Sep 29, 2011

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Battlefield 3 Beta Hands-On

Battlefield 3 Beta Hands-On

Battlefield 3 is arriving in October and fans have been clamoring for anything new they can get their hands on.  While DICE had promised a beta ages ago, the final dates were just recently announced and gamers who purchased Medal of Honor are the first to get a taste.  While the beta started today for everyone else, Medal of Honor players received a 48-hour head start.  Fans are expecting a lot and DICE has done more than enough talking to warrant high expectations.

The beta contains one game type, Rush, and only one map, Operation Metro.  Those familiar with Battlefield game modes already know exactly how it works.  One side attempts to protect to M-COM stations while the other tries to blow them up.  It will take a player roughly 10 seconds to successfully plant a bomb and another 30 for it to finally explode.  Once both stations have blown up, the map opens up further, revealing two more stations.  Operation Metro is a four layer map containing eight stations to protect or destroy.

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DICE has overhauled Battlefield’s gameplay significantly when compared to Bad Company 2.  The first thing people will notice is the significant improvement to player movement.  Turn speed and stance changes are improved but at an expense.  Bad Company 2’s weapons all felt like they had some weight and packed some power.  Unfortunately, because movement within the game is so smooth now, most of the weapons feel weightless.  Carrying a sniper rifle almost feels exactly like carrying an assault rifle or light-machine gun and I wish they could have found some other way to smooth out the gameplay.  Battlefield has always had the best feeling weapons and I think there is a chance with Battlefield 3 that it could no longer carry that title.

Matchmaking is quick and as of right now, the servers are always packed even with Operation Metro on infinite loop.  Adding to the joy of quick matchmaking, something to be heralded, is what I can say with fair certainty is the least lag I have experienced from a beta experience in quite a while.  DICE’s last outing still has trouble on occasion with lag, but the company has obviously put a lot of effort into making sure the lag in Battlefield 3 is minimal.  Throughout my playtime, I experienced one dropped connection to the server and that could have been due to my own “skinny-band” internet.  Overall, the gameplay is much smoother and DICE is doing a lot more on screen than in previous outings.

While the overall gameplay is nice, there are a number of bugs DICE still needs to work on.  At the start of a round, the crater beside of the “A” M-COM station could leave a player stuck in limbo under the map.  Glitches like this are awful for a game and can really turn some players off.  Add to that the inability for a player to always aim down his sights (ADS), and you could have a very frustrated player.  While the ADS error can be fixed by switching to a pistol or rocket and it is by no means frequent, it could get a player killed in the moments it takes to switch to and from.  All of the explosions and effects in Battlefield could do some real harm to epileptics, and the random flashes of magenta that happen could only make that worse.  These flashes generally occurred around sources of smoke and never lasted for any significant amount of time, so the effect on the actual gameplay is negligible.

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One of the most drastic changes to take place is the fusing of the medic class and the assault class.  While medics were easily identifiable by their light-machine guns in Bad Company, they will now be carrying M-16s or other assault rifles.  The loss of the medic class leaves Battlefield 3 with only four total classes, the other three being the engineer, support and recon.  One interesting change could please a lot of people.  Players can now decline or accept a revival.  This move should prevent players from dying multiple times because a medic keeps reviving them while they are in the open.

Battlefield 3 is the first game to be built on the Frostbite 2 engine and it is best described as amazing.  Battlefield 3 is doing so many different things on the screen, HUD wise and visually.  The character animations are the best I have seen in a shooter.  Knife kills are brutal without being graphic and it is an absolute treat.  The movements look natural whether a player is running, jumping over cover or firing his weapon, and that is something developers have been trying to do since the beginning of time.  Explosions and smoke clash with the otherwise vibrant scenery and the Frostbite engine is able to do it without missing a beat.  Frame rate issues should not be a problem in Battlefield 3 if Operation Metro is any indication of what the full game has in-store.  A lot of players love to see bullets tear through cover and rockets completely destroy walls and all of that is in Battlefield 3.  Cover can get ripped apart by machine gun fire and it is unbelievably satisfying.

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DICE has also taken the time to make sure stat tracking works.  Perhaps the biggest question in Bad Company 2 was why a player’s stats sometimes failed to appear for extended periods of time. It seems that stat tracking has been fixed, at least in the beta, and with the Battlelog, you’ll be able to track your stats online as well as jump into quick matches if you have the PC version. As a plus, the message after the round told me whether I won or lost, but was right 100% of the time.

Unfortunately, the beta does not contain a map that allows vehicles, so players will not be able to see any of the changes DICE has made to that aspect of the game, and prevents gamers from experiencing a genuine Battlefield experience.  Even though it is a pretty naked experience right now, those looking forward to Battlefield 3 should come away from the beta pleased and eager to play the full game October 25, 2011, not only for the gameplay or the Frostbite engine, but for the complete Battlefield experience that so many people love.

 Battlefield 3 will be releasing for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.