The Battlefield 3
open beta is upon us! Following the super-exclusive pre-order bonus of 48 hours early access (which wasn’t really that exclusive or early), every Tom, Dick, and Harry can jump in and join the fun of playing an early build of DICE/EA’s upcoming military shooter. This is the one they hope will dethrone Call of Duty
, and while its success in that endeavor is yet TBD, it’s already quite clear that BF3 is one hell of a ride. The beta is available on all three platforms, but PC players can grab it from the Free Games section of the Origin store
. Of course, the Origin client and use of the Battlelog website (with its browser plugin) is required, as is a DirectX 10-capable graphics card and Windows Vista or above.
We meet again, Metro…
As in the closed alpha test, the main focus of the open beta is Operation Metro, a 32-player Rush map that takes place in and around a Paris subway system. It consists of American soldiers assaulting Russian forces that seem to have garrisoned the city and are defending it with SAM sites. The attackers must plant charges on the M-COM stations and disable them, then proceed in similar fashion through the subway tunnels before emerging in the city proper. The fighting rages fiercely along the lush, green park, dark tunnels, and urban streets alike, with the linear design resulting in very defined front lines, choke points, and defensive positions. Teamwork and coordination is key if the attackers are going to succeed; sadly you will probably find such qualities to be in short supply among the throngs of camping snipers that would rather watch from afar as you make one vain attempt after another to complete the objective.
As anyone who’s seen videos of Battlefield 3
in action knows that it is perhaps the best-looking game to date, thanks to the brand spanking new Frostbite 2.0 engine. It was built from the ground up to natively support DirectX 10/11, with super-realistic lighting effects and real-time destruction and terrain deformation bringing to life some of the most detailed environments ever seen on a computer screen. Being an unfinished build, the beta does not offer all of the bells and whistles that will feature in the final product, which makes how good it looks now all the more impressive. The landscape is covered with foliage that sways with the wind (or explosions), trees are casting dynamic soft shadows as dust, debris, and embers float about… The first time you play, you’re likely to be killed several times while you stop to smell the roses!
Once you decide you’re ready to take combat seriously, you’ll be awe-struck a second time when you realize how intense and satisfying it is. No other game comes close to reproducing the sights and sounds of war as accurately as BF3, not even last year’s Bad Company 2
. Explosions and weapons firing are so pronounced, audible throughout the map and modeled so accurately, you can not only tell what direction it’s coming from, but whether the bullets flying past your head are hitting stone or dirt behind you, as well. This constant symphony of destruction combines with existing background noises and vistas to create a convincing feeling of being in a full-scale war, as opposed to some isolated skirmish in a sterile arena.
The ability to go prone makes a very welcome return to the franchise in Battlefield 3
, completely changing the way you fight on foot. Hit the deck when you’re shot, run across a road and dive into cover on the other side, or slink slowly and methodically on your belly through the bushes to catch defenders unaware -- I feel options such as these are worth letting the campers have a lower profile (it makes it easier to hit them in the head, anyway). Although, crawling does seem to exacerbate one of the biggest issues with the game right now…
There’s some kind of issue with the terrain geometry and how it detects your movement across it, leading to a type of quicksand syndrome, where you’re liable to start sinking into the ground at any moment. The phenomenon is all too common in the first stage of Operation Metro, with some areas capable of swallowing you whole and getting you stuck under the map (where you can see up through the bottom and shoot people). Oddly enough, some servers don’t have the problem at all.