Had Electronic Arts not said so, I would never have guessed that the Battlefield franchise was “at war”Â with Activision’s Call of Duty series (see what I did there?). Yes, they are both first-person shooters set to a military theme, but outside of that, they play quite differently. It’s actually gotten a bit obnoxious, reading about all of the chest pumping on the part of EA and the ignorant shrugging of Activision. Do you know who I think is going to win? Both of them. They are each going to sell millions of copies and make both sides very rich, regardless of who sells more. So really, who cares?
While Battlefield 3 isn’t officially scheduled to launch until October 25th, DICE has managed to cobble together a beta/demo of sorts to not only give everyone a taste of what’s to come, but also to give their servers a little stress test before launch day. When Battlefield: Bad Company first launched a demo, my experience with it is what persuaded me to even buy the game. Truth be told, I already have Battlefield 3 pre-ordered, but I’ve been dissuaded from purchasing games based on demos before. Let’s find out how this one fares, shall we?
1. Let’s get first impressions out of the way right from the get go: after having spent much of the last few weeks playing Gears of War 3 and Dead Island, Battlefield 3 is visually unimpressive by comparison. All of the trailers EA had been pumping out must have been from the PC version, because the Xbox 360 version looks nothing like that. Things look okay from a distance, but start walking and you’ll notice the frequent pop-in, the frame rate sputters, and up close details that look very last gen. I would even go so far as to call this version of the game ugly.
2. When you begin the beta, you only have access to the one multiplier mode, which is Rush Mode. For the unfamiliar, you have two teams that will play either a defensive or offensive role. The team on defense has to prevent the offensive team from detonating sets of two terminals with bombs while the offensive team has to make sure they can get the bombs to go off before they run out of reinforcements. If the offensive team is successful, the battlefield expands and they have to assault a different set of terminals located at another base. This continues on until the match is complete.
3. There is only one stage in the beta, which I can understand since you don’t want to give away too much prior to the game’s release. That said, it does very little to showcase Battlefield‘s strengths to newcomers. The Metro City stage is not bad by any means. It is quite varied, taking place both outdoors and within a subway station. However, there are no vehicles such as helicopters or tanks, nor are there any mortars or turrets that can be tinkered around with. For a game so dead set to take on the Call of Duty juggernaut, this is a missed opportunity in showcasing one of the biggest things setting the franchise apart.
4. There are four classes in this version, consisting of Assault, Support, Recon, and Engineer. I was originally alarmed that there was no Medic class to choose from, but the defining traits of that role has now been folded into the Assault class. The more you use specific classes, the more weapons and added gear you unlock for each one. For example, the Assault class starts out with the ability to drop med packs to heal your squadmates with, but eventually you can get a defibrillator in order to bring them back to life completely if you’d like.
5. As stated before, Assault is now the primary “healer”Â in your squad. The Support class handles ammo drops, though I don’t think I ever lived long enough to run out of ammo so your mileage may vary at first with that one. Recon is the token sniper class and excels at long range kills. The Engineers are vehicle experts, whether they are using rockets to take out a tank or are repairing one of their own. Since there were no vehicles to be found in the beta, I wasn’t able to utilize Engineers to their full potential.
6. Holy crap, are there bugs. Actually, before I even get into that, I didn’t even get to play the game until long after it was unleashed unto the masses. A few lucky participants who had purchased Medal of Honor‘s limited edition (or unlucky depending on who you ask) got to play a couple of days early. Everyone else got to scramble to obtain their 1.3GB download on September 29th which in of itself takes a long time depending on your connection speed. Then after getting it downloaded, the servers crashed at some point during the day. And even after they came back up, the game was practically unplayable due to the copious amounts of lag. Good thing they got this out of their system now and not on launch day.
7. So, back to the bugs. There are graphical glitches like you wouldn’t believe. Random bodies flying across the screen, the kill cam showing upside down enemies wedged in the wall with floating guns, walking through the ground on multiple occasions, and more. There were also several instances where some of my buttons didn’t even work, such as my ability to aim down the sights or my run button. I even had situations where I shot an enemy in the back at point blank range and it did absolutely nothing. He would then turn around and kill me dead. One time I fell through the ground into oblivion and somehow someone was still able fire at and consequently kill me.
8. The sounds will be familiar to Battlefield veterans, including the sirens that go when you first set a bomb as well as all the radio chatter that takes place. However, there were many times where the sound would just cut out and it would be total silence. At first I thought something was wrong with my TV, but the Xbox guide button would still make sounds and everything. It didn’t matter what I did. Shooting didn’t make noise, nor could I hear my own footsteps. Then all of a sudden an explosion would happen and the resulting shock startles me. The experience was actually quite eerie.
9. The ability to go prone and crawl along the ground was neat, especially if you are playing the Recon class. If you are on uneven ground though, you tend to crawl “through”Â the ground in some cases and you will see nothing but a blue oblivion underneath all of the textures. That aside, it was neat that they included areas in the subway where you had to do this in order to gain access. In fact, the entire stage itself is pretty well designed if you disregard the disappointing lack of vehicles. There were even buildings you could go into and up a few floors if you wanted to snipe someone from the window. The environments are destructible too which adds to the immersion.
10. Most everything you do in the game from scoring kills, to finishing objectives, to even just allowing your squad mates to spawn on you will earn you experience. I like this system, as it encourages teams to fulfill their duties in order to maximize their rankings and earn rewards faster. Even assisting others in their kills will rack up a ton for you, so you don’t necessarily have to go for the killing blow in order to benefit from a skirmish.
While the Battlefield 3 beta didn’t fill me with the same kind of confidence that its predecessors did, I do recognize that it has a solid foundation and with a bit of tweaking and a lot of bug fixing (and I mean, A LOT), it has the potential to shape itself into a must-have-day-one purchase. That said, there isn’t much time left before its October 25th release and there are a ton of things that need to be fixed before it is in any shape for public consumption. DICE has their work cut out for them. Let’s hope they get their act together and focus on making an awesome game and less on being competitive with Call of Duty.
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