Release Date: 29/10/2013
Played On: PC
Available On: PC / PS3 / PS4 / XB360 / XBO
Time Played: 3h 46m
Progress: Completed 5 Campaign Missions
Developer: EA DICE
What's that saying? Fool me once… fool me twice… blah blah blah… being fooled repeatedly is equal to foolishness. I'll admit, I've been a fool with the Battlefield series, and with EA in general, but I'm consistently amazed at how one series can be so terrible and beautiful at the same time.
Straight up: I'm not into the modern warfare type of multiplayer anymore, mostly because I prefer to play with friends. The last time I put in any effort with this sort of multiplayer was with Battlefield: Bad Company. Funnily enough it was the last time I enjoyed this kind of campaign as well, so I really should know better by now.
I have to start by qualifying that the only reason I tried out Battlefield 4 is because I signed up for Origin Access. The service is a reasonable price and there are enough EA games in the Vault that I would like to try out. Battlefield 4 wasn't one of them, but I figured it was worth a go seeing as I had access to it.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Let's start with the good points though, as they won't take long to get through. Ever since playing Bad Company, I've fallen in love with the sound design of the series. If you've ever played a Battlefield game since Bad Company, you probably know what I mean because the first time you're immersed in the landscape, the audio is striking. I wish every shooter took a page from the DICE book, because whoever designed such a dynamic and evocative soundscape deserves a gold star.
The other draw is a general AAA thing; I simply like to see what a large team with a large budget can create. There's no denying that big developers are able to make something smaller studios don't have the resources for. I'm not saying it's better or worse, but I'm always willing to try out a big AAA game, even if it's just to see what they've created.
In both aspects, Battlefield 4 doesn't disappoint. It's a beautiful looking game with a lot of care given to little details, as well as impressive set-piece moments. Same goes for the audio; the game's sound design is deep, layered, and shines as brightly as it did the first time I heard it.
That's it though… really.
To clarify (a little), I was unable to finish the campaign. Don't get me wrong, I actually wanted to finish it, but was technically unable to continue playing because Origin Access and the Origin launcher had a fit.
The time played at the top of this post includes about an hour of messing about, trying to get the game running. To begin with, Battlefield 4 doesn't simply launch, it has to utilise the Battlelog garbage that opens up a browser window for you to launch the game from a web site. I could guess at why this might offer some functionality for the publisher, but I can't fathom a reason why any player would enjoy this system.
Not only does it slow down the time it takes to get in-game, but every now and then it decides not to work and crashes you back to the desktop. Except it's hard to tell when it crashes, because it's a web page, so nothing you're looking at changes until you manually re-open the Origin client.
Additionally it only ever launched the 32-bit version of the game, even though I'm on a 64-bit system. A quick look at the game directory and there are separate .exe files for 32/64-bit, so it's definitely capable of making it happen.
However, that wasn't why I couldn't play; at least the browser launching worked often enough to muddle through and running the 32-bit version doesn't really matter at the end of the day. The real kicker was the Origin Access system that simply didn't work as intended.
To be clear: Origin Access is a subscription service to EA that offers you a library of full games to download and play at your leisure. It's kind of like Playstation Plus, where the library is open to you while your subscription is active, but shuts off when you stop paying the fee. I'm not going to debate which is better, but understanding this service is essential.
Battlefield 4: Premium Edition is one of the games on offer, and the one I managed to play a few hours of. Premium Edition includes all the extra stuff like DLC and perks that you could otherwise buy as add-ons. In theory, there should be plenty of game to play, which was the case for the first couple of hours.
Origin then started telling me that my trial period had ended every time I attempted to launch the game. I noticed that Battlefield 4 (Trial) was a title in the Origin context menu, so I figured maybe it was due to Origin Access being free for the first week. Perhaps the full versions of games wouldn't kick in until I'd given them money instead of simply signing up. Fortunately I had also downloaded Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, so tested the theory by playing it as much as I could. There were no restrictions that I could find and I'm currently about five hours into the game with no hassle at all.
Jump back to Battlefield 4 and a quick search yielded some vague forum posts that kind of related to my issue, but not entirely. It seemed like a couple of folks had the same problem, but fixed it by turning off their bad antivirus, or running the game with administrator privileges. I'm not one to complain without trying, so I spent the next hour or so attempting to launch the game with every configuration I could think of.
I tried compatibility modes for every operating system, administrator privileges, changed the Origin Client settings, even uninstalled and re-downloaded the game, but nothing worked. I eventually realised that my time was worth more than the amount of troubleshooting I had been doing, and uninstalled it one final time.
I know it's popular to hate on any launcher that isn't Steam, but I don't have a problem with companies using their own launcher to manage their own games. After all, Steam is nothing but DRM, so adding more DRM doesn't really bother me. The big difference though is that Steam has been around long enough to iron out a lot of the kinks. I remember when it was introduced and we were all forced to use it if we wanted to play Half-Life 2; it was a complete mess and many people rightfully complained.
Sadly, for a launcher like the Origin Client, there are still kinks to iron out. It's all well and good to offer a cheap subscription service for a decent library of their own games, but when those games won't even run because of some weird version control issue, it loses its value immediately.
At last I think I have learned my lesson with the Battlefield series. I'll stick with Origin Access for at least a year because it's $40 for the year, compared to $60 if you pay monthly. I'll continue to enjoy Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, finally play through Mass Effect 3, and see what Aragami is all about.
I'm never downloading another Battlefield game though. There isn't enough money or time in the world to perpetuate that foolishness any longer.
Final thought: I know I haven't mentioned much about the gameplay or whether or not I enjoyed what I was able to play of the campaign. Short answer is that it was as generic and predictable as I expected. I don't mind that sort of thing, but it's not anything I would ever recommend to others.
These games are the terrible blockbusters of the gaming world. They can be impressive and fun, but they're never going to change your life.
The shooty parts are competent, the variety in the missions is nice, but I had to reload two levels on a number of occasions when the AI bugged out and hard-blocked me from progressing. In one mission I ran through the entire level without every encountering an enemy until I could no longer progress. I reloaded and suddenly the game remembered to load in all the enemy soldiers.
How AAA games of this size still exist with obvious (repeatable) game breaking bugs is beyond me, but it sums up how I feel about the game regardless.
It's a mess.