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Battlefield 3 – Xbox 360 Open Beta Impressions

Posted by on September 30, 2011 at 10:00 am

It looks like Electronic Arts is tired of letting Activision hold the monopoly on holiday blockbuster military shooters. It’s not that their Battlefield series has done poorly, it’s sold millions of copies, but it’s also not quite the household name that Call of Duty is. Battlefield 3 marks the franchise’s first major iteration in years and while it’s been primarily PC-based, EA wants to bring the experience to the consoles in a big way as it had previously brought the narrative-driven Bad Company games to that table. As someone who played plenty of 1942 (with Desert Combat) and Battlefield 2, I do have some faith in DICE’s abilities to satisfy. Today the public (read: not merely people who pre-ordered at <specific retailer> and got a code) were given a small slice of the game’s multiplayer mode ahead of its October 25th release date. So how was it?

Yeah, so that was my first twenty minutes with the Battlefield 3 beta, waiting in the wings for my opportunity to access the game. It did finally let up and I was able to get into some Quick Matches. The beta features a single map (Operation Metro) and a single asymmetrical game mode called Rush in which attackers must push down the opposition to complete various objectives. If you’ve played a class-based military shooter before, you’re not going to be lost, but there are some subtle differences between this and Call of Duty.

For one thing, this is not that fast-paced game, this is a more methodical shooter. The game also doesn’t have the graphical polish that those games have, primarily because the maps are massive. If you took two or three Modern Warfare maps and laid them side by side, you’d have one of these. As a result, Battlefield 3 never feels particularly polished, in fact outdoor sections reminded me of original Xbox games because the aliasing was so awful in spots. The menus feature the obligatory color separation from time to time that is beginning to annoy the living crap out of me. The controls also weren’t quite responsive enough in some instances: crouching (clicking in the right stick) wouldn’t work from time to time and Kelly commented that his left trigger/zoom view would get stuck occasionally . I understand it’s a “beta”, but being a month from release, this is stuff that shouldn’t be popping up anymore.

A common view :(

In Operation Metro here, you start off in a wide open park and attack or defend a pair of rocket launchers. The fight continues through a subway and then out the other end in a plaza. As you complete (or fail) each segment, you get a few spawn options. People out in the field will automatically become squad leaders and you can opt to spawn with them, the disadvantage being that if they happen to be in a firefight, you’re just gonna get spawn killed repeatedly, otherwise you can choose the level’s default location. As you dispatch enemy combatants and complete objectives, you gain experience and rank up and unlock weapon perks based on the guns and class you use and… again, this should all be very familiar if you’ve played Activision’s titanic gun shooting extravaganza.

The game doesn’t really do a great job communicating your objectives, requiring you to rely on those map icons and floating markers. Sure, plenty of game time will let you memorize where everything’s at, but the learning curve involves an incredibly disorienting first hour as you gain your footing while being sniped at from a variety of angles, afforded by the level’s large real estate. All that said, the game does slip into ‘super fun’ mode often enough to invite you back. And while it’s not going to outsell Call of Duty by any means (and it’ll definitely be better on PC), it’ll be a neat distraction that, like their other Battlefield titles and the recent Medal of Honor, doesn’t seem planted enough to steal the throne.

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