DICE and EA certainly haven’t been afraid to experiment with their veteran series over the series.
The series has had many challenges over the years, adapting to PC and console demands along the way. Some entries managed it flawlessly, others less so. With countless expansion packs and various official outings, we thought it would be a good time to look back and take a stab at ranking the Battlefield games – from worst to best.
14. Battlefield Play4Free (PC, 2011) – Admit it, you forgot this one existed. EA was fairly desperate to get itself into the free-to-play market and threw its weight behind this hugely forgettable outing. It mixed together Battlefield 2’s maps with the classes and weaponry from Bad Company 2 – something that should work very well on paper. The reality though is there was next to no progression offered in this game – which really harmed its replayability. Not only this but the fact that you couldn’t switch classes mid-match at launch and the limited options available meant that you were handicapped if you chose the wrong load out heading into matches. It was a fairly spectacular car crash by DICE and EA – and the game was quietly shuttered.
13. Battlefield Heroes (PC, 2009) – EA clearly saw the success of Valve’s Team Fortress 2 and decided they wanted a piece of that. Battlefield Heroes was a more adventurous title than Play4Free – developed by Easy Studios. Like that game however, it lacked the depth of content or the polished mechanics needed to make this kind of game a hit with the fans. Instead of giving gamers choice, maps were tiny and barebones; making repeat visits awkward and tedious. It was a nice attempt but ultimately too flawed to survive.
12. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (360, PS2, Xbox) – It’s easy to forget this game appeared right around the time the Xbox 360 landed – which is good because it’s a fairly terrible game. The single player, which was DICE’s first experimentation with the single player campaign, was laughably poor and all the hallmarks of a developer unfamiliar with the craft. Meanwhile the multiplayer was shockingly shallow – packing only two modes at launch – and discouraging team play through a series of awkward design choices. Not that this really mattered – Modern Combat’s online lagged like crazy and had all the grace of a Powerpoint presentation thanks to poor optimization. It’s an interesting touchstone to a time when DICE clearly was getting used to console gaming.
11. Battlefield Hardline (PC, PS4, Xbox One, 2015) – The first main Battlefield game to be developed away from DICE shows all the hallmarks of a game that was trying too hard to be different. Hardline dropped all the military pretense – instead throwing a cops and robbers style game into the mix. It doesn’t really work though, as the concept is stretched impossibly thin across 32 vs. 32 matches that feel more like free-for-alls. If this was your kind of thing then more power to you, but I never enjoyed this game and found it hard to really want to invest any time in it or the silly campaign it tried to hoist off on gamers.
10. Battlefield 4 (PC, Xbox One, PS4, 2013) – There’s two ways to look at this one. Either it was a poor game that got better or a good game that was hampered by some glaring issues. The negative press around this game sank all hope it had of being considered an essential launch game for the PS4/Xbox One. Gamers abandoned it in droves when network issues reduced the online modes to shambling disaster zones. The single player campaign is also laughably short – clocking in at around 4-5 hours. The game has been substantially improved since it launched, but that’s not enough to erase the torrid memories of games going down more often than a porn star. Not a great moment for the franchise.
8. Battlefield 1943 (PS3, 360, 2009) – A very short-lived bite-size Battlefield game that served as something of a tech demo more than a proper installment. The offerings of three classic maps was intriguing and the way that DICE honed their craft here was admirable; with a lot of the issues that plagued the PC free-to-play games being left at the door. Instead its a back to basics affair – with rankings and rewards delivered in a more streamlined manner. The game’s also fun for those who aren’t Battlefield veterans; something a lot of the Battlefield games around this time struggled with. The game was hugely popular, breaking Xbox Live records and winning a heap of awards in 2009 for its core experience.
7. Battlefield 2142 (PC, 2006) – Long before Call of Duty dreamed of charging up its mech suits, Battlefield 2142 was the king of the far-future shooter. The game only shipped with two modes; Titan and Conquest. To this day there’s still a huge clamoring for Titan to get some kind of sequel. It was a mode that charged you with taking down your opposing teams warship – by capturing missile silos and destroying their shields. It’s a hugely unique mode and thanks to the well established ranking system used – makes you feel like you’re working towards a singular goal. The game is viewed as a “love it” or “hate it” by hardcore Battlefield fans – I personally fall into the latter category; if only because the lack of content outside these two modes is awkwardly off-putting.
6. Battlefield Vietnam (PC, 2004) – The vastly different armies in this game allowed DICE to experiment with the different approaches to warfare. The US army had all the big weapons and the brute force behind them, but the Vietnamese army had the element of surprise and could lay traps to ensnare their US opponents. The experimentation on offer throughout really intrigued me back in the day, with both sides having their own abilities and style that made it easier to side with either/or. The US Army could blast music from their helicopters while the Vietnam army could create mobile spawn points (Useful for rushing US players). This was also the point where the series first experimented with airlifting vehicles. All in all, a great game that I hope they look at bringing back around sometime.
5. Battlefield 3 (PS3, 360, PC, 2011) – Arguably the first of the modern Battlefield games – setting the template for all that followed and appeasing both PC and console gamers across the board. After the controversial Bad Company series, DICE returned tot he series roots with a game that brought back much-loved features – like jet planes and 64 player battles. It was also the first Battlefield game to enjoy a consistent post-release schedule; with no less than five expansions helping to build a real platform that gamers could invest in. The single player was terrible mind you, but at this stage who’s playing Battlefield for the single player?
4. Battlefield 1942 (PC, 2002) – The original and still highly regarded Battlefield 1942. Right out the gate, the series knew its strengths and ran with them hard. Introducing a class-based gameplay that became the staple of the series moving forward, as well as huge 64 player battles that spanned across sea, air and land. Not only this but there was real tension throughout, as you were in danger of losing positions to the opposing team – and thanks to the flexibility of the game you weren’t tied to doing just one thing. Jet fighters could abandon their planes and join the ground fight; all at a time when this kind of thing was unheard of. It was a revolution to games and when combined with some excellent maps; it’s easy to see why the series was so well-loved from the start.
3. Battlefield: Bad Company (PS3, 360, 2008) – Hugely divisive game that ejected the PC fanbase and cussed entirely on fighting for console gamers hearts. The shift in focus allowed DICE to play with the single player aspects more, introducing us to a cast of characters that endeared themselves heavily to gamers. The light-hearted approach was a breath of fresh air, with Sarge, Sweetwater, Marlow and Haggard fronting the experience for gamers. The multiplayer also worked well and, despite being limited, was good enough to form its own dedicated following at the time.
3. Battlefield Bad Company 2 (PS3, 360, PC, 2010) – Easily the best single player experience the series has mustered up (Although not a hard feat to achieve). The return of the humor and fun approach lent itself well to the experience, all the while remaining true to the series core values. The multiplayer side of things was also beefed up incredibly; bringing full on destruction into the fold and allowing gamers to radically alter the way matches were playing out on the fly. The introduction of UAV’s and spotting threw new tactical elements into play and created a much more focused gamemode. Bad Company 2 is easily one of the best Battlefield games, and while some PC users decry its lack of options, it’s hard to argue with the quality afforded by what’s on offer.
2. Battlefield One (PS4, Xbox One, PC, 2016) – In a year where Call of Duty has spectacularly pissed its momentum up the wall, DICE and EA have delivered what is arguably the best entry in their veteran series. The single player campaign is beautifully crafted, shifting between perspectives and delivering shorter but more intense bites of story. Not only this but the multiplayer is hugely engaging, fun and just what the series should be. The offerings made across the board are exciting. Yes this has only just been released; but it’s hard to argue with the quality across the board here. DICE has not only outdone themselves, they’ve set the bar very high for what comes next. We can’t wait.
1. Battlefield 2 (PC, 2005) – A lot of what Battlefield is owes itself to Battlefield 2 – the game that really set the series off. The move into the modern era was interesting, allowing the game to experiment with new vehicles, level designs and a more impressive range of options. The game has some of the biggest, most intense battles around and thanks to the introduction of commanders and special forces – gamers had much more tactical play to indulge with. It might not have the shine of Battlefield One or the imaginative future setting of Battlefield 2142, but it’s a game that shines with excellence and set the bar for PC online shooters that wanted to be taken seriously.