Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Critical Consensus: Battlefield 4 highlights the gulf between current and next-gen

Critical Consensus: Battlefield 4 highlights the gulf between current and next-gen

Tue 29 Oct 2013 11:00am GMT / 7:00am EDT / 4:00am PDT
PublishingDevelopment

"Levelution" works, but the Xbox 360 and PS3 have been outclassed

As the next generation of consoles inch towards everyday reality, it's worth contemplating what will become of the classic single-player shooter. In games like Ubisoft's The Division, Bungie's Destiny and Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall - arguably the three most promising next-gen titles - the solo campaign as we understand it no longer exists. Instead, playing alone and playing in company will be different states in the same fluid experience, with the design heavily skewed towards the latter.

As this generation has progressed, multiplayer modes have become more and more important to a given shooter's long-term viability, and have eaten up more and more time and resources as a result. Single-player shooter fans have frequently been given cause to feel cheated, and the situation is unlikely to change with the new consoles. Indeed, the notion of a distinct, separate single-player campaign may disappear altogether.

"Great efforts have been made to capture the magic of multiplayer during the solo mode. There are epic moments to behold"

GamesRadar

In that regard, Battlefield 4 is still very much based on current-gen thinking, the team at DICE contriving new ways to breathe life into an aspect of their game that most people barely even acknowledge. For what it's worth, DICE seems to have succeeded in its potentially futile quest, crafting a narrative-driven fantasia of explosions and bullets that, while perhaps not stellar in its own right, is at least a confident step forward from Battlefield 3's much-maligned linear trawl.

GamesRadar, which awards Battlefield 4 a 9 out of 10, attributes some of this improvement to the solo campaign's more "intimate" tone - a welcome development for fans of Bad Company 2's energetic banter. "Your squad mates, Irish and Pac, have more developed personalities," the reviewer notes, "and there are some memorable little moments in between all the shooting and shouting."

In truth, the biggest problem with Battlefield 3's campaign was how little DNA it shared with the kinetic, widescreen battles that defined the online experience. With Battlefield 4, DICE has met this criticism head on, and the entire package is much improved. Indeed, GamesRadar proclaims it, "the best Battlefield ever created."

1

"Great efforts have been made to capture the magic of multiplayer during the solo mode. There are epic moments to behold, like dams bursting and frenzied tank battles inside savage tropical storms. You unlock kit, and accrue points for kills - just like you do in multiplayer."

"Terrific level design is responsible for what makes this work well, and I'd wager that a good chunk of Battlefield 4's maps will live as classics"

IGN

However, even the campaign's most vehement supporters ultimately acknowledge its place in the overall hierarchy. Indeed, GamesRadar caps its words of encouragement with a very deliberate backhanded compliment: "It's like a beautiful-looking training mission, with chatting." And for the vast majority of Battlefield players it doesn't need to be anything else. DICE clearly understands the real reason why people spend $60 on its marquee franchise, and it has precious little to do with the personal foibles of AI squadmates.

Battlefield 4's multiplayer modes have been showered with tweaks and refinements, stirring the critics into a chorus of unanimous praise. It seems that the best in class is now even better, thanks in no small part to each map's unique, destructible features - demonstrated at E3 with the destruction of a skyscraper that had served as the venue for a firefight just seconds before. EA named this spectacular new feature "Levelution," and it's telling that IGN never once uses that term even as it offers its hearty, if qualified congratulations.

"Large-scale destruction like this changes the fundamental layout of an area, forcing combatants to react intelligently and change their strategies and loadouts on the fly," IGN notes in its 8.5 out of 10 review. "Even after the magic and surprise is gone, teams always need to be prepared for how they'll react when a crumbled tower keeps their tanks out of enemy territory. Coming out on top because your new strategy adapts to and harnesses the new level design is even more satisfying than the XP and armory unlocks you earn along the way."

Not every example of "Levelution" matches the awe of seeing a vast building reduced to rubble, of course, and IGN believes that the effort required to trigger certain events isn't always justified by the utility of the end result. Indeed, there is the nagging sense that, having invented a new 'back-of-the-box' feature, DICE felt "obliged" to fit examples in wherever possible, and many are "superfluous" as a result. However, the emphasis on destruction trickles down into other areas of the game, leading to more subtle implementations of the idea, and a commitment to great map design.

"Finally, for the first time since Bad Company 2, teams can tear down most simple structures. Knocking out supports to topple houses and collapse roads isn't quite as exciting as a skyscraper sinking into a bay, but it's great for keeping enemies out of troublesome spots or creating a crawl space to hide in.

"Battlefield 4 takes the scope of the previous games and blows it up, with maps that take minutes to run across on foot"

Polygon

"Where Battlefield 4 most brilliantly distances Battlefield 3 is in its map design. The best Battlefield maps are challenging and satisfying, demanding you take advantage of everything at your disposal, and Battlefield 4 does this extremely well... Terrific level design is responsible for a lot of what makes this work well, and I'd wager that a good chunk of Battlefield 4's maps will live as classics."

And so to the elephant in the room. With a dearth of first-party AAA exclusives on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Battlefield 4 has become the de facto barometer for what we can expect from the early days of the new console generation - in terms of fidelity and scale, at least. The vast majority of reviews took place at several events hosted by EA, where current-gen, PC and PlayStation 4 versions were available to play. Needless to say, the critics - including those referenced here - opted for a mix of PS4 and PC, only dallying with the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions for the sake of comparison.

2

According to Polygon, which gave the game a more reserved 7.5 out of 10, the most obvious difference for console gamers will be in the scale of the battle. There were pronounced differences between the console and PC versions of Battlefield 3, and while the PC version of Battlefield 4 handily outstripped the PS4 in most respects, both platforms now offer the same fundamental experience.

"Battlefield 4 takes the scope of the previous games and blows it up, with maps that span virtual kilometers of space that take minutes to run across on foot. Battlefield 4's multiplayer levels feel less compromised in scale than in Battlefield 3, which has the unfortunate side effect of feast or famine. When one of the larger maps had less than 50 players, for example, I found it easy to wander for multiple minutes looking for something to do, for someone to shoot or assist or something. Anything.

"It's hard not to wonder just what DICE will be able to do when it no longer has to hobble its designs to suit ageing hardware"

Eurogamer

"But when those levels are full - when, for example, 64 players are battling for control of Hainan Resort's five capture points - there's no shortage of engagement... At one point, I watched as the resort hotel crumbled under the explosives of my teammates and jets screamed overhead, and then I ran to the next capture point, gunning down other players and avoiding turret fire from a Little Bird attack chopper.

"It's exhilarating in a way no other shooter is."

In its 8 out of 10 review, Eurogamer also notes that some disparity still exists between the PC and console, even when that console is a PlayStation 4. However, when either platform is placed alongside current-gen hardware, "the difference is night and day. Not just in terms of visual polish, but in tangible gameplay terms as well." Indeed, even with player-counts and map sizes scaled down, the Xbox 360 version - Eurogamer didn't play the game on PS4 - "just can't cope" with what DICE is asking it to do, and the reviewer is left wondering what compromises were necessary to serve three so very different masters.

"The differences in the carefully staged single-player campaign aren't so bad, but anyone who tries the game online on next-gen will find it very difficult to go back again. On 360, even with the full 14GB of installed data, the textures are murky, the graphics flicker and glitch and the low resolution and chugging frame-rate cut right into the core of the game - obscuring enemies behind technical wrinkles and generally making it harder to fight effectively. If you're looking to this game to justify a platform upgrade, consider its job done.

"It's hard not to wonder just what DICE will be able to do when it no longer has to hobble its designs to suit ageing hardware, though."

15 Comments

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,017 1,463 1.4
It's good that, unlike BF3, PS4 users can actually play the same game as the PC users, but the fact that there is a still large visual gap (PS4 runs somewhere around High, perhaps a little below per Digital Foundry) between consoles and PC's Ultra at this moment, when consoles are at their very closest to current PC hardware, doesn't bode well for how quickly that gap will widen again.

Digital Foundry also confirmed the Xbox One version is noticeably worse, running at 720p while the PS4 version runs at 1600 x 900.

Posted:9 months ago

#1

Felix Leyendecker
Senior 3D Artist

181 200 1.1
Well, without knowing details, I'd assume Frostbite is a multiplatform engine with a focus on PC. So it's likely not designed to fully utilize the differences in hardware architecture between ps4 and PC.
A similar comparison could be an engine written from the ground up for PS4, say, from a guerilla or naughty dog game, and try to port it to the PC to see how it runs.

Posted:9 months ago

#2

James Ingrams
Writer

215 85 0.4
Wonder how long before we see games that are ONLY for PS4 and/or XBOX One? A year? Longer? Ever?!

Posted:9 months ago

#3

Christian Slater
DevilBliss Games Consultancy

24 44 1.8
November 29, 2013, it would seem http://uk.playstation.com/knack/

Posted:9 months ago

#4

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,071 1,005 0.9
@Felix
Regarding your Naughty Dog engine line of thought. What does the PS4 have, that a PC cannot crush with raw power?

We should not look at the brands of console hardware, be it Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft. We should look at the chipdesigner AMD. This coming generation is their generation, AMD made it, they got all the contracts. But at the same time AMD's competition is the competition of all those who now rely on AMD chips. If you look at the money Intel and nVidia spend to establish their hardware as the best choice for gamers, the cold reality of all consoles running on AMD hardware is probably not putting them in a good mood. Between Intel, nVidia and Valve's OS proposal, there is an entirely new type of competition brewing. A type of moment we haven't seen since the Playstation One entered the market. It would be foolish to expect them do nothing about it.

You can argue tablets killing consoles all you want, but nVidia and Intel both have PC hardware in the pipeline for years to come. With no stake in the current console generation, they will not simply watch as consoles and tablets gnaw at PC gaming market shares. While they still had a stake and the prospect of outfitting this coming generation, nVidia did not have a motivation to badmouth consoles for their visual quality. Now they do and we shall see it.

Due to a cross platform reality, the PC will never have that giant visual leap advantage among AAA mainstream games he could have. But between visuals, price-power ratio, number of services, openness of platform, number of games, multitude of price points for games, etc., etc, it will be a strategy of 1000 needles being pricked into consoles over the course of this generation.

Posted:9 months ago

#5

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,153 1,070 0.5
Not to be a jerk here or anything, but since BF4 and CoD console players can only play against other console players and PC players all use different settings (so it's a pissing contest on those forums for bragging rights about who built the fastest rig and is running the game at 150+fps), there's really no urgent need to compare anything other than how it looks on one high-end PC to the other.
UNLESS (of course) you're playing an FPS on a crap small to large SDTV against other HDTV users who can actually see you (you'd be the guy running into walls and getting killed by falling objects in every match because you're busy squinting and not shooting), I don't think PS3 or 360 owners really care all that much. I mean which versions will sell more at the end of the day? Probably console in some territories.

Posted:9 months ago

#6

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,512 1,294 0.9
there's really no urgent need to compare anything other than how it looks on one high-end PC to the other.
True in one way, but not another. One of the arguments people place against the SteamOS/Steam Machines is "The next-gen consoles will be better value, giving more performance (in addition to a couple of other things) for a better price." That argument will hold less weight if, in the case of multi-platform titles, the consoles look noticably worse than PC version. It's early days yet, which is both good and bad. Good because third-party developers are never fully experienced with a console immediately. Bad because if the PC version already looks better, what's going to happen 3/4/5 years into the console generation?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 30th October 2013 8:56am

Posted:9 months ago

#7


Next Gen consoles crush PC on bang:buck.

Posted:9 months ago

#8
We dont really know what next gen consoles look like because all the current test are on dev kits.
lets find out in a few weeks for the actual reality of the situation

Posted:9 months ago

#9

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,148 928 0.8
when consoles are at their very closest to current PC hardware, doesn't bode well for how quickly that gap will widen again.
One thing I did say some time ago was that these consoles were going to be less powerful relatively than their predecessors. The only exceptional component is the 8GB RAM.

The gap between PC and console is wider on day one than it was when Xbox 360 launched. Going back to the original Xbox or the N64, the target performance has definitely tanked over the generations.

That said, it doesn't really matter in my opinion. The content is so much more important than the hardware and a lot of it will be designed to run well on a variety of different platforms. What we have to work with in these consoles is incredible, the baseline of HD rendering performance, memory and storage is beyond anything many could have imagined once upon a time.

There's a lot of headroom looking past the software comparison between the console and PC, which was bound to destroy all closed systems.

Posted:9 months ago

#10

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,153 1,070 0.5
Can we just state for the record FOREVER (and a day) that ANY AAA PC game that has a console up or down port will automatically look better, then? All these post here and elsewhere about certain games destroying old and soon to be new consoles gets tiring because yes, anyone with a working brain pan can see this, but it won't make console-only folk on a console budget leap from the nearest wind-hole because they're not getting PC resolution, speed or other tweak-ability.

Hell, it's been a given for years and again, console-only players really don't care (much). Neither do those who can't/won't/don't build/upgrade/maintain their own uber-rigs. The convenience of dropping in a disc and playing (long install times aside), price point and other things are why not every gamer is sitting in front of a massive tower of power with three connected monitors, a headset that cost as much as a set of new tires and some fancy 3D/soon to be VR googles (all of which will be replaced in six to eight months or so... OK a year or two)... ;^P

While I definitely see the appeal of a custom built rig, I tend to appreciate console games more at the end of the day when a developer is making that closed system sing like it's bringing the sky down every few seconds. Granted, that will take a few years as usual, but it'll be pretty incredible to see what assorted first and third party exclusives can show off on each platform.

Posted:9 months ago

#11

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,512 1,294 0.9
Can we just state for the record FOREVER (and a day) that ANY AAA PC game that has a console up or down port will automatically look better, then?
Dammit, I really wish I could stop arguing your points... In fact this is me not arguing your point. (Well, okay, passively arguing your point... But only as a joke. :) )

Posted:9 months ago

#12

Roberto Bruno
Curious Person

104 69 0.7
No, Greg, we can't, and people have every right to talk about that topic if they feel they care or that's relevant to point.
Can't you just stop being so sensitive about it?

Posted:9 months ago

#13

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,153 1,070 0.5
Ah, Roberto... you must be new here. Welcome to Sarcasm Appreciation 101.

As you don't know me yet, I'll explain: I'm not sensitive at all, you just happened to step on that rake I left lying around. Oops, sorry. (maybe).

Also, just because you can overstate the obvious does not mean you SHOULD. At least here where it's supposed to be relatively professional (well, most of the time). This graphics debate is tired and never ending because people think it's more important than it needs to be when it's not even a deciding factor for many of those gamers who have a preferred platform and either stick with it or if they can afford it, move up or down the console or PC ladder to play some games not found on other systems.

In the 1970's to and early 90's it was arcade to console as well as PC to console ports and people were arguing ENDLESSLY about how close a port cartridge (and later, disc) versions were. Now it's a pissing match about graphics and performance, but it's more amusing because (ag-ain), most console owners simply will not see any other version save the one they buy and play while PC owners are caught up in an arms race to the next top whatever new engine and graphics card shows them is possible with the right amount of DIY tinkering. The games themselves are for all intents and purposes the same. End of story. Move on.

Now, if this were GameFaqs, NeoGAF or any other fan-driven site, yeah we can have at it like LARP-ing knights that say "Ni!" all day and night and no one would "win" the debate until the post count was met and the topic closed with lots of bile spilled and the scent of nachos and Mountain Dew in the breeze (eww). The problem is, we all have bigger fish to fry (well, I do) than just bug into ostrich holes over how a game looks on a $2000 system someone built for $500 or less and a $400-$500 console that's the same inside to everyone who spends money on it.

Last time I checked, a Bugatti Veyron and an old AMC Pacer will both drive on the same street on the way to the market to buy milk and the drivers aren't (hopefully) shooting at each other at a stop light. Although I'd probably shoot myself if I was driving a Pacer in 2013...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 31st October 2013 2:42am

Posted:9 months ago

#14

Curt Sampson
Sofware Developer

596 359 0.6
Nicholas,
Digital Foundry also confirmed the Xbox One version is noticeably worse, running at 720p while the PS4 version runs at 1600 x 900.
Noticeably worse to DF, games developers, and perhaps a few gamers. I'd reckon that with most console gamers, you could substitute the the Xbox One version for the PS4 version on their screens while they're playing, and they'd hardly blink. It's important to keep this in mind when speculating on how much effort most customers are willing to go to to get better graphics.
...the fact that there is a still large visual gap (PS4 runs somewhere around High, perhaps a little below per Digital Foundry) between consoles and PC's Ultra at this moment, when consoles are at their very closest to current PC hardware, doesn't bode well for how quickly that gap will widen again.
Actually, the DF article explained that the PS4 is not at all equivalant to "High" settings on a PC running at 1920 x 1080, primarily because of the resolution difference (the PS4 version being upscaled to 1080p from 1600x900. Again, this is something a certain group of gamers will notice, but nowhere near the majority, I posit. I also suspect that many of that group of gamers (I among them) long ago switched to PC, if they ever used consoles in the first place.

One more thing to point out is that the PC version was running on hardware that is extremely expensive (each of the two graphics cards in the PC alone is about the price of a PS4) at the moment. It's going to be two to three years before a rig of that power becomes something a majority of gamers would be buying as a new machine, and a couple of years beyond that before a majority of PC gamers have actually upgraded to something that powerful. In that time, going from past history, we should also see a very noticeable improvement in the graphical quality of games on the consoles. (Compare Uncharted to Uncharted 3, or even Uncharted 2, for example.)

I'm not sure if the gap will close a bit before it opens again, but you're right that it certainly will open again. There's no question about it. But what you fail to mention is, it's really not that important.

I'm not sure if you maintain your own gaming PC, but I'm suspecting you don't, or you're not really thinking about how much knowledge, time and effort goes in to maintaining it. I switched from consoles back to PC a couple of years ago (after many years away from PC gaming) and the amount of technical knowledge you need and the amount of fiddling you have to do, compared to a console, is striking. You and I probably know plenty of gamers with the skill and the will to do this, but I think both you and I know that this is a small subset of the gaming community.

In the end, for most people, PS4 or Xbox One is plenty good enough, and they'll be happy to simply put the game in and play. The critical thing is that the new generation of consoles has bridged the worst of the gap between PCs and the previous generation of consoles that was so evident in Battlefield 3.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 31st October 2013 4:58am

Posted:9 months ago

#15

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now