Concerns over the drop off from the PC to the console versions of Battlefield 3 have grown as the game’s October 25 release draws ever closer. Visual differences, lower player count online, slower framerate, and the limitations of playing with a controller sparked the most heated debates. All those thoughts were certainly in my head as the Battlefield 3 multiplayer beta downloaded to my Xbox 360. They were summarily forgotten before my first match was even half over.
Battlefield 3 on console, at least Xbox 360, hits everything that had me excited about Battlefield 3. It looks and sounds amazing, and creates an unrivaled sense of the heat of the moment in firefights. (For a look at the game in action on 360 see the video below from our earlier story Battlefield 3 video shows off Xbox 360 gameplay) Does it do that quite as well as PC? No, of course not; a reasonably capable gaming PC will be able to run Battlefield 3 at higher resolution, with better graphical effects than its entertainment center competition. That, however, takes nothing away from the quality it puts on the screen of an HDTV.
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From the moment I hit the park area in which the opening fight of the beta map takes place the near photorealistic environments, clean and natural lighting, dramatic smoke and bits of debris in the air, and, lest it be overlooked, amazingly immersive sound effects all came flooding through. I played this map on PC at E3 and for all intents and purposes it felt the same. As it had then, the game completely engaged my senses, pulling me into the battle.
In this beta, the game is Rush mode on the Metro map. It begins with the defenders protecting SAM sites that the attackers must destroy to allow an airstrike that will open a path into the subway system. The fight takes place in a park, with the attackers having to cross a lot of seemingly open ground to get to the two targets. But the detail in the world changes things up. The natural berms, vegetation, and low walls of the park’s landscape provide plenty of cover to maneuver through.
Once the shooting starts, all those things that look good while watching the game become critically important to playing the game. In this complex setting, sound provides an invaluable aid in figuring out what’s going on. The impact of a few rounds on the concrete wall to my left sounds completely different than the ricochet off the rocks and dirt to my right. From this I can start to get an idea where the enemy is, and above all else, know where to keep my head down. Likewise, when I hear the splash of footsteps in water or the rustle of leaves as someone squeezes through vegetation, that gives me a good idea where the enemy is, and where they’re headed.
In all four stages of this Metro map, the delicate balance Battlefield 3 achieves around the objective points stands out. The complexity of the environments contributes a lot to making this work. In a later area, inside the Metro station, many fierce battles go back and forth in a lobby area that the attackers must assault up a pair of escalators. To say there are crossing lines of fire barely describes the situation. With all the smoke and general chaos, though, it’s just possible to get up the escalators and establish a couple of positions from which to press the attack. And then the defenders rush back, running to reestablish position, making a flying leap directly into prone to just get down in time behind a turnstile and return fire.
As the description of the action should convey, Battlefield 3 works just fine on console, thank you. Other than the occasional screen tearing (something PC gamers are plenty familiar with I might add) and the odd glitch here or there which I attribute to it being a beta as much as anything else, I wasn’t thinking about what platform I was playing on when trying to win the round. Hop in and give it a shot if you can when the beta goes open across all platforms on Thursday. And put your headset on. Failure to communicate and coordinate with teammates is the quickest way to be on the losing side of the scoreboard at the end of a match.
Battlefield 3 is due to release October 25 for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. For more on the game's campaign, see Xav's recent Battlefield 3 preview.