Battlefield 4 Beta testing has begun! Tuesday at 1am EA and DICE released the beta for BF4 available to download for anyone who pre-ordered Battlefield 4 PC Deluxe Edition, owns Battlefield 3 Premium of Medal of Honor: Warfighter Limited Edition or Digital. I decided to give it a look-see–being a proud owner of BF3 premium and all. I’m spending my Beta time on the PC version but it’s also available on Xbox 360 and PS3.
I should note the ease of getting things up and going. I know some folks ran into pitfalls here and there. But for me it was as simple as pre-loading/installing the game a day before and downloading/installing Nvidia’s new 331.40 beta drivers recommended for Battlefield 4 when played on GTX video cards. From there I was ready to select a server and join the digital fray. The beta serves up Domination (traditional deathmatch) and Conquest game modes. But to join the fight you need…
The Battlefield Battlelog is still your one-stop shop for sever browsing/selection, viewing stats, checking in on your current weapons and unlocks and such. It was introduced with BF3 and has been met with heated opposition by many players–even after multiple revisions. For BF4, Battlelog makes a surprisingly enhanced return. It’s still browser-based. But now it’s exceedingly more useful. The Battlelog “2.0″ lets you customize your virtual soldier and change your weapon loadouts, view an overhead map of the entire game running in real time and more. Upon the final release, Commander Mode will be accessible and operable via the Battlelog as well.
2. Mobile Integration
The Battlelog enhancements are made even more appealing with DICE’s mobile device integration. All that you can do in the Battlelog can be done on most iOS or Android -based mobile device. The future is here. With the Battlelog mobile app available on Google Play and the Appstore , you can use your tablet or Smartphone as a 2nd screen. Have the overhead map running while you play and can use it to watch the movement of friendly and enemy units (providing enemies have been “spotted”). Or use your favorite mobile tablet to change your loadout and/or customize weapons while you wait to respawn.
Since it does all that the browser-based Battlelog can, you can even select and join servers right from your mobile device. Using our iPad 2 I was able to join a server while outdoors. When I came inside, the mobile Battlelog had thrown me in the selected server then running on my PC. It’s very smart stuff, highly satisfying and ensures you have something to do even in the virtual afterlife between respawns.
3. Frostbite And Levolution
Once in a game server, the new changes to the Frostbite game engine become pleasantly apparent. Characters feature much more detail, especially in facial features and texture detail. Characters seem large as does everything. The whole thing feels “larger”. The Siege on Shanghai map is immense. Vehicles too seem to have fattened up. Again, we’re only playing on the Shangai map. But in the Conquest game mode you can have up to 64players (32 vs 32) on PC. That’s nothing new. However the level of complexity in the map design is impressive. It feels like a formerly working city effectively disrupted and left abandoned by the ravages of war. There are a ton of enter-able buildings and a surprising number of items to interact with. You can activate traffic blocks to cut off major strategic routes. You can activate and use elevators, open/close storage container doors and security gates for buildings and store fronts.
This is DICE’s “Levolutuion” where much of the battlefield can be altered. The mechanic lends itself to several on-the-fly gameplay changes. Place a C4 pack on an elevator and send it up/down. When you hear that familiar “DING” detonate the charge for an awesomely sinister tactic! I’m sure you’ve seen the skyscraper come crashing down in many of the official BF4 videos feature on GR. It’s an awesome sight. Just don’t be on the building or near it when that happens. It will be interesting to see what level-altering mechanics are included in the other maps.
Siege of Shanghai is the only playable map. Still it left me amazed at the new level of map degradation and interactivity for players. Realism in physic calculations is key behind Levolution. You can destroy pillars to bring down scaffolds and create new routes to flank and engage the enemy. It all falls apart more believably than in BF3, which–in truth–is something everyone was expecting. The shocker was the new level of water physics. Large bodies of water move with waves that rise and fall, to buffet boats about, and behaves more dynamically than ever before. It gives aquatic battles a sense of realism formerly absent. But more than that. Each one seems a bit different than last battle over water. The aquatic changes carry over to your soldier’s swimming experience as you too are subject to the “motion of the ocean” so-to-speak. But no longer are you a sitting duck while swimming. You can press CTRL and dive below the surface, making yourself a less visible target. Pretty slick!
5. Guns & Gadgets
There are a lot of new weapons, customization options and ways to kit out your favorite gear. Each primary gun features several swappable features. You can change Optics, Accessory, Barrel, Underbarrel and paint job. Classes have also seen a few tweaks. Highlights include C4 explosive charges as a gadget available to the Recon (Sniper) soldier class. The Support class (heavy weapons) can have an XM25 Airburst grenade rifle as a gadget. It’s a nasty little ordinance that fires ‘nades in a near straight line. In fact “Aiming down the sight at a cover [location an enemy is hiding behind] will lock in that distance, allowing the grenade to explode in the air 3-meters past the cover.” It would be great for eliminating entrenched enemies. Yet right now, while definitely fun, if feels a bit under-powered.
6. Beta is “Beta”
It’s war, even though virtual, it can’t be all roses. Clicking to join a server can leave you waiting endlessly–carry-over bugs from BF3, I guess. Lag issues continue to crop up. Even servers with the lowest ping can have players rubber banding around and running in place. The game crashes and/or freezes. Not a lot but enough to warrant more ironing out. The will undoubtedly receive more performance optimization. I’m on a 4.6Ghz i7-3770K cpu with 16gb of memory and 2 EVGA GTX 780 Classified graphic cards on deck, my frame rate will vacillate wildly from a brag-worthy 100fps to the appalling sub 40s. But this is at a 2560 x 1600. More time was probably spent nailing the sweet spot gaming sector of 1080p, which is a smart move.
The mobile device integration is such genius. It offers an experience not found in any other game, though promised in many. However, iOS users on original iPads or any device that cannot update to iOS 6 are out of luck. The new Battlelog requires iOS 6 for Apple users. I also found it odd that I couldn’t join a server on the iPad unless I had done so first on the standard browser-based version. Finally Commander Mode–arguably the most exciting feature of Battlefield 4–is not available in the Beta. Damn!
7. But Is It Fun?
This microcosm of the game in Beta form is damn fun…yes! It’s a much better Beta than BF3′s. The map is far more interesting than Operation Metro (BF3 beta map). The new gadgets are fun and well balanced. The guns feel more finely tuned with a bit more kick in the varieties of recoil. Suppression plays a significantly reduced part in any given firefight than in BF3. Before you spawn on a squad mate you can see what they see through. The Kill Feed is more informative and more entertaining. Tack on the new level of map complexity, this “Levolution” stuff, new toys/gadgets, the bionically enhanced Battlelog and the promise of Commander Mode returning… It’s a Battlefield fan’s embarrassingly self-satisfying “happy ending”.
I’ve been logged in for the last 20min of this writing. I’m “in-game” but not playing. However, I can look at the iPad with Battlelog loaded up. I see my squad moving around the map and getting slaughtered. It’s time to finish this piece and hop back in. Yet before I do I’ll use the iPad to change my class and customize my gear. Switching back to the overhead map, I can now mentally plot new routes to flank the enemy. Oh yeah it’s fun. But what do you all think? Will you be picking up Battlefield 4 when it launches on October 29th?