Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Battlefield 3 BETA Views*

*Originally posted on 7bitarcade.com

After all the excitement, the Battlefield 3 Beta is now over. No doubt most gamers with an online connection would have jumped on to give it a go and formed their own opinions. Indeed, a fair amount of chatter has passed my screen on the many downfalls of the beta. Personally, I had been looking forward to getting my grubby mitts on the multiplayer. Previously, I had only played the campaign at EuroGamer Expo(an experience marred by the lack of a Y axis invert option but that’s a debate for another time) for fear of losing my sanity in the queue for the rush gameplay.

After the hefty 1.3gb download (sadly confirming the consoles would not get access to the Caspian Border map), I boot up and attempt to get into a game. To start with everything is great, I’m straight into the sole map of the beta, Operation Metro, and everything feels very Battlefield, albeit more close quarters than the Bad Company 2 fan-boys wanted. There were several times when the servers simply couldn’t cope anymore, usually when I want to play, but this shouldn't be beyond the expectations of a beta code.

From the outset, its clear that this is old code. Unfortunately, the map is full of bugs, prone can be a bit twitchy and the bullet hit detection seems a little off at times (I assure you it is not my terrible aim!). This tells me that EA do not consider this to be ‘demo’ of the game but a server code test. It confuses me that they made it such an open beta as the masses are clearly hinging their preorders on this code and judging, somewhat unfairly, the final game on this outdated build.

Visually, the Frostbite 2 is a big step up from its predecessor used in BFBC2 and I fully expect the final product to further showcase the updated graphics. Smoke billows out of burning cars and carriages, your screen blurs up nicely when you are under fire and shadows spread across everything realistically. In fact, lighting has never been so critical in a Battlefield game before. Lie in the shadows and you’re almost impossible to see if your quarry is ambling about in the sunshine. Moving around the environment feel a lot smoother too. One of my big issues with BFBC2 was that I would forever find myself stuck on scenery. Now, one click of the jump button and you vault cleanly over whatever obstructs your progress and away you go.

I’ll avoid going too in-depth into the different classes and the various unlocks that comes with them as I should imagine anyone with even slightest interest has either played the beta for themselves or is hiding away from information like a hedgehog in danger. Suffice to say, the changes to the classes are welcome in my book. Support feels exactly as it should, a mobile turret, and the assault/medic feels powerful enough without going into points overkill (much like the LMG-revive machine that was the medic in BFBC2). I especially like the bi-pod attachment for completely reducing recoil and suppressing the enemy.

My absolute favorite addition is the new social and stat tracking feature Battlelog. Using your web browser and, eventually, smart phone, you’ll be able to see exactly where you stand with your mates, when and what your next unlocks will be and a multitude of other statistical goodness. Some won’t care about this, but stat fiends like myself will love delving into it before and after matches. The best thing about it? It’s free in its entirety.

The major complaints I have come across are the prone campers and the COD-like gameplay. From my experience in the beta, the prone campers are a pain, but also easy to combat. Thanks to the killcam, locating and flanking these folk is a breeze and lets not forget, digging in and defending a choke point is a tactically sound method that shouldn’t be grumbled at (after all, the attackers are now given 100 tickets per MCOM set). And yes, this map does feel somewhat COD-like when you clear the first set of objectives, but then it is an infantry map. I’ve seen Caspian Border in action and I can tell you it’s 100% the Battlefield of old.

My biggest fears after the Beta is that too many people treated it like a demo for a finished product that it simply isn’t. It’s entirely possible that by allowing completely open access to the code that EA and DICE have shot themselves in the foot and convinced way too many people to opt for MW3 instead as its a safe bet. I truly hope that isn’t the case and BF3 will still maintain the level of buzz which has been present for many months now. My preorder is still very much intact (and so is my days annual leave!). See you on the field soldier!

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