GC 2011: Hands-on with Battlefield 3 multiplayer


We’ve all seen the single player trailer for Battlefield 3; it looks great, there’s no doubt about it, but for many people, the multiplayer component of the game is what will really grab (and keep) their attention. DICE is certainly aware of this, and have been working hard to make sure that BF3’s multiplayer mode is their best yet, and can hold its own against the current big dogs in the business. It shouldn’t be too tough for them to manage: the Battlefield series has a long tradition of solid multiplayer gaming, but with Bad Company 2 leaving a few people disappointed (granted, not everyone), DICE need to ensure that they learn from any mistakes they may have made in the past. To see what we can expect when the game launches on the 27th of October, we joined in a 64 player multiplayer game of Conquest on the Gamescom show floor; this is what we thought of the experience…

Before jumping into battle, we were given the chance to select a squad or switch teams (USA or Russia) and choose our class from the roster of four: Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon. Being the run-and-gun type, I chose Assault and equipped my character with an MP7 and defibrillator pads so that I could revive downed players in the field. However, it wasn’t long before I realised that the map we were playing on – Caspian Border – was absolutely huge, with fewer opportunities for close-quarters combat than that in the open fields. Your choice of weapon will not only affect movement speed, bullet spread, damage and all the other regular factors, but will greatly affect how useful you are at long distance shooting due to the application of physics in bullet trajectories. Attempting to hit an enemy who is 500 metres away with an SMG will be difficult: the bullets fly slower, thus taking longer to reach their target, and will be more easily affected by gravity. Once I had this figured out, I switched over to an assault rifle – the AKS74U with attached ACOG scope – and found it much easier to find my targets at long distances.

Conquest is all about capturing and holding positions scattered around the map. On Caspian Border, there were five points to hold: an elevated communications station, the central forest, a gas station with surrounding buildings, another elevated position called hilltop, and the checkpoint on the border itself. Each position encourages its own type of gameplay, but the long distances between each point means that you either have to be sneaky enough to avoid being shot in the open, or hitch a ride with the nearest tank, APC, helicopter or jet.

Ah, jets. You have to love them, even if they’re chasing you down across the map, firing missiles and spraying high-calibre minigun rounds at anything that moves. The vehicles have had plenty of work done to them; they look and sound fantastic, and are much more impressive and realistic than anything the BF series has offered before, even the recent Bad Company 2. Dogfighting is possible, although challenging enough to keep noobs like me out of the cockpit, and the sound of an overhead helicopter is enough to drive terror into the heart of even the most fierce tank commander. And if you’re on foot, you had better be packing an RPG.

Something that has concerned a lot of people, including many of us at the NAG office, is the feel of the game – the movement; aiming and firing the weapons; the responsiveness of the weapons and visual/audial feedback provided to the player during combat. I’m happy to say that the combat feels fantastic. Weapons are responsive and deliver the damage you’d expect them to, and the Frostbite 2 engine allows for incredible explosions from tank shells, missiles and even frag grenades; chunks of concrete and pieces of fencing will be strewn around, which has the implications of not only changing your potential movement paths through the maps, but also removes cover or provides new options.

Another great feature is the inclusion of suppressive fire. Whenever you shoot past an enemy (in their path or over their head, for example), their vision will become slightly blurred and their accuracy will be reduced. The more you fire, and the more powerful your weapon, the heavier this effect will be, to the point where having an entire squad laying down suppressive fire at an enemy position will force them to retreat to cover or land themselves in more trouble than they can manage.

Before we knew it, our 17 minutes with the game were up. I’d love to play more, and Miklós, who tends to avoid multiplayer games like this, is still going on about how he had an awesome time with the game. We’re not the type of site that would prematurely nominate BF3 a COD killer, but we know that it’s on people’s minds. All that we can say right now is that it’s a serious contender, and this year’s multiplayer FPS crown is fair game right now. All we can do from this point is wait for the games to be released.