Eurogamer was punishing this year. Both due to the scale of the thing as well as the quality of games on show. I missed out on a few titles I really wanted to play but I got the big ones down. But you’re not interested in that are you? You wan’t to hear about Battlefield 3.
EA did a great job at minimising queues whilst giving adequate play time (even so it wasn’t unusual to have queue times breaking the hour mark); there were dozens of screens in place and options for PC or console play meaning for once you actually had a choice. This in itself was a mind blowing concept but lets talk about the game.
I had half an hour split between multi and single player which gave me a decent look at the game mechanics and overall feel; it was stunning. Not because everything was smooth, (because it wasn’t) or because there was a lot of action (although there was) but the levels themselves had a sense of place. Let me give you an example; when you start Operation Guillotine you’re crouched in a ditch overlooking your objective. You have a mortar slung over your shoulder and you can tell your movement is going to be impaired. I found myself scanning the terrain looking for the fastest route and trying to work out where the enemy might be. When charging towards the mortar pit we took fire from HE rounds and small arms, concussive blast waves rocked your vision and the earth trembled making it a heart racing experience.
That’s what I found quite special about BF3, it presented you with images, sounds and experiences that helped you lose yourself in the game. Singleplayer in Call of Duty: Black Ops was a grim chore; I found myself playing through it because I simply had to. Eventually I simply stopped because it wasn’t enjoyable any more. Was that because COD:BlOps was a bad game? Certainly not. But it had lost something and whatever it was EA found it.
Weapon control is something I like a lot in Battlefield 3. Firing blindly from the hip on full auto is more likely to hit thin air and lead to a serious case of dead man’s click. But using your sights and firing short controlled bursts will put an enemy (AI or human) down quickly. Where you hit makes a massive difference from what I have seen; I’m not just saying headshots > everything else but upper torso hits don’t just put players down quickly it also upsets their balance and aim enough for you to finish your kill properly. The overriding principle is that accuracy is king. If COD was a hammer then BF3 would be a scalpel.
Which brings me onto multiplayer. Never ever run and gun unless you are in a horrendously desperate situation (even then accurate fire is probably your best hope or preserving you kill/ death ratio. The weapon sounds are a little bit scary, they’re meaty at the best of times but hearing the throaty roar of fire just before you try to sprint from cover can (and will) stop you dead in your tracks. But the default weaponry isn’t all mouth and no trousers, they feel powerful and a couple well placed shots will do the trick. I was particularly fond of the sniper rifle which came as a complete surprise to me. The only game I ever played sniper in was MAG and that was because it was so damn easy. I flirted with it back in my Counter-Strike days (Scout not AWP) but I’m impatient and I have the reaction time of an 80 year old man. So finding a genuinely usable sniper class in BF3 was a real surprise. But sniping will be a key asset in any competitive match; yes I know that was a very obvious statement but to elaborate when cover is so important (as nearly everything is destructible) having someone who can ferret out a stubborn enemy is vital. Have a look at the sniper below. (This guy isn’t great, nor is that the default weapon i played with)
Communication is essential as there are hidey-holes all over the place and as more of the terrain is deformed due to explosions it gets messy quickly. Camouflage is also pretty good making people hard to see if they’re playing sensibly. Speaking of which, communication is essential, solo runs will get you killed. I found working in pairs was the most effective for me but I say the same thing about COD (especially hardcore modes). Problem I found is the level designs to often lead you to bunch up making you a tasty target for demolitions experts or snipers.
We’ll bring you a more detailed review on release; for you COD:MW3 fans out there, don’t worry, we played that too and have good things to say (mostly). Ony will be bringing you the hands on preview shortly.