Battlefield 4 Free Beta

Though labeled “4” this is actually the 98,000th incarnation of the Battlefield series. I might be off by a number or two. The latest version follows closely the formula of its most recent predecessor, in that it’s a “near-future” setting. The Frostbyte 3 engine is in play here, a advancement over BF3’s... wait for it... Frostbyte 2 engine. Since the latter was very pretty to look at, still, even after several years, it’s hard to see how they could go wrong with an update.

What’s new?

Ummm. Not much. I’m sure there will fanboys screaming at that, but when it comes down to it, when you start playing BF4, it could easily be mistaken as BF3 with a few UI tweaks and a new map.

This isn’t entirely a bad thing. In fact, as you play a bit, subtle streamlines and balances have been put in that do largely improve gameplay. For instance, as a sniper (“Recon”) in BF3, you had no way, at all, of doing damage to vehicles. It was frustrating to say the least. Now, you’ve got a C4 pack. Very useful.

There are icons on the bottom of the HUD that give you quick visual reminders of what weapons or gear you've got equipped. The UI is a touch more polished and easy to use.

The map itself is called the "Siege of Shanghai", which is beautifully rendered. The new engine, much like the old, does big wide-open spaces exceptionally well. As a sniper, I love the many accessible and inaccessible (by elevator anyway) rooftops from which to annoy my fellow players with my terrible sniping skills. I hope this vertical trend is on BF4 other maps. That was the best part of BF3 for me: finding the perfect sniping spot. That’s never from the top of a building mind you, it’s from somewhere else shooting at those geniuses peeking out from the rooftops.

The biggest change from BF3 is significantly more destroyable terrain. You can no longer hide behind stone walls, concrete columns, and the like. Bullets do a decent job pecking away at these things, and of course a well placed grenade or RPG will clear out that hiding spot post haste. There’s even a building in the middle of the map that can be brought down to rubble, which is quite a sight to behold (though annoying as it fogs up the map, making sniping difficult).

Overall, the feeling of BF4 is a little more moreness from BF3, plus a bit of a polish of some of the more annoying edges. Not sure that’s worth the $60 purchase price, but what are you gonna do?

Bottom Line

Well, it’s free so go for it. Free for another few weeks anyway. The game itself comes out on October 29th. I’m not as rabidly awaiting this game as I was with BF3. Whether that’s because I haven’t been gaming as much lately, or whether this really does just feel like BF3.5. Look, I’m still going to buy it that day. But how much I’ll play it given I haven’t really had the desire to play BF3 in a while, I’m not sure. I guess we’ll find out. And I do mean we, as I’m sure you’re all breathlessly awaiting my take on the game. Look for that soon.

David Vaughn's picture
Geoffrey...I agree. I played the Beta last week and it plays exactly like BF3 but with new maps. I'll play the open beta until the 29th, but I fear I'll be bored with the game by the end of the trial period and won't purchase the retail box for my PC.
notabadname's picture

Excellent series. I'm not sure what people expect in differences, or why. BF has always been about huge maps, and multi-role options and vehicles. I DON'T want them to deviate. 4 simply brings true HD graphics with the new consoles (360 and PS3 actually rendered in about 560P before being up scaled to 1080P out). These games will be dramatically improved graphically on the new consoles with the in-game renders being true 1080P. Add to that a new Frostbite engine with greater particle and destruction effects, and you have a totally unique title compared to COD and MW3 franchises (which I also play). And I don't think any game has been better supported over its life cycle than BF3 (OK, Borderlands is its equal in new content and developer love). I expect the same great variety of maps, play and year long updates for 4. I will own on day one for my 360, with the upgrade path to the One in November.