Though the franchise has taken a few detours over the last few years with spin-offs, the Battlefield series has finally returned to its roots. DICE's Battlefield 3 focuses on infantry and vehicle warfare on a massive scale.
The game has gained a lot of attention because of how good it looks, but how does it play?
The PAX 2011 demo featured one mission from the game's two-player co-operative mode, broken into a number of objectives. First, my partner and I were tasked with infiltrating an enemy compound to locate and secure a VIP. Once the VIP was in tow, we extracted to a convoy, and escorted it on foot through a hostile town.
At one point, gunners situated in Humvees were taken out of commission, and my partner and I were ordered to get on their weapons to help thin enemy lines. The demo constantly asked us to change tactics: sometimes we retreated, sometimes we stopped and engaged hostiles littering the street, and sometimes we chipped through the environment to take out enemies holed up behind cover. A large wooden gate obstructed the convoy's progress nearing the last leg of our extraction and my partner and I were ordered to place explosives to clear a path to safety.
Enemy fire is relentless and came from all sides during the demo. Some adversaries take cover on street level, while others are perched high in windows and balconies throughout the city. It's dark and difficult to see enemy placement, though my weapon's scope helps cut the darkness and highlight the bad guys with its night vision scope.
At the end of the level, every soldier is forced to abandon their vehicles in response to a massive, coordinated ambush. I clear my sector and push through to take out a few snipers, but I'm cut down by a new wave of enemies on my right flank. My partner slides in and comes to my rescue and gets me back on my feet. It's a brutal battle that ended too soon as my demo time ran out.
Ultimately, the action in Battlefield 3 feels more realistic versus the action-heavy approach of other shooters. You aren't a superhero, but an intelligent soldier that knows how to pick his or her battles.
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The PS3 version I played had a few graphical glitches. While outdoor environments looked good, the opening areas of the game highlighted the game's aliasing issues on the console. Edges were sharp and jaggy, and thin railings looked made up of lines.
I also thought enemy reactions could be improved. For example, enemies on street level spawned out of a specific area and did little to gain a tactical advantage. They typically selected their cover positions, took shots, returned to reload, and repeated. Some of the foot soldiers did attempt to flank my position, but enemies perched up high felt more like fodder as they had nowhere else to maneuver.
EA has released a generous amount of media surrounding the title, but I could never tell how much was "manufactured" to look cool. Playing the demo proved that Battlefield 3 is legit. It feels more like a war and less like an action film, which is exactly what I'm expecting from the final game when it launches on October 25.