I feel like this is slightly cheating since I've already written a lengthy discussion of the faults of BF3 (i'm going to cut out a lot of the fat for this discussion), but, I never really went on to describe how you would improve on it. Anyway, to preface this topic I want to mention the position from which I'm reviewing BF3. I'm not reviewing this from a standalone generic FPS standpoint. I'm reviewing the game from the standpoint of a long-time fan and player of BF2, and as a game that was to improve on the fundamental aspects of BF2. These fundamental aspects are simple: Teamwork and Scale (making things not only feel big, but like you are a part of something bigger).
So here's the faults.
* 4 person squads, auto-regen health/armor, spawn on anybody, 4 classes, no VOIP, no comma rose, no minimap command abilities for the squad leaders, no commander.
These are the "new features" the "improved gameplay" we get from BF2? These are all vastly inferior to their BF2 counterparts and here is why.
For starters I'm grouping these topics all together as they work in sync to form a strong team-based backbone to the BF games: non-regening health/armor, 7 classes, 6 person squads, and SL only spawn.
Auto-regen of health/armor: For starters, this completely marginalizes the defining features of 2 (half in this case) of the classes. The role of the classes with med kits and repair tools is to stick with their preferred victim and keep them healthy. By introducing auto-regen you essentially strip teams of needing those classes in between battles to keep everybody healed up. Instead of this being a game about teamwork and sticking together and playing off each classes role to get through battle after battle you only need focus on the battle at hand before going off in a corner for a minute to heal back up and be at 100% for the next battle. It was a mechanic implemented into lone-wolf games (focused on individual fights) to keep each fight "fair" and "equal" as players ran into each other. Instead of keeping wounds from battle to battle and promoting squads to stick together and get a good balance of classes to cover each others weaknesses they can choose whatever class they like without having to stick with any teammates to keep their advantage (what we like to call promoting teamwork).
Only 4 Classes: Having 4 classes breaks the balance BF2 tried so very hard to maintain. Let me explain.
By relagating a specific task to each class in BF2 it gave them defined roles. By having clearly define goals for each class they were able to balance them in a system of (hate to use MMO analogies) "tank, DPS, healer, support". See BF2 or TF2 for a good balance of class roles. See BF3 for a system which haphazardly mashes 3 classes into the leftover 4 and thus distributed an unequal level of power between the classes. The classes were balanced in the typical style of team-focused fps's (see TF2). It forced squads to have a nice balance of members and to stick together (or at least to the medic) to stay alive and push back against the other team. Now we have a game (BF3) that tries to balance all classes so they all have equal chances in gunplay while keeping (or in assaults case giving) the benefits of the support classes. It's why assault and engineer are the most played classes, because they have received the most "buffs" from this cut of essential classes.
4 Person squads: 4 people are not enough to make a difference in large 64 person maps. Dice didn't want 6 person squads in a game with 24 people and thus brought the squads down to 4. There is a reason all previous squad based games and even squads in real life are all larger than 4. Because 4 isn't a big enough number to make a real impact.
Spawn on anybody: Literally, yes, you can't spawn on anybody but you can spawn on anyone in your squad. Honestly I see this change being done for 2 reasons: 1) They lowered the squad size to 4 so it became easier to "wipe out" a squad (kill it's leader and medic(s)) and 2) It allows for a less team-focused more lone-wolf selfish type of play (especially when health regen is implemented). By allowing squads to spawn on anybody you can immediately split the squad. Before you had to spawn at a flag or a SL and thus the SL in essence "forced" all his members to spawn on him and thus keep everyone together. Now 2 people on a squad can be off doing their own thing spawning on each other as they die while the other 2 do the same thing somewhere else on the map. It also gives very little reason to revive as they can just spawn back on one of the other squad members. In BF2 you had to keep either the medic(s) or the SL alive so your squad could keep at full strength and together. No longer though.
Leadership and Communication
BF2 had commanders, SLs, comma-rose, and VOIP. The commanders/SLs had game-changing commands available at their disposal to help assault/defend flags with their access to UAVs, scans, and artillery. They had full toolkits to assign specific places for their squads to assault, defend, or regroup at; and they had a VOIP system ingrained to help speed that message along (because who in their right mind wants to type out directions?). The squads had VOIP to talk to the rest of their squad and form tactics, teamwork (and *gasp* even find new friends to place the game with), and work together with. They had a comma-rose system that smartly and efficiently let players relay critical information to their whole team (was like VOIP for the team in essence). When the comma-rose was used things on the minimap would change (!!!) and clue in the rest of the team to what was needed; whether it was health, ammo, a ride, or a drop of supplies from the commander. They could easily and quickly express it.
The SLs could set waypoints and positions to be attacked or defended; and better yet the squad could actually NOTICE these orders on both the mini and mega-map. They were clear as day and broadcasted in squad chat. The commander was able to see what all his squads were up to and suggest other places for them to go if it looked like they had too many in the same area. Yea they didn't always go with what the commander wanted; but I often did. The point is, teamwork could be coordinated and plans drawn up. There was a system in place that supported and promoted teamwork, BF3 has no such system. The current "attack/defend" system is merely lipservice by Dice and is hardly used by SLs, is not shared to anyone else on the team, and is hardly visible in game (4 little ticks around a flag, yay!). It's barely explained in the tool tips and ignored everywhere else.
And this could all be done (and was done) in PUGs. Something impossible in BF3 as they only way you are going to get even a smidgen of teamwork is if you team up and set it all up prior to even playing.
BF3 switched from a smart, tactical map layout to one of "instant action", easy flag turnovers, and no real battle lines (points were the O and D would struggle for a long period of time trying to slowly shift the momentum to their side). They've minimized the maps to cut down on "walking" (regardless of the fact you now have infinite sprint) and thus cut down on "inaction". What Dice fail to see is that the very aspect of having space between flags was a conscious decision by the BF2 developers to keep those "battle lines" and to force teamwork and coordinated play. If you wanted to smash against the defense all 1-2 soldiers at a time you would never break the defense. That delay it took you to get back in the battle from where you spawned allowed a little breathing room for the D to get itself back together for the next "wave". The O had to work together and assault together and revive each other together to keep the pressure up on the D and to break through. Lots of maps were designed so those first entrance flags were hard to take, but once you got those you spawned in much closer to the action and in a much better position and had better positioning to attack the rest of the flags. Then some of the last flags were designed as the entrance flags to be farther apart and in more of a "defensive" position as a sort of fall-back plan for the D.
Making the Sequel.
Fixing the maps:
1) Increase the distance between flags. As stated, more distance equals better battle lines and coordinated teamplay.
2) Increase the rate you lose tickets for not holding the majority of the flags; and increase it exponentially as the gap widens. This promotes more of a flow of offense and defense as the sides switch out on who holds the most. The current system of slow ticket lose leads to nothing but offense as the team that kills the most wins the map.
3) Put important spawns on capable flags. A good example of this is wake island: the C flag with the airstrip on it. By putting important assets at a flag you promote the team holding it, to keep holding it. You also give the other team another important target to consider when deciding how/where to attack. Too often flags are simply barren areas on the map used solely for spawning to get to the action; as opposed to strategic positions of power.
Remove Auto-regen of Health/Armor:
While this is a good system for games focused on individual fights, it's a poor system for a game that is all about the bigger picture, sticking together as a team, and pushing forward (holding out) together as a team. It is especially bad when you put it in a game where a core feature is healing/repairing. This would also require the re-coding of a "landing strip" area to repair planes/helis (as in BF2).
Return to squad-leader only spawn and 6 person squads:
Spawn on anyone is now a server-side option that can be turned on if desired. Stock settings are squad-leader only.
Fixing the Classes:
Assault and Engineer need better distribute their power; otherwise they will continue to be near the only classes used. Here is my design philosophy for the classes:
1) All classes have some ability to fight vehicles (some classes have it easier than others, some require the help of others, some always get the ability, and others have to specifically choose it).
2) Classes must have a role and work off of each other (so no one class does it all). Here's what would happen to each class.
-Remove med pack and defibs.
+Gain "soflam"(see below) and specialized hand-thrown grenades (smoke, flash, etc).
By giving the assault soflam (same slot as m302), we give it the ability to fight vehicles (m302 doesn't really work on actual vehicles).This makes the assault choose whether he wants to be really good a fighting infantry (w/ m302) or if the player wants to, to be able to trade that infantry power for the ability to fight vehicles with help.
Furthermore, the soflam would be changed to a set of binoculars. They would have a faster lock-on time, but would require you to keep the vehicle targeted and in your sight (thus opening you up to being fired upon).
-Remove repair tool, AT mines.
As possibly the most powerful class in BF (decent guns to kill infantry, and the best weapons to defeat vehicles with) I don't feel bad taking these 2 things from them.
New Class Medic
+This class would get the med pack, defibs, and repair tool.
+They would always have access to the med pack.
+They would choose between the defibs or the repair tool.
Plenty of people are much more interested in helping the team and supporting their friends than they are in shooting people and getting a high K/D. This class should reward those who help others.
+Gain Support Package. Essentially just like the commanders supply drop from BF2 (works just like mortar in that you take out at "airstrike phone/radio" and then it brings up the map and you target where it should drop. Infinite range in this case though). Yes, it can kill people when dropped on them (it falls really slowly).
+Gain AT mines.
They would change from a more front lines vehicle killer, to taking a back roll of support, defensive vehicle killer. Plus, since you can set a limit on the # of AT mines; being able to constantly replenish them yourself isn't near as exploitative as it is with c4 (which you can constantly use/replenish).
+Gain Claymores; now can choose claymores or spawn beacon.
By losing soflam and gaining C4, the "aggressive" recon (as Dice like to call them) players get something that allows for them to impact the vehicle gameplay (but only in small doses since they can't replenish C4 w/o help). The MAV would also be able to hover in place when you exit from it (to make it more in line with a UAV as well). Of course, by hovering in place it leaves itself open to be easily shot down.
* Squad leaders can now target any point on a map and command to either attack or defend there.
* Has one other special icon that can be used for pinging, drawing attention, etc for a specific point.
* Squad leaders can see each others attack/defend targets on the megamap (megamap only).
* Squadmates can see their leaders attack/defend/priority target(s) on the mini AND megamap. Clearly marked with unique symbols.
Weapon Attachments (Going for defined roles with weapon attachments)
* All scopes removed from shotguns, only 1x scopes can be equipped.
* Silencers removed from all Assault, Support, Medic, and Engineer guns. A few select Assault guns will be able to equip silencers (F2000 for example). For all Recon weapons silencers lowered to 20 kills, suppressors removed from all bolt-action rifles but the M40 (remain on all semi-auto rifles).
* Certain weapons (like UMP and P90) are now assigned to Assault and Recon classes and can equip silencers (Recon are able to unlock much earlier).
* All (non-recon) rifles come with a red-dot sight unlocked.
* Attachments unlocked every 5 kills (this isn't supposed to be a time sink/waster. This is supposed to be about tweaking your weapon to fit your style of play).
* Laser sights and flashlights removed from bolt-action rifles. Recon straight-pull bolt moved to bottom slot.
* New attachment for Recon bottom slot is "Lens Cap" which removes scope glint.
* When used, flashing icons pop up on the mini and mega map. Request sent to squad chat as well.
* Add in all the standard options (need ammo/health/repair, bailout, get in, etc etc).
In-game squad VOIP
In game VOIP can be a powerful tool to direct teamwork and actions together with your squad. Well designed and implemented VOIP comes w/o any negatives as well. So what I'm talking about is:
* VOIP for all squad members.
* Individual muting for each person in the squad (keeps trolls and griefers in check).
* (Small) Icons to mention who is speaking at a specific time on the HUD (special Icon for the SL).
* Flash/specify teammate speaking on the megamap (not on minimap).
* Of course, there is always to option to completely disable it if you just really don't like it.
Other small tweaks and fixes
* Hitting "megamap" button now zooms to whole map (rather than scale the current map large).
* Death "skulls" removed from minimap, megamap, and HUD in-game.
* Range on defib revive slightly increased (because it currently seems wonky bad).
* Can no longer sprint forever. Duration depends on class (Recon>Assault=Medic>Support=Engineer). Sprint unlock now actually matters and increases sprint duration.
* Perks that increase gun/grenade/RPG are drastically reduced. This negates the very need for supports ammo packs, and when you can give that unlock to your whole squad you essentially negate the supports job.
* Med/ammo packs limit are raised to 3 out at a time (of course the effects will NOT stack). Holding the button will allow you to hold the pack and replenish yourself and people around your radius (hitting it again will throw it).
* Falling damage caps at 10% before you can deploy the parachute.
* All pilots start with flares, all vehicles start with smoke.
(I take no credit for these next 2 ideas. These are community suggestions I wholeheartedly agree with).
-Fixing the GUI Interface:
Fixing the minimap (see BF2, BF2142 for details):
And I suppose that about does it for major things. Most of you might be thinking to yourselves "Why, this seems a lot like BF2". Well, 1) It's the sequel to BF2 so it should and 2) If it ain't broke DON'T fix it!
Thanks for reading.