Battlefield 4's campaign isn't great. This shouldn't surprise you if you've played other Battlefield games. The campaign mode has traditionally been the thing you play when the multiplayer servers are down. It was what I played for a few hours on launch night when PSN was a smoldering mess. I haven't touched it since.
I didn't abandon it because it wasn't fun. The campaign functions as a lively tutorial to the multiplayer and lets players try out many vehicles and gadgets they'll use in their online battles. It provides small glimpses at the sandbox play of multiplayer as well; you can change your loadout at times and approach objectives from different directions. The missions are never quite as wide-open as they were in Bad Company but it's still far removed from the Call of Duty corridor shooter formula.
Your performance matters too along the way, too. You can rack up accolades by hitting certain point thresholds in a mission. What's more, you can also unlock weapons for multiplayer by completing the campaign.
I probably would've finished the campaign. However, my save file was corrupted before my second play session so my progress was wiped out. The campaign is fun but it's not "replay it from the beginning and hope that another bug doesn't Hulk-smash your progress again" fun. You're dead to me, campaign.
It's just as well because I bought BF4 for the multiplayer. I wasn't disappointed, either. The 10 launch maps include some serious gems. Operation Locker is the equivalent of BF3's Operation Metro except with alternate outdoor routes to make the battlefront more fluid. Flood Zone showcases the game's emphasis on vertical combat, with soldiers battling on clustered rooftops as well as the narrow city streets below.
The game ships with all the launch modes from BF3. In Team Deathmatch, two teams kill each other until one racks up enough kills. Squad Deathmatch is the same except with four teams of five players. Conquest is the quintessential BF multiplayer experience, with two large teams slugging it out over capture points across massive maps. Rush has one team attempt to blow up a series of objectives while their opponents try to hold them back. DICE also included Domination, the infantry-only, small-map variation on Conquest that was released in Battlefield 3: Close Quarters.
This selection of modes offer very different experiences. It accommodates your desires whether you want a long or short match, vehicles or no vehicles, small or large maps. If you want to run around tight quarters and shoot people with shotguns for a few minutes or spend an hour dog-fighting in the skies above a battlefield, Battlefield 4 can deliver.
The two new modes expand your choices in very different ways. Defuse is perfect if you've only got about ten minutes to play. It's a Counter-Strike-like mode with no respawns in which one team tries to plant a bomb on one of two objectives defended by another team. The small player count and lack of vehicles makes it more of a test of your tactics and stealth skills than the other modes. It's the least Battlefield-y mode as a result but it's still fun because the fundamentals of BF4's action - the destructible environments, the weapon selection, the sounds, the graphics - are so strong.
Obliteration is also focused around delivering and planting bombs. That's about the only thing it has in common with Defuse, though. Obliteration is a massive battle in which each team is fighting over a single bomb that they can place at each other's bases. It's like football with tanks and helicopters. The teams collide at the site of the bomb and try to drag it as far forward as they can before being cut down by enemy fire.
The Obliteration matches can be quick if there's a major imbalance in skill between the teams. The bomb can be transported in vehicles so you can get it across the map in a minute if the enemy's not paying attention. More than likely, though, the match devolves into a drawn-out clusterfuck. Blowing up one enemy base is doable with a bit of luck but doing three takes a prolonged effort. One of my matches took over 70 minutes. A match this long can get tiring and isn't necessarily the best way to earn XP but the long struggle does make for a very satisfying victory.
Commander Mode isn't a new match type but a different way to experience the action. Instead of being a soldier on the front lines, you can survey the battlefield from above as commander. The commander can support their teammates with UAV's and supplies or harass the enemy with cruise missiles or gunships. This mode is available through both the in-game menu as well as a mobile app.
The Commander Mode isn't as fun as actually playing Battlefield 4 but it's more fun than not playing it. It can be satisfying to see your cruise missile wipe out a bunch of enemies, even if you only see the action play out with icons. I felt detached from the actual match, though. I was receiving XP for my actions but was I really helping my team edge past their opponents? The game allows you to troll the enemy commander a bit, by either shutting them out for 15 seconds or EMP blasting their cruise missiles, but it's hardly the chess match you'd expect. You're just two people playing the same minigame and occasionally elbowing each other. Commander Mode's an interesting attempt to deepen the multiplayer experience but I don't bother with it unless I don't have access to my console. Even then, I only play it because it gives me XP.
Like the single-player, the multiplayer isn't free from bugs. Pulling up my player profile in Battlelog currently crashes the game. I still experience the occasional crash in the midst of multiplayer matches, too. What's worse, these crashes are usually accompanied by the loss of a match's worse of XP. It's annoying but at least it's better than losing all my progression in one fell swoop. Congrats on setting the bar low, single-player campaign.
Battlefield 4 has been slammed by some reviewers for being too similar to Battlefield 3. It's true that BF4 doesn't change things up too much from the previous game or even earlier entries in the series. Competitive multiplayer is still the star of the show and the sole reason to play it. The campaign and Commander Mode are amusing diversions but I can't imagine playing either much if the servers are up.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts