GDC: Battlefield 3 single-player Preview

The ground shakes beneath my feet as an earthquake decimates the street before my eyes. It's jarring at first but I'm quick to remind myself, I'm not standing in the middle of the carnage but watching it play out on a monitor in front of me. The first in-game demo for Battlefield 3 from developer DICE has a few moments like this. So much happens in the ten (or so) minute demo that it's difficult to process how to even write about it. Marines shoot insurgents known as the PLR. Cars and buildings are reduced to rubble. Mayhem finds a home in the near future world on the Iraq and Iran border. These are the core elements at play during the demo. The first leg of the adventure has been spoiled in a gameplay trailer released late last night (found below). As one of the developers plays the game on PC in front of a hushed crowd, we're introduced to a Marine named Black and his team in the year 2014. Tasked with finding a missing squad of marines investigating a cache of chemical weapons, Black and his team set out to a market on the "bad side of town." Looking at the world, it's hard to imagine there's a good side to be found anywhere. In the video, you can spot one of the first battle sequences in the demo. Black's team is ambushed in a parking lot, which kicks off when one of his team is hit by a sniper round. After manually dragging him to safety, Black and his team proceed to dismantle the opposition before they flee. BOOM video 8283 Throughout the demo the NPCs make a few mentions of tremors. The border is located right above a fault line and it seems that Mother Nature wants to join in on the fight. Pushing past hordes of enemy insurgents, the team sets out to find the sniper that nearly took the life of one of their own. Eventually they find themselves on a rooftop, across from the sniper's perch. Here they stalk from cover to cover, then crawl across the roof to locate the shooter. Across the street is a hotel where the sniper seems to take up his position, a thought that the NPCs confirm when the sparkle of a scope appears in the distance. Though the team could take fire at the sniper from their position, doing so isn't guaranteed to end the threat. Instead, one marine rolls a shoulder-mounted missile launcher (which may be a M136 AT4, originally we noted it as a M72 LAW) towards Black, the playable character. "You're the best shot," he yells and the team sets up to cover him. "Three. Two. One." The squad rises to their feet and fire at the sniper as Black fires a the missile into the open area. Not only is the sniper reduced to ashes, but the front-face of the building buckles and falls to the ground. There are definitely vacancies in this hotel tonight. The demo skips ahead to an underground section. The last of Jackson's team has been found taken hostage and Black goes to investigate a suspicious red wire leading into an underground bunker. As he makes his way down, more tremors hit. A sign of things to come. After crawling through vents and tight corridors, he's faced with a room filled with munitions connected to a bomb, which slowly beeps. Quickly, Black pulls one of the two wires powering the device before an insurgent sneaks up behind him and attempts to knock him out. But Marines? They fight back. What ensues next is a brutal hand-to-hand exchange where Black, still controlled by the DICE developer, deals and takes devastating punches, all the while the bomb's beep becomes louder and more panicked. The battle lasts about a minute, ending with the insurgents head repeatedly smashed against the pole holding up a chain-link fence that wraps the room. Before it seems like it's too late, Black yanks the last wire from the device and the situation calms. But only for a second. A fellow Marine calls to Black to make it topside to help with a wave of insurgent activity. The situation is fierce. Hordes of enemies rush an open area, in the middle of the downtown environment. Taking position on a bridge, Black fends off waves by destroying vehicles used as enemy cover and shooting through weak structures to the insurgents laying in wait behind. As the bridge's own cover begins to disappear, Black rushes to an enemy vehicle and jumps aboard the .50 caliber gun on the back, firing into crowds of hostiles. Soon, gunfire is the last of anyone's worries, on either side of the battle. The quiet tremors from before disappear and the world begins to shake and erupt with sonic sounds. A giant earthquake hits the street and the earth beneath the fighters rips apart sending Black onto the ground. In the distance a building buckles and begins to break apart from its foundation, falling onto the street below and--it appears--on to Black. The demo ends there. Though it was heavily scripted, it was very impressive. In its current state, Battlefield 3 looks and sounds outstanding. However, that's the single-player, which some might cite as the "added bonus" to a multiplayer-focused shooter.

Battlefield 3 is coming to PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 this fall.

When I spoke with DICE GM Karl Magnus Troedsson, the first handful of questions I threw at him during my extremely short ten minute interview were focused on Shack community questions. Questions that revolved around things like spawn mechanics and dedicated servers. Unfortunately, DICE isn't showing its hand at this time. Presumably, the game is still too far off to discuss how it will function at launch. On the specific subject of dedicated servers Troedsson said that although DICE isn't talking about that at this time he reminds me that it's something they have done in the past. "[DICE believes] that its crucial for the experience." Ending that line of questioning by saying that Shackers "can bet on it." This isn't the last we'll see of Battlefield 3. This was only the debut and we're going to be following up on every critical piece of multiplayer information we get. Because at the end of the day, even though Battlefield 3 looks to sport an action-packed single-player experience, multiplayer is at the heart of the series.