to join the CVG community. Not a member yet? Join now!
CVG
15 Previews

Battlefield 4 multiplayer: Tackling skirmishes to toppling skyscrapers

By Alex Dale on Friday 14th Jun 2013 at 9:20 AM UTC

As anyone who plays FPS games online regularly knows all too well, more players doesn't necessarily mean more excitement. Battlefield 4, with its spacious arenas custom-built to accommodate 64 players, is the exception that proves the rule.

The theatre of war at E3 was Shanghai, and the rules of engagement were Conquest. Running on a PC set to next-gen specs (we were able to play with either mouse or keyboard or with the brilliantly responsive Xbox One controller), Battlefield 4 gave us a tantalising taste of what multiplayer warfare of the near-future will look like, by presenting us with an enormous, fully destructible city to fight in.

Zoom
Battlefield's maps take the fight across land, sea and air and maps provide more than enough space for massive 64 player battles

The map - named Siege of Shanghai - is a huge, sprawling urban environment bisected by a river. It's almost as tall as it is wide, thanks to its plethora of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, and at the top of the tallest buildings lurk the map's five control points.

The map is easily large enough to house 64 players without it feeling cosy, and varied enough in terrain to allow for everything from close-quarters combat inside the various offices' corridors, to large-scale vehicular warfare on the streets outside. The map's verticality makes snipers an invaluable ally and a fearsome opponent.

The first thing you'll notice is how loud it all is. Battlefield 4 launches an all-out sensory assault on the player - explosions far and wide merge into each other to form an engulfing wall of noise around you, and burning vehicles and water-spewing fire hydrants lick and spew their respective wares with such ferocity you swear you could reach out and touch them.

Battlefield has had destructible maps before, but never on this scale. You can raze skyscrapers to the ground, leaving the map coated in dust

Battlefield puts on an impressive visual show to match its sounds, with an unprecedented amount of debris swirling around the streets as they're displaced by gunfire. From the word go it looks and feels like a place where war is being waged, and that's a sensation that only grows as the war wages on, thanks to the whole 'fully destructible landscape' thing.

The series has had destructible maps before of course, but never on this scale. If a team finds themselves tactically disadvantaged, they can whip out the heavy artillery and use them as a leveler - quite literally. The fallout from C4s and missile explosions can alter the map layout in quite dramatic ways.

What to do, for example, about the sniper that's merrily eating through your team's tokens like they're going out of fashion? One inelegant but effective solution is to get the rockets out and level the entire skyscraper by shooting its supports, razing it to the ground and leaving one fifth of the map coated in a thick dust.

Zoom

The dust in turn provides excellent cover for ground artillery against roving helicopters. Naturally, the control point also comes crashing to the ground with the tower, making it easier to capture but harder to defend. Paradox!

Destruction on a smaller scale is also possible. While fooling around with explosives in the metro we punched a hole in the road, preventing enemy vehicles from getting in or out and disrupting their tactics significantly.

With so many tactical possibilities it's probably just as well that the commander mode from Battlefield 2 makes a welcome return, but - boringly - it does so via companion app, which is without a doubt the most tedious trend of E3 2013. This gives you a top-down view of the battlefield on the tablet screen and allows you to bark orders and call in air strikes. Great?

Our reservations about that aside, Battlefield 4 genuinely took our breathe away and gave us great hope for the future of FPS multiplayer on next-gen hardware. And the most exciting thing of all? This is only the beginning.