Battlefield 3: Multiplayer Hands-On


Getting hands-on time with games is becoming increasingly rare at E3. Most of the demos are guided, which makes it hard to get good idea of how the game actually plays. The best anyone can do is take notes and speculate.

DICE and EA have always taken a different approach with their Battlefield games. Every time a game in the series is in the works, I can almost guarantee a chance to sit down and take it for a spin. This year I went hands-on with Battlefield 3’s multiplayer.

The map on display was Operation Metro, a Rush Mode map designed to show off the impressive Frostbite 2 engine. We were able to see the types of environments available in the final game, as well as the engine's ability to deform environments in real-time. For anyone not familiar with the match type, one team attacks a series of bases while the other defends. Each time a base is taken, the map expands, revealing a fallback base. From here, the play structure repeats until the attackers have taken all three bases.

Before jumping into multiplayer, we were briefed on the changes we could expect in Battlefield 3. Character classes have been shifted and changed based on both feedback from players and DICE’s own internal studies. There are four classes: Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. Although the names sound familiar, each has an expanded set of class duties. The Assault class is a frontline infantry soldier that doubles as a medic. According to a DICE rep, the team found players that chose the infantry class were usually the first to die in combat. The change is meant to give the class a little more time on the field.

Engineers are primarily around to repair vehicles, but have a few interesting options. They can carry vehicle-eliminating weapons, but can also illuminate dark areas. The Support class is a standard heavy infantry solider. He can now plant his gun into the ground using a bi-pod, upping his accuracy. The Support class is also adept at using a new suppression mechanic. Whenever you lay down fire in the direction of an opposing soldier, his vision is distorted, dropping their on-field awareness. As with every other in-game action, you’ll gain experience points for successfully suppressing opponents.

Recon soldiers are snipers with added Scout abilities, like launching UAVs. Although the combination sounds ridiculously over-powered, snipers are not the super soldiers they are in other games. Their aim is a bit shaky. To steady their aim, you’ll need to press a button to hold your character’s breath. The sniper’s scope will also give off a slight glint, tipping other players off to the sniper’s position.

We were also briefed on the new Dog Tags feature. DICE was surprised to see how rabid the community grabbed on to the concept, so they’re expanding the option to allow players more freedom in personalizing their experience. Players can customize their Dog Tags, adding their own custom graphics and slogans. You can also add stats pulled from your service record. For example, if you have an impressive knife-only kill streak, your tags can display those numbers.

Multiplayer is an absolute blast. We played on some high-end machines that really showed what the engine could do when running full throttle. Each section of the map was designed to offer a different play experience and show off aspects of the engine at work.

The first section was a wide-open map. There was plenty of space to maneuver in and lots of smaller spaces suitable for intense firefights. The next section took place in a Metro tunnel. Compared to the open space, the tunnel introduced a claustrophobic focus to matches. There were few places to run and even fewer to hide. The area also showed off the game’s impressive lighting engine and particle system. The final section took place in a densely-packed downtown area, adding lots of hiding spots for efficient snipers.

I was really impressed by the amount of variety allowed by each section of the map. Each part of the map requires a completely different approach and class make-up. There’s a very clear progression between tactics, which should keep matches fresh and keep the intensity moving forward.

Though it only lasted for one round (about 8-10 minutes tops), Battlefield 3 provided one of the show’s more thrilling hands-on demos. I had an absolute blast.

Battlefield 3 hits the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC this October.