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Battlefield 3 Beta Hands-on

EA and DICE are serious drug pushers, giving us a small taste for free and getting us hooked.

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Believe it or not, the beta for Battlefield 3 is actually the first time I got my hands on the title. Sure, I watched my partner-in-crime, Joey Davidson, drool all over a keyboard as he played the PC version at E3 this past June, but I never got my grubby mitts on the game at that time. That’s why I cheered when a beta invite showed up in my email inbox yesterday. It was finally time to give this beast, this “Modern Warfare killer” a run for its money.

If you haven’t been following the slow news drip of Battlefield 3 beta information, let me catch you up to speed. The beta for Battlefield 3 is a slim offering as of right now; there is only one map available, Operation Metro, and one game type, Rush. You would think the beta would get rather old pretty quickly. However, it doesn’t take more than five minutes of aimlessly wondering around the map provided to understand the scope of what DICE is going for with the multiplayer component of Battlefield 3. In a nutshell: the maps are gigantic.

Operation Metro is essentially two large scale maps — one underground, one above ground — slapped together to make one massive battleground for players to shoot each other to their heart’s content. Typically, I can learn the basic layout of a multiplayer map within a few matches — figuring out the best pinch points, weapon spawns and camping areas. That was not the case with Operation Metro. Instead, I looked like a tourist in New York City after fifteen plus rounds on the same map. I was constantly finding unexplored areas. Consider me Christopher Columbus of the digital war zone.

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Sadly, I’m not done with that NYC tourist analogy, so buckle in. You know how you can easily pick those people out from a crowd of thousands? That was me with Battlefield 3. I was never not ogling something in the game environment, whether it was a patch of grass, the map’s draw distance, the gun models or even the badass crawling animation. But I’m sure I don’t have to sell you on how good this game looks (even on Xbox 360, which was how I played the beta). If you’ve seen any of the trailers for this game, you probably already have a pretty good idea of how great the tech running Battlefield 3 truly is. It’s poetry in motion. Although, there are textures that look a little flat when you get up close to them on the Xbox 360 version — I’m looking at your car-door handles.

Another technical spec I specifically want to make mention of is the game’s sound design. Much like with previous DICE war efforts (whether it’s previous Battlefields or Medal of Honor), the sound engineering is incredible. The graphics are great, no doubt, but it’s the sound that really immerses you into the experience. You’re in for a treat if you have a killer sound system or headphones for playing the Battlefield 3 beta.

Up to this point in my write-up, I’ve yet to touch on the actual gameplay of Battlefield 3. But honestly, and this might come as a shock to some, Battlefield 3 plays like previous Battlefield efforts. It’s really that simple. There are definite enhancements, sure, but the core gameplay remains unchanged, which is probably for the best since DICE had a pretty rock solid formula already established. Although, I was a little bummed out by the fact that Operation Metro doesn’t include any vehicles, which, to me, is a major Battlefield staple. But jeeps, tanks and jets will be included in other other maps, so don’t worry to much.

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The Battlefield 3 beta does allow you to level-up your soldier and use new equipment that you earn. My go-to class has long been the soldier-type, here known as “Assault.” Surprisingly, the Assault class also acts as the team medic, but the beauty of Battlefield 3 is that it doesn’t lock you into a set loadout. If you want to be the Assault class, but don’t want to worry healing your teammates, just equip something else in your med kit slot. It’s that simple, really.

Lastly, I feel it’s my duty to stop waxing poetic for a hot second and rain on this parade slightly by mentioning the few hiccups I stumbled across in Battlefield 3’s beta. The game has some issues — stuff like falling through the game world, getting hung up while jumping a fence, unpausing the title only to find the screen remaining blue and connection errors, to name a few. But then again, the point of a beta is to iron out these issues by the time the final product launches. So here’s hoping that happens.

Like I mentioned prior, the Battlefield 3 beta, thus far, is pretty short on gameplay options. However, it’s a testament to the work of DICE that they have managed to make a single map so expansive that it can oftentimes feel like a completely fresh experience every time you load up a new round. From what I’ve experienced thus far, Battlefield 3 lives up to the asinine hype.


The Battlefield 3 beta is available right now for people who pre-ordered the title through EA’s Origin service and purchasers of last year’s Medal of Honor. The beta goes live for everyone across all platforms (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) on September 29, 2011.