I am no stranger to the Battlefield series, at least not the console iterations. After sinking hours of my time into both Bad Company games and even convincing family and friends to buy the game so that we could spend countless evenings going online and 'squadding up' in both Rush and Conquest modes, I gradually weaned myself off. There were too many other awesome titles just sitting on my shelf forgotten amidst other less-spectacular games or collecting dust in some sad, neglected corner of my living room.
When I was given the chance to preview any slight bit of Battlefield 3, I jumped on it like flies on...well, scratch that analogy. Battlefield 3's single-player experience is shaping up to be as familiar and awesome as previous installments, but with a newer and arguably much prettier and more immersive Frostbite 2.0 engine powering the whole thing.
While my preview of the game was relatively short and offered the same bit of gameplay that has also been present at TGS, I definitely got the better view of this section from my center stage seat in a Dolby surround sound movie theater with only one other journo and three reps present. I even went ahead and stuck around a little longer just to watch the demo with a critical eye and to ask a few burning questions regarding multiplayer.
Battlefield 3 (PC, PlayStation 3[previewed], Xbox 360)
The single-player demo, "Operation Guillotine," kicks off in the early dark morning hours during a raid on Tehran. Your squad of Marines, Misfit 13, begins on a hill overlooking the city as anti-aircraft fire beautifully illuminates the distant sky. As you make your way down, it becomes very clear that the PLR is aware of your presence as mortar strikes explode with visceral bangs and bright explosions all around, denting the earth where they hit.
It's very clear that the new sound component of the Frostbite 2.0 engine works overtime to bring you into the experience. I could hear the source of numerous explosions and the way they hit the ground or other objects all around me, as well as ambient noises such as a car alarm going off somewhere in the distance. The lighting is also a vast improvement over the last Battlefield; directional lighting such as flares or flashlight beams can easily blind you and are visible and pretty to look at from several meters away.
At the bottom of the hill, I was instructed to launch an illuminating round from my mortar to get a better view of the enemies, and I complied with the press of a button that lead into a quick first-person cutscene of loading the mortar and launching it. Immediately afterwards, I was helped up over the city limit wall and soon the real action began.
For anyone familiar with the Battlefield series, you can rest assured in knowing that the game plays pretty much the same as the Bad Company games on consoles -- with all of the aiming, shooting, grenade-lobbing and weapon switching controls to be found in their expected places. You are able to invert the Y and X axis in the menu if needed, of course.
After quickly dispatching several enemies with my G3 assault rifle and a few nice shotgun blasts, my squad helped me breach an apartment complex by lobbing a grenade into a window to bring about the expected results. An enemy soldier came flying out the back door in flames, and I was free to enter the building. The lighting effects and character detail really shone through in the brief section of hallway I ran down as my squad checked corners and barged through doorways.
Everything has been sharpened and brought more into detail since Bad Company 2, though this ten-minute level portion seemed to have a bit more linearity than the Bad Company series. Granted, it also mainly involved running through enclosed spaces, so it's good to keep that in mind as there are going to be some huge wide-open map spaces in both the single and multiplayer games.
As I got ready to kick through another door, I was ambushed by an enemy soldier which launched into a cinematic slow-mo moment where I was able to blast the dude with my shotgun and move on. After dispatching one or two other enemy soldiers, I emerged from the other side of the building, where a convoy was waiting to pick me up. I ran to one of the hummers as instructed and pressed a button to enter, and my demo ended with a short sizzle reel and the Battlefield 3 logo.
If nothing else, this too-short demo of single-player left me wanting to see more. The controls are as solid as ever, the framerate runs nicely with no hiccups or anomalies that I could tell, and the character detail, sound, and lighting have made major strides thanks to the Frostbite 2.0 engine. I only wish I was able to play one of those spectacular daytime levels that has been shown off at events like E3 and gamescom.
Before leaving, I asked the EA representatives a few multiplayer questions as well -- mainly pertaining to the differences in multiplayer between console and PC versions.
My biggest concern that I brought up right away was the issue of balancing and what exactly of the trailers we should expect in the console iterations. The answer? Pretty much everything we've already seen, just scaled a little to fit the console experience.
So yes, you will be able to dogfight in jets while a tank obliterates an APC among a battling foot squad far below you. The sense of scale is still going to be there as well -- they've just carefully balanced it to fit the 24-player experience of the console iterations. In other words, huge maps won't feel like you're waiting to see another player for hours before getting a shot in.
As for the damage modeling, it depends all upon the map you're fighting within. Don't expect to take down skyscrapers in the same way you could reduce buildings to rubble in Bad Company 2. You can certainly blow out huge chunks of facade and completely destroy cover as seen in the trailers, though you won't be destroying a city block with a tank and then spending the rest of the match fighting on flattened rubble. I was assured however, that mid-sized buildings can still be obliterated with heavy explosives like C4. DICE has taken very careful consideration into developing a Battlefield experience that gives you tons of freedom and destructability while also focusing on what makes the series so addictively fun.
I have been counting down the weeks, days, and hours until Battlefield 3 releases and the short demo I got to play today has only made me more thrilled at the prospect of many more evenings wasted squadding up with brothers and friends, laughing at the clueless smurfs on our team while mowing down endlessly re-spawning med squads and rocket-sniping campers.
(To see more newly released screens of Battlefield 3's single-player and multiplayer modes, be sure to check out Jordan's post.)