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Eurogamer Expo 2013: Battlefield 4 multiplayer hands-on

BattlefieldEurogamer Expo 2013

The hands-on preview for Battlefield 4 was running on visible Xbox One hardware. However, all the extensive publicity surrounding these upcoming consoles has had a counteractive effect when coming face-to-face with the launch window titles. Perhaps it’s not a shortfall directly relatable to the hardware.

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“The move to 60 frames-per-second”But instead the result of an ongoing generation that has overrun. It’s culminated in E3 demonstrations for a breadth of titles fluent on high specification custom PC horsepower that remains at the forefront in the technical firefight for more polygons and particle effects. We’ve been oversaturated by drip feeding from a controlled, unflinching PR machine. It has spoilt us. The industry played its hand too early and we’re still in that same round of cards. We need to rebalance – don’t envisage the second coming of Christ come mid/late November.

Being a series acclaimed for technicality shown off on an upcoming next generation console had magnified confidence in what to expect. Previous to Eurogamer Expo 2013 we’d already seen a vertical slice. That purely – perhaps shallow – graphical expectation was not immediately met. The lighting system was at times highly detailed, as rays of sunlight were cast down and eye for detail was apparent, but on the other hand indoor areas that it couldn’t penetrate were left to be lifeless, drab grey areas that lacked the attention outdoor locations received.

There was the multifarious quality of textures too; noticeably so. But where the real and important difference does comes via the extra power is how everything kept running without any chug along the way with a draw distance that eliminated obvious texture pop-up. A smooth experience is priority. Evidenced by the move to 60 frames-per-second. Fluidity of gameplay has certainly benefited.

Those used to Battlefield on consoles will feel this difference due to the increased and locked down frame rate. Even if not at first visible to each individual viewer they’ll understand the difference it makes to responsiveness once they’re hands-on. Interaction is that much tighter, which in turn aids instant reward and feedback. Overall, it’s a clear day and night improvement in both graphical sophistication and performance over 3 on the 360. Just not one that’ll reinvent the series.

Thankfully, what makes the series stand tall remains intact. The low bass rumbling as shells drop nearby and fellow comrades shout off orders is as well designed as ever. Running from an abandoned hanger, I sprinted towards unmanned tanks for safeguard as the enemy stormed the adjacent building. The sound of a plane approached to the east. Quickly it was followed by a swarm of machine gun fire from above that peppered the concrete ground and took me out of the skirmish. It was a sea of sound. An aural wave of blissful carnage.

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“Every sonic detail rang out on in the warzone beautifully”DICE cut no corners in sound composition and design and it was this that was the true ‘wow factor’ during the hands-on preview. Teamwork remains important too and the framework has not been reconstructed. The purity has not been diluted. You’re able to redeploy directly to any of your surviving teammates. By verbally communicating the chances of success is naturally increased. A central philosophy that has long separated it from the pack. However, voice chat was not available along with the reinstated Commander Mode that allows one player to oversee the map and give tactical orders.

For the preview we took on Obliteration Mode. In the centre of the map is a bomb that must be collected and then taken to the opposing team’s endzone where one of three bases can be destroyed. Once detonated the bomb will the randomly reappear back in the centre. Three bases each. First to annihilate all bases or accrue most points on time out wins. It’s a warfare take on the popular American sport. Collect the bomb, use tactics to block the opponent and protect the carrier as they sprint for the goal.

Our team was soon scuppered by quick witted teamwork on the other side. By utilising a helicopter, an enemy squad were able to transport the explosive with haste. Landing back at our base and then activating the device before we could return to disarm it. The final twist of the knife was a member of their squad remaining on a roof top position in the battleground centre. As the bomb respawned they were in a prime position to go for the quick grab or alternatively use it as bait.

Battlefield 4 on Xbox One wasn’t the proud, roaring lion of graphical prowess that was expected going in. After all, expectations are all videogame enthusiasts have until launch day. But it was satisfying to take on bigger teams on a larger confrontation. This showed a grander vision in scale that was more detailed. During the hands-on there was no feel of it leaning into the auto-aimed twitch shooting of the annual Call of Duty series Activision now rolls out without love, which will keep those worried about EA pushing this series in the wrong direction for every last sale settled for now.

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In the long run history always repeats itself. The inclusion of a premier scheme package and repeated patches to try and rebalance based on feedback – not always a good thing – could again sour the warfare post-release. That discussion can wait until then. For now, DICE’s latest is good but didn’t achieve the same impact Battlefield 3‘s preview had two years ago, and that’s not a sign this isn’t solid, it was, every sonic detail rang out on in the warzone beautifully, and mechanically tight, it was undoubtedly more of a good thing.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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