Monday, October 3, 2011

Battlefield 3 Beta Impressions

The Battlefield 3 beta is live and breathing as we speak. The most highly anticipated game of the year is nearly upon us and the beta is serving not only as a technical analysis of the game, but a sneak peek at the action we will experience at the end of October.

Let us start with the obvious; the look of the game. If your PC can take it, Battlefield 3 is the most gorgeous looking game I have ever seen on a platform. Period. The high resolution textures, lighting, and shadows really throw you into a world unlike any other. Topped off with subtle touches in animation and movement, and war has never looked so good.

The sound design, typical of EA produced games lately, is top notch. The sound of gunfire and rockets whizzing past your head never get old, as each sound seems original and unrecycled. The boom of an explosion and echo of gunfire down hallways keeps you aware of the location of the battles taking place. Even the nonchalant attitude of the aircraft support flying over is a nice touch that adds to the authentic nature of the game.

The general atmosphere of Battlefield feels much more like a war, and much less like a skirmish. You duck behind a rock to take cover from enemy fire while tanks trade blows and jets are dogfighting above. The gleam of a sniper's scope or ability to see your legs as you jump over cover are anything but stale and add to the feel. The authenticity of the experience has really come full circle, and provided a war game unlike anything seen before.

Getting a hang on how to approach battle takes a little time, but once you get the idea of how to tackle each situation it becomes a blast. Not much in terms of game play has changed for the series, with the typical run and gun aspect still alive and well. Acting gung-ho is a sure road to death, while teamwork and careful movement are key to victory. Squads working and spawning together really add to the encouragement of teamwork.

Like previous shooters, a level progression system is in place that unlocks additional equipment and attachments to make you all the more deadly. These range from the usual ACOG scopes to new tactical lights that you can use to obscure your target's vision. My only issue being the complete lack of equipment you start with, as attachments and perks must be unlocked after some fighting. Though they unlock eventually, starting off feels like a disadvantage.

Only one map was available for the beta, but being a beta you can't really complain. The Operation Metro map provides an on-foot capture point battle, changing venues upon each base's destruction. Starting in a park you move to the subway and finally in the city streets. The map is not so large to get lost in, but has some paths you will have to learn to cover. For being a preview of what on-foot combat is all about, it was a great start.

The Caspian Border map is the 64 player map featuring vehicles and mayhem. Though locked out early on by password, it eventually leaked and had players scrambling to join. From what was seen, this huge terrain gives plenty of space between opposing sides and offers great vehicle conflict with point control.

Unlike most games, launching the game takes your default Internet browser to a menu instead of an in-game application. It takes some getting used to, but is fast and manageable. The only issue is its inability to update on the fly, requiring you to hit "refresh" to see the stats from your last game added in.  You also must enter the game before altering any options like video or controls, but I imagine this will be fixed come retail release.

All in all, Battlefield 3 is shaping up to be quite the online experience. The refined combat, intricate detail, and overall atmosphere of the game is unlike any other. We will have to see if the Single Player and Co-op stack up to the hype when Battlefield 3 drops October 25th.

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