13th October 2011 - Waiting outside the “Fake” club in King’s Cross, amongst other games journalists for the start of EA’s Battlefield 3 press only preview I attended on Tuesday, the 11th October, a lot of interesting conversations could be overheard. “Will Battlefield 3 be able to take on Modern Warfare 3?”, “Will the issues in the beta be fixed in time?” “How much attention has the campaign received?” These and many more vital questions were being raised. After the mixed reception from gamers who participated in the Battlefield 3 beta, Dice would have to address the issues raised in the beta, as well as showcase what, if anything, would make Battlefield 3 hold it’s own in a metaphorical sea of first-person shooters, and ultimately stand up against Modern Warfare 3. Thankfully, we didn’t wait long before we were welcomed inside the club to have our questions answered.
A short time later, we were greeted by EA’s PR team. Sporting “Team Battlefield” shirts (displaying that Battlefield is optimistic about it’s inevitable showdown with Modern Warfare 3), the team were visibly excited to demonstrate the final build of the game. Two threatening sentry guns stood either side of a massive LED screen displaying the Battlefield 3 logo. A PR representative takes the stage. He then welcomes Lars Gustavsson, Creative Director of Dice, to brief us on Battlefield 3, how the Battlefield franchise has grown immensely since Bad Company 2, and what design choices and features he feels make Battlefield 3 both unique and extremely enjoyable.
Lars explains how the team at DICE has analysed the key elements of Battlefield, and how they looked to refine the core Battlefield experience, whilst simultaneously reinventing the game. “Animation is something we are very proud of in Battlefield 3” he explains. Footage then shows a soldier standing and firing an assault rifle. He shoulders brace against the recoil and force of the gun, and he shifts his weight realistically as he drops to one knee to fire whilst aiming down the rifle’s iron sights. He then shifts his weight again, going into prone. I have never seen a more realistic animation sequence of a soldier in a game. The perspective then shifts to first person footage, with a soldier vaulting over low level fencing and poles, as well as slightly turning whilst running through subway station turnstiles to avoid colliding with them. It is very reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge, though ultimately more impressive when combined with a war-torn environment. The animation complements the games environments and story perfectly. There is a distinct feeling of tension that I have not seen before in a shooter. Soldiers flail in the air as they are thrown in all directions from artillery fire. Men realistically scramble for cover after their barricade is destroyed. Gustavsson explains how the animation system was incorporated from the FIFA football franchise, and how advanced motion capture has brought a new level of realism to shooting games.
Lars then goes on to explain how the story has received much more attention than in previous Battlefield titles. How players will feel as engaged to the characters and the plot as they will the shooting mechanics and action. No real details were omitted, but the story certainly looks to be on par with the recent Call of Duty games. Which brought Lars to his next point, multiplayer. Battlefield is known for its engaging multiplayer, with vehicles and soldiers existing on the same battlefield. “The guns have all been tuned, and the shooting is much tighter than in previous games” he explains.
Gustavsson begins to smile, as the display begins to show the trailer for “Battle Log”. Patrick Bach, Executive Producer of Battlefield 3, shares his thoughts on why Battle Log is a standout feature. “Battlefield has always had a strong emphasis on persistence, keeping the player engaged for weeks, months, even years, and Battlefield 3 will have the deepest persistence in the franchise’s history”
A profile is shown on screen, and it is easy to see that Battle Log has the largest amount of statistics tracked in a shooter to date. Players are able to form platoons (Battlefield’s version of clans), and track various statistics such as their favourite weapon, vehicle, map as well as how efficient they are with various attachments. Players are able to search for co-op games, and see where they sit on a friends, local, and global leaderboard. Battle log is available via the internet, a mobile phone app and even built into the game for use on the home console.
Gustavvson returns to the stage, and enthusiastically says the words everyone has been waiting for. “Enough talk! Now you get to play the game!” I spotted a vacant Xbox 360 and began to play the single player campaign. The cut-scenes looked great, with subtle nuances fleshing out the animated characters. Wrinkles on the foreheads, the clearing of throats, it struck a chord with the realism of L.A Noire. The mission begins with two other soldiers and I searching for a nuclear warhead in the hands of a terrorist, who had taken hostages. My two NPC allies run fluidly, but realistically as the motion capture showcases its grace. We come to a series of office cubicles, and my allies shuffle into cover. They shift their weight and rest their guns on their knees. My commanding officer orders me to “take point!” and I lead the advance. As I near the office area a grenade explodes from within one of the office cubicles. “It’s gas! Put on your masks!” one of my allies yells. A quick time event to put on my mask ensues, It’s an entertaining use of the quick time gimmick, and aids the tension of the scene. Shots are fired as the thin cubicles are torn by bullets. A terrorist and I exchange shots, bullets whistle past my head as I fire round after round from my assault rifle. The terrorist leaves his leg exposed and I exploit it. A few well aimed shots and he is on the ground, I finish him with a headshot. I pick up his shotgun and begin to fire through the office walls at the other terrorists, chunks of drywall and cardboard explode into mulch. The concrete pillars explode as my shotgun unleashes a torrent of buckshot at one terrorist, sending dust and rubble into his face, the force causes him to lose his balance and another shot sends thick concrete dust into his face, blinding him. My team shoots him in the head, and we progress. For the rest of the level I was in pursuit of the man believed to be in possession of the nuclear bomb, cars exploded as he and his terrorist team evaded my team and the local police. Cars exploded with frightening detail as we exchanged shots and destroyed the environment.
Unfortunately my time with the game was brief, but it certainly changed my thoughts on the game. Just as I began to find more and more reasons to not buy another first person war-based shooter, Battlefield gives me just as many to “re-enlist”. Whatever doubts I had from the beta were quickly abolished, as I witnessed other gamers playing lag-free on the many consoles available. Co-op was not available, but if it is anything like single player, it will certainly be a welcome new feature to the Battlefield franchise. The game is far from perfect, but it is shaping up to be a must-have title, with animation, sound and the amazing Frostbite engine all merging to produce one of the most complete combat experiences ever seen. I don’t know if it will be better than Modern Warfare 3, but Battlefield has its own identity for the fans of more realistic gameplay. If you played the beta (for which the build of the game was at least 8 weeks ago), then don’t write Battlefield 3 off yet.
Article By Nick Getley