At the EA booth I jumped into a 64-player conquest battle in the Siege at Shanghai map. After playing through a couple rounds and speaking with executive producer Patrick Bach, here is what I learned.
- The Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC versions each support 64-player maps and run at a solid 60 frames per second. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, however, are still limited to 24-players per match and 30 frames per second.
- Squads can now include five soldiers instead of just four.
- Given the larger squad size, Squad Deathmatch mode now includes more competitors.
- Like Battlefield 3, the soldier classes you can play as are assault, engineer, recon, and support. All classes now have more shared weapons so players have more versatility when selecting their loadout.
- Each class and weapon has a deeper persistance tree than previous Battlefield games.
- DICE is changing how specializations work. It won't go into the finer details, but the developer is creating a system where you and your squad can bump up your specializations as you play if you are doing well.
- Gun and player customization are being broadened. You can now have multiple sights on your weapons and add optical magnifiers on the fly.
- Vehicle progression is deeper as well.
- DICE has two new game modes it plans to reveal in the near future, and it plans to drop a few modes that were featured in Battlefield 3. The confirmed modes thus far are squad deathmatch, conquest, rush, and team deathmatch.
- Hardcore mode is returning.
- The crazy wave technology featured in the E3 single-player demo is also coming to multiplayer. All the wave data is being pushed over the network, which means that every player will have the same sea experience at the same time.
- Given the increased focus on naval combat, DICE is making sure you aren't a sitting duck if you lose your sea vessel or parachute into a body of water. Soldiers can now swim sprint, use sidearms in the water, hit the crounch button to dive underneath the surface of the water, and even deploy C4 to take out boats.
- Players can rent their own Battlefield 4 servers on consoles from day one, and DICE plans to give them more server modifiers than were available in Battlefield 3.
- DICE knows the destruction in BF3 was disappointing, so destructibility is coming back in a major way. Expect to see the microdestruction introduced in the Close Quarters map pack, plus large-scale destruction like the crumbling skyscraper in the E3 demo.
- You won't be able to completely flatten urban areas, which is a design choice rather than a technical limitation.
- Like Titanfall, DICE is using a proprietary matchmaking service instead of using the Xbox One native service.
- DICE is also incorporating a skill level system on top of your player rank to help match you with players of a similar ability. You can set your rented server to only accept players of a certain ability.
- DICE learned its lesson with Battlefield 3, and plans to keep a healthy amount of DICE sponsored servers for people who don't want to deal with the quirky rented servers.
- Rather than build its own battle recorder, however, DICE plans to use the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 recorders.
- Battlefield 4 also includes a spectator mode.
- Given the difficult learning curve for some of the more powerful vehicles like jets and helicopters, DICE is including a practice mode or tutorial system of sorts so you can learn the tricks of the trade without hurting your team in a ranked match.
- Battlelog is being revamped to be more directly integrated into the game and to give console players the same experience as the PC version. DICE wants the console players to have the ALT-TAB experience just like PC players, so you can check your stats at any time.
- You can alter your loadout directly from the Battlelog app so it will be ready for you when you jump into a match.
- You can play as a commmander on consoles, PC, and tablets.
- Right now commanders are featured in two modes - conquest and rush. DICE also has some new modes that it isn't talk about yet.
- Commanders gain experience and have a persistant skill tree just like other classes.
- Unlike Battlefield 2, commanders don't have a physical presence on the battelfield.
- The commander roles are not counted against the player count. This means 64 soldiers will be on the battlefield with two commanders overseeing the battle.
- DICE is aware that given the small number of commanders per server, there could be a supply/demand issue. To address this issue, it has created a gating system that prevents everyone from being allowed to play as commander.
- If you are having trouble getting a commander role, you can always rent a server yourself and assume the role.
- Commanders can issue orders to squads and deploy UAVs to spot troops. When the squads follow directives, the commander and soldiers are rewarded with XP.
- As they gain XP, commanders can use it to drop in ammo, med packs, and vehicles to their troops.
- The more flags a team captures in conquest, the more weapons a commander has at his or her disposal. These offensive capabilities include tomahawk missiles and artillery strikes.
- DICE views the commander mode as a game of chess between the two commanders. They are scored against one another.
- You can keep an eye on what the rival commmander is doing and counter their moves. For instance, if they scan an area you can try to jam their signals. If they drop in specific gear you can counter that in different ways.
- The commander's eye in the sky view is also used for respawns and spectator mode. It works the same way on all platforms.
- DICE has rulesets to help populate maps with two commanders, but if one of the two commanders drops out the developer doesn't believe it will be a big issue for the guys on the ground.
Battlefield 4 is coming to PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on October 29. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 release dates have yet to be announced.
This preview was originally published on June 12, 2013.