Battlefield 4 beta impressions: Beware the digital divide

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BATTLEFIELD 4 is a great game, providing you can access the PC beta or have plans to purchase it on either Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

This is because both the PC and next-gen versions will support the full Battlefield experience: 64-players, the full cache of vehicles and the expansive maps that have carved the series’ identity over the years.

Sadly, the current-gen console beta remains capped at 24 players which provides a close-quarters skirmish-style form of gameplay that bears greater similarities to the Call of Duty franchise than it does to previous Battlefield titles.

This presents an issue for game reviewers who talk about Battlefield 4 as a collective of multiplatform releases, because the dynamics change greatly from 24 to 64 players.

Graphics aside, it’s the player cap that continues to hurt the console versions of the latest Battlefield titles.

It was acceptable in Bad Company 1 and 2, for the fact that they were built ground-up for consoles.

But traditional Battlefield is just that: a land mass littered with dog-fights, tank battles, jeep runs, sniping, squad-based gameplay, and commander support.

These gameplay elements remain intact and in better shape than previously in the PC version of Battlefield 4.

On PC, I loved the views from atop Shanghai’s skyscrapers and I more than once leaped from the top, hit the parachute and sailed to a nearby rooftop to take up a sniping position.

Now and then, you’d jetski into shore, or find a group of players collectively combatting an attack vessel in the harbour.  It is a game where the action is overwhelming, and there’s a sense that it’s bigger than any one individual.

Console players can’t appreciate that, and won’t be able to unless they plan on buying the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 titles which will offer the entire gammut of PC game modes and maps.

On the PS3, I still managed to enjoy the tight controls, the aforementioned parachuting – albeit in limited capacity – but most of the time I felt constrained by its skirmish-style gameplay.

The time between respawns and deaths was unfairly short, and skirmishes were intense and centralised as there are fewer points to capture.  It really did feel more like a Call of Duty game but without the deadly precision of CoD’s controls.

>>COMPARE: We look at the difference between a PS3 and a mid-range PC running Battlefield 4

The Battlefield 4 digital divide is well and truly in effect.  In my opinion, gamers have to question their intent to purchase either the PS3 or Xbox 360 versions so close to the release of next-gen consoles.

It’s not that it’s a bad game: I still enjoyed the PS3 title.  It’s just that it doesn’t feel uniquely Battlefield.

Questions you must ask yourself include:

– Am I happy to play the game as is, or would I prefer more action? If the latter, it must be either PC or next-gen.

– Am I planning to purchase a next-gen console this year? I may want to purchase BF4 for next-gen.

– Are my friends planning on purchasing next-gen consoles this year? If they’re not, do I value the social aspect of playing with them more than the actual gameplay, enough to warrant a current-gen purchase?

– Did I enjoy Battlefield 3 on PS3 or Xbox 360? If yes, then it may well suffice.  If not, then there’s no justification for purchasing BF4 on current generation hardware.

 

 

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