Hopefully the title of this listicle isn’t too much of a giveaway, but I really, really like the Battlefield series of games. I am always happier playing a Battlefield game than a Call of Duty title, for instance, as I think they are just better crafted, both in terms of the online and the single player experience. I’m not, however, a fan of the way that the Battlefield single player experience has gone these days: this whole “War Stories” nonsense ensures there isn’t the same sense of connection to the characters found in the Bad Company games. Running around with crazy Haggard as he indulges his love of explosions is better than being a cockney jailbird trying to blow up air bases in Africa, for instance. So, onto the list, and here for your reading pleasure, and to get the writing itch out of my brain for today, may I present: the Battlefield games in order of greatness.
Disclaimer: I’ve never been a PC guy, so even though I’ve heard good things about Battlefield 2142, it won’t appear on my list.
So, these are my choices on how to rank the Battlefield games. Do you agree with them? How would you rank them? Let us know in the comments!
9. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat
This was the first entry for the Battlefield franchise on consoles, and boy did it show.
It was also the third Battlefield game I played on my Xbox 360 (after the two Bad Company games) and, in a way, it was a bit of a let down. Coming to consoles in 2005, on the OG Xbox and PS2, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat was a spin-off of Battlefield 2 on the PC, being a kind of side story to the main release. An updated version for the Xbox 360 came out in 2006, and it was this version that I tried out.
The story was the usual kind of shooting game nonsense, with NATO and China going to war in Kazakhstan, with a third player in the conflict – a terrorist group called Burning Flag that was committing war crimes and blaming each side for them. Burning Flag even managed to sabotage the only attempt at a dialogue, and in the end game our character had to prevent a nuclear launch that would have ended the world.
The multiplayer modes were a bit rudimentary, although they did feature Conquest mode, which has gone on to be the main staple of my Battlefield career ever since. Having everything required of a BF game present and correct, including vehicles to drive around in and flags to capture in Conquest, or flags to pick up in the only other multiplayer mode, Capture the Flag, this is very much the genesis as far as the Battlefield games went.
The overriding memory I have of this game is that it felt very empty, as the majority of the population fast moved on to bigger and better things. But also the maps were huge and sparsely populated, so even finding another player, let alone shooting them, seemed like a big ask. It felt clunky and basic, even dare I say dull, and it’s one of the few games I really didn’t enjoy.
The servers were shutdown by EA a while ago, and honestly I didn’t shed a tear.
8. Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3 was the immediate follow-up to Bad Company 2, and as such it was always going to struggle.
Released in 2011, it rejigged the multiplayer, changing the classes up in a way that at the time didn’t make sense. The assault class, which in Bad Company 2 gave out ammo, was changed to heal teammates instead, while the medic class disappeared altogether, being replaced by the support class, retaining the LMGs but now giving out ammo. It took me a while to adapt, I’m not going to lie, although my heart was always with the engineer class, and luckily that stayed the same, either mending friendly vehicles or destroying enemy ones.
And the recon class still stayed in a bush with a sniper rifle, so that’s pretty much as standard.
The multiplayer also reintroduced air to air combat as fighter jets took to the skies, and while they were fun to fly I much preferred trying to shoot the baddies down, either from the anti-aircraft gun in a base or, if they were being really cocky, with a shell from a tank cannon. The multiplayer aspect was still very good fun to play, and yes, Conquest was included.
Other modes included Rush and Team Deathmatch, but again, I’m a PTFO kind of guy, so Conquest was where you could usually find me. The inclusion of a server browser made life a lot easier when searching for games, although the ability to rent servers resulted in some truly bizarre rulesets being implemented and enforced.
There was a lot of DLC released as well for Battlefield 3, with five separate packs being released such as Back to Karkand, a rejig of classic maps from Battlefield 2, and Close Quarters, a map pack revolving around smaller maps. Others included Armoured Kill, which featured the biggest map to date in a Battlefield game and new vehicles, Aftermath, where the big reveal was a crossbow, and finally End Game, released in March 2013.
The single player mode was again quite enjoyable, being played back in a flashback style as a soldier was interrogated about what happened in the run-up to an attempted terrorist attack in New York.
7. Battlefield: Hardline
Cops and robbers? Even now, I’m not sure that Hardline should have been a Battlefield game. It was a good, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t think it was a Battlefield game in essence.
The single player was more than decent though, with a strong, almost TV series presentation keeping the plot moving along at a cracking pace. Moving away from the traditional “kill anything that moves” style of gameplay, Hardline featured an arrest mechanic, complete with tasers and handcuffs.
The multiplayer was a bit more of a mess, but as it featured Conquest I was okay with it. Having to use police vehicles did put a crimp in the gameplay for me though, as I always felt safest in a Battlefield game when I was surrounded by 40 odd tonnes of metal, but still, it worked. I imagine this was largely because developing duties were split; DICE did the multiplayer, while Visceral, of Dead Space fame, handled the story. The result was a marriage that worked.
It’s a good entry in the games library, just not a great Battlefield game, hence its position on this list.
6. Battlefield 4
Battlefield 4 was, unsurprisingly, the follow-up to Battlefield 3, yet it was the most broken Battlefield game I have ever played at launch.
It sounded awesome, at least on the Xbox One, with promised 64 player battles on large maps, with tanks, helicopters, planes and so on. What we actually got was a game that would run perfectly every time there was a “Z” in the month, that crashed continually, lagged horribly and was pretty much unplayable. It got so bad that there were actually class action lawsuits launched over the state of the game.
DICE, the developer, were forced to stop work on all projects, including the Battlefield 4 DLC, in order to fix the game, and gradually over a series of patches it was pulled round.
Battlefield 4 is also memorable for two other reasons: it reintroduced the “Commander” mode, and heralded the introduction of the “Levolution” mechanic. Now this was a stroke of genius, the fact that certain actions that take place can completely change a level’s design. The one I remember most was a level set in a town, but when the dam was blown it turned into a rooftop battlefield with flooded streets patrolled by boats and so on. Paracel Storm was another level with a massive change occurring; a storm would blow in to completely change the shape of the islands that the flags were on.
With a wealth of DLC packs released, the multiplayer side was very well-catered for, yet the single player campaign was largely forgettable, picking up from the end of Battlefield 3, albeit with six years having passed. It did feature some interesting levels, including one set in a giant tropical storm, and trying to break out of a Russian prison, involving a section where we were armed only with a shank. Good times.
5. Battlefield 1943
Battlefield 1943 was an XBLA release which only featured multiplayer gameplay, and an initial three maps, before a fourth was launched as the community reached a cumulative total of 43,000,000 kills.
Featuring tanks, vehicles and aircraft, the staples of the Battlefield gameplay were here – it’s just that it was accompanied by simplified character classes, with only a total of three to choose from. Despite that, the game was a great deal of fun to play.
And it certainly was popular. On the first day of release, EA reported that 29.45 years worth of gameplay had been recorded, and 5 million kills made. It then went on to be the best-selling Xbox Live Arcade game of 2009, and with backwards compatibility can still be played now on Xbox One.
4. Battlefield 1
Battlefield 1 featured the introduction of the “War Stories” single player campaign, and with it my waning of interest in the single player side of the coin. With the way that the single player now skipped around, not focusing on any one character but instead featuring a different hero in each chapter, I found it hard to feel any connection to the campaign. While as a collection of levels, in and of themselves, they were quite fun, they just don’t grab me the way that a coherent narrative in the earlier games did.
The multiplayer, on the other hand, was very good indeed. Even featuring the weaponry of the time period – which seemed to only be accurate when treading on an enemy’s bunions – the gunplay just felt right. The vehicles were hilarious as well, which I’m not sure was the look the developers were going for, but it was a fact. The tiny little one man tanks are great, the enormous tanks that let everyone have a cannon were excellent, and the fact that on certain levels an armoured train could be utilised played perfectly into the time frame of the game.
With a wide selection of different maps, including some very large Conquest maps, it was a great entry in the series. The new mode of Operations almost combined Conquest and Rush, and was a great deal of fun, seeing players work together, and with a real sense of back and forth it almost mimicked the way that a battle has an eb and flow to it.
Again, some DLC packs helped to mix things up, and with new kit and even game modes keeping coming, the urge to keep playing was pretty strong.
3. Battlefield V
Again, another game, another installment of War Stories.
The intro confused me, jumping from bloke to bloke, yet again, with a set of not terribly likable characters, the missions were quite fun but the story was far from coherent. Still, I did quite enjoy the challenge of the more free-form missions, being given a set of objectives and then left to work out the best way to complete them. That in itself was a refreshing change.
Playing on Hard, those psychic Nazis soon became a pain, spotting a big toe sticking out from 8 million yards away, ensuring that the challenge was real, yet welcome.
With the multiplayer side, I was dismayed to see Firestorm appear, with it being an entry of the Battle Royale genre to the Battlefield family. I am allergic to Battle Royale games; they make my face red, the veins in my forehead stand out, and the controller in my hand become mysteriously mobile, particularly towards the floor or walls.
Still, Conquest is still great, and with the concentration on realism that this game brought, it was almost a whole new challenge to stay alive in any multiplayer mode. Combined Arms, a co-op game mode for up to four players, was a nice flashback to Battlefield 3, and playing with others against the AI has always been fun.
With Battlefield V being the latest and greatest it will be interesting to see where the franchise goes from here.
2. Battlefield: Bad Company
This was the second Battlefield game I played, and was bought on the strength of the obsession I had with Bad Company 2 – seeing where the characters I’d gone through the campaign of the second game with had come from, and what they had gone through themselves, added an extra dimension of fun.
Seeing Haggard, Sweetwater and the rest heading to war, but all the while trying to find a truckload of gold, the single player in this game was a great story to follow.
Being released in 2008, this was the first game to make use of scenery in a good way, allowing it to be destroyed. You see, previously you could play as a sniper or whatever, and be safe as long as you ducked behind a wall. In Bad Company, an RPG could and would ruin your entire day, blasting through the wall you were cowering behind and taking you out. As such, blowing up walls and making your own routes through buildings soon became second nature.
When the game launched, Gold Rush was the only game mode available, with one team attacking and trying to capture the gold, while the other side dug in and defended the gold crates. Luckily, by the time I picked it up, the Conquest game mode had been added, and I was again in my element. I know a lot of people consider that the first game was the superior one, but having cut my teeth on the second game, I found some of the controls a little hard to get used to.
Anyway, Bad Company was so good it has managed to make it all the way to number two on my list, surpassed by one title – the best Battlefield game there has ever been… its own sequel.
1. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
In 2010, on the occasion of my 37th birthday, my parents came to visit. They took me to town, in this case Derby, and when I walked into GAME they told me I could pick any game as a present. I scanned the shelves, and my eyes drew in on a soldier who was so badass, he seemed to be on fire and just didn’t care. At this point, I’d never heard of Battlefield as a franchise, but I looked at it and thought “That looks a bit of all right!”, and so my future gaming course was set.
I played the campaign to death, completing it fully and obtaining all of the achievements for doing so. Then the achievements for playing online caught my attention. I’d never played an online shooter before, and boy oh boy did it show. I had no situational awareness at all, I used to charge headlong into the objectives, and died. Again and again. Gradually, I gained the necessary knowledge, and the layout of the maps began to become familiar, and I started to hold my own.
I also met a lot of good friends playing this game, and even now, a decade on, I still play with the people that I met there.
I set about learning to drive the tanks, fly the helicopters, and perfect the circle strafing technique, both from the pilot’s seat and also from the other end of the weapons system. Learning to shoot down helicopters, getting used to maps from the small-scale White Pass (my favourite map, I think) to the larger Atacama Desert, where large-scale vehicle combat was a great deal of fun, Bad Company 2 had it all.
For me, no other game has held my attention like this one, and even with 987 hours played on the Xbox 360 version (it is backwardly compatible now, and I’ve played a good few hours again since finding this little nugget out!) no other game has taken over so much of my life. The Onslaught expansion, and the Vietnam DLC, expanded the available maps, but still the base game is where it is at for me.
Bad Company 2. Best. Shooter. Ever.