Battlefield 4’s Spring update rolled out earlier this week with a slew of changes, tweaks, and new content more reminiscent of a weighty DLC pack than a patch release. The official notes, stretching across multiple pages, detail changes above and below the hood of the nearly 2-year-old multiplayer FPS. Generally, this is a weapons-oriented update: five new guns have been added to the arsenal, and nearly every firearm has seen slight adjustments to recoil, bloom, accuracy, and other stats. Framework improvements for netcode and suppression effects are also included in addition to the return of Gun Master mode, a chaotically fun variation of team deathmatch.
Overall, the update is a good step forward in stabilizing some of BF4’s longstanding balance and performance issues. It certainly isn’t a cure-all—framerate hiccups and weird deaths behind walls still happen sporadically—but it’s enough of a gain to warrant redeploying if you’ve taken a hiatus or have yet to experience BF4's large-scale warfare. Read on for an overview of the patch’s major components and which changes will be most visible during a typical match.
The full extent of adjustments performed on BF4’s firearm lineup is immense. The stat wizards over at Symthic have compiled a comprehensive change list sorted for each individual gun, but you can spare your eyeballs the deluge of data. Here’s the most essential takeaways.
For most guns, the starting damage drop-off range has been increased by a few meters. This means a weapon’s maximum damage per bullet won’t start decaying until a bit farther away. As a result, expect a slightly extended optimal engagement range, and weapons specialized for mid- to long-range fights (carbines and assault rifles, mostly) can potentially drop targets quicker with precise fire.
Bloom—the spreading crosshair denoting the conal accuracy of your shots—now diminishes at a slower rate which particularly affects automatic mag-dumps. Granted, hammering the trigger usually doesn’t guarantee a clean kill—it’s called spray ‘n pray for a reason—but this change concretely emphasizes good FPS practices: patience, positioning, and light tap-firing.
Shotguns, once an unreliable close-quarters choice of weapon, are now properly deadly and destructive boomsticks. The pellet count for each shell has increased while the damage per pellet has decreased, resulting in a more even spread of hurt across a single blast’s pellets. More importantly, shotguns have seen a significant increase in hip-fire accuracy, so pump-actions are now as viable and mobile as their automatic siblings and a definite danger to keep aware of on your flanks.
A significant chunk of the Engineer-specific Personal Defense Weapons (or PDW, essentially a compact hybrid between a submachine gun and a carbine) received a gigantic jump in range for dealing maximum damage before drop-off occurs. Specifically, the JS2, UMP-9, CBJ-MS, MX4, CZ-3A1, and PP-2000 have all had their max-damage ranges more than doubled from around 8 meters to an impressive 20 meters. Factoring in the typically high PDW rate of fire—the CZ-3A1 spits out bullets at a staggering 1,000 RPM, for one—further strengthens their potency as an alternative choice to assault rifles.
The headshot damage multiplier has increased to 2.13 from a flat 2.0. In other words, two bullets to the head secures a quick frag, a reward of skill for marksmen landing a double-tap on the noggin at close- and mid-range. This is a damage model carryover from Battlefield 3 where scraps in smaller, infantry-oriented maps could end quickly with accurate headshots.
Prior to the patch, fired bullets spawned out of the center of your vision directly into the crosshair. This enabled “headglitching”: shooting over solid cover while only the very top of your head was visible to enemies. DICE has now shifted bullets to emerge closer to the actual barrel of the gun; if you’re peeking over cover, bullets will collide with whatever surface you’re sticking on, and you’ll need to step away for a clear shot.
Though it isn’t the only nerf, the adjustments to the manually guided SRAW rocket launcher are probably the most apparent. The turning radius has taken a significant hit in responsiveness, so you likely won’t see crazy aerial tracking kills with it anymore, but it’s still useful against more lumbering targets such as tanks and APCs.
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Omri Petitte is a former PC Gamer associate editor and long-time freelance writer covering news and reviews. If you spot his name, it probably means you're reading about some kind of first-person shooter. Why yes, he would like to talk to you about Battlefield. Do you have a few days?