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Thoughts From The Battlefield 4 Beta

Messages from the frontline.

As the Open Beta for Battlefield 4 closed last night, I wanted to share some thoughts. As DICE’s latest entry in the mammoth game franchise, it’s inevitable that high expectations are going to be placed upon it. Though the Beta is but a tiny vertical slice of the content on offer, it does offer some interesting glimpses at what the final version will hold.

Starting with the basics, the combat in Battlefield 4 is just as good as it ever was, with a chunky physicality that still requires thought and dexterity to handle given situations. Rushing headlong into a fight will basically just get you killed, so a little thought and patience is required in the heat of battle.

The class system helps to define a player’s role, continuing to push players to work together as squads. Though the Engineer will remain overwhelmingly popular thanks to having an RPG handy, there’s enough flexibility to the load outs and customisation to allow for anyone to play. I personally prefer the Assault class, just to make a difference and be able to revive downed comrades, even if it means I have to constantly run away from tanks that come my way.

Yet I can always hop into a tank, missile truck, jeep, quad-bike, attack helicopter, and so on. Vehicles are such a core part to Battlefield’s gameplay, and they are still just as good as ever, helping to keep the game at quite a high tempo, even on large maps. Players who enjoyed some of the various map packs for Battlefield 3 will also be glad to hear that many of the vehicle types from that game are making a return.


However, there’s also a much greater focus on water-based warfare, and both the Paracel Storm and Siege of Shanghai maps do a pretty good job of integrating that. Whilst Shanghai’s layout is still very much conducive to staying on foot throughout, the ability to break out of your main base with a jet ski and nip over to the other side to try and capture a control point is very welcome.

Paracel Storm was predominantly water, with a variety of islands that will make game modes on the larger versions of this map quite an interesting change from the land and air battles which the series has predominantly seen. However, Zavod 311, the map which was playable on Xbox One at Eurogamer Expo, shows Battlefield back to basics, with not a drop of water in sight as you fight over hills, between trees and through a large abandoned factory. The closest comparison I can draw would be back to the Caspian Border map in Battlefield 3, merged with an industrial complex

There’s excellent potential for all of the maps to play very differently, thanks to the added variety of vehicles, but also the addition of interesting new game modes. Domination and Rush will quite inevitably return, but the latest mode of Obliteration is also a lot of fun, and sees people trying to make the best of what a map has to offer.

On Siege of Shanghai, it sees the bomb regularly spawn at the top of that central sky scraper, with people skydiving off in a given direction. Paracel Storm had the largest island as a frantic battleground, as people tried to escape and get to the smaller islands, and being cut down as they swam or tried to hijack boats.

But as the two teams vie over control of the bomb, and battle to reach or defend the various objectives, it’s a really centralised focal point to the combat. As you inevitably die and look at the map for the best possible spawn point, it’s almost amusing to see the stream of little arrows following the bomb carrier, like rats marching to their deaths behind the Pied Piper.


Essentially, this would be enough for Battlefield 4, to take the solid foundations of its predecessors, add more options, maps and game modes and get it out the door. However, DICE have decided to take the destruction and interactivity to the next level with “Levolution”.

And here I find issue with the game, because I don’t feel that the level and degree of these new additions to the maps really warrant the term, compared to what existed in Battlefield 3. There has always been an odd relationship between buildings and structures which can and cannot be destroyed, and I feel that this accentuates and makes that divide much more pronounced. Simply put, I have yet to be convinced.

The core idea is to allow players to take a map and change the flow and the way in which it is played, through the additions of Levolution. These could be small and subtle things, like being able to open and close doors on shipping containers or raise and lower bollards at a bridge, but extend to the truly spectacular collapse of the skyscraper in Shanghai or run a ship aground on Paracel Storm.

The doubts I have come from Siege of Shanghai, which I played quite heavily in the PC beta, where each of these most major events feel too set in stone, and the smaller ones a little too inconsequential compared to just blowing a hole in a wall. The first thing that people will do is level a building, given half a chance, and there is only a single collapsible building on this map. Similarly, there is just a single underground support which can be used to collapse the main road.

They’re both impressive moments, and yet disappointingly limiting, especially as players will generally go out of their way to trigger many of these events as soon as they can. However, why can it only be that one building? Why can I not collapse other smaller buildings, too?

The beauty of the destruction in Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 was that it could largely go unexplained. Yes, you might bump into a wall which couldn’t be destroyed or building which couldn’t be collapsed, but now we have special one-off events which have to be signposted for players to understand, with the four front-facing pillars on the skyscraper already visibly weakened to indicate their interactivity.

Battlefield 4 is still going to be a grand follow up to Battlefield 3’s success, bringing 64-player combat to next-gen consoles and with a few new tricks up its sleeves. I just wish that Levolution didn’t feel like a hollow marketing term right now. I want to be convinced.

  1. Eldave0
    Since: Aug 2008

    Nice summary. I’m surprised you labelled BF4 as a tactical game, as I found running in with Assault Rifles was the only way to rack up points/kills and contribute to the team.
    Given I love the COD series, I was fine with this and am looking forward to some large scale battles next-gen, but this felt like the least tactical BF I’ve played.

    Comment posted on 16/10/2013 at 12:27.
  2. three_leg_jake
    Since: Aug 2011

    I too am disappointed in the lack of destructible scenery. The “Levolution” concept is too scripted, maybe by the time the PS5 arrives we will see a truly destructible world?

    Comment posted on 16/10/2013 at 12:51.
    • Kreisash
      Since: May 2010

      I’m sure that they could do it now with the PS4 power but then they would have to make it an PS4/X1/PC only feature as the engine and grunt required would be too much I imagine.

      The other issue is that they need to balance flexibility of destruction with making the levels still relevant and not end up as a level of flattened buildings, which it would inevitably become given free reign.

      I also think that if you can destroy key points and structures, that they should be able to be restored in some cases (like in MAG).

      I would like to see randomised element maps as well. Where some roads/bridges are blocked and door or alley ways sealed. It might get annoying but at least it adds variety and if done well would ensure that two matches on the same map can have different dynamics.

      Comment posted on 16/10/2013 at 13:09.
  3. Bilbo_bobbins
    Since: Jun 2009

    i found the beta on PS3 fantastic. Soo much better than the BF3 disappointment, and the game too. The Levolution thing I think is good, it can, in most cases change the entire match if you can’t manage to take the building flag and take it out. It changes the dynamics to the game and tactics.

    I agree there should be more destruction but apparently that is coming in the full game, plus you wouldn’t want a flat map anyway, it would be proper boring.

    Comment posted on 16/10/2013 at 13:02.
  4. boeboe
    Since: Feb 2013

    Looks great. Read this cool quote from Edge-onine’s article:

    “So when the storm comes in on the island map, everything changes. It’s not only looking different, the waves are now different to ride. The attack boat is not that powerful anymore because it has a problem aiming in the waves; it’s easier to get away with a jet ski. The view distance is changing for snipers and helicopter pilots.”

    Comment posted on 16/10/2013 at 13:32.
  5. hornet1990
    Since: Mar 2011

    It all sounds great in theory, but after trying the beta and the cluster f**k that was BF3’s release and first 6 months I have little confidence that DICE are able to deliver.

    Happy to be proven wrong, but for the time being I’ll hold onto my cash rather than risk another punt… fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

    Comment posted on 16/10/2013 at 14:00.
  6. Colin Duff
    Since: May 2009

    Great article!

    I agree with your comments on “levelution”, I had a strong hunch that it would be nothing more than a bunch of triggerable set-pieces the instant I saw the player from the multiplayer trailer chuck his PE4 onto the pillar in the underground room.

    Comment posted on 17/10/2013 at 17:17.
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