Hands On: Battlefield 3 64 Player Conquest ModeBy Tom Yeates | August 19, 2011 | Previews | 6 comments | Share
I’m doing my best impression of the Terminator-esque Battlefield 3 theme right now. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) you can’t hear it…but be sure that I am doing it whilst you read this.
Aside from having great music in its trailers, Battlefield 3 has been a huge draw at gamescom, and the queue time yesterday for some people must have been around 4 hours. People are eager to play it and see what all the fuss is about and I am certainly no exception. Today I was able to dive into the Conquest mode on the newly announced Caspian Sea map and with 64 players, no less!
Shake That Class!
For those who are unaware, there are four playable classes: Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon. Assault combines the roles of Assault and Medic from Battlefield 2 (or swapping the ammo crate for medkits if you played Bad Company 2), a decision I think makes a lot of sense. You now have your “front line” infantry with the healing and resurrection capabilities, whilst also able to put out a lot of firepower with an Assault Rifle and a choice of several attachments, such as an underslung grenade launcher or shotgun barrel. Your can choose to drop the medkit for something else, providing flexibility for those who wish to avoid medical duties (shame on you!). I only had time to try a few guns, the M16 and the M413. Both felt solid and the bullet registration seems to be improved from previous games, which is definitely a step in the right direction. I can’t confirm if it is perfect, as this was obviously being played over a LAN rather than the internet, so it may have something to do with this. However, I was more than satisfied with it and it definitely feels a bit better than the spongy registration in Bad Company 2. The Assault class will definitely be familar to everyone who has played a Battlefield game before, and there are no real surprises in this regard.
The Support class has seen some changes, however. Machineguns felt a little underpowered at times in previous iterations and it often annoyed me when playing as a Medic in Bad Company 2. Now you are placed in a secondary role, providing heavy fire support and, importantly, ammunition to your team mates. The fire support is a key feature of the class now and something DICE has obviously been thinking a lot about. They’ve implemented a supression mechanic, which the support class excels in. Firing at an enemy puts him or her under pressure, your screen shakes a little and you find it a little harder to peek your head out and return fire. Machineguns fitted with bipods excel at this, and finally turn your gun into a tube of hot lead spewing death instead of an oversized pea shooter. I’m eager to get some time in with the support class, as it now feels like one of those things that can make the difference in infantry engagements.
Engineers haven’t changed much, they still have the capability to repair vehicles and they are still armed with anti-armour weaponry. The one tweak I have seen is that you are able to use carbine assault rifles now, such as the M4 instead of being limited to short range SMGs. I heartily welcome this change as it was something that has kept me away from Engineers in the past, especially on the larger maps. You may get a lot of kills spamming missiles down range but it kinda loses its fun after a short while…
Last but not least, given that I have a soft spot for the role, Recon has seen some changes to previous versions. Sniper rifles are, of course, still there, as is your sidearm, but you are also able to use a drone, which you can pilot around the map and view the battlefield in thermal mode, allowing you to assist in target spotting. DICE believes in Battlefield as a platform where team work drives success and the Recon class is geared to assist team play – it is called “Recon” for a reason. The sniper rifles also get bipods on their which can be deployed to assist in accuracy and reduce weapon sway, which felt like a great improvement whilst I was using it. The scopes are no longer full screen overlays but are now fully 3D, giving you back your peripheral vision. Sniping is one of my favourite roles in gaming and BF3 feels like it’s getting it right…I got a little teary eyed reminiscing about the sniping in Battlefield 1942…those were the days…
Sights, Sounds and
But returning to the present day…the game ran very smoothly on the machines they had here. The graphics are of course, excellent but the sound is best in class. Bad Company 2 had incredible sound and Battlefield 3 improves this further. Every weapon I used had a really meaty, satisfying punch to it and the ambient effects and sounds of distant firefights really add to the immersion. The sounds of jets once again speeding overhead is a welcome one, and whilst I didn’t have the opportunity to pilot one myself, there was a lot of interest in them (and a lot of deaths due to crashes).
Previous Battlefield games have been hits but this game aspires to be a blockbuster, and it feels like one too.
The 64 player version of Caspian Sea is huge, with 5 control points and naturally, 2 uncappable spawn points, which of course led to the age old problem of the map being so big that it practically required a vehicle for you to get around in to get into the action swiftly. The aforementioned jets were on full display, strafing back and forth…crashing and burning and the T-90s and M1A1s were rolling all over the place. I spent some time as a top gunner in an M1A1 and noticed they had changed the armour system a little. The tank is now able to fully deflect shots to its frontal armour, not every time, but our driver’s strong positioning allowed us to take out 3 enemy tanks before a missile finally finished us off (just after I had bailed out of course!).
It’s all standard Battlefield fare, we expect nothing less and that’s what Battlefield 3 feels like. Perhaps the combat leans more towards Bad Company 2 than Battlefield 2 – but the re-introduction of prone, and 64 player maps give it that old school Battlefield feel. Combine this with nice subtle changes, such as the addition of bipods and a supression mechanic and tweaking of the overall class system and we have a Battlefield experience that merges the core elements we’ve come to know and love with a freshness bolstered by excellent graphics, a fantastic destruction system and some of the best sound design the industry has to offer. Previous Battlefield games have been hits but this game aspires to be a blockbuster, and it feels like one too.