E3 2011: Battlefield 3 hands on preview

Battlefield 3 Thumbnail

Battlefield 3 is the best looking game on the showfloor, I think. But the good news is that it plays well; it's familiar enough to instantly make you fall into some of the same routines: shoot, spot, move to cover. But it has improvements to the feel of the game that make it a significant step up from Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

First, some facts and changes.

All four classes are back, but there are slight modifications to what they can do, The assault class has been given some of the medic abilities (although there was no clarification on what they were are). Support class now has a bipod on which they can mount their machine guns. And there's a suppression mechanic for support gunners which means that if a machine gunner lets rip even on a player behind cover, their combat effectiveness will be diminished. Engineers now have a flashlight. Sucks to be an engineer.

The multiplayer demo is a Rush mode – taking place in the middle of Paris. It opens in a park where the enemy have installed anti-air rockets. If the attackers take them down, they'll move on through a subway, and then out into the Paris streets. What impressed me was the variation in each level. Whereas Bad Company 2 levels can feel very one-note, here, the progression was clear, and it made it more fun.

In play, I had a ridiculous amount of fun, first tooling around in an APC lobbing shells at the defending enemy, then switching to a support gunner. The weight and heft of the machine gun is really, really exciting; and spraying bullets down a crowded corridor is extremely satisfying. Particularly when it pops up with 100XP – ENEMY KILL each time someone walks into your rain of fire.

There were a couple of interesting tweaks to movement in the game, too. Now, players can slide and mantle ledges, seeing their legs jump over the obstacle. It reminds me of how Faith would jump over a crate or box in Mirror's Edge. Really nice. Second, the knife has been tamed everso slightly – now you can only grab dogtags from back kills with knife, but it's also a flick knife, rather than the wall wreaking monster from Bad Company 2.

Also confirmed but not shown: Team Deathmatch, and Conquest from launch. And it will come with a new feature called Battlelog, which will track stats and kills and interesting facts about your play all the time. You'll also be able to customize your dog-tag, a la Call Of Duty.

Oh, and jets are back. Wheeee!

It looks great. And it plays great. And it was playing on PC. Much to the chagrin of the various retail buyers I crushed. Sorry about that, retail buyers.