Why I won't write a strategy guide for Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 Screenshot - 1141416

When Battlefield 3 was released and updated consistently with DLC map packs, I was right there on the frontlines discovering what was new and different. I collected my tips and strategies into several guides that I hope someone found helpful.

I probably won’t be doing that with Battlefield 4. At least not yet.

The reason? Well, after playing the game on PS4 my best tip is this: Don’t play Battlefield 4 yet. But it's getting better.

It’s a sad state of affairs and I don’t envy DICE’s position trying to clean up their game across so many platforms, but I feel worse for anyone who dropped hard-earned cash hoping for a proper BF4 experience, because it just isn’t there yet. For console players, the big leap going from BF4 on Xbox 360 or PS3 to BF4 on PS4 and Xbox One is the chance to play full-sized maps and 64 player matches. For a while you’d be lucky to play with 20 players on PS4 -- that’s 4 less players than the standard on last gen consoles.

Battlefield 4 close quarters combat

After some updates, DICE has finally been putting up working 32 and 64-player servers. I've had a chance to play Conquest, the series’ showcase game mode, but it's only a matter of time before the game crashes and I lose my XP, or worse, my campaign progress (another nasty bug that DICE has mostly addressed). The modes I’ve played most successfully are Domination, Team Deathmatch, and Obliteration, with the latter being the closest to a true BF experience.

Domination and Team Deathmatch are there to satiate the Call of Duty crowd, and that’s fine for the people that like that. For myself, the random (and randomly terrible) spawns and lack of a cohesive battlefield frontline make these modes a silly clusterf**k. This game series thrives in the big scale, and there are other games that do this kind of contained combat far better. Even worse, some of the smaller-sized versions of these maps, like Floodzone, are awful, with awkward layouts that feel like a bigger map haphazardly chopped in two.

It's been difficult to discover what works well when so little of the true BF experience was available during launch week. Now it's a matter of getting through an entire match without a crash of some kind. I’m actually using Claymores as a Support class this time around, something I never even bothered with in BF3 -- but is that because I’ve been playing on smaller maps with more immediate objectives? Am I just employing Call of Duty strategies in a Battlefield game?

Battlefield 4 Floodzone map

There’s some advice that comes naturally even with all the issues -- try out vehicles in the test range, revert to Veteran control schemes if you’re used to BF3, and always be spotting targets -- but for the things that are more unique to BF4, I really don’t know yet.

Actually, here’s one: Don’t play through Campaign until we’re sure DICE has squashed the save file corruption bug. I’ve had my save file corrupted more times than I’ve actually saved in the campaign.

And here’s another: Don’t buy a PS4 or Xbox One for Battlefield 4 alone. At least not yet. It’s simply not ready for primetime. The game is brilliant on paper, but in practice it’s more likely to sour you before you can even play the really special stuff. Anecdotally, I've had friends all-but ready to dump their PS4 because they only had BF4 and they were getting frustrated with all the crashes.

I really feel bad for DICE right now, but this happens again and again with all their games. BF3 was probably one of their better launches, to be honest. Still, five platforms (two of which are just launching) may just be a bit too much for any developer short of Ubisoft. A lot of the issues are being sorted out quick, which is great and indicative of a better patch process with next-gen consoles. However, especially with talk of map packs already in the press cycle, DICE really needed this stuff working out of the gate.

As much as I’d like to play a ton and write up a handy guide for players just getting started, I know it would be disingenuous. It wouldn’t be based on the game we’ll hopefully be playing in a few days or weeks. It’s just not Battlefield yet.

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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