Monday, October 21, 2013

The Battlefield 4 Beta - First Impressions and Screenshots

[Please note that previous to playing the Beta, I didn't read any information at the website, hadn't been to any of the meetings, or partook of anything that gave me information beforehand. Hearing about the Beta 'late in the game', I just jumped in and wanted to see what was different. Here then, is my reaction/opinions]

An example of the [slightly] upgraded graphics of Battlefield 4. Click to see Full Size

With only one week left until Release, if the Beta was anything to go by, BF4 seems like it will bring in a bunch of new weapons, tools, maps and 'take things vertical' [ugh, that sounds so cheesy] with much more rooftop/height strategy thrown into the mix. You could always get on top of buildings in Battlefield games of course, but in BF4 it feels downright encouraged with open roofs, lots of room to move, things to hide behind and elevators direct to the various building tops.

"I see snipers will be even more annoying with the elevation in BF4". Click to see Full Size

Yes, all of the 'Rooftop Snipers' can get annoying at times, but once you yourself get up there, you can see how addicting it is, what with the quick ability to strategically place yourself, open viewpoints (and nice views), the potential to parachute close the objectives, or 'get the drop' down on the enemy [so many cliches possible with this game already].

View from the Ming tower with one of the weapons that spawn within it. Click to see Full Size

The weapons are modern guns and tools [not being a gun expert, I'll focus more on how they 'felt', looked or sounded]. The models were nice and seemingly complex (good for something that is so close and often in view) and the textures for them looked great, only a few [that loaded wrong?] were blurry, like the C4 remote and a few side panels on some of the guns. Each one still had their differing audio - if you listened carefully, you could tell if that person around the corner was on the other team or not, just by the report that you could hear. Audio wise, in general: Reverb, Doppler Shift and all the other quality 'standard effects that Dice made standard and we expect now' are all there. Great stuff.

Recons (who now carry the C4 explosives in Battlefield 4) will be making elevators very dangerous transports to use

As far as the weapons themselves go, they seemed to all have one thing in common: reduced bullet spread/recoil [versus the previous games]. I could just hold down the trigger and found myself getting kills at a moderate distance most of the time, whereas with earlier Battlefield games I could swear it was a lot worse, and harder to get kills if you did such a thing. Perhaps this is a reflection of the modernity of the hardware or a statement of how a trained soldier actually would handle it, but either way it felt like it left a lot less general frustration in the gunplay - no more 'hold the crosshair on the enemy and never hit them'. While some might not like the somewhat 'easier kills', it seems like a nice change to me.

Hmm.. maybe he really is part cobra.. Click to see Full Size

Some of the new weapons that are based on real-life arms are guns like the XM25 Airburst, where the shell will travel to the enemy and detonate mid-air and 'burst' just beside or above the cover, damaging the enemy that is hiding behind it. A great counter to the increased number of snipers that will be in BF4, the XM25 also seemed to have very little bullet drop. Only at extreme distances did I see the white 'trail' of the shell drop off. A nice little weapon, once you get acquainted with how to actually use it.

The XM25 requires an extra step to use, compared to the other guns in the game: 
Place the 'crosshairs' of the un-zoomed reticle on the edge of the wall you are going to fire around, approximately where the enemy is, then zoom-in (use the scope) and aim slightly to the side/above the wall that is protecting the enemy. Fire and 'fugetaboutit' - unless the enemy runs away quickly, they are now respawning.

Munenushi is warming up his blow-everything-to-hell trigger fingers and will be making another Explosion Montage for BF4
(the BF3 montage is here: ). Click to see Full Size

Another change is the medic and support boxes, where instead of starting off with a huge box that heals/resupplies a large number of soldiers at once, you begin with these little packs that only top-up one soldier at a time. Perhaps this is to discourage the old 'pack of Medics making a group invincible' or other pseudo-exploits some people did since Battlefield 2; but I did start to see people with the large Medic/Support Boxes near the end of the Beta, so perhaps it is just something that is unlockable later. That's fine, as the game allows you to throw out a bunch of the little packs right off the bat, at least.

Knife kill on the top floor near the edge of a window. Click to see Full Size

If asked what the gameplay itself was like, I feel like I could now reply: "Good ol' Battfield, son". This game does indeed feel like Good Old Battlefield. The scope of BF1942 is there, the mechanics and variety of BF2 are there, the fluid feeling of BF3 is there, the high level of action of BFBC2 is there [and I think I just solved the secret of how they came up with the formula for BF4!]. With a good mixture of open and enclosed spaces, sections bright as day and parts dark and closed off, plenty of places to hide/camp/recover, and little touches like store alarms going off after you pass through the doors with a weapon, the only negative thing I could say about the general gameplay was that it felt...'cramped'.

Boats will be on streets and tanks will be indoors in BF4. Click to see Full Size

Perhaps the change is to draw in some COD players [I apologize for mentioning Call of Duty in a Battlefield article for those that are bothered by that], or perhaps they chose a smaller/city map to show off the destruction while keeping the system resource demand low, but without having access to a wide, open-field, running-for-ten-minutes map - at least coming from playing BF3 - the map felt small and cramped. The action was nice and dense, but on a 64-player Seige server, I felt like I was playing Counter-Strike and not Battlefield, at times. This is not necessarily a bad thing however, as the action was always tight and will no doubt appeal to gamers coming over from Call of Duty and other similar games.

An example of the destructible components of the game, this picture used to have barriers (left edge), walls (right half) and armored vehicles (middle). Click to see Full Size

There are a huge amount of things that are destructable in the game, but even after shattering everything I could shoot, I still felt like there should be.. 'more'. Perhaps I am destined to be forever spoiled by the GEO-MOD™-ing of Red Faction (circa 2001!), where you could literally tunnel from one section of the map to the other; but despite all of the things in BF4 you could explode, cave-in or mangle, I still felt like I wanted more, by the end. I guess the only place where you can make a quick hole in the ground these days (if you are cornered by enemies and want to create a bunker/trench to hold them off) is Minecraft - kind of sad, in a way. [After the Beta was over and I came across developer-touted terms like "Levolution", if I would have read anything like that beforehand, I definitely would have expected more than just a bunch of scripted 'exploding-into-parts-but-still-there' models/meshes, to be honest]

Visuals are one of the things that did not disappoint in the BF4 Beta. Click to see Full Size

Overall, I had a mixture of emotions with the Battlefield 4 Beta... I felt excited, pleased by many things, slightly disappointed by others, sad for BF3 (I feel like I am being pushed from a too-soon-breakup into another woman's arms - but according to what I have read about EA's Sports franchises and frequency of releases, this is an all-too-common feeling among sports gaming fans). Still, all things considered (including the fact that the Beta barely scratched the surface of the game I'm sure), I am excited for Battlefield 4. I will indeed.. See You In The Game!