Battlefield 4 Open Beta First Impressions
Jovan Gauthier is an actor, sometimes-blogger, cosplayer, menswear enthusiast, gamer, and general geek. He is the male half of The Keeper Thief Cosplay, with his girlfriend of four years as his partner in crime (and the real talent behind their little racket). He currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here’s his thoughts on the Battlefield 4 open beta.
Battlefield 3 was supposed to be the big one. The sequel we all waited with bated breath for just a year after the wonderful Battlefield: Bad Company 2. On the one hand, the graphics engine received quite a facelift in the form of Frostbite 2, some new weapon customization features were pretty nice, and the mix of maps was pretty good. On the other hand, there was day one DLC (“Back to Karkand” could otherwise only be obtained if you pre-ordered), the gameplay was plagued by some questionable “fixes” in its patches, fan favourites from previous installments like the tracer dart pistol were mysteriously absent, and some of the new game modes and map layouts seemed geared to attract Call of Duty fans for no apparent reason. Not to mention, the quick time event ridden single player campaign and merely okay co-op campaign (required to unlock certain weapons for multiplayer) were significantly less stellar than the trailers made them out to be and failed to fully take advantage of the gameplay this series is known for. Not like most players would concern themselves with it anyway, as Battlefield is and always will be a multiplayer experience at its core, something I wish EA and DICE would stop attempting to dilute. It was, on the whole, a pretty good game but one that somewhat missed its full potential.
This month sees the release of Battlefield 4, with some gamers now having access to what EA calls an “open beta” of the game. At the moment though it’s not quite so open, since you can only access it through owning Battlefield 3: Premium Edition, pre-ordering Battlefield 4: Digital Deluxe Edition, or pre-ordering Medal of Honor: Warfighter Limited/Digital Deluxe Edition prior to October 4’s unlock of the beta for everyone. Here’s a few quick impressions I got from playing a couple hours or so. Keep in mind that this is a beta, so any of this information is subject to change, yada yada yada. For reference, I’m playing the PC version. The beta requires you to be running on 64-bit, though I’m pretty sure most gamers have a 64-bit processor and the correct operating system in their computers by this point. However, the full game has been confirmed to include 32-bit support at release, so those who somehow haven’t upgraded yet are in luck.
Graphics wise, the Frostbite 3 engine does a pretty admirable job. Lens flare looks even more realistic than before and they appear to have cut down on the “lens grit” effect thankfully. There are other little neat touches, such as vehicles intermittently sparking and smoking as they take damage rather than just gradually catching on fire like in previous installments. Destroying entire skyscrapers (not just those tiny little buildings in Bad Company through Battlefield 3) looks pretty damn impressive, as does the entire city vista in the map “Siege of Shanghai”.
That said, the game is quite taxing on the average system and I'm not sure it looks that much prettier than BF3 to justify it. Hopefully they'll optimize the engine some more prior to release or work out any specific GPU issues. Everyone in the chat was advising me to not use NVidia beta drivers and revert back to full release drivers. Since I was using the latest non-beta drivers, I don’t think that’s the problem. My computer is less than two years old, so I'd be rather disappointed if the full release doesn't have playable frame rates at low settings and full 1080p. I had to turn down the screen resolution in order to get it smooth enough, something I only do in desperation. All is not lost, as DICE is aware of these performance issues. They’ve advised GeForce owners to try rolling back to an earlier version of the NVidia drivers for now. I tried that and got a little more performance but not much.
Okay, so how about the gameplay? Not bad. Mostly a lot like Battlefield 3, with some little differences here and there. I'm a tad upset that you can't get the defibrillator for the Assault class until reaching a much higher score than in Battlefield 3. However, if it follows the trend of the last few games maybe you'll earn points even more quickly. It may be a non-issue. But man, the joy of parachuting from the top of a skyscraper dozens of stories down to another building more than makes up for it. Well, until that one enemy player disapproves of your daredevil antics and turns you into Swiss cheese. The helmet-mounted "killcam" view for deploying on one of your squad mates is nice, though I wish you could switch to a third person view similar to the other games. It was always good to get a full view of what you were getting yourself into before heading into battle. Similarly, when you select a control point to deploy from, you appear to be looking through a hacked street camera. Again, it’s a nice touch that helps with the immersion. Thankfully, you can now turn your weapon attachments on and off which is handy when you don’t want to be detected. Furthermore, certain weapon attachments and sights appear to come standard now. For example, the beginning rifle of the Assault class comes equipped with a laser aiming device and reflex sight. Oddly, you cannot hold down the sprint key to keep running as you could in the last two games, you can only double tap the forward key. I’m curious why they suddenly decided to drop that.
Overall, it looks promising but I will still wait until it’s been out for a while before deciding. After all, EA doesn’t exactly hold the best track record for game releases going smoothly on the first day. Can you say SimCity?
Battlefield 4’s open beta releases to the public October 4, with the full game on its way for October 29.