Battlefield 4 Beta: number of small changes make big improvements


DICE, a video game developer, has recently released the “Battlefield 4” Beta to any gamers with access to a gaming console or a PC, and this past week, I got the chance to play this version of the game.

As a big fan of “Battlefield” since its first installments, I was worried about how “Battlefield 4” would turn out. I was worried the game creators might continue to make the maps smaller and more infantry focused. They had experimented with this in “Battlefield 3” in order to draw more of the “Call Of Duty” fans, who are used to this close quarters game play. After spending some hands-on time with the beta test game, I’m much more confident in DICE’s ability to craft a Battlefield game that lives up to its predecessors.

For those who haven’t played, the core game play in any Battlefield game revolves around two pillars: infantry combat and vehicle combat.

Infantry soldiers are split into four distinct classes that define their role on the field: Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. Assault serves as the frontline and also acts as a medic, keeping their teammates healed and alive. Engineers act as vehicle specialists, specializing in repairing and destroying vehicles. Support soldiers keep enemies suppressed and immobile while also providing ammunition for teammates. Recon uses sniper rifles and laser designator binoculars, marking enemies and vehicles for their team from afar.

Vehicle classes are less complex and instead tend to do what you would imagine them to do. Helicopters and planes are troop transports and control the airspace. Boats and cars get people to the objective faster. Tanks destroy everything in their path. With that said, vehicles are essential to “Battlefield,” because the maps are large, sprawled out affairs that would take forever to cross on foot.

One of the first things I noticed playing my first match was how fast-paced “Battlefield 4” feels in comparisons to it’s predecessors. While it’s still not as fast as games like “Call of Duty” or “Halo,” it’s much faster than any other Battlefield game. This made me nervous at first, as I enjoy the slower, tactical pace that “Battlefield” usually offers. However, after spending more time playing, it became apparent that the tactical game play was still the forefront. It was just faster and smoother, making combat feel even more intense and exciting.

DICE has also brought the destructible environmental game play from previous installments. “Battlefield 3” downplayed this element significantly, and in my opinion, suffered for it. But, DICE listened to their fans, and brought back the destruction in a big way.

The map available to players in the beta, “Siege of Shanghai,” features a large skyscraper with an important feature – the most important zone to hold in the entire map is on its roof. Its position over the rest of the map allows for players to parachute down to anywhere the player needs to go. The team that holds this point can spawn from there. It’s easy to see its immense tactical value. It offers instant access to all other objectives.

The skyscraper has another important feature. At its base lay exposed support pillars. Players having trouble wresting control of the roof away from the opposing team can instead opt to focus fire on these supports. Destruction of these ends in one of the most amazing spectacles I’ve seen in a multiplayer shooter. The skyscraper collapses in spectacular fashion. Not only is this awesome to look at, but it changes the game play significantly.

The tactical advantage of that point disappears when it’s on the ground. Dust from the fall of the building chokes the air and impairs visibility. DICE has said that most of Battlefield’s maps have a game-altering event like this. If any of them are half as amazing as the skyscraper’s collapse, then I think players have a lot to look forward to.

DICE has also made a myriad of changes to how the classes function. This improves the balance of the game immensely. It also brings it closer in line with older titles in the series.

Recons now have C-4 explosives instead of Support soldiers, a change that disappointed me in “Battlefield 3.” This forces Recon players to be aggressive and help the team out by using guerrilla tactics to take out tanks and other threats. This is just one small change among many that helps the game flow better. Other changes force working as a team, which is vital to any “Battlefield” game.

I had a blast with the “Battlefield 4” Beta. I give this beta test a strong four out of five stars. The game play was fun and better than ever. If the developer can deliver a package that expands on what I played in the beta, shooter fans all over the world will rejoice.