Well, the day has come and gone: we've finally gotten our hands on DICE's FPS Battlefield 3 as of yesterday, the second day of E3. If by some chance you've not been following the game: it's poised to be arguably the finest shooter around for this year and many more, particularly in the multiplayer department.
Battlefield 3 is built on DICE's brand new Frostbite 2 engine, specifically to make the game the best it can be. The highlights here are grander destruction than what we saw in Bad Company 2 (entire chunks of buildings can be taken out which can kill players), possibly the finest graphics in gaming to date (see below if you doubt), authentic audio (tank shots are oh so sweet), extremely realistic animation thanks to EA's ANT technology, and huge environments (PC gamers will see 64 player maps). Topping it all off is "Battlelog", a built-in social network of sorts which tracks your stats and helps you keep in touch with friends, form squads and platoons, and more.
Rush mode is being brought over from Bad Company 2 as it was by far the most popular mode. This time around you'll have four 'zones' to progress through; expect similar treatment in the new Team Deathmatch mode. From the sounds of it, DICE is still working out all the modes and details, and other modes (presumably Conquest) won't use zones at all.
As mentioned earlier, four classes are locked in: Assault Soldier, Recon, Support, and Engineer. Don't be worried if you find that too few, though: customization will be more extensive than ever, and as a result, this should be the most diverse Battlefield game to date.
For one, three attachments per weapon are now allowed, which includes sights, mags, and even silencers, in addition to other options not yet detailed. Bipods are in, too, as you may have heard: these allow you to prop your weapon for increased damage and efficiency, but only apply to LMGs and sniper rifles, at least so far. Balance is being kept in mind, naturally, so you won't be able to abuse them, but in our experience they're quite useful in holding off a rush.
Suppressive fire, dog tags, achievements
A significant new tactical element in Battlefield 3 is suppressive fire. We've seen this in the single player trailers, but it will play an even greater role in multiplayer as Support units will be expected to keep the opposing force at bay with it through LMG fire. Blasting away with an LMG will disrupt your opponent's vision and focus, throwing them off guard and telling them it's time to move elsewhere.
The beloved dog tag system is being enhanced: these are now customizable, so you'll be able to apply your greatest achievements to them (e.g. 5,000 kills, 1,000 sniper rifle headshots) which are shown to your opponent on screen after you kill them. More effort will be required to reach these achievements than before, however -- you'll have to make knife kills from behind to get anything for it, for example. Knife kills, by the way, and very brutal and an awesome sight.
Hands-on impressions (PRE-ALPHA)
It must be stressed while what we saw is thoroughly impressive, it's all based on pre-alpha footage, meaning some elements will change, be improved, etc. before beta and launch. Moving on.
We tried our hand at "Operation Metro", an infantry-focused map located in Paris with a single APC. Photography and filming were not allowed at the event, however we took the liberty of drawing the map -- see below for a crude rendition.
Operation Metro. Red represents US spawn points; black represents Russian defend points.
It's here Russians have taken over the French Stock Exchange and it's your job to reclaim it -- it seems multiplayer will have a bit more narrative than in previous Battlefield iterations.
The visuals absolutely match what we've seen to date; DICE wasn't lying about utilizing the power of the PC. Particle effects are top notch, and various levels of density mean you can barely make out enemies as they pass through clouds of dust from recent explosions.
For hardcore Battlefield 2 fans who weren't so keen on Bad Company 2 (great as it is), BF3 definitely marks a change to the old pace, literally and generally. Sprinting, for example, lasts longer than in BC2 but the speed isn't so absurd. Aiming and targeting are fluid though do feel a little slow. However, this could've simply been a hardware issue stemming from the mouse (we're half-sure it was 1600dpi).
To elaborate on the animation system, rather than bunny hopping for example, you slide or hurdle (similar to Mirror's Edge), so you'll be punished for showing off or trying anything cheap.
Ammo is scarce; you'll be relying heavily on Support for supplies, so don't think you can get away with little teamwork. As a side effect, picking up the kits of fallen enemies is now somewhat discouraged as they'll more often be low or empty on ammo.
Currently sidearm damage is a bit crazy; you can "pistol snipe" at moderate distances with a few decent shots. This is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, and should be fixed up before beta.
Speaking of which, the beta is set to launch sometime in September, if you missed the news. There's no word yet on alternate methods of getting in for those that didn't pre-order Medal of Honor, but we'll keep you posted.
Battlefield 3 launches October 25.
Hands-on impressions and notes for this article by Gabriel Vega; edited and compiled by Sean Ridgeley.