Naval Strike is the third DLC available for DICE’s war-raged title, Battlefield 4, although as China Rising and Second Assault were pretty much designed before the game’s release this was the first DLC that has been produced since DICE would have received feedback on the title.
As you may have guessed from the title Naval Strike is a collection of maps (and one game type) that centre primarily around naval skirmishes, with air and sea vehicles featuring extensively on all of the maps that come with the DLC. These maps consist of Wave Breaker, Lost Islands, Operation Mortar, and Nansha Strike, all of which are clearly recognisable Battlefield maps – there are no real curve balls or shocks here, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing, after all one of the crowning jewels of the Battlefield series is it’s impressive map construction.
With this typical ‘Battlefield’ feeling in the maps you can expect a smorgasbord of different fighting styles and tactics that need to be deployed in order to capture that extra objective, plant that explosive, or (for the first time) destroy an enemy carrier. The destruction of an enemy carrier comes in the form of a new gametype that comes shipped with Naval Strike, dubbed Carrier Assault, which is a pleasing throwback to the Titan mode that encapsulated players of 2006 title Battlefield 2142.
Carrier Assault holds a lot of similarities to Conquest for the majority of the game, you have to capture and hold areas (missile launchers in this case) that are spread across the map, but instead of enemy tickets falling as you hold them it is the health of the enemy’s large sea-docked carrier that drains throughout the game (as the missile launchers you hold fire upon the carrier when under your control). Once half of the carrier’s health has been taken it opens, allowing players to board and set charges to destroy it completely. The winning team must either hold enough of the objectives to drain the carrier completely, or board the carrier and successfully set and detonate the two charges.
Carrier Assault does provide a wholly enjoyable experience but the sheer similarities with Conquest mean that until you receive a message that the enemy carrier is open you’ll be hard pushed to distinguish that this is a new game mode at all. Still when the carriers are blasted open there is a short frenzy of close quarters combat, which is a nice way to end a round of expansive and drawn out gun battles.
The reason for the expansive gun battles of Naval Strike? It sticks to Battlefield conventions on the size front, all four maps are huge, even if the actual combat areas aren’t – the large stretches of sea are great for naval battles, but these rarely occur, normally engagement on this front happens around objectives, which are normally planted very close to expanses of land. The size of the maps brings into the same issue that we felt when Battlefield 4 was first released, this is a game very much built for the latest generation of consoles, it has just been shoe horned onto the last generation of consoles. The result on older consoles is a lot of leg work (and swimming) to find combat situations. This can sometimes be frustrating but in a good game there is a concentrated combat zone where most of the action will take place, meaning there can be some intense fighting across all of the maps.
Despite the restrictions on last gen consoles all four maps in the DLC offer some fantastic environments and there is a plethora of environments presented here. Wave Breaker centres around a large submarine base that’s placed smack bang in the middle of the map. The base itself is flanked by a couple of small islands that can see some action from time to time but the main objective here is to control the sub base. This offers some nice indoor fighting and there are a number of viewing platforms and angles to exploit to get the upper hand on your enemy.
Next up is Lost Islands, which was personally my least favourite of the bunch due to it’s drawn out nature. Lost Islands is a collection of islands big and small connected via an intricate river system. Slapped in the middle of the map is a downed aeroplane on a tiny speck of land. This is certainly a map for long distance shooters, across island warfare isn’t a rare occurrence and often assault rifles and carbines don’t quite hit the spot, snipers and DMRs definitely have the upper hand. The real issue I have with this map is the accessibility of the different islands, at the start of a game you obviously have a plethora of new of shiny vehicles to choose from, including a new Hovercraft that allows you to float on water and traverse on land, but after 10 minutes of fighting you can often find yourself stranded and the only way to get to an objective is a long swim, which can make you vulnerable to a keen-eyed foe.
Operation Mortar probably represents the best balance between land and sea of all the maps on offer. The map is set on an old Chinese holiday resort, which consists of a collection of wooden bungalows on the lower ground of the large island that dominates the environment. At the top end of the steep incline is an old fort, with a labyrinth of stairs winding underneath and offering various ways out of the fort area. The infantry packed island is a treat for those that prefer to avoid vehicles and get hands on with their kills, while the smaller islands that flank the main combat area offer a space for those wannabe sea captains to do their thing.
Finally there is Nansha Strike, which offers a bit of an anomaly, as it’s the map I found most infantry focused despite the fact it offers the longest stretch of sea in any Battlefield map. The small village and buildings that make up the hilly centre island see some intense action and it’s a full on blood bath of foot soldiers. There is still the naval element and sea battles do occur around the island but Nansha Strike offers the best protection for infantry from boats. All of the other three maps give naval elements multiple opportunities to blow infantry away, even in the sub base of Wave Breaker. Nansha Strike bucks the trend here as it is certainly a map of two halves, it takes the separate aspects of the battlefield as introduced by Operation Mortar and splits them even further.
So the maps on a whole offer a plethora of environments and battle engagements to suit most players and warfare can be fast-paced and intense, even if an ill advised spawn can leaving you hunting for action for a while. The only issue with the DLC, and this is something really infuriating, is the amount of bugs and glitches that I encountered in every game I played. Battlefield 4 was lamented for the amount of issues and bugs its had in its short lifetime and as the first proper DLC to be developed and produced after the first round of feedback would have been taken on board by the development team surely they would have ensured that this DLC would be completely bug free?
The result is a number of teething problems when games first load, there’s a complete drop of sound for a good minute on some maps, Nansha Strike is missing the floor almost everytime it loads for the first time (leaving you feeling like you’re running on water and you’re actually a few feet lower than the map intends), and on a couple of occasions I was completely unable to pan and look around, my right-stick just stopped working; this resulted in some awkward sideways running to objectives until I was invariably killed, at which point it loaded correctly.
It is really disappointing that this DLC is fraught with these bugs, sure the issues normally fade after the first couple of minutes but there can be a few other minor issues that crop up through the game. When they’re charging non-premium punters over £11.99 for this DLC it really should be executed flawlessly. This represents a pretty significant blemish on what could have been an excellently well rounded DLC, not all of the maps will be an instant favourite with different types of players but that’s what you really want from a DLC, a healthy serving of variety. It is a shame then that this variety is served up alongside glitches than can start you off on the wrong foot when first entering a game.
This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the Naval Strike DLC, provided by EA.