previews\ Oct 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Hands-on with Battlefield 3 Multiplayer: This is the Core Experience


By now there is a good chance you have seen my preview of Battlefield 3’s single player and cooperative modes. It’s not exactly nice!. Of course, let’s not beat around the bush: Battlefield 3 is not a single player game, and it’s not a multiplayer game. It’s a freaking competitive multiplayer shooter, something honestly designed to let people play a super soldier fantasy against their bros.

Unfortunately, DICE made the decision to release a beta of the game earlier this year, an “honest to God” beta, warts and all. Unlike the BS betas of Halo and Gears of War 3 (which were promotional demos to sell underperforming games like Bulletstorm or to hype up a waning franchise), the Battlefield 3 beta actually brought data for the guys at DICE to work with.

Thus, you can push aside most of your worries about the multiplayer component of Battlefield 3. Most of the bugs from the beta are gone, and the game we were presented with is very enjoyable indeed. As a matter of fact, this is a solidly enjoyable multiplayer shooter, one clearly better than its predecessors and wholly competitive to similar titles.

Look, I’m not going to pretend DICE has done anything outlandishly new or fresh with this game. However, what they offer is an absolutely fantastic shooting experience that seamlessly transitions into vehicles and varied objectives. All of your favorite modes are here, like Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch, Rush, Conquest, and more. Coupled with the deep character customization, players can expect to think of new ways to take down foes.

It is the maps that really set Battlefield 3 apart from comparable shooters. Varied, as well as downright enormous, these maps are incredibly fun to explore, much less shoot from.  With 24 players duking it out in match, there is just enough size and scope for plenty of action, but you are not dying every two seconds. On the smaller side, there are maps like Operation Metro, taking place among the ruins of a destroyed subway system and the nearby park, or Seine Crossing, a Parisian map along the Seine River.

Things move forward with the nighttime Tehran Highway, with players running down wide freeways and sniping from nearby shacks, or Grand Bazaar, a Middle Eastern marketplace after an afternoon attack. Maps become even larger with the cliff-jumping Damavand Peak, or the Caspian Border. Not all maps can be played for all modes, but as they stand, each one is unique and incredibly fun to play. DICE has done an amazing job in creating stages for multiplayer battles that will be played for a very long time.

There were two standout moments for me playing though multiplayer. The first was Conquest on Operation Firestorm. If there is something that sets Battlefield 3 apart from many other shooters is the pure size of the maps. This one is positively enormous, so completely large that to cross the map by foot would be a waste of time. Those who played Bad Company 2 should be well aware of this set up. While driving a tank, hummer, ATV, or helicopter is already fun, taking to the skies in a jet is just as fun, if not more so, than it was in Battlefield 2. In a control point mode, taking a jet for a spin, before kamikaze diving it into enemy players around a flag, killing them in the explosion, and parachuting out at the last moment proved to be an immensely enjoyable, if only somewhat effective strategy. What I’m getting at is these maps really push the usage of vehicles. While many players will be comfortable on foot, the vehicle-heavy nature of the game really sets it apart.

That’s not to say players cannot get around on foot. Let’s take Damavand Peak for example. Played Rush, one team is tasked with defending select points on a linear map, this time from the top of a peak to the base. Going from top to bottom is actually a very interesting inversion of traditional control point levels, and the map is so huge that it would take quite a long time to run the whole thing by foot. Thankfully, respawns move with the movement of the control points.

Anyway, after the second or third defensive action, the charging players found themselves in a base on the edge of a cliff, hundreds of feet above the next set of control points. It’s so high up that fog poses a visibility problem of the players below, and sniping is an actual impossibility. Thankfully, DICE has placed a pair of helicopters on the edge for groups to ferry down, but considering helicopter controls are very difficult, we found ourselves quickly stranded on the top of what honestly looks like the edge of the map.

This is where things get cool. Out of frustration, players started jumping off the cliff, where they would die upon hitting the ground. A few would mash buttons while falling, and low and behold, this was a skydiving section of the level, and by tapping A, the player would open a parachute and float down, sniping and firing from above and landing anywhere on the defending base.

This so surprised me that DICE could make what would normally be a silly feature – “throw open a parachutes!” – and actually make it required in something like the multiplayer modes, is impressive. Count me impressed and excited to play some more.

Like in previous Battlefield games, players can build a swath of custom loadouts to suit their play styles. I couldn’t dive into the thousands of different customizations, but lets just say that Battlefield 3 is going to bring more variations to player customization than any other Battlefield game.

Even more, this customization applies to simply finding games. Players can go through a checklist of different modes and modifiers to find the perfect match for them. And with a game guaranteed to be as popular as Battlefield 3, players shouldn’t have too much trouble finding their favorite modes.

Now, graphically the game looks outstanding, but one area of the aesthetics that actually makes an impact on the destructive architecture of the levels. Now, it’s not like some of the larger elements can be destroyed, but smaller buildings, trees, civilian cars, and more can be destroyed over the action of a battle. For example, I found a small building in MARKET level to be perfect for sniping enemies as they would run down a street and the central market. Of course, it doesn’t take long for them to find me, so I became a bit of a magnet for grenades. After a few explosions, it actually became difficult to maintain my position, as the building I was on eventually collapsed. In another level, taking place in downtown Paris on the Seine river, a central courtyard so plenty of action, and after ten minutes the whole area was littered with fallen trees and rubble, enough to actually provide visual cover.

While I found the single player experience of Battlefield 3 to be concerning, the multiplayer showed itself to be the real core of the game. With huge maps, a large variety of vehicles and a practically open-world experience in competitive multiplayer, there is a lot to like. The game looks good, plays well, and works hard to set itself apart. Come into Battlefield 3 with multiplayer in mind, trust me.

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