Saturday, 1 October 2011

Battlefield 3: The Beta

Forget for a moment the promise of destructible environments and the ability to jump into a fighter jet.  Forget that some of the maps are going to have to be pretty huge to accommodate the kind of vehicles on offer.  Try to put to the back of your mind that those maps might feel a bit sparse with only 32 players in them.  Try to forget that you can see your own feet.

Dice, the makers of Battlefield 3, know that they have a massive battle on their hands to win over the hearts and minds of the Call of Duty hardcore.  To try and whet the appetites of the Battlefield fans and to maybe win over a few of us over they've released a BETA trial on XBox and PS3.  It features one, reasonably large map, and one game mode.  Basically it's either attack or defend.  You begin above ground in a park and if you win (or lose) the two initial points you move to an underground station.  The map is big and the game is, at least initially, overwhelming.  However once you've sussed the map, how the weapons upgrade and which type of soldiering suits you best, it all starts to feel pretty familiar.  It's a first person shooter after all.

There's not a huge amount of the destruction, one of the games big hooks, on show and there's no vehicles either.  That's understandable, play the cool stuff close to your chest etc but you can't help but feel a tinge of disappointment.  However what it does give us is an opportunity to see how slick the straight up game play is compared to COD.  There's no doubt there's some neat touches graphically.  Sniper rifle scopes reflect a tiny spec of light, easy to miss, but not impossible to spot and take advantage of.  The animations, thanks to some help from EA, are great and the fact that you're whole body is represented, including your previously mentioned feet, is a nice addition.  But, it is, naturally, all about the gunplay and this sadly is where it falls short.  They feel suitably weighty but compared to COD it feels less natural.  Which is ridiculous, because the one thing COD isn't is natural.  Battlefield is probably the more simulator like in feel but COD blends the real and the arcade to make the pad in your hand stop feeling like a pad.  With Battlefield I never left my lounge in two hours.  I was always a man, on a sofa, with a pad in my hand, getting shot a lot.  With COD, I am on the battlefield, sometimes for days, with no pad and no sofa, getting shot a lot.  Which is probably ironic, or something.

With the BETA Dice have given us a nice little taster.  They've made a solid FPS, it will sell a shed load and be loved by many.  Will it topple Call of Duty?  Not a hope in hell this year.

Longer term though, just like with FIFA and PES, the competition will be a good thing.  The gaming industry needs another FPS IP to keep Activision in check.  The closer Activision edge towards a pay to play model the less likely they are to keep Battlefield at bay and the more likely they are to have me jump ship.  Not yet though... not yet.