Battlefield 3 Gameplay Preview

From what we saw, Battlefield 3 seems to be very much in the same vein as Bad Company 2. As Dice puts it, ‘rather than having one-dimensional, always run-and-gun [gameplay where] you feel you’re always in warfare… it’s about having a great experience. Part of that for us is about having highs and lows.’ Just as Bad Company 2 tempered moments of tension with periods of fierce action and gentle relief, so will Battlefield 3.

Dice has adapted its technology around this philosophy too, making grand scales an important part of both the engine and the game design. It’s not only that the Frostbite 2 game engine can render everything from an insurgent’s basement to urban landscapes to open vistas; the actual gameplay scales with it. At one moment you might be in a basement, having a QTE punch-fest with a single IED maker; the next you and your squad are plunged into a battle with hundreds of people and vehicles on both sides.

That’s the difference,’ says Dice. ‘We have a lot of variety, and the style and tone is different [to other FPS games].

That tone is clear to see. The emphasis is not on constant action, but rather on building tension before releasing it and rewarding you with time to reflect. After getting mauled in a car park by snipers and RPG launchers, we saw the squad pull back into a building and go to the roof to take on the sniper from a better vantage point.

For several minutes, all we saw was five guys slowly creep from one area of cover to the next, with sniper fire whizzing and cracking around them. They crawl to the lip of the roof, and prepare to lay down covering fire while the player picks up the RPG to blow off half the building. The sense of danger is palpable, and the relief and gratification of taking out the sniper is therefore all the sweeter.

However, if you don’t like your follow-the-leader games, Battlefield 3 looks like it may be a struggle. While it doesn’t look anything like as dumb as Medal of Honor, there was a lot of doing exactly what you were told, when you were told. It doesn’t even look as if you can order squadmates around, as in Mass Effect 2.

Battlefield 3 Preview Battlefield 3 Gameplay Preview
Geoff had forgotten his key. Again

Dice was keen to point out that while the portion of the game we saw looked heavily scripted, the demo that we saw was intended to be a ‘slice of the style and tone of the game’ and that there would be plenty of open areas to roam in the full game . We’ve been promised theatres of war that are inspired by Paris and New York, as well as the Tehran-inspired demo we saw, although they may not be geographically accurate. However, Battlefield 3 will most likely be much like Bad Company 2 in level design – a decent amount of freedom, but not a completely open sandbox.

While we’ll need to at least wait until E3 to hear more about multiplayer in Battlefield 3, Dice did reveal some details. Multiplayer will be treated differently to the singleplayer campaigns, although the developer expects the visual quality to be the same in both modes. We’ve known for a while that the PC version of the game will be able to handle up to 64 players, but we've now learned that the console versions will be limited to 24 slots. Dice did disclose that jets are back, though, as is the ability to go prone. ‘A lot of the team on Battlefield 3 actually worked on Battlefield 2 as well, so there’s a lot of that [feeling of] finally getting to make the game they’ve always wanted to make.

Battlefield 3 is being developed by Dice and will be published by Electronic Arts this autumn for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
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December 11 2020 | 17:30