Battlefield 3 Preview

Battlefield 3 Preview

The word ‘shooter’ has taken on a whole new meaning as of late. Call of Duty is mostly to blame for the recent changes in how gamers experience an FPS, but plenty of people can still recall the original series that ignited all the fuss: Battlefield.

Whether or not you actually played the Battlefield games, you cannot deny the fact that this series is single-handedly responsible for online multiplayer gaming as we currently know it. The original Battlefield 1942 and its direct sequel, Battlefield 2, rapidly climbed the ranks and became the most avidly played online shooters of all time. The series has seen several spin-offs with Battlefield: Vietnam and the futuristic Battlefield 2142, but the Battlefield series has yet to see a proper entry on the console market… until now.

Console gamers really only know the Battlefield name through a few standalone titles in the series. The Xbox 360 was given a Battlefield 2 spin-off with Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, which attempted to replicate the allure of full scale vehicle combat on a console. Later, the series was taken in a somewhat humorous direction with the creation of Battlefield: Bad Company and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. All of the games bearing the Battlefield name have seen relative success, but a true, proper sequel to Battlefield 2 has been kept under very tight wraps.

Improving at the Core

Digital Illusions CE, or DICE, is behind the wheel and taking command of the upcoming Battlefield 3 for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. The original engine created for the Bad Company series has been given a facelift and redubbed Frostbite 2.0. The engine will take full advantage of Direct X 11 and 64-Bit processors for the inevitable PC release. Needless to say, the new Frostbite 2.0 engine is going to turn Battlefield into something that gamers can really sink their teeth into.

DICE is really placing a major emphasis on upgrades to the engine and gameplay mechanics. Far too often a sequel will just be a ‘rinse and repeat’ of the previous title with a few new goodies sprinkled about. Rather than conforming to the ways of other series, DICE is focusing on the little things that, when added together, will make for a brand new experience.

Originally intended for use in EA sports games, ANT is an animation tool that is used to create incredibly accurate and precise character animation models. However, when DICE was looking for ways to create a more immersive experience, developers began to look within EA for ways to create a more realistic soldier. The inclusion of ANT in the development process has allowed DICE to create some of the most accurate and fluid soldiers to ever grace the field of battle and will sure lend a helping hand to the immersion of the game.

As you battle your way through the singleplayer campaign, keep a keen eye out for the insane attention to detail that DICE has placed on every aspect of the game. Opening a door from a dark hallway into the sunny exterior will momentarily blind you with a flood of light. Bullets sail into rock walls and send chips flying toward you while potted plants and bottles explode with the slightest of impact. A bullet shot into a pipe will release a flood of steam and cloud your vision momentarily.

Breaking Down the Barriers… Kind of

 

Within the Frostbite 2.0 engine is a mechanic called Destruction 3.0, which will provide gamers with the ability to destroy buildings and change the way the game is played altogether. The blast radius of an explosion is no longer a pre determined factor. Rather, the game now measures the force of an explosion and adjusts the outward thrust of the immediate blast radius. This little feature, referred to as rippled splash damage is just one of the many destruction features being incorporated in Battlefield 3.

Gamers have always been fascinated by the concept of environmental destruction and Battlefield 3 originally promised the prospect of complete and total destruction to any and all buildings. However, those original promises may have been misinterpreted a bit. Gamers apparently were expecting a destruction mechanic similar to that of the Red Faction series, when in fact something to that scale simply wouldn’t work in a shooter.

That isn’t to say that Battlefield 3 will not feature destruction, because it definitely will and that destruction is going to be leagues beyond anything seen in a modern shooter. The environments will not be fully destructible as some may have hoped. Something to that extreme would severely hinder the balance of gameplay and create a whole new series of problems for gamers and developers alike.

A multiplayer map is not something that can be thrown together in a relatively short period of time. Plenty of designing, planning, and testing go into each and every map, so incorporating a mechanic that could entirely alter that map as a whole would negate all of the balance testing. DICE recognizes that people do in fact want destruction in the game, so the address that buildings will be destructible to a very limited degree. Rather than blowing an entire building to kingdom come with tanks, grenades, and rocket launchers, damage is done to facades built onto the structures, not to the structures themselves. A sniper may be taking cover behind a wall in a building, so you will be able to destroy the wall he is hiding behind, not the entire building.

 

Total building destruction is going to be absent from the whole of the game outside of a few scripted singleplayer moments and possibly a few objective instances within multiplayer. So if you were expecting things to be like they were in Bad Company 2, you may be a bit let down with the destruction mechanic.

If you find yourself in the category of people who just couldn’t care less about how much a particular building falls apart or to what extent you can modify the environment around you, you are more than likely concerned about how the game itself plays and what it is filled with. Seeing as how Battlefield 3 is classified as a shooter, we can look to its past entries and to other series around it for things we can expect to be included.

Singleplayer Focus

Often considered to be ‘back burner’ material, the single player of the game is looking to change the way gamers feel about this feature. I can’t even begin to tell you how many I have come across who have purchased every single Call of Duty game and not even thought about touching the singleplayer. I am not saying that singleplayer is the cat pajamas, but the developers obviously dropped a good chunk of time into it, and you paid for it, so why not play it? Battlefield 3 is looking to change your opinion on the matter.

A typical FPS campaign often rolls in around 5-7 hours, depending on the difficulty level and how good you are, which if, you think about it, is really quite short. The only excuse for such a short campaign is that the multiplayer experience offers hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of playability. However, the good people at DICE have seen this chink in the Call of Duty armor and have set their sights on creating an immersive singpleplayer experience that is said to clock in at about 12 hours. That’s over double what many of the Call of Duty games roll in at.

Battlefield 3 is not straying far from the typical modern combat recipe with this one. Players will take control of Staff Sergeant Henry ‘Black’ Blackburn, a United States Marine fighting on the Iraq/Iran border in 2014. SSgt Blackburn commands a squad of five men on a mission to locate and rescue a team investigating a possible chemicals weapon site. Throughout the entire campaign, cities will be ravaged by earthquakes that will tear the city apart and alter the available routes for players to take. Much of the destruction in the singleplayer campaign, in regard to the earthquakes and buildings being destroyed, is going to be entirely scripted.

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DICE has revealed that those who do enjoy company during their romp through singleplayer land will be able to have a friend join in and play in some cooperatively modes. Whether this is only available as an online feature or limited to the one console has yet to be seen.

A Whole Different Ballgame

The most important aspect of any shooter is how the gamer experiences what the game has to offer. Battlefield 3 is clearly setting its sights on Call of Duty and therefore must make additions and/or subtractions from an already tried and true formula. Just as Call of Duty has done for many, many years, Battlefield 3 is going to make multiplayer the pride and joy of its existence.

Hands down the most important and anticipated aspect of the game, DICE has already said that the differences between its multiplayer and Call of Duty’s are so stark that they really shouldn’t even be compared on the same playing field. DICE has said that Call of Duty falls into the twitchy, fast-paced action style of multiplayer gaming, where as Battlefield 3 is a more calculated, tactical online shooter. Either way, gamers still want to know what is going to be included and how it stacks up to the arguable the best online shooter of all time.

 

Advancing upon the concepts established in Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3 will feature an extensive unlock structure that will feature four basic classes; all of which are highly customizable. Gamers will be able to choose from Assault, Support, Engineer, and Recon, but be prepared to let go of your previous notions regarding each class. You may notice the apparent lack of a Medic class and think, “Well, that’s stupid! Who is going to heal me when I go charging blindly into the open?” You may be surprised at who is filling for the absent medic.

  • Assault Class: Those who opt for the standard assault class will now be tasked with healing their fallen comrades via the defibrillators and medkits, adding a bit of strategy to the overall experience of being the basic grunt. DICE remains adamant that this class is the same old “frontline run and gun class” because you don’t have to equip life-saving equipment if you don’t want to. This move seems logical because most of the fallen soldiers are going to be on the frontlines so who better than to revive them than fellow front line soldiers?
  • Support Class: Wielding a LMG (light machine gun), the support class can be summed up as a basic ammo dispenser. However, rather than simply running around and dishing out loads of munitions to your comrades, the Support class can take advantage of many of the new features incorporated in the game, which will be covered in greater detail later on. LMGs can be set up on bipods as long as the player is lying prone or behind specific waist-high cover, stabilizing the wildly sporadic machine gun.
  • Recon Class: Still classified as a sniper, the recon class is picking up a few new tricks this time around. DICE wants to change the perception of the typical sniper class by incorporating several new features and gadgets designed specifically for the Recon class.
  • Engineer Class: Your typical engineer is the class that will be receiving the least amount of changes. The core mechanics behind the engineer remain largely the same as you will be able to repair damaged vehicles while armed with RPGs and carbine rifles.

Taking Full Advantage

Plenty of new features are incorporated within the game that each class takes advantage of in different ways. The first, and probably most impressive, addition is that of suppressive fire. Surely you have seen war movies where one soldier is tasked with crossing a wide open field under heavy enemy fire and just before they take off, you hear someone yell “Covering fire!” as a whole squad of soldiers begins to reign a fury of bullets down on the enemy. Well, DICE is incorporating that very concept into Battlefield 3 with the addition of suppressive fire.

Laying down a hail of fire in the vicinity of an enemy will trigger a graphical blur on the enemy’s screen in order to drive the point to home to him that it is far from safe to pop his head out. The players screen will darken and shake violently when being shot with suppressing fire, so this feature is bound to alter how people approach each firefight. Far too often online shooters are filled with a relative disregard for safety as gamers rush out into the open just to get gunned down over and over again. So rather than charging out blindly, gamers will want to work together in order to achieve a common goal and get a get a man across that field by laying down a sheet of covering fire. If the enemy decides it would be a good idea to pop up and try to shoot back, their in-game firing accuracy would be drastically decreased, thus making him less of a threat.

Every class can take advantage of suppressive fire, but the support class will capitalize on the on it by utilizing the LMG’s lengthy clip and ability to deploy a bipod. The LMG is by far one of the heaviest and clunkiest weapons for any of the classes, but the lack of mobility will be offset by the ability to drop into prone and/or crouch and secure the weapon to a sturdy bipod. The stability and accuracy provided by the bipod will essentially make the LMG the most effective suppressive fire-laying machine on the battlefield.

The use of suppressive fire will be crucial for completing objectives and to sweeten the pot, using suppressive fire will earn you team play experience points that you can use to unlock new items.

Now, you may be wondering about the inclusion of prone and how DICE is going to tackle that conundrum. Many snipers or campers like to just lay prone in one spot for an endless period of time, and that kind of ruins the whole experience. Thus, DICE is experimenting with ways to deter people from over utilizing this feature by adding sniper lens flare or increased muzzle flash for people who decided that lying down is the best course of action in battle. Also, moving from prone to standing is going to have a custom animation sequence that prevents you from shooting, effectively making you reconsider whether diving into prone in the middle of a fire fight is the best idea.

Who Cares?! I Only Play the Multiplayer

 

Battlefield 3 is will feature the series’ two signature match types: Conquest and Rush. Conquest requires teams to attack, capture, and hold key locations on a map, similar to Call of Duty’s domination mode. Rush, on the other hand, will see one team attacking a set of locations while the other team attempts to defend them.

The inclusion of Team Deathmatch and infantry-only matches are new features for a series that is generally focused on the larger battles. The developers recognize that not everyone wants to constantly play massive, sprawling maps chock full of vehicles and tons of other players. Therefore, to give players a bit more flexibility, DICE has included the option for infantry-only battles and remove the element of vehicles and take the fight to a much smaller field.

However, if you are like me and prefer the vastness of combat that Battlefield is notorious for offering, then you will be pleased to know that all of your favorite vehicles are poised for a healthy comeback. Vehicles obviously offer a bit of an advantage in battle, but they too can suffer from intense damage. Previous Battlefield games saw everyone in the vehicle being killed from a tank round, but this time around if an explosive hits the rear of a tank, only the guy in the back of the tank will be sent to the Battlefield in the sky. The tank itself will be rendered inoperable until an engineer makes his way over and begins to repair it. Any other vehicle with player mounted weapons can still be fired out of while incapacitated; the vehicle just won’t go anywhere.

Seeing as how Battlefield was originally a PC title, the PC community is going to feature vast maps with support for up to 64 players whereas the consoles are going to have to tone it back to around 32 or so. That doesn’t mean that game is going to play any differently, but it does have a bit of an effect on the maps and how players experience them.

If you want the full, unaltered Battlefield 3 multiplayer experience, then the PC is the place for you. The maps are designed to take advantage of 64 players screaming around in jets, helicopters, tanks, jeeps, trucks, and on foot. However, if you find yourself a bit short on a computing power, you will notice a bit of a difference with the maps on the console version of the game. The maps won’t be any smaller their PC counterparts, but your access to certain areas will be limited by what mode of transportation you decided to utilize. If you fancy a stroll around the skies in a jet or a helicopter, you will have full acces to the entire map, but if you prefer to stay a bit more grounded, your battlefield is going to be a bit smaller.

The adjustment of map sizes is mainly due to the fact that there will be about half as many people populating the battlefield. Opening up the entire map for 32 players would see a rather scarce fight with pockets of battle here and there. It sounds like a lame reason, but when you think about it, DICE made the right choice.

So far only a few maps have been confirmed for Battlefield 3, some of which are remakes of the popular Battlefield 2 maps of the same name. Four maps will be released as a DLC called “Back to Karkland.” and will include the following maps:

Strike at Karkland

 

Gulf of Oman

 

Wake Island

 

Sharqi Penisula

 

Few other multiplayer details are available at the moment, but plenty of information is sure to be released as the months fade away and bring Battlefield 3 closer to release. A multiplayer beta is set to start sometime before the launch of the game and anyone who bought a copy of last year’s Medal of Honor will be granted access to that when it starts.

The next installment of Call of Duty is set to release this November, but Battlefield 3 is going to jump the gun and hit the shelves October 25, 2011.

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