Article: Battlefield 4 Beta – My Initial Thoughts

The Battlefield 4 Beta has been active since October 1 for those with “exclusive” access, and October 4 for everyone else.  It has certainly been a great experience to get in and help DICE test server loads and other factors of their game in a live environment.  I certainly hope they are getting as much as possible out of this to make this the best Battlefield yet.  I have been lucky; while my somewhat outdated CPU has been pushed to its limits, I at least was able to play whenever I had time and did not find myself stuck on the loading screen.

The version we are playing is about a month old and was developed somewhat in parallel with the retail version to get it ready to go live sooner.  This means we are playing with a number of bugs and issues that have already been fixed in the retail version, thankfully.  This beta has certainly provided us a fair number of entertaining and unusual bugs to report, such as the attack boats spawning on land, elevator button that survives the tower falling, resulting in teleportation to where the tower used to be, and the floating pistol no arms bug I recently posted.  I am confident DICE will get most of these cleaned up so we can have a clean game at launch, so keep testing and reporting.

Unfortunately, I have not played the beta quite as much as I would have liked, but I have managed to gather a lot of thoughts on what I am seeing.  Overall, I feel really good about what BF4 will offer us.  I see potential for it to be much more entertaining than BF3.  The look and feel of the game, from the HUD to the in-game graphics, all feel more refined to me, although that could just be the “new car smell.”

I am really excited to see what the other maps offer.  Siege of Shanghai is fun, but I think it will be far from their best map.  I find myself a little let down by the lack of destruction and non-levolution interaction with the map.  I really lose immersion in the game when an RPG fails to damage the side of a glass building, or when a tank is stopped dead in its tracks by an umbrella stand.  That said, I have heard rumors that DICE has a lot of these things disabled, and we will see glass falling and rubble dropping in the final build.  I certainly hope those rumors are not just wishful thinking.

What I do like about Siege is the verticality it offers.  You are not stuck playing on one or two levels.  You can get as low as the water in the bay or Metro (objective B on conquest large).  You can get as high as the top of the C tower and other buildings of similar height.  You can also reach the roof of smaller buildings, as well as ground level and the levels in between.  The map also offers also offers a wide mix of play options: you con focus on driving vehicles, destroying vehicles, getting to a rooftop to snipe, or close quarters combat attacking and defending objectives.  If this is the approach DICE is taking to map design, I like the idea.  A player can choose a role, such as anti-tank engineer, and have a completely different game than their next round on the same map as an assault or recon.  Of course, jury is still out on how the BF4 map design will hold up to the various game modes.

Once they get more of the bugs worked out, Levolution still has good promise.  It may require some tweaking though.  Take the falling tower for instance, it is possible to take that down very early in the game.  It is possibly too easy to initiate that set piece, which may cause it to lose impact on gameplay if it is down early and often.  There is a significant different in how the game plays when it is up versus down.  When the tower is up, there is a clear battle to dominate the rooftop.  When it is down, the game becomes a bit more chaotic.  I have seen games where it remained up for some time and was brought down when a team expressed concern they could not take C without dropping the tower.  It is reassuring to see a round play out is a more tactical and team-based manner.

I do have concerns about how graphics settings affect the large-scale Levolution.  The falling tower was sold as game-changing in that it created a large dust cloud that makes things more difficult for air support and snipers.  However, with graphics set to low, the dust cloud is not much of a problem, if at all noticeable.  This brings up the concern that if a team is doing really well in the air and the other team takes down the tower to obscure their vision, will the team dominating in the air be able to continue doing so by simply turning down their graphics?

DICE is still working to perform final tweaking and balancing of the weapons and vehicles.  For instance, Demize99 has tweeted they they have not yet determined if RPGs will still have locking capabilities in the final build.  If they do, damage will be reduced, at the least.  To me, the weapons had a good feel, although there were moments when some weapons, like pistols, seemed to do an extra burst of damage.  Also, the vapor trails on sniper rounds seemed inconsistent with the actual bullet trajectory.

I love the new deploy screen.  Choosing your spawn point is straightforward and intuitive.  I also like that the spawn screen is a real-time map, making it easier to see the big picture and think tactically about where you spawn.  I found myself making better spawn choices.  I also found this was improved by having VOIP, because it enabled me to communicate with team mates on where to spawn and as what class, as well as communicating with them on what I saw on the map while I waited for the countdown timer.

Battlefield 4 will also offer some new weapons and gadgets.  One we got to try in the beta is the XM25 airburst grenade launcher carried by the support class.  I really love the way this weapon works, even if it is a bit of a niche role.  I took out my fair share of rooftop campers thanks to its airburst mechanic.

With less than twenty days until release, I am really looking forward to playing this game in its completed version (let’s just hope my PC can handle it).

Josh, aka "Heplinger", is a father, PC gamer, and geek who enjoys the speculation and analysis of Battlefield content, as well as the discussion of the hardware behind it. He is content producer for Heplinger Gaming on YouTube, posting Battlefield and other gaming content.
  • mrheemz

    The ps3 was a big let down. Playing maps on bf3 felt adiquately proportioned for player count vs size ish. The beta map really feels bare and quiet on current gen. The controls were quite difficult to wrap my head around at first but feel ok, the select button for spotting being moved to opening battlelog still sucks hah.

    Overall I enjoyed the new mechanics but the beta made me not want to buy it for ps3, and now I have no clue when I’ll be able to join the next gen fun and enjoy the game as it’s almost meant to be

    • ScreamFace

      But when you get a next gen, it’ll be great. It’s the current gen trade off. Thank god they did it that way.

      It sucked in BF3 that most maps weren’t designed for the player numbers on PC.

  • ScreamFace

    I hope that more destruction thing pans out.

    You know what my biggest issue is, the graphics. Jump into BF3 after BF4 Beta and BF3 is so much crisper. I also thing the brightness and contrast is wrong in BF4. Especially indoors. People just blend into walls. Nothing pops, no colour, or even the effect of the lighting. I hope they had a contrast slider in the final game. I also hope the graphics get a big crisper.

    I often literally just don’t see enemies. This is running on high settings.

    With the RPG. I don’t mind the lock on. However the rockets are too slow and the curve is too much. Unless you’re in really close range, they are quite annoying and difficult to use. Sometimes you’re not too far from a vehicle. You aim dead on at the turret. The rocket just curves and smacks into the ground. Or a vehicle isn’t very far. You aim dead center, fire and in the time from firing the rocket to the vehicle, it just moves out of the way.

    Sniper trails also seem off and sometimes you get no idea where your bullet hit.

    Also I think there’s a bug shooting prone soldiers with it from certain orientations. More than a few times, I’ve been sniping prone people from above, not too far. The bullet trails keep going right into them, nothing hits.

    Weapons customizing needs improve. Takes too long. Needs a quicker menu as well as the in depth. Needs more short cuts built in.

    Domination map is too small. Spawns are ridiculous. Extend it to the cafe flag. Add a couple more points. Then it’d be perfect.

    • Heplinger

      I actually enjoyed using the RPG. While slow, it feels faster than it did in BF3, and the curvature made a hit all the more rewarding. I think their idea behind it is to make it a little harder to get hits because it does more damage. The SMAW will not have a curve like the RPG, but it will do a little less damage.

      I agree with the sniper’s vapor trail. It seems very inconsistent with the bullet path and makes it difficult to determine where you actually hit, especially when it seems to go through your target with no hit marker.

  • Jeff Adair

    I really really dislike the change in the controls,especially the spot button.

    • Heplinger

      I have to admit I am thankful I don’t play on console right now (BTW, I am not a “PC master race” person…everyone has their preference for their own reasons). I have noticed playing other games that I try to spam the Q key, even though there is nothing to spot. We rely so much on muscle memory for our controls; I can only imagine how much it would throw you off to have those reconfigured and not being able to change it.

  • Jessica Michelle

    Also the whole lean thing on consoles is just stupid cos its sticky to wall lean and use the fire button, I get it in concept, but from what I tried in the Beta, it just doesnt work well.

  • indi

    Umm my experience was bad on PS3. no teamwork on obliteration, constant freezes.. dissapointing news that you need battlepacks to unlock some sights.
    I hate how poeple just take down the skyscraper for the hell of it,( even though theres no need to when your team has the objective)
    Plus why would you want to make the game run slower and make the map look awful with when the skyscraper is down?
    1 shot RPG lock on too helicopters…

    • Heplinger

      I have seen a lot of requests that they change the way the skyscraper is brought down to help keep it up farther into the round. I hope they do that, such as adding some pillars inside the building. Then again, maybe it will come down less after release and everyone has had their chance to trigger it.