Battlefield 3 is developer DICE's eighth game in the franchise. With over a decade of experience in the multiplayer shooter space, Battlefield 3 represents its attempt to make their biggest, most inclusive shooter yet. Accessibility is a huge mandate for the studio (with the team focusing on making a game that appeals to both team players, lone wolves, console owners and the hardcore PC audience), but above all else, fun is king. From listening to the community, to examining the failings of their previous games, to making a title that takes full advantage of their new engine, Battlefield 3's multiplayer is a work in progress. Unpolished as it is, though, it's already a hell of a lot of fun.
The new, cheesy-sounding philosophy DICE is taking with Battlefield 3 is "Play it Your Way." While hollow PR
babble on the surface, in practice it reflects their desire to make Battlefield as universally appealing to shooter fans as possible. To this end the levels will be varied, from giant stages full of jets and armored vehicles, to the more funneled stages like the Paris one I got to play. While there were armored personnel carriers in the level, it was largely a corridor stage, focusing first and foremost on player's gun skills as opposed to a cooperative effort of vehicles and soldiers. It may have started in an open park (which itself still felt relatively small since players were fenced in by walls and rivers), but within moments the level was small, 50 ft wide corridors and cramped hallways. The hope appears to be to create an experience that'll give the hardcore, long-time fans what they desire in a battlefield experience, but also to have stages that appeal to the more arena-style fans that play games like Call of Duty. Don't go abandoning hope and lamenting the end of the franchise, though, as I'm assured many of the levels we've yet to see will bring back the epic-sized conflicts the franchise is known for.
Classes have also been redesigned in Battlefield 3, giving players new ways to customize their load outs to suit their play style. Riflemen now double as medics, healing players and reviving those who are downed. The Support class is now equipped with a light machinegun and ammo packs, the sniper is a long-range and demolitions expert, and the Engineer is the master of destroying and repairing vehicles. With weapon attachments players can adapt the classes to how they want to play, with Riflemen choosing things like underslung grenade launchers in place of advanced medical equipment, for instance.
The Support class was super important in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 because it could heal, but they're given a new role in Battlefield 3:suppression. Shooting in an enemy's general direction is important in real combat, giving your own team a chance to move and gain position while the enemies are frightened into running for cover. Battlefield 3 takes this into account, and anyone firing a hail of lead near foes - something the Support class is especially good at, much more so with a fancy bi-pod attachment - will suppress the enemy. This not only garners points for the shooter, but dims and shakes the screen of those affected. Shooting to kill is an important role, but shooting to provide actual supporting fire is now emphasized as well.
Vehicles have also been tweaked in Battlefield 3, in hopes of making them more fun for both the operator and passengers. Vehicles regenerate small amounts of health when damaged, but in order to heal to full will need the assistance of an Engineer. Vehicles can also be immobilized right before destruction, forcing an Engineer to intervene to save it, and giving the passengers a chance to bail out. The hope is that this will alleviate a lot of the rage that comes from a team jumping into a humvee, only to be destroyed by one well placed rocket. Yes, the rocket might kill the person it blows up right next to, but the whole squad won't be punished for one crazy driver, or feel like vehicles are death traps.
Two tweaks that stood out during the time I played, and really show DICE's commitment to making the experience better and better, were the inclusion of prone and the ability to opt out of revive. Prone could be dangerous to the balance, as it makes players incredibly hard to discern at a distance, but to balance this DICE is finding new ways to make the cost match the benefits. You might be harder to see, but your lens will flash if a player looks at it, and getting up and laying down takes time that will cost you if someone is close. Revive was also something that players liked in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but it was annoying when someone would revive you for points, only to do so when you were going to stand up right in an enemy's fire. Now you can opt out of a revive, looking to see how safe it is before you make a decision about whether a respawn at a different location would be more effective. It's a small change, and one of those head-slap inducing choices that seem obvious, but a testament to the time, experience and passion DICE has for making Battlefield 3 as fun and balanced as possible.
My playtime was entirely too short, but Battlefield 3 is following a proven formula that's been created by, refined and tweaked by one of the best first-person shooter developers in the world. If the single-player manages to live up to expectations, and the multiplayer keeps getting even better, it might not be long before there's a new king of modern warfare.