I’ve been playing the Battlefield series since Battlefield 1942, and competitively since Battlefield 2142, so understand me when I say I’m a Battlefield fan. I’ve run a Battlefield fansite for the past two years, covering Bad Company 2 and now Battlefield 3. I play other games too — Call of Duty, Battlefield’s arch-nemesis these days, is another favourite — but Battlefield is where my heart is.
So what’s Battlefield 3 like? It’s essentially a mix of 2005’s Battlefield 2 and last year’s Battlefield Bad Company 2. If you’re coming from either game it’ll be a fairly painless transition; the graphics are better than either but the UI elements and core gameplay haven’t changed much. At its core, Battlefield 3 is a teamwork-oriented shooter, set on a massive modern battlefield.
There are four classes to choose from: Assault is a good introductory class, with medic skills like healing and reviving paired with medium range assault rifles. Support is longer range, with the ability to drop ammo and easily suppress enemies with light machine guns. Engineer is a close-quarters class with vehicle-specific abilities, armed with SMGs. Recon is the longest ranged class, with an emphasis on stealth and infiltration.
You fight in a four-man squad, working together (in theory) to accomplish objectives. The game mode in the beta is Rush, which sets an Attacking team to arm and destroy two objectives, while a Defending team tries to prevents this. If the Attacking team is successful, the action moves on to the next two points. If the Attacking team destroys the final two objectives they win; if the Defenders gun down enough Attackers before the objectives fall, the Attackers lose.
Of course, it’s hard to tell too much about the game’s real experience from the Beta, as the current beta map, Operation Metro, is a bit claustrophobic – at least for a Battlefield map. Compared to Call of Duty, however, it’s much more expansive, particularly on the opening stages. It never feels like you’re running into the meat grinder; there’s a lot of choice in terms of both route and playstyle.
The map also does a good job of showing off the varied environments that Battlefield’s famous for, starting with a stage set in a park, before moving into more close quarters combat in a subway system, then spilling into the streets for the final push.
The game feels quite polished in terms of the gameplay – there are always interesting things to do, more weapons, items and skills to unlock, and new strategies to discover. There are quite a few animation bugs in the beta, but nothing that should unduly prevent your enjoyment of it. Thankfully the beta is derived from code submitted some time ago in order to be certified in time, so all of these issues should be resolved at launch.
DICE have also announced that they’re opening up Caspian Border, the massive 64 player Conquest map, for the final weekend of the Beta. If you’re an old-school Battlefield veteran, then make sure you’re around to try it out — it should give a much more representative display of the game’s scale.
The Battlefield 3 Open Beta runs until the 10th of October, and is available on all three platforms: PC, PS3 and 360. If you have the choice, run the game on PC for the best graphical fidelity. The game itself comes out on October 25th in the US, and October 27th in the UK. I highly recommend it.