The subway is dark, possibly due to the mortar rounds that just blew its wiring to bits, or possibly just because dimly lit subway stations are too fucking cool. The long, open passages seem abandoned, but in reality, there are dozens of enemies lying on the ground, strewn about like toy soldiers.
They’re not dead. They’re waiting. And a quick peek around the next corner results in a hail of dizzying suppressive fire. Pulling out a grenade, I get ready to sprint to the next clearing. But as I prepare the explosive, I’m grabbed by the neck and watch in horror as my dog tags and my life are taken from me.
And as my deaths pile up one after another, I can’t help but think, “This is pretty damn impressive.”
The Origins of BF3 on PC
Jumping back a few hours, the experience of actually getting to and using the Battlefield 3 beta is not as much of a joy, though it’s just as confusing, chaotic, and terrifying. Logging into EA’s Origin web site, I hesitate over the Download Now button. Do I really want to do this? Having used Steam for what feels like a decade, the simple act of contemplating this move feels akin to adultery. But like so many men before me, the siren call of this third iteration of Battlefield is irresistible. The smooth, curvy button ultimately wins.
I had heard the horror stories. Seen the whiny posts in Reddit’s /r/gaming. I figured I’d give it a shot and decide for myself. The sign-in process is inoffensive, and setting up an account isn’t particularly different from that of Steam. The beta client downloads, and I hit “Play” as I secretly hope my underwear survives the experience to come.
Disappointment Number the First: As has been noted elsewhere, the server browser in Battlefield 3 beta is your default web browser. What’s that, your web browser uses half your RAM? Or you have a bunch of tabs open playing
Redtube Youtube videos? Or you just don’t understand why Origin would run a server browser for its game outside its game? Too bad for you!
Disappointment Number Two: Fine, I get it. It runs out of the browser. It’s not that big of a deal. But once I actually ran the game, I was greeted with a black screen and an error saying my up-to-date video drivers were insufficient. Apparently the game wouldn’t run without fictional drivers from the future! After traveling to 2013, assassinating the President of Peru, and downloading the new drivers, I was able to get the game running.*
Into the thick of things
There’s only one map (Operation Metro) and only one game mode (Rush) available in the beta, excluding of course the hacked servers that allow Conquest and a second area. But since I’m not keen on having my newly-formed Origin account banned for the highly insubordinate action of playing a different game mode, I stuck to the conventional gameplay… if not a tad begrudgingly.
Operation Metro first takes place in the outer reaches of the Parisian old city, with its iconic rounded-corner apartments and ohyeahtheeiffeltowerisinthebackground. As in Bad Company 2, the objective is to progressively destroy a pair of M-COM stations (I still don’t know what they’re supposed to represent) in order to unlock new areas and give the attacking team additional waves of reinforcements.
Unlike Bad Company 2, however, this map has absolutely no vehicles, meaning that penetrating the defensive wall of recon snipers can’t be accomplished with the aid of paratroopers or intimidating tanks. Instead, the suburban park is littered with shrubbery, playground equipment, and human corpses, which all make for suitable cover. Progression is slow, but I anticipate this will improve in the final game when more than one player on offense has unlocked smoke grenades and other means of obfuscation/diversion.
That said, I could barely figure out how to throw grenades, so my deaths were frequent and terrible. On many occasions I’d turn a corner and stare at another person for a whole two seconds before realizing he wasn’t on my team. Or I attempted to knife an enemy using my Bad Company melee hotkey, only to drop a grenade at my feet and simultaneously forgetting how to vault over walls. I’m sure my enemies had a good show of it.
But as time passed, I began to come to grips with the controls, the map layout, and the gameplay changes from Bad Company 2, and slowly fell in love with what feels like a well refined, carefully crafted military FPS experience.
What aspects of the gameplay were so great? And why should everyone be copying DICE’s mechanics right now? This article is already too damn long, so stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of my Battlefield 3 Beta Impressions.
*There may have been one or two game crashes in between, but the whole time travel thing makes it hard to remember.