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Battlefield 3 Multiplayer Hands-on Preview
Post by Dan @ 01:21pm 05/07/11 | Comments
We get some hands-on time with one of the years most hotly anticipated titles and arguably the most visually impressive looking game to-date.

At the 2011 E3 expo, EA DICE were offering all that would queue long enough the opportunity to go hands-on with their hugely anticipated shooter Battlefield 3. As part of the coveted “Media” contingent, we would usually enjoy the benefit of skipping past these lines, but on day one of the show things weren’t running to schedule and so great was the popularity of the BF3 demo that we too were resigned to waiting over an hour turn (many of the general attendees would have been in for a much longer wait).

Had it been any other game, I don’t think we would have stuck around -- there’s so much to cover at E3 that spending that kind of time standing still (without a controller in your hand) is an enormous waste of productivity. But it was Battlefield 3, dammit, and there was no way I was leaving this year’s event having missed this first hands-on opportunity and the first look at the game’s most important component -- multiplayer.

When the cordon finally lifted we were ushered into a ready-room and the presentation kicked off with a quick boot-camp session hosted by DICE Product Manager Tommy Rydling. Tommy gave our group of 16 a quick overview of the demo’s content, what to expect and what to look out for.

Battlefield 3 E3 2011 "Operation Metro" Multiplayer Gameplay Trailer

At these events we’ve long become accustomed to demoing these kind of games on console with controllers, which is understandable given the logistical advantages of setting up a few Xbox 360s with wireless controllers versus full gaming PCs with desks to sit down for (the far superior) keyboard and mouse control. So when we finally made it in to the demo room, I was elated to discover that DICE had 16 PC stations waiting for us, all decked out for kb/mouse play and even mic’d headsets.

The game mode on offer today was the familiar Rush, which involves either destroying or defending a series of objectives depending on which side you’re on. The map -- which is showcased in the above multiplayer debut trailer -- was called Operation Metro and as the attacking team (16 meatbags versus 16 AI for 32 players total), our goal was to advance through Paris and destroy the Stock Exchange.

The player classes in the game are the four that appear to have become the franchise standard: Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. Assault being the frontlines run-and-gunner with the medic equipment; Engineer is the specialist for both repairing and destroying vehicles; Support is the heavy weapons guy and Recon -- love them or hate them -- is the sniper.

Although weapon customisation was unavailable in the demo (due to time constraints), we’re told that BF3 would offer the “most customisation options and weapon modification abilities ever in a Battlefield game”. Each primary weapon will support three attachments which you can customise with the usual optics, silencers, grenade launchers and extended mags etc. For the purpose of the demo however, we were given set loadouts for each class, the most interesting of which was the support class’ bipod weapon-attachment.

With a bipod attached to the light machinegun, the support class obviously enjoys improved stability and accuracy when the gun is deployed with the usual iron-sight manner. Further, not only will it automatically deploy when you go prone, but also when you simply walk near a window sill or a heap of rubble. But there’s more to it than that because BF3 introduces a new core mechanic for heavy gunners -- suppressing fire.

When deployed on a bipod, your shots in the vicinity of an enemy actually induce a new visual effect and physically destabilise them similar to a flash-grenade. The technique seems to work quite well and adds another new element of teamplay that makes covering fire more meaningful.

Getting into the demo itself, I immediately chose assault and charged in to try and absorb as much of the game as possible. It’s hard to overstate how impressive the game looks in person as the environments on display were the most realistic looking that I’ve seen rendered real-time in a game to-date. Of course, this might all be leading to disappointment from console gamers if it doesn’t end up so hot on those five-year-old platforms, but we can only talk about what we’ve seen and that is PC and it is every bit as spectacular as it looks in the trailers.

Incidentally, our team was not victorious against the AI defenders, but if the other players were anything like me, that’s simply because they spent most of their time wandering around in awe and playing with the various weapons and equipment trying to take everything in. That and there was a couple of them whining over the headsets about not being able to play without a controller (I know, how depressing right?).

While we were limited to a single round of Rush, Rydling also confirmed that Battlefield’s staple Conquest mode would obviously be included, and was also happy to announce that Team Deathmatch would be making a triumphant return to the franchise. DICE are clearly gearing to take on the competition on all fronts here and as he explained with a rather thinly-veiled dig at Call of Duty: “taking out those two first stations probably feels pretty good and if you were playing another game from one of our competitors that might have been the whole round. In Battlefield 3, that’s just the start of a longer journey”.

As you can see in the mission overview image, the Rush objectives progress the battle sequentially through four different zones and DICE weren’t kidding when they boasted that each of these sections was large enough to have a self-contained (Call of Duty style) match in. The starting area was a lush Parisian park, followed by an underground skirmish through a war-torn subway tunnel and metro station and after that, up into the streets of urban Paris en-route to the Stock Exchange.

Despite being artificially contained in these areas by the usual “return to the battlefield or die deserter” messages and a few invisible walls, within the areas themselves I was really surprised by the amount of freedom of movement. In other games that feature such aesthetically-rich urban environments, your movements are restricted a lot by cunning level design. A fallen beam here and a pile of rubble there, but in Operation Metro these were largely only employed at the perimeters of each area with full access seemingly enabled to many of the buildings encountered within the battlefield.

Add to this BF3’s phenomenal environment destruction and it makes for an incredibly dynamic experience. Destruction is undoubtedly the game’s trump-card, however in the brief time we had with the game, it was difficult to get a bead on exactly how much of the buildings in Operation Metro could be destroyed. I did witness some entire facades crumbling, exposing the enemy combatants within and the rubble and debris that is littered from each explosion serves to further decorate the already intricately sculpted scenarios.

Vehicles are obviously another massive factor in any Battlefield game and BF3 is no different, however, the Operation Metro scenario is a more infantry-focused map and appears to have been chosen to show off the game’s amazing new city-scapes and keep things simple for the newcomers.

So while the full game boasts everything from helicopters to boats, tanks and even the return of fighter jets, there was only one vehicle on the demo map and with everything else to take in, I only caught one brief ride in it and didn’t get a chance to drive. The LEV25 is a light-armoured infantry vehicle, fits six soldiers and has several mounted weapons. We’re also told that vehicles will be “heavily customisable” but it wasn’t explained how that would function.

Finally, dog tags are also back, offering a little customisable trophy that dynamically updates based on your activity of choice. To make them worth a little more this time around, they can only be stolen from another player by stealth-knifing them in a back.

All told, from this brief moment with the game in my hands, Battlefield 3 feels every bit as impressive as it looks. While it’s very difficult to say whether the single-player campaign will be very worthwhile at this point -- DICE have yet to really prove their worth as serious storytellers and BF3 won't have the comedy elements that kept Bad Company rolling -- but as long as there’s enough map variety out of the box, multiplayer BF3 is looking like a slam dunk.

I can’t wait to see what other scenarios they have in-store for us and to spend some quality time with those vehicles -- now we have three months to make sure our PCs are up to the task.

Latest Comments
Posted 02:05pm 05/7/11
what sort of machines where they running there? absolutely ridiculous ones that no-one would have in their own homes?
Posted 02:23pm 05/7/11
Battleifield? You using an Apple product for typing now? :P
Posted 02:39pm 05/7/11
Hmm as I read the article I was hoping the next paragraph would have something on the hardware required or the PC's that were running the demo... and how it ren because on the main page paragraph you say:

" Read on to find out why you're probably going to have to upgrade your PC in time for October 25th 2011."

Well nothing was mentioned about the specs/how it runs and the hardware!
Posted 02:41pm 05/7/11
its just a trick to get you in to read it Kf
Posted 02:43pm 05/7/11
Can't wait for this god damn game to come out! ANY BF game kicks ANY cod game right up the ass.

BF 1942 > MW2 EASY!
Posted 02:57pm 05/7/11
Well nothing was mentioned about the specs/how it runs and the hardware!
There's no official system requirements announced yet. They also weren't able to offer the specs of the demo machines, but it's safe to assume they were top of the line because if you're showing off a game like that, you want it to run as smoothly as possible... and it did.

Didn't mean to allude to system reqs being contained within, was just more along the lines of finally, here's a game that is raising the bar of graphic performance above the lowest-common denominator that has been set by consoles for the last 5 years. So to get the most out of it, most of us are probably going to need an upgrade -- something we haven't needed for a long time now.
Posted 04:21pm 05/7/11
Did the movement feel a little gumby like all Battlefield titles? that sort of running through thick sludge feel?
Posted 04:32pm 05/7/11
that real feel ?
Posted 06:05pm 05/7/11
That and there was a couple of them whining over the headsets about not being able to play without a controller.

Yes very depressing :(
Posted 07:09pm 05/7/11
The movement in Battlefield titles is certainly different but it does feel more real, not like ur floating.

Thanks for the explanation Dan.
Posted 08:28pm 05/7/11
Yer it may be more real but I don't like it that much compared to other FPS's.

I'll take what I'm given though.
Posted 09:01pm 05/7/11
If your pc can run crysis then it should run this? I doubt BF3 would be ground breaking in the graphics department topping crysis 1/2 but I would be pleasantly surprised if it did.
Posted 09:04pm 05/7/11
the crysis 2 engine is really awesome tho. i can run it on really high settings and i have a laptop, whereas with bf2 i can only run medium :/
Posted 09:57pm 05/7/11
Man this will rape MW3 .... violently!
Posted 11:19pm 05/7/11
That and there was a couple of them whining over the headsets about not being able to play without a controller.

lol serious?

oh and I think it should read "not being able to play WITH a controller"

Posted 11:32am 06/7/11
should have sneakilly gone back to the desktop and run a dxdiag to get the specs of those beasts
Posted 11:50am 06/7/11
When I interviewed Patrick Bach earlier in the year, he couldn't confirm the specs of the computer that was running the live demo (the old one), but did say it was running on a single GTX 580 (if memory serves) and that the PC that would run it on full specs "hasn't been invented yet."

Not sure how true that last statement is, though.
Posted 11:59am 06/7/11
hahaha hasnt been invented yet , classic
Posted 01:09pm 06/7/11
what's so new about that, no invented pc could handle crysis on max when it came out
Posted 05:18pm 06/7/11
Why would you bring a game out that no-one can play on max because the hardware isnt available yet :/

You could say it was to prolong the life of it i suppose but you would think it would make ppl that just spent 4grand on a computer pretty pissed that it doesnt run on max.
Posted 05:58pm 06/7/11
I'll be one of those people, Sc00bs, if my rig won't run it on max!
Posted 06:03pm 06/7/11
well im goin to give it a go on a laptop with a i7 and hd 5730 lol, might be stuck to medium to low settings until i have the money to upgrade lol
Posted 07:22pm 06/7/11
As usual no info on Dolphin Diving, Hardcore (how many shots to take someone down), commander voice spamming or whether it feels like youre playing under water/sludge like the previous "imho fail" title.
Posted 11:04pm 06/7/11
what's so new about that, no invented pc could handle crysis on max when it came out

anyone seen one that will play it well today?
Posted 11:38pm 06/7/11
Mine plays it fine, pretty sure Rev's and a few other peoples here would eat it for breakfast too.
Posted 02:39pm 08/7/11
I've got a 3GB GTX580, bought it to prepare for this long-waited sequel.
I think I might buy another one come October :P

And those people who wanted controllers... If I were you Dan, I would have gone on a half hour rant instinctively...
Posted 11:12am 09/7/11
specs are out


Hard Drive Space: 15 GB for disc version or 10 GB for digital version

Operating System: Windows Vista or Windows 7

Processor: Core 2 Duo @ 2.0GHz


Video Card: DirectX 10 or 11 compatible Nvidia or AMD ATI card


Hard Drive Space: 15 GB for disc version or 10 GB for digital version

Operating System: Windows 7 64-bit

Processor: Quad-core Intel or AMD CPU


Video Card: DirectX 11 Nvidia or AMD ATI card, GeForce GTX 460, Radeon Radeon HD 6850
Posted 11:19am 09/7/11
the old lappy will be running it on med-low =(

f*** i need to get my desktop back up and running :@
Reverend Evil
Posted 12:10pm 09/7/11
Wow. Those specs are quite low for what I was expecting them to be. Well at least I know that my machine will easily run it.
Posted 12:15pm 09/7/11
Why does the disc version need an extra 5GB?
Posted 12:15pm 09/7/11
My computer exceeds the recommended specs by a decent margin, but recommended specs are usually pretty modest. Hopefully my Radeon HD 6970 will suffice.

Where's the source for these specs?
Posted 01:51pm 09/7/11
Interesting 64 bit windows is recommended. So it is 64 bit optimized then?

Also GTX 460 as recommended? Recommended for minimum settings?

I'm a little suss on that, they should have a minimum system requirements required for max settings also at 1920 x 1080, that'd be interesting.
Posted 02:38pm 09/7/11
these specs come unofficially from a retailer, so take them with a grain of salt.

Also, recommended is usually closer to being the minimum.
Posted 10:20pm 09/7/11
Why would you bring a game out that no-one can play on max because the hardware isnt available yet :/

welcome to PC based FPS online gaming

As usual no info on Dolphin Diving, Hardcore (how many shots to take someone down), commander voice spamming or whether it feels like youre playing under water/sludge like the previous "imho fail" title.

hoping for Battlecommander support. (or similar)

giving it all over to Punkbuster for anti-cheat is still a big fail.

you can't replace a seasoned gamer as an admin with a program when it comes to catching cheaters
Posted 05:32am 10/7/11
Hope the maps are big, not sure bout other people, but I like the fact in big maps you can flank and miss-lead the enemy, unlike if its just one long corridor type map.. dunno guess we will see.
Posted 10:39am 10/7/11
As usual no info on Dolphin Diving

just read the bf3 article in the latest pc powerplay and they said you cant dolphin dive

Going prone is almost instant, but creates significant crosshair deviation. We couldn't dolphin dive and we also noticed a lack of CoD-like prone block.
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