Last week the Battlefield 4 beta launched, featuring the map Siege of Shanghai with the modes Conquest and Domination. Being the outspoken Battlefield advocate that I am, I selflessly took it upon myself to dive headfirst into the beta and bring you a report from the dust-choked battleground of Shanghai.
I’m playing the beta on PC, and thankfully I haven’t been impeded by the weird technical errors that seems to have stymied some users. Battlefield 4 looks absolutely gorgeous on a decent rig as DICE has done away with most of their weird aesthetic choices from Battlefield 3 (like the super-nova sun and the blue tint). The war torn streets of Shanghai have a lot of interactive features as well, like the ability to close store shutters to keep enemies out or raise bollards to stop a tank from rolling across a bridge (at one point I was able to use a blinking metal detector to locate an enemy that had rounded the corner and escaped my line of sight).
The interactivity ties in with “Levolution”, the buzz-word DICE is attaching to Battlefiled 4’s level design. While the centerpiece of Siege of Shanghai is the collapsible tower, there are a lot of ways you can interact and influence the environment to your advantage. While the destruction still isn’t as prevalent as it was in the Bad Company days, the way it’s presented in BF4 is much smarter.
The funny thing about the tower is that when it’s up the map is much more enjoyable. Holding the C flag atop this concrete monolith gives you a spawn point that can let you reach any other flag on the map via a parachute. Additionally, the segmented layout of the top floor (two long rooms bisected by an outdoor terrace) lends itself to awesome firefights, or some really jaw-dropping scenes when you chew up the scenery with attack or transport helicopters (speaking of helicopters, flying them between the buildings feels awesome, something akin to Red 5 on the Death Star trench run).
When the building comes down, a feat which is accomplished by destroying four pillars at the base of the tower, the map gets choked with dust, making long range combat and flying more difficult. It also turns C from a lofty capture point to a rubble-strewn mess. The way the rubble at C is placed makes movement exceedingly difficult, so at this point it’s easy to attack via the inlet with boats than trying to navigate the wreckage.
Class-wise the four soldiers from Battlefield 3 are back. The Engineer has probably seen the least amount of change, aside from the replacement of Personal Defense Weapons as their main armament. Recon soldiers can now use carbines and the bolt-action rifles are one-hit chest kills at close range. Couple that with the new portable tools and C4 and the Recon class is more viable in close encounters.
Assault retains the best weapons in the game as in the beta as the AK-12 is incredibly accurate and powerful. The SCAR-H, a slower firing rifle, is my personal favorite, but I can foresee Assault being the most played class again.
Support has the potential to be interesting, thanks largely to the new XM-25 Airburst weapon. This rifle-pattern grenade launcher is used to flush enemies (mostly snipers) out of cover by by shooting grenades that explode a few meters behind solid objects. You accomplish this by “locking” on to an object while in hip-fire mode, and when you aim down the sight a LOCK indicator will appear. The grenade will now explode a few meters behind that locked distance, meaning you can shoot over precipices or other objects. Unfortunately the light machine guns once again feel under-powered compared to assault rifles, but the ability to use designated marksman rifles and carbines should make up for this.
Gameplay wise Battlefield 4 is similar to 3, but it feels slower and more considered. Your soldier moved with an almost Quake-like ferocity in Battlefield 3, so slowing things down a bit in 4 is a most welcomed change. There’s also a new cover-peek mechanic, something Far Cry 3 players will be familiar with. Walking up behind a sufficiently large piece of cover will give you the prompt to lean out, exposing some of your body, but it does more or less negate the “head peeking” glitch of Battlefield 3, so I’ll consider this a worthy addition.
The guns also feel and sound a lot more satisfying this time around, which is saying something considering how solid Battlefield 3 was in that area. The sound design team at DICE has once again raised the bar and I can’t wait to hear what the rest of the game sounds like.
Additionally, the user interface is vastly improved, and Battlelog has had a much needed overhaul. Even in Beta form, Battlefield 4 vastly outpaces 3, so if any of you were worried that we were looking at Battlefield 3.5, this definitely isn’t the case.
Has anyone else played the beta? What did you think about it?