It’s so shiny and pretty and full of death and destruction.

It’s so shiny and pretty and full of death and destruction.

Editor’s note / important words: Michael wrote the following piece in a massive rush this morning, because rAge 2013 required that he get his SEXY BODY to the Coca-Cola Dome in order to do important management type stuff and play the role of That Bossy Guy who keeps telling everyone he sees to do things they don’t want to do. He does this to visitors throughout the weekend as well. It gets confusing. And awkward. The point of this is to warn you that, even though I edited it as much as I could without devastating Michael’s original work, the rushed nature of it may still shine through. Apologies!

Is this Battlefield 3? Or Battlefield 4?

So the Battlefield 4 open beta began on October 1st 2013 and after a 5.56GB preload a few days before, thousands of lucky gamers had a chance to get their guns off. The firing of bullets, rocketing of tanks and sniping from rooftops all happens on one of those impressive maps from that breaking bendy crashing maps video [Uh… You mean that Levolution stuff? – Ed.] – the one where the skyscraper comes down. [So the Levolution stuff then – Ed.] It’s cool that we get to play on that particular map – taking down a skyscraper is an impressive spectacle and beta players get early access to a map that feels like an end-game finale.

For the beta there are many new water-based activities. Interestingly, you can also pull your handgun out while treading water now. So you’re not such a sitting duck.

For the beta there are many new water-based activities. Interestingly, you can also pull your handgun out while treading water now. So you’re not such a sitting duck.

Coming from Battlefield 3 the first thing that jars is how alien the web interface feels. Quickly enough you figure out where to click to get into a game but the overhaul will take a little getting used to. Everything feels different and updated. This sensation transitions to the deployment interface and it will take a few minutes to figure out what’s going on.

There is a nice touch added to the deployment area – live video streaming in from the spawn location so you can decide if it’s a little too hot for your liking. If you select a seat on a chopper you’ll see it flying real-time, taking hits and zooming past buildings. Let’s hope this doesn’t result in people purposefully not spawning into seemingly hopeless death zones because you know how some players are really scared of dying and ruining their all-important KD – whereas they could’ve potentially saved the day and turned the tide of battle had they actually chosen to spawn despite overwhelming odds.

New in BF4 – when you die you’re shown a red silhouette of who or what took you down.

New in BF4 – when you die you’re shown a red silhouette of who or what took you down.

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the four different classes: assault, engineer, support and recon. They’re based on BF3 but there are a few small differences. The recon class is now equipped with C4 for example and the engineer’s replacement is the XM25 Airburst, which fires 25mm grenades that explode near the enemy.

Most of the weapons are new and feel exciting to use and all this freshness quickly proves how tired your old BF3 favourite weapons feel. The same unlocking process has been carried over from the previous game and as you gain proficiency with a weapon you’ll get more toys to enhance and silence and extend it. As usual, as you progress new things will unlock and the addiction dynamic is keenly in play for BF4 as new weapons and gadgets unlock as players gain more experience.

Doing stupid things and dying because of it has also returned to BF4. Landing on your face after falling 30 floors is bad. It’s stupid because everyone has a parachute.

Doing stupid things and dying because of it has also returned to BF4. Landing on your face after falling 30 floors is bad. It’s stupid because everyone has a parachute.

There is another style of upgrade in the game – field upgrades. This is a squad-based system and rewards players who play nicely together. The better your squad does the better the upgrades you’ll get. Upgrades include stuff like quicker health regeneration, reduced suppression effect and improved stealth. The aim here is to encourage people to work as a team – sorry all you lone wolves, you can always howl at the moon until DICE gives us solo operatives some incentive to work behind enemy lines.

A whole new world

The game environment is incredible, stunning and very real. You can call BF4 a glorified update of BF3 if you want – and that’s a great thing for more good reasons than bad – but the one thing that does jump out and say “Hey! I’m new!” is the game world. It’s littered with tertiary details, tables and chairs, pot plants and broken railings and when the skyscraper comes down players are left fighting on a heap of difficult-to-navigate rubble.

This is the new deployment screen – it’s the People's Liberation Army against the U.S. Marine Corps. Check the cool live feed from the battlefield bottom left.

This is the new deployment screen – it’s the People’s Liberation Army against the U.S. Marine Corps. Check the cool live feed from the battlefield bottom left.

Burning vehicles litter the streets and after the big map event there is a dusty haze that takes a few minutes to clear. It’s a lived-in place that you and 63 other gamers are battling over. One has to wonder which Battlefield it will be where civilians are added to the chaos.

Some parts of the map feature animated billboards that you can destroy, in part or as a whole. New pathways can be created by blowing up building supports. Whole new ways to get to a capping point open up after a few choice tank shots. It really is all as advertised. The Siege of Shanghai map is also peppered with buildings, all of which you can get into and then onto using either the lifts (yes, you get in the lift, press the button and end up at the top) or via a chopper drop. The keyword here is verticality and there’s plenty of it in Battlefield 4. It’s a haven for snipers but this street goes both ways and Shanghai has plenty of choppers to use to dispose of snipers.

Chopper down, chopper down. Let’s hope they don’t have time to pull their chutes.

Chopper down, chopper down. Let’s hope they don’t have time to pull their chutes.

It’s hard thinking of Battlefield 4 as the next Battlefield because it’s only been two years since BF3 was released. This is really more of a Battlefield 3.5, or to be fair a Battlefield 3.651. This thinking might be because nobody really wants a new Battlefield every year, forcing them to slowly watch a series we all love so much devolve into the annualised series Call of Duty has become. There’s a lot of “new” fun to be had here and there have already been many unforgettable moments like an extended chopper duel among the skyscrapers or being inside a collapsing building. Perhaps it might be better to wait for the full and final game before declaring this a proper sequel or not. It’s certainly the best multiplayer shooter on the market right now and Call of Duty: Ghosts is going to have to be really special to knock this one out the sky.

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