Battlefield 4 guide: Tips & tricks for getting started

Battlefield 4 has been having a tough ride in the news for the last few weeks. Even I had to weigh in on it after several attempts to get some decent games going early on. I said I wouldn’t write a guide until DICE fixed the issues, and despite reports otherwise, I’ve now been happily playing the game regularly on PS4 quite a bit. I’ll be digging into the classes, modes, maps, DLC, and more later on, but for now I want to offer up some basic tips that every Battlefield recruit should know going in.

Never stop spotting

BF4 spotting

Your first question with Battlefield shouldn’t be what button shoots, but what button spots. On consoles, the spotting button is generally on the right bumper button, just above the right trigger. When you aim at an enemy or vehicle and spot them, it pops an orange triangle above their head for other players in your game. Unless you're a crack shot, you should always spot an enemy before shooting at them. You’ll get points if other players get the kill, and you increase your chances for success and survival when everyone knows where danger is coming from. If you’re the squad leader, you can spot objectives to coordinate your squad. Spot an objective before you attack or defend it and you’ll gain more points for yourself and your squad.

Adjust controls and other settings

BF4 options and controls

For BF4, DICE switched up the default controls a bit, especially for vehicles. This was a mild nightmare for myself getting started, as I spent my opening matches stabbing my knife at the air when I wanted to crouch or crashing my air vehicles into the first hard surface I could find. Veteran control schemes should get you back into shape if you’re used to BF3, and you can even go another nostalgia layer down with Legacy controls.

Short, controlled bursts

Battlefield 4

In Battlefield 3, DICE introduced a concept in which the recoil from your first shot was worse than following shots. The result sounds more realistic, but it made the short, controlled bursts of fire that Bad Company 2 players were used to much less effective. Battlefield 4, by everything I’ve gathered playing it, is much closer to the Bad Company days. You’ll want to get into the habit of feathering the trigger (especially with support guns), unless your goal is to redecorate the map instead of your enemy’s insides.

Switch classes if the team needs it

BF4 classes

It’s great to be the best sniper in town or the world’s most daring combat medic, but knowing your role isn’t as important as knowing when it’s time to switch. There are few things worse than losing a game, suddenly and quickly, because the other team is rolling up in four or five uncontested tanks. If it’s a vehicle paradise for the other team, switch to Engineer or find your fellow engineers and support them with health and ammo. If the sky is full of deadly helicopters, use the Recon class to put a lock on them for engineers. If your tickets are running down and a loss is in sight, switch to an Assault class with defibrillators to revive fallen comrades.

Avoid the meatgrinder

BF4 Operation Locker

There’s a tendency in shooters, especially when the night is dragging on and you aren’t thinking much, to run headfirst into a problem over and over again. You die repeatedly, declare “bullsh*t”, and shut off the game for the night. The problem is that in BF4 that’s almost always your fault. Even Operation Locker — the game’s showcase meatgrinder map for 64 players packed into tight spaces — offers a ton of side paths and easy ways to circle around the enemy.

Know the modes

BF4 Siege of Shanghai

Battlefield 4 offers a suite of gametypes designed to cater to a variety of players. I’m not going to lay them all out here, but there are a few basics to keep in mind. First of all, Team/Squad Deathmatch, Domination, and Defuse are your small team, reduced map, random spawn, Call of Duty-style gametypes that are great if you’re into that kind of thing, but I personally avoid them like the plague.

The heart of BF4, especially with 64 players, is Conquest, the showcase mode where players capture and hold zones around a massive map. The beauty of this mode is that even one good squad can turn a game around. Rush is another classic, though this time around — perhaps due to the map design or the fact that I’m used to a 24-man Rush mode — the fun depends massively on the quality of your team. Obliteration, BF4’s new gametype, is a ton of fun, and feels like the go-to mode for Conquest players who want to break it up a little.

Watch for Battlepacks

BF4 Battlepacks

Battlefield 4’s progression system can be a lot of fun once you get the hang of the menus and customization. The key to fast progression, though, is to keep an eye out for Battlepacks. These unlock at specific levels and are opened through the Battlepack option in the pause menu. You’ll get a smattering of cool gun attachments and paint jobs, but what you really want are the boosts. When activated, boost give you a % XP bonus for an hour. Plan accordingly with these, because a 200% boost on a double XP weekend is a beautiful thing.

Just keep swimming

BF4 swimming

Swimming is a new mechanic in BF4 that feels like the worst thing ever at first, but if you’re like me, it eventually grows on you. While you’ll want to grab a boat in most instances, it can be surprisingly efficient and badass to dive underwater and stealth your way to the next objective. A random guy in the water is a pretty tough target too, especially if you dive underwater. If you take heat on the water’s surface, you can even equip a pistol and retaliate.

Put the time in

Battlefield 4 leaderboards

While this will vary from platform to platform (PC players can be pretty scary), as long as you’re marginally good at shooters you’ll start to have a blast in BF4 once you put some time in. Finding your gun of choice, learning when to fight and when to run, and a basic level of combat awareness all come from spending some hours with it. Tag along with friends or a good squad to really gain an edge.

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Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.