Battlefield 3 Preview (PS3)

The fight between EA and Activision for first person shooter dominance this year is getting more and more shouty and ridiculous all the time, and that’s why at E3 2011 I was bloody glad to finally get my hands on Battlefield 3. No twelve-minute trailers, no hyperbole – just me, a hyper-powered PC, a bunch of fellow games writers for team mates and one big multiplayer scrap.

After all that shouting and chest-beating from both sides, what did I walk away from Battlefield 3 with in my head? Well, for one, it’s bloody gorgeous – and for two, it’s most certainly Battlefield, exactly as you know it.

We sat down to play the ‘Operation Metro’ multiplayer map in Rush mode, which’ll be familiar to fans of the Bad Company spin-off series – the attacking team has a specific objective in a specific building that needs to be blown to smithereens, and the defending team – which for us was a bunch of bots – has to defend that objective.

The twist here for BF3 is that the map actually expands with each objective completed. With the first objective destroyed the entire map doubled in size, exposing new areas we hadn’t seen before. The idea behind this is to provide a number of different environments and in turn combat scenarios to the players – you start out in wide-open park areas with only foliage, benches and the occasional building for cover, but the later mission objectives see you head inside the cramped subway system and then finally into wider, but still claustrophobic city streets.

The map had four stages in total, and I found that each one was progressively easier for the Defenders to protect and harder for the Attackers to hit. Even playing against relatively easy bots (they’re always scaled down in difficulty at events like E3) there was a pressing need to work as a team, fight together and lay down suppressing fire especially in the last segment.

Suppressive fire is actually one of the major changes in Battlefield 3 I want to talk about. While most of the game is very much what fans have come to know and love, suppression is a new system in Battlefield 3. Intended to stress players, those who are under fire will now receive camera-shake and on-screen notifications that they’re being fired at and where from to simulate how it might feel to be under fire.

Better still, those under fire have their accuracy and movement speed impaired by the bullets whizzing by, which means a really cool option is to properly work as a team with one person just spraying the area an enemy is covering behind with fire merely to make them less useful. Another person can get in closer and execute the actual kill. The suppressor will still get points for the kill in the form of an assist bonus, noted as being for suppression – it’s a very cool idea.

The other major change from the other titles in the series comes in the form of the classes on offer. The Assault now also doubles up as the Medic, the dedicated medic class done away with, while the Engineer is still the person who can repair machines. The support can drop ammunition packs which can then be picked up by other members of the squad when they’re low on ammo and also carries a big heavy machine gun that might not be all that useful for killing dudes but is perfect for the role of team suppressor.

The sniper remains largely unchanged, and is sure to remain the class that some will love to play and many will love to hate. Tweaks have been made to make sniping more difficult, though, and the suppression system could really serve to make sniper’s lives hell once the opposing team has a rough idea of their location.

You’ll still be able to swap out the load-outs of each class to customize it up some, but the core abilities and the types of basic weapons each class carries will be a pre-set thing as in previous Battlefields. The class system seems streamlined but not dumbed down – and a ton better for it.

The game looked amazing, as I said earlier, and words seem inadequate to describe that stuff, really. Head on and watch one of the trailers – from the lighting to the absolutely superb animation to how buildings crumple under the strain of battle, it all looks great. As well as looking good, destructible cover plays a massive role in matches as it did in Bad Company.

One feature that does feel a little cribbed from Call of Duty is the Dog Tags – essentially offering up information similar to those in Call of Duty’s tags and titles, which in turn were robbed from Street Fighter IV. A player can customize their dog tags with images, titles and even statistics, so you can let players know via those exactly who you are and what you’re about. If you’re into knife kills, you can have dog tags with a nice big picture of a knife, the title “Slasher” above your name and how many knife kills you’ve attained engraved into it.

Despite little nods and touches coming from Call of Duty, fans will be relieved to know that this game still felt decidedly like Battlefield. It’s still slower, more methodical and more realistic than its dudebro, fist-pumping cousin – and I’m fine with that. I can’t wait to see how the single player campaign pans out.

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By bosnian_dragon (SI Core) on Jun 18, 2011
Amazing review! I love that idea of suppresion fire, I've always wanted to see that in-game. That's one of the things which will mark the BF3 gameplay ;) I can't wait to play this game, it just looks as I wanted it to be...