The Battlefield 3 Beta is in full force, running with hundreds of dedicated servers on the three major platforms. The game’s a direct sequel to Battlefield 2, with some of the modernity and game-types from the Bad Company series snuck in for good measure. It’s also a direct competitor to another shooter titan, that game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
The Beta encompasses only a single map, the infantry only Operation Metro, and one game type: Rush. While you’re limited in these regards, the map is large and varied, and all of the game’s weapons and other items are available to unlock.
The map isn’t what you’d call a typical Battlefield experience. There are no vehicles, and little open space after the first stage. There is still a lot more creative freedom than in Call of Duty multiplayer maps, but for a Battlefield map Operation Metro is stifling.
Even so, it’s brilliant. The levels look fantastic, from the wooded park of the first stage, through the dark and memorable subway tunnels, and out through the terminal into the streets beyond. You never feel like there’s only one path to an objective, something that destroyed Medal of Honor as a serious multiplayer title. You have choice, both in your route and your methods. It feels good.
There are still quite a few bugs in the game.
In the first stage near one of the M-COM stations, there is a sizeable underground area that you can fall into, making it difficult to leave but also allowing you to shoot through the ground at players. There are incredibly amusing animation bugs, where players can have extended necks, giant eyes or simply lie on the ground in a jumble of bodyparts whilst continuing to gun down unwitting passersby.
Balance is another problem. One weapon type, the SMG, grants significant XP rewards from its use due to near-constant awarding of an SMG-related badge. Some weapons feel underpowered, and others feel too deadly. Players can also take more damage than intended because they were moving when shot.
But for all of these issues, the Battlefield 3 Beta is an incredibly enjoyable experience. The Beta is quite an old build of the game too, as it needed to be submitted for Microsoft and Sony certification some time ago, and the DICE development team assure me that they’ve already fixed many of these issues since then.
I’ve been playing the Battlefield series since it began in 2002 with Battlefield 1942, and this is my favourite iteration of the series, beating out the future-set Battlefield 2142 and last year’s incredible Bad Company 2. With a combination of lush visual and aural environments, team-centric gameplay and an emphasis on player choice, Battlefield 3 is looking very good indeed.
The Battlefield 3 Beta is free to play on all three platforms — 360, PS3 and PC — until the 10th of October. The game proper comes out on the 25th in the US, and the 27th in Europe. Try it out, and see why Modern Warfare 3 might just have met its match.