Gamer’s Domain: Thoughts on the BF4 Beta

Levi Castle

I love Battlefield. I love what Battlefield does for the industry and the awesome, awesome fan base that I am so proud to have been a part of since the days of 1942. After playing the Battlefield 4 beta, I have mixed feelings about the direction the series is going.

*I have only played on the Xbox 360, which influences a few of my negatives about the game. I am well aware that these negatives will likely all disappear when I get the further-developed game for a more advanced system, whether that be Xbox One or PlayStation 4.*

Don’t get me wrong, there are more positives than negatives. Below are the top ones I noticed and am ecstatic about:

  • Communication Wheel: A few of the buttons have been switched around on the gamepad, and I think they are for the better. No longer do we have to spam the back/select button to spot someone or give out vague orders. The soldier automatically gives out context-sensitive commands depending on what you are looking at when you tap RB/R1 (just like he always did with the select button) but there is something new. Holding the button brings up a radial menu of options, such as “Sorry,” “Go Go Go,” and “I need ammo.” Selecting one of these will cause your soldier to announce it to those around him, but I am unsure if it goes through the radio to the whole team as well. Regardless, it is a neat feature that PC players have had forever and I am glad console Battlefielders will get to experience better team communication with it. That, of course, is assuming that people actually use it.
  • It’s easier to die: Yes, this is a good thing in my book. I disliked the enormous amount of bullets it sometimes took in core modes of BF3 to kill people, and I disliked playing hardcore because of the inability to spawn on anyone other than your squad leader. While I have no idea if the latter has been remedied, the former certainly has. It takes way less bullets to kill someone, making the game feel more realistic and less like Halo.
  • The blood, animations and sound design: This part might sound sick/demented, but it has to be said: I love it when a game is accurate about death. It is an appreciation I have because it is so much more immersive. In some games it means you will spare someone because of what you would have to watch them go through if you killed them. Other times, you appreciate the attention to death detail because the guy you are about to waste is going to look glorious as he dies.

This plays into BF4 because the blood effects are pretty brutal. You know the red clouds that frequented soldiers who were hit in “Saving Private Ryan”? Those are here, and they are the best they have looked in any game I have ever played (except maybe Rainbow Six Vegas 2, which in my opinion, has yet to be topped for realistic blood effects). Peppering an enemy with bullets will cause puffs of blood to surround him until he is a crumpled heap on the floor. Which brings me to my next point.

The animations and physics of the game are incredible. Get a headshot on a soldier who is running full-force perpendicular to you, and he will slide face-first across the ground after instantly dropping. Leap over a ditch as you get shot, and you will tumble/cartwheel into the trench you just tried to clear. Cause an explosion at a character’s feet, and his body will get blown back like in the movies, crashing through whatever destructible environment he is around. All of these are awesome and, to be honest, a little terrifying. I can not imagine how movements like this look to someone who has been to actual war, but that is another blog topic entirely. Once again, this leads to my next point.

The sound design is better than ever. Battlefield always outdoes itself — and everyone in the industry — in environmental sound effects. Once again referencing “Saving Private Ryan,” the sound of bullets whizzing by and hitting objects around me feels like it was taken straight from the set of the film. The pings, zwangs and zips of rounds almost hitting you are insanely effective at making you care about avoiding them. Sometimes I would just coax enemies into shooting near me so I could appreciate how it sounded; it is that good. Not to mention the enormous booming bass of the skyscraper’s supports being taken out. That is a sound I will not forget any time soon. It felt as if my subwoofer was going to break at some points.

Of course, with all good changes, there must be bad. That is probably a Murphy’s Law or something. Presenting a few things I dislike about the BF4 game in its current state:

  • There still isn’t much destruction: OK, it is improved over BF3, that much is obvious. What is also obvious is the fact that DICE seems to not want to make every building destructible like they did in the Bad Company series (or in 1943). It is cool to rampage my way through department stores instead of taking the streets, but I seriously doubt we will be seeing many collapsed buildings, destroyed barricades or halved buildings in BF4 unless they are specifically part of DICE’s “Levolution” mechanic. In other words, if there are any epic destruction moments, they will be scripted and therefore less fun in my eyes. What was so great about Bad Company 2 was that a map never looked close to its beginning in the end. Many maps could be completely leveled, which is why it is my favorite shooter of the generation. We are not going to see that in BF4, which really disappoints me. There are improvements over BF3, like more walls to blow up and more particle effects, but it is still very lackluster compared to the Bad company series.
  • The console textures: OK, hold your pitchforks. I know this is in beta, I know this is a nearly 10-year-old console, and I know it will look slightly better when it releases, but that does not excuse the fact that the game just looks downright bad on consoles. So much in fact, that I found myself wondering if the current gen version is even worth it. What I have a problem with is the fact that because of the hardware limitations, the game looks very incomplete. BF3 looks horrible on consoles compared to PC, yet I was one of the suckers who bought into the amazing trailers for the game, only to be disappointed later. I have to wonder, is the lack of a polished game, just to reach as many consumers as possible, worth damaging the reputation? Additionally, while I can see from a marketing standpoint why they are releasing for the current generation, I do not know why they would willingly make the game suffer on other platforms for it. It is a common occurrence in video game development.

The game is going to be good. It will vary in quality depending on the platform; there is no doubt about that. I just hope that the bad things I described will not hinder the overall game for everyone who is looking forward to a good time.