Battlefield 3 First Impressions


We wanted to take our time today to write about something that is very near and dear to our hearts. Battlefield 3. Before we go there, we wanted to publicly chastise EA for their failures in organization and disrespectful treatment of their fans and gamers alike. If it were up to DICE, we believe that the Battlefield 3 demo event would have been run differently.

Why gripe? Well, if you ask anyone that has been to E3 in the past few days they can tell you that EA has effectively ignored their core market and decided that select press and analysts would get priority above all. EA effectively had two tiers of lines, VIP and everyone else. VIPs were let in first in groups of 10-12 and the remainder were those waiting in the main line. The problem? The briefing room only fits approximately 15-16 people and the "VIP" was once more, consisted out of not just reputable media, but also blogs which visits are measured in hundreds, rather than thousands or tens of thousands (and very young "journalists" which doubtfully would pass the ESRB gate requirements). We head such rumbling in the press room as well, with a typically sarcastic comment "they’re EA anyways, what to expect?" In a way, their attitude is one of reasons why now a Facebook-games company such as Zynga is valued higher that this publishing behemoth.

The line of people waiting was long and easily ran into the hundreds. Personally, I came to the show 90 minutes early and was one of the first 50 or so people in line, and I had to wait 3 and a half hours from the opening of the show until I could get a chance to play the game. Needless to say, if EA wants to beat Activision and their Call of Duty franchise, they cannot ignore their core audience like that, there were a lot of very frustrated gamers when they found out how long I had waited and how much longer they likely had to wait. Check out a video of how long the line was…

All ranting aside, EA and DICE have decided to go with a PC centric approach as all of the multiplayer demo systems were Alienware rigs with undisclosed hardware. We were of course banned from taking photos or video, so unfortunately you?ll have to bear with us on the visuals.

The demo began with all of us gathering in a room where we were briefed by a member of DICE?s multiplayer team. We were given a basic rundown of Battlefield 3 telling us the various classes and vehicles available. If you were to compare Battlefield 3 against Battlefield Bad Company 2 you would notice that there is no longer an assault class. DICE has opted to combine that class with the medic class and just keep it called a medic. The rest of the classes, Engineer, Recon (sniper), and Assault/Support remain effectively the same. As expected, there will be vehicles ranging from small to large and land to air and water. Simply put, expect it to be as rich in vehicles and upgrades as Battlefield 2, but significantly more.

They have also added a team death match game type in addition to the expected conquest and rush maps that already existed in Battlefield Bad Company 2. Death match maps will enable a lot of competitive gaming and possibly improve the fun factor especially considering how different it is from all other FPS. The team death match maps will be made out of the various segments of each rush map meaning that a single stage of each rush map can be used as a team death match map on its own.

In addition to the added game types, they?ve also improved the reward system by including a suppression score. Their new suppression reward effectively occurs once you have entered into a heated battle with an exchange of fire with a certain individual. As the fight drags on and he chooses to remain in his spot, his combat efficiency will decrease and it will improve your chances of getting him. This is designed to reward those who suppress campers but at the same time deter people from camping too much (recon). Essentially, they are trying to get people to move around more and make the game more dynamic to prevent people from just sitting in one place the entire time doing whatever they do. Also, you will still get suppression points if you point one of your friends towards his direction and they kill him.

A video of the single player campaign showing the overall graphical quality of the game. At E3, they demonstrated a rush game mode against bots in an urban French map. This map unfortunately did not show any vehicles other than an APC. All classes were available and played quite well. DICE did quite a good job of improving the animations for both knifing and lumbering over obstacles. Admittedly, we were impressed with the different types of animations used based upon what kind of objects were obstacles. Furthermore, the bots that we played against were a joke and effectively made the map into a steamroll map where the round was over quite quickly. The nice thing was that the physics and the player models felt quite real. It was easy to hop into the game and play it right off the bat as if I were just picking Battlefield 2 up again. DICE?s choice to demo a map that was in the subways/tunnels allowed us to see the shadowing and lighting differences between outdoors and indoors. This map also had an insane amount of cover, more than we have experienced in any Battlefield game or almost any popular FPS. The use of cover really made some situations really interesting and entertaining.

Personalized Battlefield 3 Dogtag
Something from the E3 Swag bag: EA hooked us up with these sweet Battlefield 3 branded personalized dogtags.

Overall, this game felt very photo-realistic and it was so easy to pick back up that it almost felt like playing Battlefield 2 all over again, except with better graphics. The level was not completely finished, though, as there were still some bugs left when looking up into the sky towards the end of the map. Nevertheless, this is still pre-alpha code and bugs like this are expected. We do not believe that we saw that anyone?s computers crashed, not once… nor were there any instances of frame drops or lag. The only complaint was that we didn?t have enough time with the game and enough levels to play on considering the wait we had to endure. Nevertheless, we came away feeling optimistic about Battlefield 3, but we weren?t necessarily wowed considering what we?ve already seen with Frostbite 1.5 and Battlefield Bad Company 2. If DICE and EA can give us some more depth in regards to the game?s strong suits, we would love to take a look at those and report upon them. But at the given moment, it plays like a very well done high-quality FPS but it doesn?t quite have the wow factor, yet. This is coming from someone who is a Battlefield player since the days of 1942, Vietnam, Battlefield 2, and Bad Company 2 (we don?t talk about 2142).

Distribution Shenanigans
Also, we must caution EA. On E3, we heard a lot of chatter about EA’s newly launched Origin store and their sales strategy for other digital content delivery channels. They must not allow their Origin delivery system affect the title?s availability on other distribution channels. More specifically
, Steam. We believe that EA should incentivize the use of Origin, but still offer the game via Steam. There have been a lot of rumors about EA not releasing the game to Steam, but it would be foolish for them to do such a thing in such a digital download era and the fact that Steam has over 36 million registered accounts. We want EA and DICE to be successful, wildly successful in fact, but they must not forget what their core audience wants and many of them want Steam and the ability to quickly join their friends via a common and familiar platform.