, but it's a necessary evil.
War is awful. Unlike other military shooters I've played, Battlefield doesn't try to glamorize the brutality of it. It's less of an arcadey experience than Call of Duty, though with that mindset comes more gory and upsetting content.
Dozens of weapons are available for your campaign, and you'll unlock new ones along the way. Every firearm you touch then becomes available to you at various weapons cache check-in points. Each pistol, rifle, and tool in your arsenal behaves and sounds differently, and you'll quickly learn which weapons you prefer.
The plot and storyline have their fair share of absurd luck and twists, but it's designed like an expertly engineered roller coaster, complete with great freefalls, death-defying heights, and edge-of-your-seat action. For me, the campaign is usually an afterthought with these kinds of games, but make sure you spend the 8 hours or so for Battlefield 4's single-player.
Battlefield 4 removes a lot of the stereotypical shortcomings that most shooters suffer from. It's a lot tougher to find cover when most of the environment is destructible. Even when you dig your heels in behind a concrete barrier, bullets will gradually eat away at your safety. I thought I might be in the clear putting a two-story brick building in between myself and an enemy tank, but I proceeded to watch a missile bring that structure down in seconds.
While I can't pass judgment on the game's online experience, Battlefield 4's single-player campaign definitely delivers thanks to its spectacular visuals and expertly balanced gameplay variation and design. On PC it's an exciting reminder of what next-gen gaming can be like.