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Game Review

A lot of gamers will tell you that they only pick up a first-person combat game for its online multiplayer components. They come wanting the various open sandbox maps, frantic team battle modes and easily earned equipment upgrades—all the things that make for hours and hours of what amounts to a digital paintball war with up to 64 players at a time (on the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4) from all over the globe.

The Battlefield games are especially known for this kind of play. And so this newest title in the series comes loaded for bear (or people, in this case). It packs in standard action modes (Conquest and Deathmatch), along with some new ones such as Obliteration, an environment that challenges teams to retrieve a randomly spawned bomb and plant it in an enemy's ammo depot. Another new addition, Commander, lets one player on each team slap on a general's stars and issue battle orders to 31 teammates in the field.

Everybody's primary (and only) goal in these team battles? Be the last man or squad standing after you destroy everything and everyone around you. And Battlefield 4 offers plenty of things to obliterate, plenty of hills to ramp up over with your nearest tank or truck, and plenty of (read: far too many) blood-spattering kills. Shoot, die, respawn and repeat.

You're Gonna Wish You'd Never Survived
Of course there's also a single-player storyline to play through. And it offers its own brand of devastation. The story swirls around an international power play and the danger of complete and global decimation. Gamers play as one Sgt. Daniel Recker, an ever silent and vigilant member of an elite Marine Special Forces unit called the Tombstone Squad. He and his mates have to deal with the power-hungry Admiral Chang, who has incited a civil war in China and with the support of wily, backstabbing Russians is set on taking over a huge chunk of the world.

The Tombstone Squad must stage daring rescues in Shanghai, leap into vicious dogfights, sabotage an enemy warship, and stand up, one-against-100, in battles with Chinese and Russian troops. These impressive soldiers (some of them, anyway) find a way through a city-destroying EMP blast, narrowly avoid blazing explosions and heavy artillery, endure cattle prod torture, fall through a collapsing building and somehow figure out how to save the world.

Practicing a Passion for Combat and Destruction
Bloody stuff, you ask? The game's context may sound bombastic and overblown, but the graphically detailed killing is utterly realistic. Slipping up on a foe to stab him in the chest, riddling him with assault rifle gunfire from across a courtyard or taking him out with a sniper shot from a nearby building all result in the same blossoming mess. And when your guy takes a bullet or two, blood splashes up in your own field of vision.

The game does take time to show its brave American Marines making selfless, even compassionate choices as they go. But my desire to laud that bravery is diluted by the fact that the game makes sure to always keep you aware of your mounting kill points, headshot bonuses and killing-spree premiums. Saving innocent refugees can be cool, but shooting some sucker in the forehead … that's what earns you the good stuff!

And our heroes' passion for combat and destruction are only equaled by their lust for obscenity. Some war games insert an occasional f- or s-bomb in the heat of bullet-zinging conflict, but here that kind of language (along with scads of other lowball crudities and blasphemies) is an essential of standard communication.

Online or offline, then, the Battlefield games "excel" at letting all that violence and foul talk ring out louder and clearer and in ever more visually realistic ways. Which, of course, makes me once again muse over whether repeated high-def brain splattering and stereophonic f-bomb chucking impacts gamers in any way.

Well, practice does make perfect, they say.

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Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC




October 29, 2013

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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