One of the main attractions at EA’s E3 booth extravaganza was a playable 64 man/woman multiplayer demo of Battlefield 4. This massive setup continually had long weaving lines of eager digital warriors wanting to get a crack at some next-generation Battlefield action. EA graciously gave VIP line passes to members of the media, so I did get to experience some hands-on time with Battlefield 4′s multiplayer mode without the need to waste an entire day in line (yes, you can hate me for that).
The setup we played on consisted of 64 high-end Windows 7 PC’s running Dice’s latest Battlefield game. Each station was configured with a new Xbox One controller, or a traditional keyboard and mouse setup, as well as a pair of headphones (mine didn’t work, which had an impact on the experience). The copy of Battlefield 4 running on the rigs was a pre-alpha build, so it was slightly buggy, but I didn’t let that affect my experience as it would be unfair to criticize a game that isn’t completely finished.
The match itself played out on the Shanghai map that was shown off in detail during EA’s E3 press event (trailer for reference). The first feeling that came to mind while playing this demo was an appreciation for how detailed and crisp the Battlefield 4 world looked. It seemed to me that Dice had done their due diligence in utilizing the increased power that the new consoles and current PC rigs contain.
It would have been nice to see how B4 played on an Xbox One, but it was explained to us by the reps walking the demo floor that the console version should be nearly identical to the PC version we were playing. Final judgment on that statement will have to be reserved until the day B4 comes to the next-gen consoles, but overall the game looked as expected, and featured some killer lighting and particle effects that really brought the battle to life.
The gameplay itself felt very familiar, so if you’ve played Battlefield 3, or even the Bad Company spin-offs, Battlefield 4 doesn’t alter the formula too much. Before each re-deployment you must select a class to play, and the familiar Battlefield classes are all still available. For some reason the class selection screen wasn’t clear to me at first, so I kept choosing the Recon class, which ended up equipping me with a sniper rifle. A single fire bolt-action rifle isn’t the best weapon for the job when you consider that I’m more of an in your face type of player, so for the first 5-minutes I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and getting completely destroyed as I tried to single-shot hip fire enemy soldiers with a slow moving sniper rifle.
Once the class selection issue got resolved I was able to pick a more aptly suited soldier type to better fit my play style. Even with this fix in place it was still challenging to keep up any sort of offensive push against a team of 32 enemy soldiers. A match of this size against formidable Battlefield players was a daunting experience for a gamer who hasn’t spent much time in the franchise. It was amazing to see some of the strategies take place amongst gamers who did have a mastery of the Battlefield way of waging war though.
I encountered well managed vehicle strike teams, as well as flanking ground forces who constantly thwarted my team’s attempts at securing a location on the map. Overall, the actual Battlefield 4 gameplay felt right at home, so some gamers may take that as a great thing, while others may complain that there hasn’t been enough changes to the series’ formula.
Although, there is one major difference between Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, which is the resurgence of Commander Mode. This mode is achieved through a secondary touchscreen device such as the iPad running Xbox SmartGlass (Android supported as well), and offers gamers the ability to operate as a Commander behind the scenes rather than on the ground. While in this mode players can call in air strikes, paint targets, and help with the overall map strategy for their team. A tactical minded Commander can definitely change the landscape of the battlefield (both literally and figuratively), and for someone like me who doesn’t have the twitchiest FPS skills, it offers a chance to make a difference in the outcome of the match.
The Battlefield 4 64-player E3 demo definitely taught me a few things about Dice’s next-gen war game. For starters, Dice is without a doubt masters of their playground. Everything about B4 seemed refined and improved upon from its predecessor. The Frostbite 3 engine is a thing of beauty, and it has brought the world of Battlefield 4 to life in glorious 60 fps that makes love to the senses. Secondly, I learned that there’s no hope for my FPS multiplayer skills ever getting better, but the re-introduction of Commander Mode will give gamers similar to me a way to feel like we’re making a difference in the match. Lastly, the importance of squad and team management is key in this game as it has been in the past. Without a solid team there’s no chance in winning, so this isn’t a game for lone wolves.
Battlefield 4 will be available on October 29, 2013 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. It will also be released for the Xbox One and PS4, but a firm release date for the next-gen console platforms hasn’t been announced yet. If you’ve been a die hard fan of the series Battlefield 4 will definitely reward you for your loyalty.
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