Private Foyle’s Battlefield 3 Multiplayer Impressions…..concluded!

BLA-BOOM!

So, enough with the stories, hopefully they’ve given you a little taste of what Battlefield 3 multiplayer plays like.  If it’s seemed disjointed, manic and difficult to comprehend what I was actually doing most of the time then I’ve successfully described the Battlefield 3 experience.

What do I think of it at this early stage?  I am absolutley loving it.  Compared to Battlefield:Bad Company 2’s (BF:BC2)  brand of anarchic team-based multiplayer, of which I was a big fan anyway, this is a real step up in realism, depth and, through the bigger focus on vehicles, fun.  It’s not a return to Battlefield 2 (B2), and some may be disappointed by that, it’s more of a balance struck between the faster paced BF:BC2 and the more tactical B2.  I for one think it strikes that balance well, capturing the chaotic playground fun of mass brawls where everyone has ridiculously overpowered weapons and the more tactical, careful approach that’s required to really do well and achieve a scoreboard leading points haul.  You can achieve very little on your own in this game, when you do well it is when you’re working with or for your team.

Cool vaulting animation in action

The improvements over the previous games come in the details, and I’m not just talking about the obvious improvement in graphics and sound.  For one, the points system is really well refined.  It’s more forgiving for newbie players as it gives points away like confetti for every little bit of service you give towards your team, so that even on a bad game where nothing goes right for you you will still end up with hundreds of points towards your next unlock or rank up.  Plus the points are even more focused on rewarding team contribution over being the player with the highest kills.

I’m also a big fan of the changed class roles, although it’s not immediately apparent from their basic set ups.  The new assault class seems like an overpowered super class to begin with, with their machinegun rifles, health kits and quickly unlocked defribillator and grenade launcher.  It’s in the unlocks that the balancing begins: If you want to equip that grenade launcher you need to sacrifice your medkits.  And if you want extra ammo for that grenade launcher you’ll have to sacrifice your defribillator, and before you know it you have a classic Assault class player.  Switch that the other way round and you’ll be a Medic.  And either way you’ll have an excellent mid-range machine gun.

This must be one of the peaceful seconds between someone having a lock on me and somebody else having a lock on me

The same becomes apparent for the other classes.  The Engineer has obvious advantages from the off (vehicle repair and rocket launchers) plus a more mid-range rifle aswell, but the seemingly less useful Support class can unlock mortars, C4 explosives, and claymore mines on top of his usual mountable heavy machinegun and ammo refills to become THE defence class, and the only one well equipped to tackle both infantry and land vehicles on their own.

The Recon class is the one that has suffered the biggest cutbacks from BF:BC2 now that they’ve lost their ability to call in mortar strikes and the fact that sniper scopes now give off a glint that makes it a lot easier for your distant targets to spot you when you’re trying to line up a headshot.  Personally, though, I think it’s a fair reduction.  Anyone who spent a frustrated game of BF:BC2 being picked off by invisible snipers on the other side of the map who were earning hundreds of points per kill for the over-generous headshot bonus will probably share my feelings.  It’s still a viable, and occassionally very useful class, but now it’s stripped down to it’s core focus of sniping a spotting I think it’s going to be a lot less popular, so no more teams of snipers to have to hide from.

Ker-SMASH-CRACK!

What it lacks is anything particularly new.  Battlefield 3 has carefully refined and improved the Battlefield experience that already existed, but it hasn’t really added anything.  The game modes are identical to BF:BC2, and although all the maps are cleverly set up to support both Rush and Conquest mode well I can’t help thinking there could have been more.  Inspiration could have been gained from the singleplayer where whole levels are played out in a single vehicle, why not introduce Jet-only modes or Tank-only modes into the multiplayer?  That would be a lot of fun.  Or how about combining Conquest and Rush modes to form something more epic where an area is fought over in a typical conquest style, but when one team wins that section the fighting moves to an adjoining area where more flags must be caotured and held.  That way whole cities could be fought for in a single multiplayer game.

Perhaps future updates will be more adventurous in this way rather than just adding to the already strong line-up of maps.  We’ll see.  For now though, I’m heading back to the battlefield.  Hopefully see you there.

Swwwwwwwsssssssssh-BLAM-BLAAAASTKERSPLODE

 

P.S. By the way, if anyone reading is one of those 3 guys who were in the back of that jeep I drove straight at an enemy tank on Caspian Border, I need to explain:  I’m not a COMPLETE moron, I just figured the last thing he’d expect me to do was drive straight at him and that would give us all the element of surprise when we all leapt out and surrounded him with our RPGs.  In the end it only gave us the element of explosions, death and respawn and for that I am very sorry.

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Private Foyle’s Battlefield 3 Multiplayer Impressions…..continued!

Welcome back to Private Foyle’s Battlefield 3 Impressions (If you missed the first batch you can catch up here).  Since yesterday’s initial deployment to the battlefield Private Foyle has been issued with the latest war correspondent technology: A screenshot capture button.  So we no longer need to rely on his frankly terrible literary powers of description to paint a picture of his online capers, he can use the power of his terrible photography instead.  You have been warned:

Kharg Island - Not as Piratey as the name suggests

KHARG ISLAND – CONQUEST LARGE

Oh, yes.  Now this is more like it.  No more tight tunnels.  No more sheltered courtyards and running infantry battles.  Here is a proper Battlefield map.

We find ourselves fighting over flags dotted around a desert peninsula.  The land is open and barren, with fragile warehouses and occasional stone buildings breaking up the crisscrossing sand and tarmac roads.  Warships wait menacingly just off shore.  And is that an Aircraft Carrier I spy?  This is clearly a vehicle led map.

Flag successfully defended

Again I’ve joined mid-game so I deploy my trusty Assault class onto an already captured flag.  After impatiently waiting about 30 seconds to defend against attackers that don’t show, I give up and go looking for a vehicle.

Jeep! Jeep!

Here’s one!  It’s not a tank but it’ll do.  Onwards to battle!  Which way to the frontline!?

Who leaves anti-tank mines THERE!?

OWWW!  What are the odds!  If you can’t quite place that picture it is approximately where the one before was taken from.  I got 2 metres before driving over an anti-tank mine.  Balls.

Luckily one of my erstwhile squadmates (whom I’ve not even seen yet on this vast map) has commandeered a tank that needs a gunner.  It’s so handy just spawning into vehicles like this!

The view from a tank's mounted gun.  The green tint matches the nauseous feeling you get being driven around

Here we’ve just blown up an enemy tank!  I say we, I mean the driver who controls the main gun, but don’t worry I did manage to shoot a few guys before we met a fiery death after something (possibly one of the planes overhead?) missile locked us and blew us up.  I now realise the bleeping warning signals mean somebody has missile locked you.  You live and learn!  Or….well, you die and learn and then respawn.  Into….. an attack helicopter!

SQQQQQUUUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!  WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHEEEEEYYYY!

Wooooah.  I've still not got used to the chopper controls

Blank screen:  YOUR TEAM LOST!  Buggar.  I didn’t even reach the mainland.  Must get in an attack chopper again soon.  And back on this map, it’s awesome.

No time to rest, though, onto the next map:

OPERATION METRO – CONQUEST

I was going to quit this one having played it to death in the Beta, but then I remembered that was only the Rush version, and a Conquest game played out on the Paris park at the start of the Rush map would be awesome.

Battlefield 3 running on my PC. (There's a sprinting joke in there somewhere)

Oh, right.  The Conquest game plays out in the bloody tunnels.  Bah.  Well, I’ve started so I might as well finish.  We capture 2 flags and then meet a complete bottleneck on the escalators down to the train tracks.  Handily there’s only 3 flags so we are technically winning.  As long as we can hold the escalators this should be easy.

Blurry screen = you are being suppressed, get out the way of the bullets

As well as accruing a ridiculous amount of healing points for plonking down medkits at the top of them (check out the screenshot above: 415 points from healing alone!) I spend most of the game lurking at the top of the escalators like in the picture above and (when I’m not being ‘suppressed’) pop over to shoot peoples.

Only paramedics can spell defibrillator without looking it up

The rest of my time spent resuscitating the piles of bodies that form at the top of the escalator and before you know it…

Hooray!

Hooray, I guess.

Incredibly boring map, though.  Remind me to never play Operation Metro again in any form.

Back to Kharg Island for me I think.  More impressions to follow, I expect.

[A note on the screenshots and system requirements – I won’t bore you with the details but my PC isn’t the newest and most powerful beast, so is running the game on ‘Custom’ graphics settings set a tiny bit below ‘medium’.  Apparently ‘low’ is the equivilent of the XBOX 360 version, so it should be better than screenshots of that, but it’s not going to match up to others you might have seen.  If you’re worrying you’ve just spent £1000 on a new rig and that’s all it’s going to look like, don’t worry, yours will look a lot better!  But for those wondering if their old faithful can play the game mine is a Dual-Core AMD 3Ghz; 2Gb RAM; GTS 250.  Ok, I lied, I did bore you with the details, but if you read til the end you probably wanted to know!]

Private Foyle’s Battlefield 3 Multiplayer Impressions

Battlefield 3 - at least the 5th game in the Baattlefield seriesIt’s here!  Battlefield 3 has arrived and after finally being dispatched far too late by my chosen online retailer I’m at last able to get my hands on the game.  I’ve played some of the singleplayer and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  It’s taken hefty inspiration from Modern Warfare, and is painfully linear for much of the campaign, but the level of detail in every aspect of graphics, dialogue, sound and the sheer spectacle of some of the set pieces probably set it a notch higher than its inspiration.

I’m not going to go in depth about the singleplayer, though.  There’s already a million reviews out there for it and all of them will tell you one thing, if you weren’t already expecting it: you shouldn’t buy this game just for the singleplayer.  Battlefield has always been about the multiplayer and that’s where we’re going to be taking a good look today.  I say ‘we’ because I’ve drafted in a comrade and online alias of mine to give us a frontline perspective of his very first deployment into the 3rd Battlefield.  His name is Private Foyle and he’s a veteran of every single Battlefield (except the first Bad Company game), and even got to spend many hours on the Battlefield 3 Beta.  What he hasn’t learned through years of walking into lines of cross-fire, over-cooking grenades and trying to stab tanks to death with a rifle butt just isn’t worth knowing.  What he’s going to do is run through a round or 2 of some of the new maps and describe his experience as he goes, hopefully giving us an impression of the game and the maps as he does so.  So without further delay, lets try and patch him through.

Private Foyle, can you read me?

<over radio static> Yep, roger, I can here you.

Great.  Private, what’s the sit-rep?

Err, the err, the what what?

The situation report!  What’s happening there, what can you see?

Oh, right!  Well, I’ve been deployed high in the…in some mountains.  There’s alpine vistas everywhere I look.  Lot of dust.  Lens flare.  We appear to be fighting for a tunnel, that cuts through one of the mountain ridges, linking one valley full of mining machinery with another valley…also full of mining machinery. 

What’s the tactical sense in capturing that?

Err, none that I can see, but we don’t get paid to ask questions.

No, you don’t get paid at all.

Well, quite.  Right.  There’s 3 flags to capture.  One at each end of the tunnel, out in the open, and one in the middle.  There’s a tank here, and ooh, a helicopter!

What’s the plan of action?

Err, probably get in the helicopter before anyone else and see if I can work out how to fly it. 

And if that fails?

Um, probably just shoot some guys.

Ok great.  Take it away Private Foyle:

Damavand Peak - In Conquest mode there is no peak

DAMAVAND PEAK – CONQUEST

Right, the games begun!  Where to spawn?  Deployment area or…inside the scout helicopter?  Helicopter obviously!  Hmm, how do you fly these things?  WASD controls throttle and rudder, that’s fine, but using the mouse to steer and pitch is insanely inaccurate.  No time to perfect this, though, let’s just find the enemy!  I hit the throttle hard and climb up over the ridge leaving my team mates to charge down the tunnel.  Reaching the peak of the ridge I tilt the craft forwards to reveal the enemy deployment area and their already captured flag at the other entrance to the tunnel. Holding the forward tilt so I can aim the guns at their flag (no idea if there’s anyone there to be hit but it’s a good place to start) I charge down the mountain side machine guns blasting and….. POOFSH!  I blow up over the enemy deployment area.  Approximately 10 seconds into game.  I’ve lost the team’s only helicopter.  I have no kills.  Damn.

Respawning at the central control point my more sensible teammates have captured I find a handy crate to hide behind and try and pick people off.  This is going well, much less laggy than the Beta, although this is a 32 player map.  Reach my first rank up just crouching behind this crate and blamming opponents silly enough to come charging up the tunnel!  Easy!  Until… AIEEE!  A tank!  Throw my only grenade vainly at its tracks and run into the nearest cover: a concrete doorway.  Where does this go?  Oooh, a really tight pedestrian tunnel running parallel to the main one.  I wonder if I can reach the opponents flag from here?  Take 10 paces before meeting a tidal wave of enemy fire coming the other way.  I’m not the only one with that idea then!  No where to hide in the narrow corridor = dead.

Respawn inside squadmate’s jeep.  Oooh, I’m manning the guns!  Where are we?  Oh crap!  The middle of the enemies deployment area!  Squadmate parks under enemy’s flag at the end of the tunnel and obviously expects me to keep the hostiles at bay until we’ve captured it.  Luckily most of them are attacking the central flag, but after picking off a few strays we’re interrupted by an enemy APC!  Having gulped down my panic my mounted gun soon cripples the armoured truck and picks off the fleeing inhabitant as they try to escape.  Turns out noone was on it’s mounted gun so no wonder it was so easy!  We capture the flag just in time… they have their own chopper lifting off.  A tense chase around their base (us being chased, natch) ends with us exploding into the tunnel (literally) after trying to make a hasty retreat.  I must have done a lot of damage to the chopper though as moments later I’m awarded points for assisting in it’s destruction.

Conveniently our own chopper is available again as I respawn from that fiery death.  This time I try controlling it using WASD and directions keys instead.  This is MUCH easier.  Position myself at the friendly end of the tunnel and send volleys of machinegun fire down the tunnel.  Have no idea if I’m being any use, though, as I’m so low to the ground the dust kicked up by the rotors is obscuring my view.  This should be annoying but I can’t help a beaming smile at the graphical detail and fun of it all.

In all the excitement I’ve failed to notice we have now lost the central flag and must have done so a while ago as our ticket counter is dangerously low compared to theirs.  I ascend again quickly ,this time ready to bail out over the enemy base and parachute into a corner.  No one seems to have noticed me so I pick off a couple of their guys from behind but all in vain…the screen goes black and the outcome appears…YOUR TEAM LOST!

Buggar.  Oh well.  On to the next map!

Ironic because you will cross the Seine many times in one game

SEINE CROSSING – CONQUEST

Now for my first 64 player game.  I’m deployed mid-battle into a squad lying down on some stone stairs leading up from the banks of the Seine onto a Parisian street.  Paris glows in the sunshine, and looks every bit the lovers’ holiday destination of choice that it is…except for the half exploded military roadblock I can see on a bridge up the river.  Oh, and the noise.  And the cowering on the stairs.  Just from the sound of gunfire and explosions near and far you can tell there are more players here.  It sounds like chaos.  I try to get some bearings.

A quick glance at the mini-map identifies why we’re lying on the stairs: 4 angry red triangles line the other side of the street that we’re trying to push on to.  Having my one grenade I line up a throw that loops over the wall and across the street.  After a finger crossed pause a KER-BLAPT throws grey dust into the air above the street and those magic words appear: ENEMY DOWN 100 points.  Wow, that actually worked!  My squad use the momentum to peer over the top of the stair way and hurl machine gun fire at the enemy position.  Car windows shatter, brick dust flies, sparks and muzzle-flash consume my field of view.  Taking it in turns to pop up, shoot, then duck back down to reload we successfully clear the other side of the street and advance on the previously enemy occupied building.

The squad I was auto-assigned to when I joined clearly knows what they’re doing.  I follow in awe and try to copy what I see as they advance in a tight line, at every corner one drops to the floor and peers round.  No shots fired the rest of us pile past to the next corner and take up covering positions.  Swapping roles again another squadman peers round followed by the rest of us at a charge.  Soon we’re within site of an enemy flag on the minimap.  It’s inside a courtyard with only 2 narrow entrances on either side.  Being my turn to look around the corner I dive into a prone position in front of the opening.  Seeing hostiles I open fire and down one before another gets me.  I can see all hell break loose from the deployment screen as I impatiently tap tap tap the deploy button even though its timer is still ticking down.  Eventually it goes green and I deploy on a squadmate.  We’re still stuck outside the courtyard entrance facing volleys of machinegun fire.

I drop a medkit, one of the assault classes specialities, and start racking up points as it heals my injured squadmates.  The speed with which you acrue points in the game is ridiculous.  Every little action results in some points being added to your total.  A squadmate spawning on you?  10 points.  Healing a friendly?  20 points.  Laying down suppressing fire?  50 points.  That last one is what we try now.  Shooting near to any enemy now causes their screen to blur, forcing them to withdraw and find a less dangerous position.  We use this to our advantage as we fire wildly into the courtyard and chuck our last grenades before charging in.  A squadmate falls but I’m able to revive him with my newly unlocked Defibrillator.  We secure the courtyard and after earning a load more points healing the squad again I push on with the squad again.

The round ends shortly after with my first team victory (which earns another 500 points on top of the 200 for just taking part!)!  And I win a squad ribbon for being part of the best squad!  A quick check of the scoreboard confirms it was definitely the other 3 members that earned us that reward, but what the hell, I’m not going to refuse the points that come with it.

I’ll keep updating with more maps as they come.  On to the next one!