I finally found some free time to play with the new Battlefield 4 beta today. I spent a LOT of my free time on Battlefield 3, and Battlefield Bad Company 2 before it. While I’ve never been the best in the world playing the series, I think I’ve still played enough to have a bit of perspective on it. Now obviously being a beta, the Battlefield 4 experience I’ve had is probably not indicative of the final product. Be that as it may, I felt compelled enough to at least write about some of my impressions here.
Battlefield 4 is going to please a lot of people as well as upset a number of people. On the one hand it does seem to at least attempt to appease some of the vocal BF2 fans who never left that game. It also seems to want to bring back BF3 fans, and the BFBC2 fans who didn’t care for BF3 much either. It reminds me of what Epic Games did in 2007 when they released Unreal Tournament 3. Now it is here I have to go on a tangent about UT3 but I’ll tie that back into the topic at hand.
Unreal Tournament 3 tried to bridge the gap between Unreal Tournament, and Unreal Tournament 2004. Much like Electronic Arts’ long running army shooter series, there was a fractured community. Unreal Tournament of course is a classic. It gave id software some sorely needed competition. (Quake 3 Arena was running unopposed.) UT added it’s own spin on the arena shooter, and became the Pepsi to Q3A’s Coca-Cola.
A sequel was inevitable, and so Epic got Digital Extremes to make Unreal Tournament 2003, and it’s update 2004. While these were successful (I was even in a clan with friends I made online playing it so much), there was still a subset of players who refused to move onto it. Namely due to it’s much higher system requirements, and because it amped up the ante in it’s movement system. UT2k4 had complex dodges in addition to the minor ones in the original game. Unreal Tournament 3 sought to unite fans of each game by being a little of each but master of none. I personally thought it was pretty awesome. But a lot of other fans, including my clan mates largely disagreed. The game didn’t last very long despite a wonderful expansion pack that fixed launch bugs, and added a lot of new content.
Battlefield 4 is reminding me of those days. Like Battlefield 3, it features bold new graphical effects. The levels are beautiful. Once again, DICE has narrowed the visual gap between the lowest, and ultra settings considerably. So even at it’s worst the game still looks great. However it’s made the run speed a little closer to Bad Company 2. Presumably this will appease the fans of that game who never moved onto Battlefield 3. The question is, will the Battlefield 2 loyalists like that enough to move onto the new game? Even if they’re accepting of that, will they be willing to upgrade their hardware for it if they haven’t already? Will the folks who didn’t like BF2 but loved 1942, or later Battlefield games be receptive of the returning commander mode?
It’s all speculation on my part, and it’s probable that even if none of the fans of earlier games move onto it, that it will still sell gangbusters. Thus, creating yet an entirely new fandom to keep it going.
Anyway, the game does seem to be shaping up pretty well. Along with the faster run speed Battlefield 3’s suppression system is gone, or barely there. Personally I liked that they took it out, as it makes shooting require a little more accuracy. Though I’m sure a number of people will be upset about it’s absence making retreating a little bit easier. The new knife mechanic is pretty fun. If you are spotted trying to sneak up behind someone (They hear you, and turn around as you’re in the process of stabbing) the game goes into a QTE where the two of you fight over the knife, and the loser gets stabbed. Kind of like in movies where two characters fight over a gun, you hear it go off, then you scream “Which one of them got shot?!?!?” to yourself. It keeps the knife mechanic interesting, and makes it more fun than just seeing instant kill animations.
Environments are more destructible, but for now it seems like only certain structures are. Certain buildings, barricades, or sections of buildings can be blown out. But nothing goes back to the days of Bad Company 2’s leveled stages. It’s also strange how an entire storefront can be obliterated, but the mannequins displaying sweaters can’t be. Netcode does seem to have been improved. I didn’t run into as many point blank shots doing no damage to enemies. Weapons seem pretty well balanced so far. Lower end guns do enough damage that higher level players aren’t always guaranteed to win shootouts on a gun’s merits alone. But there are still enough advantages to better guns that they don’t feel completely nerfed into irrelevance.
The beta lets you play the Conquest mode, as well as Domination. Conquest is the same as it’s always been, tickets run out faster for the team with less captured flags. When one team runs out of tickets it’s game over. Domination is similar but you have to do everything on foot. The maps you get in the beta do leave a pretty good impression. The scope is pretty large. They feel somewhere between Battlefield 3, and Battlefield 1942. Hopefully the rest of the maps will follow suit.
The beta also has a rudimentary customization option. One can make their own emblem from predetermined assets by layering, resizing, and coloring them. The emblem then appears on any guns or vehicles one uses in the game. This was pretty neat, but it wasn’t something mind blowing. It could be nice for clan tagging I suppose, but just letting players import their own artwork or photos would have been better. Or at least having a much larger selection of stock art. It seemed to be borrowing Torn Banner Studios’ update to Chivalry. In that update players could do custom colors, or logos for their costumes, and shields. The thing is Chivalry has a much bigger selection of logos to choose from. But perhaps the final version will as well.
The beta does seem to need much higher requirements than the listed minimum system requirements let on. I found the game is VERY much CPU, and RAM dependent. While my Phenom II X4 is admittedly getting a little long in the tooth, it was still pretty surprising to see the usage as high as it was in the task manager. The game also uses a lot of RAM. You can run it on 4GB but that’s pretty much the only thing other than Origin you’ll be running. Again, the final game will probably be much better equipped to run on older computers. But if you have a 5+ year old PC I would still recommend you stick another 4GB in if you can to tide you over until your next computer purchase. The game oddly enough doesn’t seem to be very GPU dependent unless you want to run it maxed out. Like Battlefield 3, it seems they made it pretty scalable. Midrange video cards from AMD/ATI or Nvidia should handle the game with little trouble so long as they’re paired with a good processor, and a good amount of RAM.
Even if you do have a better than average computer to play the beta on, it’s still not going to be a flawless experience. I witnessed a lot of stuttering even on minimum, rock bottom settings. Perusing through the Battle log forums, I found that even people running higher tier Intel processors were seeing it too. There was also the odd graphical glitch, like floating glass windows after a storefront had been destroyed. There are also some problems with Punkbuster that either crash the game, or keep players stuck on loading screens. There is a fix for the latter that requires manually downloading Punkbuster. But the crashes, and stuttering continue to be an issue.
Still, the beta does point to a pretty fun edition of Battlefield. If you weren’t a fan before I don’t see it changing your mind. But if you’re a longtime fan, and have access to the beta I’d say check it out. At least it will give you some idea as to whether or not you’ll like the changes DICE brought to the table this time around.