Battlefield 3 Beta Impressions – War! What is it good for..?

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By James Lenoir, Esquire

By the time most of you are reading this, you’re probably anxiously sitting at work, desperate for the day to be over so that you can rush home, switch on your PC, PS3 or Xbox 360 and dive nose deep into the Battlefield 3 beta. I know that feeling very well. However, just to whet your appetites, here are my first impressions of the beta.

The only game type available so far is Rush. For those unfamiliar with Battlefield, Rush is basically an objective-based mission type where two teams are on opposing sides. One side attacks two objectives (in this case MCOMM stations that need to blown up), whereas the other side is tasked to defend their stations at all cost. If the attacking team is successful, the defenders fall back to a new area to defend, and the battle continues, until either the defenders run out of stations or the attackers run out of reinforcements.
The map used in the beta is called “Operation Métro” (set in Paris, France), which is perfect for the beta, since it shows a wide variety of environments from a bit of greenery in a park, to the claustrophobic constraints of the subway system (and its many tunnels) to finally frantic fighting inside of buildings (and even in the streets). The map is primarily aimed at the infantry so unfortunately there are no epic tank battles to wet your appetite, nor awesome dog fights in the skies.

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The Battlefield 3 beta features four multiplayer classes (kits): Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. In case, you’re a veteran Battlefield gamer, you’ll immediately notice that there’s no medic class. However, all is not lost, since the medic class abilities have been transferred to Assault. Defibrillators (for reviving) are unlockable for the Assault kit, whereas the deployable medkits are available from the start. Assault is still the “run and gun” class, whereas Support is perfect for laying suppressive fire behind cover or hidden amongst the bushes, (since the LMG comes with bullets galore), but it’s also “the go to” class for rearming your squad mates, through ammo boxes. Assault may have lost its trademark ammo boxes, yet it has gained some nifty healing tricks. On the other hand, the Engineer plays roughly the same as in Battlefield Bad Company 1 & 2, and if you’re an old hand at playing Engineer, you’ll easily slide into old tactics and strategies. The Recon class also sees very few changes, however the motion sensors make way for a deployable spawning point in the form of a radio beacon.

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There is always a concern with multiplayer FPS (first person shooters) or even TPS (third person shooters) games that certain weapons are incredibly overpowered, for instance the shotgun in Gears of War, or the FAMAS in Call of Duty: Black Ops or even the LMG in Bad Company 2. The beta may have a few graphical issues, but where it counts, the weapons are remarkably balanced. It is still possible to score a serendipitous head shot with an SMG, but this time around getting the kills take a bit more practice. Recoil is a lot more pronounced then it was in Bad Company 2 (in fact it reminds me more of the recent Medal of Honor game), however now you can easily drop to the prone position set up your sniper or assault rifle’s bipod, and wait for targets to wander into your sights. In case you’re wondering, you can even use your bipod on the ledge of a wall. It is clear however that effective use of cover is going to be a lot more important in BF3, than it ever was in previous Battlefield games. You’re probably wondering what this means for the campers amongst us, and you’d be right the potential for camping is there, although thankfully there are strategies to mitigate the “turtles” amongst us.

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Those who relish in channelling their inner Rambo or even their inner mega-awesome-ninja-sniper guy have no need to fear, since it’s still possible to play the “mysterious lone wolf” , but for the most part a run-and-gun strategy will probably get you killed faster than you can say “Yippie-kay-ay Fruity loops”. The focus of Battlefield 3 is beyond any doubt squad-based, and the point is driven home, with bonus points for squad spawns. Therefore, it pays to be patient and at least be mindful of your squad, or alternatively to be THAT guy… you know… the one who’s constantly hiding behind walls.
There are undoubtedly a few hidden gems, which you’ll discover as you steam roll through the levels and unlock new weapons, kits and weapon addons. My favourite has to be RDS (red dot sight), which not only allows for improved accuracy while aiming, but the tiny laser plays havoc with snipers (who are generally glued to their scopes). It makes for strategic gaming at its best. Just imagine the following scenario, you spot a sniper, but unlike your buddy, the range on your tiny SMG is pitiful. Instead you aim at the sniper, blinding him temporarily, while you mark him with the select button, deliver some suppressive fire and allow your buddy to take the kill. In Battlefield Bad Company 2, the only thing for your trouble would have been a tiny assist bonus (and maybe a spotting bonus if you marked them), but in Battlefield 3, you’re rewarded with not only an assist bonus but also a generous suppression and marking bonus.

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Dog tag collectors will be happy to know that the old Battlefield favourite of dog tags has been improved over previous Battlefield games. There were hints of customisation of dog tags in previous DICE updates to the media, however the feature is not included in the beta, however your current rank and gamer tag are printed on them, and your dog tag changes with each level-up. The addition of dog tags obviously brings up the issue of knife kills, and yes just like in the past you get to keep the dog tags of those who have fallen victim to your extreme ninja-like uber-skills. However, it’s no longer possible to get that one-stab-kill from storming an enemy while he frantically pumps bullet after bullet into your superhuman frame. You have to be in the right position for a knife kill, but the kill animations that go with it are perfect. Incredibly gory and violent, but oh… so rewarding…

The PS3 version of the beta is by no means perfect. There are the usual beta issues, like the occasional (but not frequent) disconnects. I’ve also noticed a couple audio problems (for instance, off sync battle noises i.e. gunfire or even on occasion there would be no sound). Graphical issues include frequent clipping, occasional drop in frame rates, particularly during knife kills (oddly enough), low resolution textures on load-up, and even frequent texture lag. However, it really boils down to whether or not Battlefield 3 shines in the gameplay department. I can honestly say that the beta is a pleasure to play. Veteran PS3 gamers will obviously compare it to Killzone 3, and where Killzone unquestionably surpasses Battlefield 3 in the graphics department, the BF3 beta has a more intuitive control scheme and smoother gameplay (which ultimately is really what’s important).

In closing, if you were to ask me what you can expect from the BF3 beta? The answer would be quite simple, “addictive and polished gameplay that offers a tiny peek at a game that is bound to curl a few toes on and after the 25th of October 2011”.

Last Updated: September 30, 2011

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