When Electronic Arts and developer DICE unveiled Battlefield 4 to the world during GDC, they impressed the industry and fans with its even-better-than-Frostbite-2 graphics.

The revamped Frostbite 3 is the go-to engine for most of EA’s upcoming triple-A non-sports titles, and rightfully so, but there were mixed reactions to the presentation for its sole focus on single-player. For a multiplayer-focused franchise, we wanted to know how online play works on the next-gen DICE shooter.

The big reveal was saved for EA’s E3 2013 media briefing Monday and simply put, it looked amazing. Battlefield 4 appeared to take all of the best elements of Battlefield 3, a game that’s been refined via various updates since its initial October 2011 launch, while bringing back Commander Mode (from BF2 & BF2142) and adding in more naval combat.

In an effort to fully lift the curtain on DICE’s latest epic, EA has a 64-player LAN front and center in the South Hall of the LA Convention Center to let the gaming industry try it out, highlighted by towers on each side where DICE employees took on the roles of each team’s respective commander. They played on a big screen TV surrounded by nearly a dozen smaller screens which seemed to play for them the POV of players on their team.

Battlefield 4 Commander Mode Screenshot

For everyone else, we got powerful PCs with Razer mice and keyboards, but players could also play on an Xbox One controller should they choose. Jumping into the game, we’re given the loadout screen which is very similar to previous Battlefield entries, with improvements to the visual design. The map is more dynamic and you can click any squad mate to spawn on them using the map – as opposed to also seeing a list of objectives and squad leaders.

The class system is identical to BF3 and players can choose from Recon, Support, Assault or Engineer, but in this preview build there were only two primary weapons to choose from for each. Going with Assault first, I immediately added a handgrip and changed the scope. The new feature taken from Medal of Honor is the second scope, where players can switch between different optics on the fly.

Battlefield 4 Angry Sea Singleplayer Screenshot

As first-time players, most of the 64 in the LAN weren’t displaying teamwork or utilizing vehicles properly but driving a tank down stairs and destroying a boat and an escaping jet ski was immensely satisfying thanks to the effects.

From the E3 2013 Battlefield 4 trailer and gameplay footage released so far, a major highlight is the dynamic map example of a skyscraper falling down. We didn’t see players actually taking out the support but I was in the building when it began to topple. I was instantly killed by a glitch before being able to parachute out the window. It looked amazing in real-time and there was no hitch in the framerate.

Unfortunately, with the game months away, glitches prevented our Game Rant team from being able to play as a squad. Andrew Dyce for example, kept having zero ammunition for his primary and both he and I started with no primary weapon seemingly randomly at times. Several of us couldn’t enter or exit vehicles, and selected weapon mods sometimes wouldn’t show, so I couldn’t actually snipe as the recon class.

Battlefield 4 - Siege on Shanghai Multiplayer Helicopter Screenshot

These kinds of alpha build bugs are common and all of them will be nonexistent in the release version. The bigger takeaways are that Battlefield 4 is very much Battlefield 3, just more dynamic with added layers to almost every facet of the game’s design.

Weapons feel and shoot with a little more realism and it’s not as easy to pick off distant enemies with assault rifles, and firing tank round into a nearby object will create a mess and cloud the player’s vision.

There was only the one map to play but it felt large thanks to added verticality from the taller buildings. We didn’t get to do a full round so finding an air vehicle and using boats was something we didn’t get a chance to do. We certainly took a few out though.

Without getting more time, seeing more maps, the vehicles, the customization options, etc., our surface level first impressions were that BF4 is shaping up to be the natural evolution for modern-set Battlefield games, and it’s going to require some very skilled players to effective dominate in 64-player games via the command and squad hierarchy.

Despite glitches and limited demo opportunities, Battlefield 4 absolutely stands out as one of the most impressive gameplay presentations of E3 2013 and just the thought of Star Wars: Battlefront running on this engine, from this team, makes the Game Rant team very excited.

Bonus: EA is giving away the Close Quarters DLC expansion for BF3 away for free during E3 week. Details here.

Battlefield 4 releases October 29, 2013 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and after for the PS4 and Xbox One.

Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes if you’re going to play BF4 on PC or a next-gen console!