There’s been much said and revealed about Battlefield 3 in the PC space, but not so much on consoles. It definitely took DICE a little while to even reveal the game on the less powerful systems, an obvious marketing tactic to ensure the more superior visuals of the PC reveal were well and truly tattooed on enthusiast brains, but in the last two months the EA uber developer has definitely started to roll-out the console goodies.
We recently had a chance to not only get hands-on with the Operation Guillotine map on the PS3, but also tackle a bit of co-op as well. The following is a quick look at how the game is shaping up on consoles, as well as observations on the single-player campaign in general.
It must be noted that while the game isn’t running at the same fidelity on console as PC, it still looks mighty good. The Operation Guillotine map sees you, the player, crouched in a large field at night with your squad, backed by even larger forces around you. A few commands later and you’re tasked with running down a hill with your squad to a housing complex, while the enemy tries to keep you at bay.
The lighting in this sequence was stunning, with artificial street-lights outputting some seriously stylish lens-flare effects that add to the game’s clear cinematic scope. Explosions everywhere as well as tracers and mortars lighting up the sky definitely sold the sequence as well. We still don't have a full grasp on the intricacies of their narrative direction on the whole, but they've definitely nailed that big battle feel.
It was difficult to get a solid look at the textures here though, and I’m not sure if this was a deliberate tactic to continue to hide the lesser look of the console version over that of the PC. The differentiator here, over Modern Warfare 3, is that DICE are going more after conflict as the game’s narrative driver, and not stand-out characters. They seem to be attempting to focus more on skirmish realism than blockbuster ideas (like MW3’s New York take-over element), but I’m not convinced this tactic is going to pay off in the end.
While what I played was definitely fun, I felt that Battlefield 3’s AI was far too scripted for my liking, and failing at any given point meant I could actually just remember where each enemy pops up from, wait it out, then take them down like marking items off a shopping list. Modern Warfare 3, and indeed, CoD games in general aren’t known for great AI but even they mix up their spawning points and behaviours a bit more than I experienced here.
Still, it ought to be noted that the single-player stuff I played was no more than around seven-minutes in total length before the co-op hands-on session, but again, we failed that mission once and the second time through simply aced it because we knew exactly what was coming up next and pre-empted the game.
There were a few cool factors with co-op though, such as being commanded to make our way through a tight building with silenced weapons to retrieve a contact being held captive. Predictable and unresponsive AI aside, the whole sequence felt pretty cool. I feel that stealth in these types of games tends to take a backseat these days, so it’s good to know DICE are broaching that - hopefully it’ll be in the single-player campaign too.
It definitely felt good to play though, and the controller set-up is very CoD-like (for the console players out there), so it was pretty easy to pick-up-and-play. The absolute stand-out thing for me in the whole session though, was the audio. Even running through a basic TV it sounded epic, and it’s one area DICE always succeeds in, so I absolutely can’t wait to pump this through my awesome home set-up. Obviously though, Battlefield 3 is a PC game first and foremost, and a multiplayer one at that. I’m still not fully sold on their single-player component, especially because we just haven’t seen enough to know if it’ll be chops against the seasoned Modern Warfare narrative, but it’s good to see they’re at least trying to differentiate the two games, with Battlefield 3 being more focused on combat, realism (sans AI) and frenetic gun-play.
With just on a month to go before the Holiday season shooter battle begins, it’s really anyone’s game at the moment. I thoroughly enjoyed the short time I played with Battlefield 3 and can’t wait to see more, just know that as far as their solo experience goes, you’re not getting anything new, or entirely intelligent, for that matter. It’s heavily scripted and directed, but still fun regardless.