As the days count down to a major release, many emotions can boil to the surface: anticipation, excitement, trepidation, worry, cravings if you also happen to be pregnant... for us, we were more worried than we wanted to be about Battlefield 3, but mainly because we only had the open beta to go on and little other hands-on time with one of our favourite franchises. Thankfully, we managed to get an extensive session with the game at an event in London that put most of our fears to rest, and we hope we will be able to do the same to you.
"You can be my wingman anytime" "Bullshit, you can be m-" *blows up* "Oh..."
This hands-on session was the first time we were able to see the single-player campaign. As with all offline modes, this was a higher quality and more atmospheric experience. We won't spoil any of the details for you by giving you a blow-by-blow account of what we played, but DICE have learned well from their experiences with the Bad Company titles. Furthermore, the tone of this game is much more serious, with The Usual Suspects style of reverse narrative, and a plot that's slowly unravelled as the game goes on. This also allows for a more diverse range of characters as well, in wide range of scenarios which should give the campaign a bigger draw (*cough*Jets*cough). One of the main problems about Bad Company 2's campaign was that it was hard to really care about it, since multiplayer is so good.
Speaking of multiplayer... well, where to begin? It's as good as you probably think it's going to be, excluding hype. The current multiplayer beta really doesn't do this mode justice, and is actually running on older code. Even though the beta is apparently the way it is for benchmarking purposes, DICE really aren't doing themselves any favours by only offering one map and one mode... although at least the PC guys get to try out the Caspian Border map, a huge map that makes use of the all of the vehicles this game has to offer, including Jets. There's a wide range of multiplayer maps that provide a wide range of experiences - from all our armoured warfare, to Infantry-only urban warfare, to everything in between. Shame there isn't a Jet-only map, like they did in Battlefield 1943.
Remember, it's only going to look this good on a PC that hasn't been invented yet
Multiplayer is definitely going to be this game's strong suite, it has to be said, and it also has to be said the PC is going to be the superior version. It's already been widely reported that the PC build will be able to support larger player numbers, and that will really show on the larger maps. Even graphically, the power of the Frostbite 2 engine doesn't really shine through on the console - it looks pretty good, better than Bad Company 2, although on the Playstation 3 everything seems a tad jagged and muddy. The 360 version has brighter textures, but is as equally limited by the hardware.
We also went hands on with the 'Co-op' mode, although we only got a chance to play through one mission - Hit and Run. This level basically had you in some sort of office building, and you had to fight your way from where you started, all the way to the garage area and then drive out to safety. We saw a handful of other missions available as well, possibly snippets taken from the single-player campaign, but we're not sure at this point. In general, this mode is reminiscent of Call of Duty's SpecOps missions , although we have to say that so far it seems to be the weakest of the three modes. There's little direction or context, and you don't even get to choose your load-out. Hit-and-Run at least isn't really that inspiring, and the lack of checkpoints can leave you frustrated when you face a nasty surprise. Granted- you run through these a couple of times and you get the hang of them, and the main 'aim' of the mode is get a high as score as possible, but it's probably not going to be what keeps you coming back to this game.
The narrative is surprisingly strong and atmospheric - something DICE have had trouble with in the past
We'll give you our final verdict in a few weeks when they finally release the final code, a word to the wise though: This game feels like it could do with a couple of months extra for polish, which is a shame but can't be helped. EA's war of words has probably locked DICE into a schedule they can't break free, but we know there's going to be a day one patch, and that the studio will continue to work on it in the weeks post-launch. There's been a lot of debate about that issue in the past, but it's worth holding faith in this game because once the last few niggles have been taken care of, it will not disappoint. Battlefield 3 is due out on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 25th in North America, and October 28th in Europe.
Most Anticipated Feature: The larger maps with full server populations are probably going to melt your face.