Battlefield 4 First Impressions: Deep Impact, Big Crashes

 

 

battlefield 4 beta

The Battlefield series has been my shooter of choice since the original release of Battlefield 1942 in 2002 (Shh, Call of Duty 4; our love affair will remain forever a secret). I remember the thrill of hopping into a plane, strafing real players on the ground, and then parachuting out if need be to return to the battle. There wasn’t anything quite like it at the time, and there are very few games that do it as well as Battlefield to this day.

So the burning question on my mind is how is the Battlefield 4 beta? Is it the next evolution in the series, more of the same, or a step backwards?

First things first: there are a few known technical issues (which I’m going to ignore for the purpose of the beta since, well, it’s a beta!). When I loaded Battlefield 4 beta a Direct X function error popped up repeatedly and wouldn’t let me load the game. For me, a fix for this Direct X error was as simple as going into the Direct X folder for Battlefield 4 and manually installing the installer. I could get into games at that point, but changing settings, minimizing the game, or changing graphic options caused Battlefield 4 to crash and the Direct X function error to pop up again.

There also seems to be an issue with FPS dropping. My computer should run the game fine (GTX 670, Intel i5-3570k, 8GB of RAM) and typically it did, but randomly Battlefield 4 would drag down to 10-20 FPS even during the most benign scenes, like walking down a hallway. Many are speculating that there is an error with the beta code causing unnecessary CPU load which bottlenecks the GPU. Whatever the reason, it is an issue and should be noted.

But enough about the tech problems of Battlefield 4. Again, it’s a beta; there are going to be issues, but that shouldn’t distract us from the actual game. A few things will immediately jump out at you:

  • The sound effects are incredible. Battlefield 3 had good sound design, but already Battlefield 4 makes leaps and bounds over its predecessor. Every bullet has a punch behind it, and even my meager speaker setup boomed and thunked. Guns sound much more distinct, and when you get hit there is an instant panic as it sounds like bullets are ripping into your digital avatar.
  • If you’re looking for the much touted Levolution, be sure to check out the Conquest mode on Siege of Shanghai, the beta’s lone map. When the skyscraper comes down, it is a real sight to behold. That being said, I was a little disappointed there weren’t more map interactions; shooting the giant LED displays does nothing. Domination is much more about tighter quarters and less frantic action—and does not feature vehicles. Thankfully, unlike the Battlefield 3 beta, DICE and EA have decided to include a mode that does feature vehicles, and they feel great.
  • It feels weird after nearly 2 years with Battlefield 3 to not have a ton of guns to choose from; however, the guns that are available feel pretty good. Again, I’ll have to get use to the feel of guns, but for now, nothing jumps out as being too overpowered. I do have to say I was surprised that the Support’s initial LMG does not have more kickback while it fires, but it does not feel broken per se.
  • Speaking of Support (and Recon), fans of those classes will be glad to know that tripods seem to work better. While still not flawless, they adhere to more heights. It always bothered me that in Battlefield 3, the only way to really get tripods to deploy was to find that perfect spot or go prone. Battlefield 4’s tripods seem to work much better and more consistently.
  • The retooled classes feel like pretty good changes. The Support having C4 always felt a little overpowered to me, but on the Recon class, it provides a secondary reason to pick that class and might encourage less camping and more assault-sniping.
  • Contextual actions, like leaning around cover, haven’t worked that well for me so far. A quick popup tells me that I can press right mouse button to lean around a corner, but I have yet to get that to work. And I’m not sure how helpful it will really be anyways.
  • New vehicles like the assault boat provide an interesting dynamic that might not be fully realized yet on a map like Siege of Shanghai. The inverted U-shape of the map provides an interesting playground for boats, but nothing amazing. I would imagine that naval battles would become much more enjoyable on more sea-related maps.
  • Returning vehicles feel like they move faster, at least in my opinion. I particularly noticed this in the transport helicopter, which had way more zip than its Battlefield 3 predecessor. And it might just be my imagination, but vehicles also seem to take more damage from RPGs, which is great since tanks shrugged off just about everything but C4 in Battlefield 3.
  • Adding a fifth person to the squad doesn’t feel revolutionary, but it will make me personally happier since my group of friends usually has a fifth person playing. The new Field Upgrade system doesn’t seem to add much at first, but does provide some interesting incentives to stay alive; if your squad gets wiped out, you lose progress. I think this will eventually become a better system than the perks in Battlefield 3, although it would be nice if we could customize the Field Upgrades beyond just “Offense” and “Defense.”
  • The picture-in-picture that appears on your spawn location is a great addition. Seeing exactly what a soldier is seeing gives a much better impression if your spawn point/squad mate is under fire and how safe it really is.

All and all, the Battlefield 4 beta is fun. It’s nothing revolutionary, and the level of destruction would be better if it were more dynamic instead of scripted. Fans often cite the destruction as a weak point in Battlefield 3, and while it is too early to say that in Battlefield 4, it would be nice to see more destruction. Other than that, the changes seem to be indicating that this game will be another excellent entry in the series (assuming that DICE can work through all the technical issues, which I’m sure they can).

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