The Battlefield series is definitely one of my all time favorite video game franchises. I was actually introduced to the series back in the day when I pirated pretty much everything. I remember it fondly…
Battlefield 2 had just been released. I didn’t know what it was about so I decided to check it out, pirate style. I downloaded it and dicked around in single-player. I liked the overall feel of the gameplay but single-player wasn’t enough for me. I decided that I wanted to try out the multiplayer gameplay. This led to my first purchase of Battlefield 2 (I’ve bought it twice, now). I fell in love with the multiplayer and have been a dedicated Battlefield fan ever since. If you’ve ever looked at my Battlefield: Bad Company 2 soldier, you would see that I have veterancy in 3 Battlefield games, mainly 2, 2142, and 1943. It should go without saying that if you’re not playing Battlefield on the PC, then you’re doing it wrong.
When I heard EA and DICE would be running a Battlefield 3 open beta, I got all sorts of excited. It started on Sept. 27th (for me, at least) and ran until Oct. 10th. I played the hell out of that beta and now I have some thoughts…
Firstly, now that EA is way more involved in digital distribution, Battlefield 3 is run through their own digital service platform, Origin. Simply put, this sucks. Everybody wants Battlefield 3 on Steam, Valve’s digital distribution platform (and frankly the best). But EA has decided that Steam isn’t good enough for some reason. So now my gaming library, much like those of many others, is now split between 2 (actually 3 for me) platforms.
Secondly, instead of having an actual in-game server browser (let alone menu), servers are found and connected to through an in-browser server browser. This means that the game only starts up when the browser plugin says it can. This also means that the game has to be exited to find and connect to a new server. I think Kotaku said it best: “It feels like a step backwards”. Battlefield 3 is essentially run through Battlelog, which, aside from the aforementioned bizarro server browsing, also includes Facebook-style status updates from friends and platoon members about their advancements and unlocks. It’s pretty useless.
One of my other issues with Battlelog is the party system. And by what’s wrong with it, I mean it doesn’t work at all. It’s impossible to join a server with friends other than just retrying the connection manually. That reminds me, there should also be an auto-retry connection mechanism.
But on the game itself: as a beta, the product is inherently broken in some ways and, as beta testers, it was our job to figure out what was wrong with it. Now, I never really reported bugs that I saw, which is bad of me, especially as a beta tester. There were a number of graphical issues, such as the slug bug, but my main concern is actually with the overall stability of the game itself.
When I was playing the beta, I was plagued by dropped connections, lag, and freezes (possibly due to connection issues). The first map, Operation Metro, was a Rush map that takes place in a French subway. This maps was relatively stable… after a few days. The second map, Caspian Border, was a 64-player Conquest map and was lag-tastic. For some people, gameplay was flawless, and for the rest of us, it was nigh impossible to play. This stability issues have tempered my enthusiasm, to say the least. I don’t expect the game to be perfect upon release, but I do however expect the game to be better upon release than it was during the open beta.
Even though the game infrastructure needs a lot of work, I did enjoy a lot of the new stuff that they added into Battlefield 3:
Suppression – Suppression is what happens when you’re surrounded by bullets. When machinegunners unload on your location, you become suppressed. When snipers begin taking potshots at you, you become suppressed. When you become suppressed, your vision reduces to tunnel vision and you become slowed. It can be a death sentence if you’re not extremely careful.
Scope Glint – You know how every sniper in every video game is a total asshole? Yeah, DICE decided that enough was enough and made snipers easier to take out. Instead of being god-like killers looking down from on high, snuffing out life as they see fit, without an trace to their location, snipers are now vulnerable when they look at you in the form of scope glint. This means that light is reflected from their scope when they aim at you. This makes spotting snipers so much easier as well as reacting to them. I approve.
Weapon Unlocks – Whereas in the previous iteration of the Battlefield series, attachments were unlocked in levels, now attachments are unlocked after x amount of kills (typically about 10). They range from scopes to bipods to tactical flashlights (which blind your target, including allies, so point that flashlight somewhere else, assholes!) and even infrared nightvision. It’s pretty boss.
This were the things I enjoyed. There were a few other elements that I disliked, such as:
The Lack of Command Structure – We were promised a command structure. We were told that generals would make a comeback. In Battlefield 2 and 2142, there was command structure, and it was awesome. Generals had a bird’s eye view of the map and resources at his disposal to survey (UAV scans) and interact with (artillery) the battlefield. He could also make tactical decisions, such as key objectives, and relay orders to squad leaders who in turn would order their squads to carry out these orders. Like I said, it was awesome. However, in the open beta, there were no generals. And sometimes squad leaders weren’t even assigned, which is annoying because there are bonuses to carrying out squad orders. Speaking of squads…
Inability to Select Squads – This made playing with friends even more impossible. In the beta, squads were automatically assigned… at all times. You could at no time choose a squad that you wanted to be in. It just wasn’t possible. This is absurd because it’s always been possible to select your own squad.
Like I said, the infrastructure around the game needs work. I think the gameplay is amazing, though. However, some basic flaws in the infrastructure did make it hard to get the most out of the open beta, but, hey, that’s what they were testing for. Hopefully, the game will be loads better by launch on Oct. 25th.
If you had any hesitation about pre-ordering Battlefield 3, I would say that it’d be alright to go ahead and pre-order as I am sure most of this stuff will be fixed. But if you were put off by this post, I’m sorry. The Battlefield series really is worth your time and I’m sure Battlefield 3 will receive the same love and care that the other games in the franchise have. But if you don’t believe me, then go play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. [sarcasm] I’m sure that it’ll be loads better [/sarcasm].