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The Battlefield 4 beta is now live, giving players on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC a chance to experience a rough slice of the pie before the game's Oct. 29 release. I spent some time with the beta over the weekend and, overall, I can't say I was blown away.
For starters, I'm a huge fan of the Battlefield series and, yes, I absolutely understand that this is a beta for the game and in no way represents the final product. I'm simply here to tell you about my experience with said beta. In brief: I think the final product is going to stay true to what series fans enjoy about the Battlefield experience, I just didn't see enough in these early stages to warrant an entirely new game one year after the most recent iteration launched.
With Battlefield 4 launching at the end of the month, players have until the 15th to help DICE iron out some kinks and get the game ready for prime time. The map on offer in the beta is Siege of Shanghai. Or, as most of you probably know it, “that one map from E3 where the dudes made the building collapse.” Having played the game on PC at E3, this is actually a good point to bring up that, on the showroom floor, my experience with Battlefield 4 was far superior to the current beta. If nothing else, that helps reiterate the fact that what I played this weekend is a rough draft, and any complaints I have about the graphics (which looked muddy as hell and generally unattractive) and effects (dull, unimpressive, not “big enough) are likely moot.
It's also difficult to call out too many bugs. The beta was prone to crashes, server lists were unpopulated, enemy/ally identifiers were frequently missing.
What I can call the game out on, however, is what felt like a lack of balance between weapons and classes and, call me crazy, but I'm just not a fan of the Siege of Shanghai map. Maybe it'll grow on me as I play it more in the final version of the game but, for now, it felt too claustrophobic and boxy for my liking. Battlefield has always been about big, open maps that were meticulously designed to complement all types of gunplay. Maybe it's just the beta crowd, but Siege of Shanghai was basically a snipers paradise, with too few firefights taking place on the ground and the crack of a long-distance sniper shot piercing the air every two seconds. I'm all for sniping, as I feel it's a legitimate, tactical method of playing these types of war games. But when that's just about all that's going on, my “fun factor” drops down quite a few pegs.
Another issue I had was the fact that none of the guns felt too reliable. Again, I may just need more time with the arsenal or perhaps final balancing tweaks haven't been made, but it wasn't uncommon for me to, say, pump a full clip from a pistol into an enemy's chest only to watch them run away. It also seemed like the tanks could take an unreasonable amount of damage while the choppers would explode if someone looked at them the wrong way.
Again, this is just a beta and there's no telling how many of these issues have already been addressed or were just an anomaly in my own experience. It definitely feels like there's a traditional Battlefield experience hidden under there somewhere, so here's hoping that the final build provides exactly that. I may not be convinced that Battlefield 4 was necessary at this point but, then again, it's hard to complain about getting more of a series I enjoy quite a bit.
Correction: Battlefield 3 came out two years ago, not one. I think I confused matters because DICE was already showing off Battlefield 4 before 3 was a year old.