I’ve spent time playing the beta for Battlefield 4 on Playstation 3 during the “exclusive” closed beta before open beta on October 4. There were a smaller number of players on the PlayStation 3 servers, but that didn’t stop me from getting a sample of what the full multiplayer experience will be.
Battlefield 4 is releasing across all platforms and DICE launched a multiplayer beta to gather gameplay data before its official release.
First person shooters (FPS) are the equivalent of sports video games. They’re released on a regular schedule and provide the same core gameplay each time. The difference between FPS games is that they can focus on pseudo-realism or an arcade style gameplay experience.
During this current console generation, FPS shooters have become more focused on multiplayer than the single player campaign. It makes sense because normally the campaign can be completed within 6-8 hours.
The multiplayer mode has to offer tight and balanced gameplay along with a selection of compelling game modes. While Call of Duty has moved into more arcade and twitch-based combat, the Battlefield series has been focused on more realistic gameplay in multiplayer.
Siege of Shanghai
The map available in the beta is called “Siege of Shanghai,” the same map that DICE demoed during E3 and featured in videos talking about “Levolution.” The two gameplay modes were Conquest and Domination.
Conquest is a battle for capture points. Owning these different points open spawn points and supply a small amount of points as you maintain control. Domination is essentially the same, but with a much smaller map. The capture points are very close together and funnel opposing sides at each other within seconds.
Each mode uses the same countdown system. Each side is allocated points for respawns. As a player dies, the counter lowers and when one side has all points exhausted, the game is over.
Matches can take up to 25 minutes in Conquest mode. This is the mode where 24 players fight 12-on-12, combing players from both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One will get to experience Conquest with 64 players. On current generation consoles, the Siege of Shanghai map is a little too big for 12-on-12.
Squads can consist of five members, but the beta segmented players into teams of 4. Moving from the home base to the other side of the Siege of Shanghai map takes a long time. With a bridge connecting opposing sides as well as a capture point within a destructible skyscraper, a problem with Conquest is that the wide space in the map allows squads to move relatively unseen.
Combat can slow at random times until a capture point is taken where the game will notify you of an objective. Combined with the fact that Siege of Shanghai is built more for the sniper class rather than assault or support and you will encounter a lot of campers. Siege of Shanghai isn’t the best map to experience Battlefield 4 for the first time. There are also issues within rooftop areas that cater to campers who will wait outside an elevator and easily kill anyone inside.
The available vehicles are a tank, APC, and helicopter. Flying is still difficult as ever unless you have previous experience. But paired with a good pilot and you can get to important places on the map within seconds. The tank and APC are standard vehicles, with the tank being one of the most fun to control. Depending on how many players a vehicle supports, another player can use the secondary weapon to provide more support.
In one match, I took control of a tank and acted like a mobile shield as other squad members followed to a capture point. Conquest will likely be the most played mode. The limited number of players on current generation consoles make Siege of Shanghai a more difficult map to play because of the amount of open space.
Domination mode reminds me of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2‘s team deathmatch. Moving away from strategy, it’s a run-and-gun twitch mode. There isn’t any vehicle support and the map is tightly contained so it provides an insanely fast-paced match. Three capture points are still the main objective, but they switch sides very quickly.
Squads who work together can make a difference in Domination because focused fire will usually defeat solo players. I liked this mode more than Conquest because the action never stopped and it only took a few steps to get back into combat. This mode will be perfect for players coming from Call of Duty or just enjoy fast action.
Battlefield 4 uses unlocks to gain new weapons, accessories, kits, and vehicles. Unlocking new weapons requires you to get a specific experience level (XP) to open the next one and this can get frustrating because unlocking parts are tied into the number of kills you get.
Overall unlocks are determined by earned experience, but in the beta it was much more difficult to gain experience when I spent so much time looking for enemies in Conquest. Different game modes will likely help you level faster, but you’re still going to need skill to be successful.
DICE previously debuted the updated Battlelog Android and iOS app that will connect to Commander mode in multiplayer. As of now, Battlelog lets you customize loadouts and see stats. Connected to the beta, it’s has connectivity bugs and selecting to see old stats like in Battlefield 3 load a different interface that’s not standardized across different mobile devices.
It looks like for current generation console players, it will be missing some features that PC, PS4, and Xbox One players will have. If you’ve used Battlelog before, there’s nothing different except that you should expect some lag between selections.
Beta means bugs
DICE was smart to beta test the multiplayer for Battlefield 4. There are a lot of noticeable issues within the game like weapon balancing, hit detection, and other smaller issues. It’s still fun to play the beta, but with the huge scope of the Siege of Shanghai map, there’s a lot of overall balancing that’s necessary before the game is finished.
The multiplayer in Battlefield 3 was difficult, but manageable and leveling wasn’t so difficult. In the Battlefield 4 beta, the difficulty is high even within the early XP levels. Obviously DICE is going to spend a lot of time fixing bugs within the game and while it might not be 100% when it launches on consoles and PC, there will be a lot of modes and gameplay to experience.
Battlefield 4’s multiplayer is promising a lot of things other than the improved visuals. It looks like multiplayer will survive on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but the full experience will only exist on next generation consoles and PC, complete with 64 players which will make maps like Siege of Shanghai actually feel like a combat situation rather than hide-and-seek.
The FPS genre has been split between Call of Duty and Battlefield and both series are releasing a new titles soon. Each game caters to a different section of FPS fans, so it will be interesting to see how popular the new games are when they release.
Read more about Battlefield 4.
Read more about Call of Duty: Ghosts.