BF4 Beta Impressions: There’s A Boat On My Subway Station

Silly headlines and boats aside…

I’m a man who enjoys his Battlefield 3. I’ve logged several hundred  hours in the game, give or take — barely touching the 1,000-ish hours I dumped into BF2 during high school and college, but I digress — and it’s a winner in most categories. Where it falls short, as many of you may know, is in the details. There’s no Commander Mode, and there’s no Spectator Mode, which cripples the game’s eSports viability. Some of the rifles and carbines are essentially Moonraker lasers with magazines, there’s a certain lack of finesse in the vehicle control, and many of the levels lack an appropriate degree of vertical scope.

Battlefield 3 is pretty good…but I’m not sure if I would call it great. Battlefield 2 was great (especially before all the patches). Battlefield 1942 was great. 2142 was chock full of great ideas, though many were poorly executed (Titan Mode?)

I’ve logged roughly nine or ten hours in the beta, and it already feels like Battlefield 4 is on the path to greatness.

The beta map is Siege of Shanghai — the same map shown during E3 2013. Where E3 only had Conquest (32v32 with vehicles), the beta includes Domination as well. Both modes pair with the same Shanghai map, but Domination brings the server size down to 32, ditches all the vehicles, and reduces the map size by about 60 percent.

[Two quick notes, readers: First, all the screenshots are based on a beta, so please keep that in mind before you make silly comments about the graphics quality. Second, click through on all the images for larger versions.]

Map Design, Guns, and Customization

As soon as you spawn in, you can instantly tell that the map design is coming from a fresh perspective. I know the ten or so maps in the final product will vary in shape, size, and setting, but Shanghai’s towering skyscrapers, vertical-heavy firefights, and penchant for small sea/bay battles is unlike anything you’ll find in previous Battlefield games. Where Battlefield 3 levels are countryside- and hill-heavy, and buildings only climb 3-5 stories, the  Shanghai is replete with tall office and apartment buildings. The C flag — the massive skyscraper you’ve seen in all the various Battlefield 4 ads —  is the only skyscraper with internal access one of several massive buildings that offers rooftop access via elevators on the ground floor. Aside from the half-dozen or so buildings with lifts or ladders, the other rooftops can be accessed via helicopter. Drop down, set up shop with a sniper rifle or RPG, and keep the suppressing fire coming.

The guns already feel better, and there’s undoubtedly some tweaking before the retail release. I’ve spent most of my time with the AK-12 (default Assault primary weapon), the MX4 (default Engineer SMG), and the AK-5C (Carbine for every class). The AK-12 feels like the AK from Counter-Strike: Accurate on the first two shots, followed by some decent spray if your control isn’t sharp. It’s a great start for the accurate shooter, as it handily rewards controlled burst fire. The SMG class is predictably poor at long range, but the MX4 is a good choice for clearing our doorways and tight spaces. If you’re a good shot at long range (ahem), the accessible carbine list is an Engineer’s best friend. Stayed with the AK-5C carbine as soon as I unlocked it, and never looked back.

The only weapon class that needs some polish? Sniper rifles. Something feels off about the class…too easy to kill with it up close, and a bit touch-and-go at the usual long range.

The loadout system is stock Battlefield, albeit with some updates. In BF3, kit additions (your med packs, grenade launchers, etc.) were tied to specific slots, but Battlefield 4 lets your mix, match a prioritize without a hitch. Most of these gadgets are locked out of the beta, but each class has at least two to choose from. The Assault class can access the med packs, defibrillators, and grenade launchers, and the trio can be paired down to two in any order or combination. There are some restrictions in place to keep things fair — the Engineer can’t rock the RPG and the Stinger AA missile at the same time, for example — but the variety is a step up from Battlefield 3.

The last new tweak on the infantry side of things addresses unlocks and upgrades, which have been built out in some ways, while streamlined in others. Unlocks are still tied to your rank and weapon proficiency, but Battlepacks can speed up the unlocking process. I got my first Battlepack at rank 3 — a Bronze briefcase in Battlelog with a trio of free unlocks inside. Every few ranks (3,5,7,10, etc) nets you a new Battlepack, which helps the unlock process feel like less of a grind.

Field Upgrades have streamlined the Specialization process — it’s like the Specialization process from Battlefield 3 had a kid with the killstreak system from Call of Duty. Instead of choosing one option, like extra ammo or grenades, you now choose a quartet of perks, all being offensive or defensive in nature. The better you and your squad perform, the faster these upgrades are unlocked. My upgrades are set to defensive, which means I’m rewarded with more body armor, partial immunity to suppression, fire-proofing, and faster med pack healing.

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11 Comments on BF4 Beta Impressions: There’s A Boat On My Subway Station

Raven

On October 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

This is by far THE best review I’ve read so far on the beta release.

Unfortunately PS3 only has a scout heli, tanks and jeeps, no boats, no attack heli, quads or jetskis.

But its still fun as hell once you get used to it.

Keep up the great reviews!

balerion

On October 4, 2013 at 6:53 am

“too easy to kill with a sniper rifle up close”?……… Are you ing kidding?.. it’s a god damn sniper rifle.. sniper rifles blow limbs off in reality and are one shot kills almost every shot..

max

On October 4, 2013 at 8:29 am

i don t understand why ur pics are so ugly, the fact thats its a beta isisnt the real reason, my graphics on bf4 are maxed out and the game looks amazing, u should tell the ppl that ur CPU suck ass instaed of blaming something else, thats why ur pics are ugly.

Devin Connors

On October 4, 2013 at 11:04 am

@max

1) An Intel Core i7-3770K and an Nvidia GTX 780 “suck ass”?

2) I’m running the game on Medium settings because there’s no point in running a beta on max settings. I’d rather turn settings down than deal with instability, crashing, etc.

3) You should never judge a game’s graphics by its beta. It’s not a final build, and it’s unfair to the developer. That’s why my preview skips out on graphics quality, for the most part.

4) Start proofreading your comments before posting here again, please!

Thanks for reading,
Devin Connors

SupremeAllah

On October 4, 2013 at 11:25 am

All logical points made there, Devin.

I turned my settings to match what I had played BF3 on, and found that it kind of ran like crap sometimes.

So turned them down to medium, and had no performance difference.

I concluded that it’s related to the stability of the beta, not my PC power itself. Sometimes it will be perfectly smoothe, then other times it chops up out of nowhere and for no real reason. Again, I attribute that to the beta status, as not everything has been fully tweaked yet. Even on higher settings, texture differences are minimal, and you can tell they aren’t complete yet.

As far as gameplay, there are some nice additions from BF3. I’m admittedly not a fan of the “tank reloading” issues. Also something I noted (again, probably due to beta status) is that if you keep clicking the fire button before a new shell is loaded, it seems to reset the counter, which is extremely annoying. But having your shots actually matter as far as where you hit vehicles is nice. The downside is, when shooting choppers with tanks, they don’t seem to be as effective as it was in the past. I even encountered an issue where shooting the chopper with a tank shell would hit, but would not damage it at all. That used to happen on occasion in BF3 as well, and sometimes (but less often) in Bad Company 2.

But when the shots do connect, they don’t seem to be one shot kills anymore, which I would think they always should be when it’s Tank shell vs Helicopter.

As to your comments with the sniping, I agree that something feels off about it. It almost seems like it fires its projectile like a railgun instead of like a bullet. It’s hard to explain, but it doesn’t feel like the traditional sniping that we are used to.

But random slowdown issues aside, this game is looking to be very good as far as keeping the battlefield feel while updating some things. I do look forward to more water combat, but hopefully it isn’t limited to what we’ve seen. I’d like it to go back to the 1942 days where you could control Destroyers and move the Aircraft Carrier.

Pedro

On October 4, 2013 at 11:51 pm

umm Max , the GPU not the CPU handles most of the load for games, I have a gtx 690 and core i7 and it still kicks my machines ass, even with the beta drivers ( I am running all on max though except 2Xmsaa) maybe you should play the game on your ps3 and let us know how it looks.

Glocktopus

On October 5, 2013 at 9:16 am

Great review and I appreciate your feedback based on more knowledge about the gameplay then most people in comment sections. Thanks for leaving graphics out of the topic. I assume they will be way better then past titles upon release and I’ll leave it at that. I’m interested to see how using dmrs and carbines across all classes will improve gameplay. Engineers stuck with pdw’s is interesting and I look forward to see how this plays out. I love the levelution and the ease crossing the map via high jumps is just such a game rush I’m blown away. Gunplay needs a little tweaking but I’m sure a few patches will touch on this. As a huge fan of BF and unlike most I did like BF3 a lot. I’m looking forward to BF4 immensely.

pnut

On October 5, 2013 at 11:55 am

I for one am very disappointed with the beta the second i enter a game it freeze’s then i need to shutdown my pc just to end the program not even taskkill works don’t think im gonna buy it after this i always try before i buy but this is simply a joke!

Donkey

On October 7, 2013 at 10:09 am

BF1942 was a solid start. I give it an 8.

BF2….Meh. It gets a generous 7.

BF3 is everything BF2 wasn’t plus it actually looked good. I give it an 8

2142 – Titan mode wasn’t perfect, but it was far from “poorly executed”. Squads podding up… fight into the cargo bay…fight down those long corridors (reminded me of beginning of the original Star Wars)..auto-turrents firing away…blow the reactors. Not to mention Mechs, snow speeders (in the expansion), Goliath…nothing like it before or since. Perfect 10 and best of the franchise.

BFBC2 so so so close to perfect. Well balanced and rush mode added Joint Ops style linear play. Introduced the stabbing, violent knife kill FTW. This was the start of the Frost engine was have seen up through BF4. Gets a solid, “almost”-perfect 9

BF4 – enjoying it so far. I like the idea of fighting in skyscrapers. Vehicles and weapons are much more balanced with the limited ammo. Menus, awards, loading screen, battlelog are all 100% BF3 with new window dressing. Music is blah. BF had that cool grinding industrial sound. This sounds kinda generic boring, but at least it isn’t Dubstep.

To be honest, it feels more like a BF3 mod than a new game. That is not neccessarily bad. Like McDonalds, I am loving it.

Oh, and wow pnut. B…E…T…A….that spells BETA, because it is, you guessed it, a BETA. DEEEEEEEEEEEEEERP.

Ron Whitaker

On October 8, 2013 at 5:35 am

@Donkey: You forgot the best infantry combat game in the Battlefield series – Battlefield: Vietnam. It was the most well-balanced of the series, and my personal favorite.

Donkey

On October 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm

@Ron: I tried it but at the same time it was released another large-scale-war game called “Joint Operations” came out. It blew every other war game away so BFV got little play time.

Back to BF4 demo…

LOVE LOVE LOVE the counter knifing. Sniper rifles up close are silly (1 shot shoot-from-the-hip kills). Other than that, pretty balanced. I still have friends who cannot play due to stuttering (Core i5 issue or something), but the game has been great for me (i7, GTX 670).