So the third Battlefield 4 DLC has arrived, but is it sink or swim for Dice newest addition to the first-person-shooter?
So five months have passed since the release of Battlefield and some of us may be looking for new reasons to pick up our controllers and jump into a game that has become synonymous with bugs and performance issues. In order to revitalize interest developer DICE have released their last DLC for Battlefield 4 (the other two are being developed by DICE LA which opened to support the main DICE studio in 2013). With the aim of going out on a bang DICE have given players the chance to jump into 4 new maps along with the added arsenal of weapons that has become mandatory from any FPS paid-for content. To top this off also included is the new Carrier Assault which pays homage to the highly popular Titan mode from Battlefield 2142.
Diving straight into the action with Carrier Assault is one of the best ways to experience the new content made available in Naval Strike. The large maps are put to use as players depart their respective carriers setting sail or flying across the scattered islands, enclosed by tropical blue waters, that lie in-between the two naval bases. All sizeable islands have a conquest objective that once captured launch rockets towards the enemy carrier slowly damaging the vessel. The more conquest points your team has under its control the quicker damage will be done, similar to how tickets drain from the opposition team in a regular round conquest. Once the carrier has 50% health it will open allowing players to board the ship through two ramps or parachute down and make their way into the hull of the ship. Here lies objective A which is the first of two M-COM stations that must be destroyed in order to reach objective B. When objective A is destroyed the team gain access to the engine room where the final objective, designated B, must be destroyed in order to claim victory.
Unfortunately, while Carrier Assault sounds like an action packed thrill ride emulating Titan Mode, it falls down in to many areas to be counted on such a level. Excited as I was to play Naval Strike on release I was still disappointed that I was suffering from rubber-banding given that I had to install an update as well as the sizeable 4GB DLC itself. This update clearly did little to increase the performance levels and further compounds the misery of the overall Battlefield 4 experience. Problems with rubber-banding or lag has ceased to exist for many players on European servers, but trying to play a 64 player game on any Naval Strike server and the problems come flooding back ten-fold. The game becomes an unplayable shambles of unregistered hits and headache educing juttering.
Looking beyond the latency issues there are several flaws with the gameplay experience that carrier assault offers. The first is the tactical advantage afforded by controlling specific conquest points on some maps. For example, when playing the map Wave Breaker it is possible to control the submarine pen and the three objectives that are located around it. If a team controls the central conquest flag the other two either side are close enough to maintain a hold on with little difficulty. The waterways into the submarine pen can be blocked off using the gate controls located inside meaning that any assault has to be made by infantry in a rather desperate attempt through several choke points. In this more than likely scenario the team in possession of these three key flags only has to maintain control of one of the four other conquest flags located on the islands surrounding the central mountain, in order to break into the enemy carrier first. It is also worth noting the mountain also covers the sub pen from any direct aerial attack, rendering deployable Gunship ineffective.
Several other poor design choices result in a calamitous gameplay experience, especially for the more inexperienced player who will fine themselves cannon fodder for the veterans who have learnt to exploit any flaws in the maps. However, no level of experience will help those players when objective B, the last stand or final push depending on your team, becomes active. The attackers always have the advantage without any tactical thought thanks to the cover provided by the stairwells and corridors, meaning all the team have to do is rush the objective in numbers and set the charge. Meanwhile the defenders deploy behind two closed doors, these doors open alerting any attackers waiting on the other side creating an avoidable bottleneck. Inevitability the last stand becomes no more than a minor time delay with no realistic hope of maintaining resilient defence. Overall Carrier Assault fails to live up to its Titan mode predecessor becoming another failure to add to DICE’s ever growing list.
Modes with smaller player counts such as Rush and Obliteration run without rubber-banding and any significant issues other than some pop-in textures that resolve themselves after five to ten seconds. The best of all the modes in a playable state is the classic Rush Mode. In Rush players get a sense of authentic beach landings that resemble a Pacific themed version of the D-Day landings in Medal of Honour: Frontline. Bullets fly over-head along with a host of exploding projectiles while you speed along the tempestuous waves ready to storm the make-shift defences put in place by the enemy team. Fighting over the small islands creates intense close quarters combat scenarios where the lack of heavy armour results in a infantry based tactical battle that is won inch by inch. The appeal here is with those who enjoy the grinding matches of Operation Locker while others who prefer all out vehicular combat will be left disappointed by what is on offer.
Graphically the new DLC, when working, is one of the best multiplayer games that the next-gen consoles can offer. The maps could be mistaken for the locales of Naughty Dog’s first Uncharted game. Beautiful sun kissed islands and glistening turquoise waters set amongst the tropical climbs of the South China Sea would resemble a hidden paradise if it weren’t for the brutal conflict taking place. The water physics which have been praised before get their moment at the centre stage and do not fail to disappoint. The spray kicked up by the new Hovercraft makes use of the particle effects available on next-gen consoles keeping a translucent quality that feels so real you can taste the sea salt. The only issue is that the ability to appreciate these graphics is hindered by the terrible issues that plague Naval Strike at this time.
Other additional content includes five new guns, two new gadgets, and four new knives to turn enemy players into Swiss cheese. Most of these weapons are unlocked through the completion of the new assignment tasks that are fairly generic and lack inspiration. Similarly the guns, with the exception of the new semi-automatic sniper rifle, are fairly standard additions with balanced stats that offer players a chance to test new weaponry that may suit their combat style. Meanwhile the knives are for the Battlefield fan who wants to collect Dog tags while leaving their victims questioning what they were just killed with. The real highlight of all this bland content is the new AA mine, a one use rocket that fires at any aircraft that encroach its radius. While not enough to kill an air vehicle by itself two or more of these placed strategically will make short work of any target.
At the end of the day Naval Strike is a DLC that fails to impress. Despite showing off impressive visuals and great water physics the rubber-banding renders the most vital mode and DICE’s selling point, Carrier Assault, unplayable. The fact that the DLC was not delayed and insted released in the state in which in currently resides shows that EA and DICE have both not learned anything from the failures that impeded a game with some great potential. Simply put Naval Strike rests deep down in Davy Jones’ locker which is about as far down as the average Battlefield players faith in DICE and EA and no amount of giant shark easter eggs will fix that (however awesome it is).
Thanks for reading,