A new post on the Battlefield blog details Battlefield 3's vehicle classes and customisation options. There will be "over 80 unlockable specialization upgrades" across all vehicle classes. Each vehicle, whether it's a ground tank, an infantry transport, a chopper or a jet, will have three unlock slots, one for secondary weapons, one for gadgets and one for more general upgrades. Kills and experience earned when driving or piloting a vehicle will unlock more upgrades. DICE say we can expect to see a similar level of customisation to Battlefield 3's weapons , which they detailed in a blog post last week.
Beyond the new levels of customisation, some significant changes have been made to the way vehicles take damage. Lightly bruised vehicles will now recover over time, providing you don't take more damage as the vehicle is healing. Beyond a certain level of damage, war machines won't recover health at all. DICE say this is to give non-engineer drivers and pilots a better chance of survival in the heat of battle.
Engineers will still have the advantage of being able to jump out of a tank and give it a quick mend under fire, and their urgent assistance will be even more essential in Battlefield 3. Badly damaged vehicles will now break down once they've taken enough damage. Tanks will slow to a crawl and catch fire, ready to explode in moments unless vital repairs are made.
Their weapons will still be active, however. Dice hope this will create tense risk/reward gambles. You're an assault infantryman in a flaming tank, do you trust your engineers enough to stay in the vehicle and fire off some vital final shots? Or do you bail and run screaming for the hills?
"Disabling means you no longer have to chase a vehicle that's low on health to repair it," says the blog post. That's good news for engineers used to panicked tanks reversing into their face during vital repairs in Bad Company 2. "In a way, the repair tools are the new defibrillators, bringing a vehicle back into the fight from the brink of death."
You can see plenty of tanks on fire in the Battlefield 3 Thunder Run trailer , and a multitude of exploding war machines in the spectacular Battlefield 3 Caspian Border multiplayer map trailer shown at Gamescom last month.