A Look Inside the Battlefield 4 BetaOctober 24, 2013
A quasi-review of the beta and what we can expect when Battlefield 4 makes its debut on October 29th.
Alright, there is something I want to make very plain at the start of this first look and quasi-review of the Battlefield 4 Beta. It is a work in progress beta build, that in truth is not even the current build being tested internally at EA and Dice. What this means is that parts of my piece will become less applicable as time moves on. Some parts will be in no way reflective of the real release of the game.
So, with that out of the way, let’s start talking about this thing.
We shall start with what has been bugging most people playing it, PC gamers especially, the optimization. It’s terrible, and there is no way to sugar coat that any more. I run a none too shabby machine that was hitting 90 fps on ultra in the last version of the game. I know a drop in performance is to be expected with the better textures, larger environments and crazier physics, but a 70 frame drop or more is a little much. If you are an Nvidia user, you can install beta drivers that help with this, but even still, it’s not by much. Beyond that, the fluidity of animations is questionable at best. Run animations are choppy, aiming down sights is bouncy and the overall feel is unpolished. Again, this is a beta build, and I have no doubt that all of these issues will be fixed for full release. We saw the similar problems with the Battlefield 3 beta, and that turned out just fine. So, take this last paragraph with a grain of salt… or seven.
Now, let’s talk about what people are really worried about: is the game still fun? I can happily say that yes, it still is unbelievably fun. No games get the same feeling of ground pounding infantry warfare the same. Mix in wonderfully controlled vehicles, a truly breathtaking map, and you have the recipe for something special. The weapons feel a little chunkier; not as prone to erratic recoil patterns, and their sight profiles are somehow less intrusive. It’s got the potential for some truly fluid movement animation. Plus, for once you have momentum in your movements. What this all means is a game that is easier to pick up and play, but has more depth to it for mastering. Oh, and suppression has bitten the dust for the most part, which makes me so very, very happy.
Speaking of the map, at the time of writing there is only the one, Siege of Shanghai. It’s a fairly well covered map given all the advertisements focused around it, but they do not do it justice. The map feels like a real city. It’s nuts how many little back alleys and thoroughfares there are. The number of doors you can go through to find a new position to fire from, or an elevator to take up to a roof and plink from is mind boggling. It has given some serious new dynamic to the game play. You really do have to have your head on a swivel as you attack a point. But that’s not all, there’s the large skyscraper at point C.
Much hype has been made about the whole ‘Levolution’ mechanic, and I am slightly saddened to say that is to the detriment of the game. It is a really neat addition, but it is over stressed. With that said, it makes what it effects into a whole different ball game. On this map, it’s a toppling skyscraper that has you fighting on it’s roof top penthouse, or scrambling around in it’s rubble, fighting in makeshift trenches. It’s a nice change up for a map, but it’s not industry evolving like some would have you think. There are more tricks up the engine’s sleeve however, like the smaller ways the destructible environments can be manipulated. For example, near capture point B, there is a portion of the road which can be demolished into the tunnels below, trapping enemy vehicles so they can be dealt with by infantry.
Other interesting changes come in the form of class re-balances. For example, the assault/medic class no longer comes with a defibrillator kit, or a multi use med-kit. They have their grenade launcher and a single person med kit, but the others need to be unlocked through play. The recon gets a nice little upgrade in the form of a laser designator and range finder with thermal optics (a little beastly if you ask me) and C4 for dealing with those pesky tanks. The engineers don’t see much change, but when combined with the recons designator, their dumb fire rockets become guided provided the recon can keep them locked.
Trust me, this doesn’t sound like much, but in practice, it is absolutely vicious and a vast improvement over the SOFLAM of the previous game. Support loses their beloved C4 in favour of a semi automatic air burst grenade launcher. This is just plain mean. Range it, lock it and watch the kills come. It’s a mortar that forgot to be fair, and I love it.
The graphics are still a work in progress, but for the most part are a workable improvement over its predecessor. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much, nor will I until the full release. It does still have to run on the consoles afterall and they are getting more than a little long in the tooth. But, there is one definitive upgrade over the old one. No bloody blue filter. Oh, and the water, it looks absolutely gorgeous too. The audio has also seen some improvements, but it’s not fully implemented yet. The footsteps are inconsistent, and I do lose cues in the cacophony due to over-sampling. That said, when it works, it works brilliantly. Every thing is crisper, heavier and punchier than before. Things sound mean now, not sort of borderline pop gunny. Footsteps even seem more accurate, and I can finally sometimes hear somebody creeping up on me.
So, now we get to the part that worries me about the release the most, is it worth it to buy? Well, the single player is laughable at best. If you are okay with that, then by all means, go pre-order this beast. Though, I do caution that this is EA, and there is already day one DLC for the pre-order people in the form of a map that not everybody will get. Same goes for the collectors edition, so a part of me cautions that waiting might be a good thing. But by the same turn, if you are like me and sunk 200+ hours into Battlefield 3, more into Battlefield 2, and even more into 1942, pre-ordering is not a question. If you are at all unsure though, I say wait until the inevitable Origin sale when you can get the premium version for the same as the normal at launch. Either way, I hope to see those of you into this out of the digital plains of war, and happy hunting.
This article was written for publication on the GCE by Kevin ‘PitchWhite’ Morrison.