The gaming world has been waiting along time for Battlefield 3. Although the Bad Company series had charm and were fine games in themselves, while some of the cheaper XBLA versions were quality too, they all felt like stop gaps in one way or another for the main event, the true sequel to the seminal Battlefield 2.
Finally, the end is in sight. The posturing with Modern Warfare 3 has been embarassing on both sides. Now, at least, Battlefield can be held accountable where it matter; the gameplay. Although this preview is based on the version played at the Eurogamer Expo, today the general beta was made available, so all you beautiful people can download it now for your respective hardware.
It's fair to say this is not the finished article; edges are rough, the details are unkempt and some of the explosions are none existant. It needs a month or so of touching up, but that goes without saying; commentators who have been judging it based on this already, frankly, need to get a grip. However, the main parts are in place and it is one hell of a freeride.
Within the first minute snipers were placed, battle rifles crackled into life, and my knife was swiping confusedly in the air (some of the movement needs tightening, but beyond that it's fine) . Once I caught my victim, I was awarded with his dog-tag, a nice touch taken from the Bad Company series.
One brilliant new aspect is the progressive, multi-layered levels. Before, in capture games (the Battlefield stock), they tended to play out across similar sections of the same level. Now, there is far more variety within the actual levels, keeping players on their toes. The level we played started in a park before progressing into a subway tunnel, then ascended through the station before finishing in a lobby shoot-out. It is a brilliant, brilliant touch, and one that keeps the game varied and exciting and suits all styles of play, including my suicidal knife-work jumping from train to train.
It was also refreshing for the pace to be kept up without the perk system of Call of Duty. Now, don't get me wrong, I like COD; it was just nice to be able to find my feet without having an uber player's dogs nipping at my ankles. The game will be played on dedicated servers, which should help with lag problems (according to the rep). Still, thankfully, everything feels fair and well-balanced; after trying several of the weapon packages, each had advantages and disadvantages, lacking the overly powerful weapons that disbalance games and ruin the experience. Thus, even beginners can quickly pop-off a seasoned skirmisher despite it being slightly unforgiving to start with, whilst grenades rattle around like marbles in a playground.
The gameplay is impressively sharp and heavily points driven, encouraging the use of different weapons and moves to get the most points available. Whilst individual endeavour can be rewarded, more often than not teamwork is the way to best succeed. Medics are particularly vital; I lost count of the times my bullet-ridden corpse was arisen by one of the shitgun totting messiahs.
Incidentally, they seem to be pushing a branded controller to use with the game, and thus every pod was attached with one. Don't buy it. It is completely unruly, oddly shaped, and has nowhere near the give of an official controller. Just say no kids.
Beyond that, it's already looking like one of the multiplayer games of the year. If they can sort out the graphics and the minor niggles then the visceral, exciting, swashbuckling gameplay will draw you in until you are dreaming of dog-tags.