Battlefield 3 Hands-On Preview

Battlefield 3 isn’t a Call Of Duty beater. It doesn’t need to be, it’s in a league of its own. The comparisons with Activision’s behemoth franchise felt hollow as I walked away from the single- and multiplayer portions being shown at Eurogamer Expo, though without playing the title it’s easy to see why the two games have been put up against one another.

The game’s visual beats are decidedly modern warfare: current generation military technology used in a number of landscapes ranging from vast open deserts to dense city environments, recently fallen victim to the chaos of war. Even in these more closed-off scenarios the areas still feel absolutely gigantic: hectares of battle embroiled urbana with the illusion that you might go anywhere and see anything.

To a large extent, the game executes upon this promise, as witnessed in the multiplayer portion of my time with the title. A huge park in the middle of a built-up area is the staging ground of the conflict, forces setting up long-range sniping positions to eliminate any soldiers foolish enough to step into their crosshairs. Fracas are pitched at distances, cunning players taking flanking routes in an attempt to pincer-trap the attackers. With defeat of the defending forces came a push back into an underground train station with, naturally, totally different architecture and tactics to adapt to. Suddenly long-range kills were no longer viable and restrained use of assault rifles became a must.

At this point during the session, my teammates and I had realized that going alone would only get us so far, and we naturally began to pair up, some supplying ammo and reviving fallen comrades, others laying down steady fire while a few good men bolted forward, grabbing cover where possible for more aggressive play. Taking a couple of bullets to the arm and torso — Battlefield 3 doesn’t give you many shots before you’re dead — I respawned away from the attacking unit and back with a small group repelling an attempted attack upon a set of escalators. With the advantage of position and as we concentrated fire down this killing field, I finally understood what makes BF3 multiplayer great. The game encourages interaction and solidarity with your fellow men and women, the satisfaction of orchestrating maneuvers immensely rewarding. In addition, the stories that organically unfurl through play are what keep the title fresh in one’s mind.

It’s certainly not the single-player narrative, from what was shown. From the single level on offer, again in the outskirts of a city as players invade, it felt like training for the main thrust of Battlefield’s traditional appeal: the multiplayer. It’s not bad by any means, AI is strong, challenge is high, weapons behave the same as in multiplayer, which is to say they have real heft and grunt as you pull the trigger. The feeling of embodying a space is also profound, lots of snapshots of your own hands as you clamber over walls, the arc of your feet swinging in front of you as you’re knocked to the floor after an attempted breach of an entrance. It’s very much like a Tom Clancy novel: all militaristic terms and hints of intrigue, interspersed with high action.

The fun of succeeding with your friends is also removed in the single-player mode, and try as it might, the realism — that is to say that one isre part of a large squad of uniformed men — is limited, meaning that when Private Red Shirt gets a purple heart, it’s very difficult to be emotionally invested. Unlike Call Of Duty’s set pieces that you experience, Battlefield 3 almost gives players set scenarios that they must outwit, bordering on puzzles that must be solved with bullets and blood and sweat. It’s reaching the solution of these that aids improvement in multiplayer, teaching the basics of tactics that human opponents may use.

The more that’s seen of Battlefield 3, the more Call Of Duty is looking like Quake. While CoOD is faster, and more concerned with kill streaks, deathmatches, and head shots, EA’s shooter is more thoughtful, more encouraging of long-standing communities. Both seem to have their place in the market and needn’t cannibalize each other’s sales, and to someone with an interest in first-person shooters diversifying further than they have done, Battlefield 3 will consequently be a very welcome addition to the shooting space when it arrives later this month.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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