I first talked about Wargame: Red Dragon at the tail end of February where I bemoaned the fact that the Red Dragon of the title has nothing to do with the Welsh dragon. It still gripes me, but I am somewhat appeased by news that you can pre-order the game now on Steam which will grant you exclusive access to the multiplayer beta which will kick off in the coming days. It might face some competition from Titanfall and Dark Souls II, but sometimes people need an RTS to keep them company. …
Battlefield is and should be about team based gameplay whether that be single player with AI or multiplayer with a team of friends. With that in mind it’s strange that the campaign of Battlefield 4 does such a terrible job of making you feel like part of a team. Instead you are a mostly silent bystander who opens a lot of doors and watches as everyone else engages in conversation with their backs to you. Sometimes they push you and trap you in corners as the in game scenes unfold. Sometimes they order you, the leader of the team to help move an object, get to a position or open yet another door and that’s about the extent of the interactions. I wish I could tell you that was the worst of what’s wrong with Battlefield 4‘s campaign, but unfortunately I’m only getting started.
Frostbite 3 is an engine well known for it’s ability to produce amazing graphics, DICE have obviously made the most of this and for the most part Battlefield 4 has some of the best graphics I’ve seen on the Xbox 360. Visual effects seem to be the only thing they have focussed on however, as the gameplay in the campaign suffers from the age old problem of being all style and no substance.
A big example of this is during one of the games set pieces, as a building you’re standing on collapses around you. You fall helplessly through floors and past enemies, all the time not being able to do a single thing about it and it sucks. Sure, the set piece moments look amazing but my guess is that because so many people complained about the QT events in BF3, the developers removed the majority of these and we now have the watch-as-cool-stuff-happens-around-you-and-you-cant-to-jack-about-it events, which are much worse. Would you still buy a game knowing you can’t play the best parts of it?
Thankfully Battlefield 4‘s multiplayer is an entirely different beast. A beast that has just been let out its cage and is hungry for fast paced action, destruction and the slumped bodies of soldiers recently crushed by falling skyscrapers. Thanks to the pre-release beta, the Siege of Shanghai map might well be the best known for anyone who doesn’t yet own the game. You might be surprised to hear there are actually ten maps in total and two new game modes in the base game, along with new vehicles and three playable factions. This news alone is enough to get me interested in the idea of playing battlefield multiplayer again and the new games modes really do fit in well to the roster.
The first of the new game modes, Obliteration sees both teams with high value targets that need defending from the enemy. A bomb will randomly spawn on the map and it’s your task to transport that bomb to the opposing teams high value targets whilst simultaneously defending yours in case of a counter attack. This game mode calls for high amounts of team co-operation and usually works best when everyone travels together across the map, aiding the bomb carrier until he reaches one of the targets. When planted the bomb has to be defended for a short amount of time until it detonates, so it’s not simply a case of making it to the target.
For those who are veterans of Battlefield, Defuse the second game type added to BF4, is a rather different kettle of fish. For starters you only get one life per round, once you die you can either quit or watch over your team mates shoulders as they continue with the game and respawn as the next round begins. Secondly, Defuse focuses on infantry only gameplay in small maps much like you would see in team deathmatch. The aim of the game is for one team to defend a point on the map, whilst the other carries a bomb to that point and attempts to detonate it. The game will be over if the attacking team detonates their bomb or if all players on one side die, unless the bomb has been planted with only one defender still alive, in which case they would still need to defuse the bomb before it detonates in order to win the round.
This game type produced mixed reactions from me at first as I wasn’t sure it fitted into the Battlefield style of play, but after a few games the hardcore feel to this game type really affected me. I found myself being more cautious, aiming faster and more accurately and sticking with team members more often. This could in turn transfer to the other games and improve your play style overall. The only problem is if this is the game you favour above all, unlocking new weapons and levelling up would take forever as you gain little XP from playing it.
If I was considering Battlefield 4 simply as a multiplayer game, this review would certainly score much higher praise. But as things are it seems like a brilliant multiplayer game has had a single player campaign tacked onto it in order to justify another full priced retail release. Did DICE/EA really need to release a new game for what is essentially the same experience with some new game modes and vehicles? Certainly not and it shows, almost as if the campaign was one big afterthought. Poor AI, buggy checkpoints, forgettable characters, ghastly textures in startlingly obvious places like the sky, and an unusual system of unlocking guns in a single player campaign simply don’t work and drag down the fine work that has been moulded and improved upon in the multiplayer portion of the game.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, XO
Platform Reviewed – Xbox 360
Review based on a purchased copy.
Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.
Today I will face judgement by the hands of my own people, in the court of my peers. My choice was not an easy one but I could not stand to see innocent people die while I stood quietly waiting for orders. Charged with the unlawful attainment and use of military equipment in order to save the lives of thousands of civilians, any future I once had now looks bleak. My name is Lt. Damon Baird and I have no regrets.
Set years before the original game, Gears of War: Judgement takes the player back to the immediate aftermath of Emergence Day and the appearance of the Locust Horde. Baird and the rest of Kilo Squad take it upon themselves to rescue the civilians and soldiers bunkered down in the city of Halvo Bay no matter the cost to themselves. The story is recalled in the form of flashbacks, with each member of Kilo Squad giving their recount of the happenings leading up to the very moment they were arrested. As a nice touch for the campaign, each of the four members of Kilo Squad will be controllable during their seperate accounts of the mission.
Having not played a Gears game since the original I was very interested in this new release, produced by new owners of the franchise People Can Fly. The story starts out well with the use of flashbacks proving a strong choice with which to deliver. The much improved audio and graphics look simply stunning and provide a great backdrop for the duration of the campaign. Controls are very easy to use and remember and even the well known clunky movement of previous games doesn’t feel as hindering as it once did. From what I remember of the environments in first game they were very dark and often very cramped but the atmosphere is almost entirely the opposite in this case. Sunlit areas with shimmering water, pristine buildings and highly detailed backgrounds are common place. This doesn’t detract from the particular action delivered here as often the tension comes from the fast pace rather than the eerie surroundings.
The action starts off as it intends to continue; fast paced, frantic and very satisfying. Star ratings now appear at the end of each section informing you of how well you performed and giving multipliers for the usual things like headshots, multikills and ribbons for pulling off special requirements. Declassified missions are also present in each section, allowing you to up the challenge in various ways, enabling you to boost your end of level score even higher. These difficulty increases include things like impaired vision, only being able to use certain weapons, no regenerating health and reduced ammo.
Unfortunately People Can Fly seem to have pushed the focus towards this new point system a little too much. After the 20th, 30th and 40th appearance of an end of chapter summary it’s clear that these star ratings show up far too often. This in turn becomes a hindrance to the continuity of the game, breaking up the flow of the story and making each section seem more like a mini challenge rather than the continuation of the campaign.
From here things don’t get better as the story becomes diluted with each new flashback and variety in the gameplay is really lacking. While the action may be intense and fast paced it simply consists of run, shoot and repeat, which is unfortunate when the running animation literally makes me feel sick with its giddy motions. Even the optional declassified missions don’t add much in the way of intelligent or varied gameplay. One of the best examples of an added objective sees me protecting a suit of ancient armour for reasons I’ve entirely forgotten. Barbed wire and turrets line the corridors leading up to the armour, but in the end it’s still the same formula.
GoW: Judgement has however solved the problem of past games where simply hiding in cover is an easy option to success. Enemies will flank, they will push and they will force you out meaning that always being on the move is now your best option. There is also a new enemy spawning system meaning that if you have to retry a section it won’t ever feel exactly the same. This does however lead to the combat seeming a bit random at times and often advancing past a tricky situation can feel like luck.
After playing through the campaign and collecting 80 performance stars, Aftermath is available as an unlockable epilogue of sorts that adds more to the story of Gears of War 3 and its characters. This short section adds around an hour or so of game time and shows glimpses of more intelligent but claustrophobic gameplay, akin to the style found in previous games. It’s just a shame there isn’t more of this in the main campaign.
As is the way in many other games, the singlpeyer campaign of GoW: Judgement acts as a warm up for what’s to come in the multiplayer. Frantic and intense action are still prevalent here but with the added difficulty of playing against other people meaning that tactics and teamwork come to the fore and are required in order to succeed. New game mode Overrun is a perfect example of this, with one team taking control of COG members and the other controlling Locust. It is the job of the Locust team to attack three objectives in succession, breaking through barbed wire barriers and using the different classes to their advantage in order to win. The COG team must defend at all costs with a timer counting down until the hammer of dawn is activated and the Locust are destroyed.
With the campaign clocking in at 5-10 hours depending on difficulty, multiplayer brings in plenty of fresh life to the game. In addition to Overrun there are also Team Deathmatch, Free For All and Domination modes meaning variety in gameplay here is a little more apparent. While in the campaign the gameplay seemed repetitive and simplistic, here it blossoms and becomes very addictive and enjoyable, especially when playing as Locust in Overrun. Tactics, teamwork and class knowledge are needed and simply shooting is not your only option. For example my favourite class the Engineer can spawn a turret to draw fire from the enemies while he switches to his secondary weapon, the repair torch and reconstructs fortifications vital to keeping out Locust.
Surprisingly microtransactions are present in the form of character and weapon skins, all available from day one in an almost identical manner to the frowned upon ones found in Dead Space 3. It’s a wonder that no one picked up on this and constructed a few bad news headlines, it also makes me wonder if EA published games are simply picked on too much and that things like day one DLC and microtransactions are much more widespread than we already know.
In conclusion, if you’re a Gears fan and your looking for fast paced, frantic and at times challenging combat then this is most likely your kind of game. It may be simplistic in nature but it’s satisfying and the multiplayer will add hours of extra life, with DLC planned for release very soon. If you’re new to the Gears franchise and you’re looking for intelligent combat, well thought out characters and a decent story to dig into then this is most definitely not for you.
Gears of War: Judgement does just enough to make me wonder just what I have been missing in the previous couple of games, but by itself is nothing spectacular. Plenty of replay value will come (for those who want it) from the enjoyable multiplayer and beating high scores set in the campaign by you and your friends.
Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – Xbox 360
Platform Reviewed – Xbox 360
Review based on a copy provided by Microsoft Studios.
Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.
A few days ago I got the chance to take an early look at the Mass Effect 3 single player demo and all the glory that came with it. An updated levelling system, sharp graphics and some heart pounding action were just some of the highlights. Having played it to death however, it was time to move onto the much discussed and awaited multilpayer side of the Mass Effect 3 demo which was made available on the 14th for anyone who owns a Battlefield 3 online pass and will be available on the 17th for everyone else. The demo consists of two maps, all six available classes, three challenge modes and includes access to Xbox Live Gold for use only with the Mass Effect 3 demo for a limited amount of time. Bioware have not confirmed how long the free Gold access will last but they have made it very clear that it will be available only within multiplayer portion of the Mass Effect 3 demo. …