Initially, I was going to pass on the Battlefield 4 beta simply for the fact that I assumed the experience would be better on next generation consoles and high-end PCs. Simple minded attitude, I know.
Even with that mindset, with an opportunity to go hands on with the PC version and then the Xbox 360 versions immediately after, my curiosity got the better of me. I wondered how the experience compared and differed on both platforms, so I fired it up. While the experience is fairly different from a technical standpoint, I was still surprised and impressed with how both versions tended to do similar things with the gameplay. There’s still a lot to love if you don’t plan on upgrading any time soon.
I’ve taken my broken and splintered thoughts, formed coherent sentences, and typed them in for you below. Hit the jump to see my complete beta impressions for the upcoming military shooter.
General Impressions for both PC and Xbox 360
Ultimately, the gameplay on display doesn’t feel much different from Battlefield 3 with a couple of added refinements to improve the overall feel. Don’t mistake that for a negative because I don’t intend it to be. I find the gameplay in the Battlefield series to be extremely unique and satisfying so to see that it hasn’t changed too much made me happy. I mean, realistically, how different can you make a modern military shooter feel anyway?
The first thing I noticed is that the controls (on console side at least) are mapped closer to traditional first person shooters. No longer is the “melee” button up on the right bumper, but it’s mapped now to clicking the right stick. Something like that is extremely minor but it aligns closer to what players expect and therefore feels better. Weapon handling and movement felt pretty similar as to what you’d expect.
The other big change I noticed right off the bat is that DICE has managed to really clean up and improve the menus and user interface. Battlefield 3 didn’t have the most user-friendly system in place with layered and complex menus and you can tell that DICE went back to the drawing board to fix that. Information is much easier to obtain, switching out aspects of your class such as the gun, attachments, items, etc are much easier to see and select, and getting information from the map before you spawn is vastly easier to read. It’s a much welcomed improvement.
One of my big issues with Battlefield 3 at launch was the fact that the much hyped destruction element was barely there. It’s one of the main aspects to this franchise and to see it so downplayed was disappointing. I’m thrilled to report that the destruction present in this beta is much better when compared to BF3 at launch. As a test, I threw a grenade at a random support beam and I saw the beam completely shatter. Even if something can’t be destroyed, you’ll see visible damage to it. It’s a big upgrade over the default Battlefield 3 maps, which would seem to just ignore the explosion damage if that object couldn’t be destroyed.
The beta gives players access to Conquest (capture the location) and Domination (smaller map variant of Conquest) on the Siege of Shanghai map which was revealed for the first time at this year’s past E3 event. Each map has multiple paths to take, can be very vertical oriented, and has a number of interactive elements such as riding an elevator to the top of the central skyscraper.
Lets get this out of the way first: The current gen version of the game is really nowhere near as pretty. It’s not even close to be honest, though that’s really to be expected. If you’re expecting to see graphics from the released trailers, you’ll be disappointed. It’s about on par with what we got with Battlefield 3, though that’s more than likely due to the now 6-7 year old hardware specs these consoles are now pushing than anything else. Textures are a bit lacking, the water doesn’t look anywhere near what the PC version is sporting, and the detail just isn’t there. Even the major map event such as the skyscraper getting blown down doesn’t look great but is probably the best it can be with such a large element as that pushing current gen hardware.
Even with the player count cut down from 64 to 24 players in a single game, the Siege of Shanghai map is still very large with three control points. Even with such a big map, I never felt like I couldn’t find enemies, which is something I felt in a few of the Armored Kill DLC maps in Battlefield 3. With that said, there’s plenty of running/driving/flying to be done so you don’t have to worry about quick deaths or spawn camping.
Absolutely beautiful. The PC version of Battlefield 4 really takes advantage of the new Frostbite engine and I have a feeling next-gen systems will align closer to this than what I played on the 360. Going from the PC version to the 360 version really felt like changing a television channel from a High Definition version to a standard definition version. That’s how striking the difference was which really surprised me. The lighting, environmental detail, and particle effects were pretty impressive for a beta.
Even with the massive player count (up to 64 players on PC and next-gen), the maps are still big enough where you’re not dying every five seconds. On the Siege of Shanghai map, there were five total capture points, instead of just three on console. The 64 player count kept things moving along, never bogged down the game, and didn’t make it unplayable from a technical standpoint either due to too many players or anything like that. The game ran buttery smooth and continued to look great.
I’m assuming this was a product of the volatile servers and the beta but both the 360 and PC beta versions crashed on me which I found amusing and odd at the same time. I’ve heard that there were server issues with Punkbuster, but I was unable to confirm for sure.
Overall, I was really surprised by the differences from the PC and current gen console versions. Based on what I played, the multiplayer remains fun as it did in BF3, but if you really want to experience that next-gen shine and feel, you’ll want to grab it for the PC, PS4, or Xbox One. Either way though, you’re getting a very technically proficient and fun game. I guess you could say that I’m glad I gave the beta a chance.