E3 2011: Hands-on With Battlefield 3 Multiplayer

By Colin Tan on June 20, 2011, 4:26PM EDT
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I sat down in DICE's makeshift briefing room with my fellow troops. A slideshow was projected up on one wall, briefing us on the mission we were about to undertake. The objective was to take back the Paris Stock Exchange. We'd have to make our way through the streets; meanwhile, jets will soften up the resistance and we'd have to clear out the underground metro system before contacting the enemy infantry already dug in at the objective. It's a tough operation, but someone had to do it.

DICE didn't hold back on their closed-door presentation or demo of one of the most anticipated shooters of this year: Battlefield 3. We were quickly briefed by lead multiplayer designer Lars Gustafsson on some of the features we would see in Operation Metro, the multiplayer map that made its debut at E3 this year. Yes, Battlefield 3 is still a very class-based, team-play-centric game; yes, there is insane destruction; yes, there are vehicles; yes, you can deploy a bipod on sniper rifles and light-machine guns; yes, there's more, but I'll talk about that in a bit. For now, let's just get into the meat of things.

There are four main appointments to choose from, or at least DICE only showcased four at E3, including Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. The Assault appointment is the typical soldier class, equipped with an assault rifle and a med-kit, these guys are perfect for charging an objective and keeping the troops alive. Engineers are decked out with anti-tank weapons and a repair kit, enabling them to fix vehicles for the team. Support is just that, they lay down suppressive fire, paving the way for the rest of the team to push forward while also providing ammo re-sups. Recon is the sniper class, they can pick off enemy units from afar or set explosives while also providing important intel for the rest of the team.

Battlefield 3 - Patrolling the streets

Sitting my lovely bottom down on one of their bar stools in front of a PC, I was like a giddy little schoolboy just itching to get his hands on some candy. As the game of Rush on Operation Metro commenced, everyone picked their preferred classes. I chose Support, seeing as I'm already rather familiar with that appointment anyway.

The rules of Rush are simple, it's a game-type that sees Attackers plant explosives on M-Com stations in order to advance to the next area, in hopes of making it to the final objective before running dry on tickets. Meanwhile, Defenders, having infinite tickets, will do everything in their power to stop them. Once the first area is cleared, the next opens up, then the next and so on and so forth until the attacking team claims the final objective.

The first thing to note about the Support class is that they can finally deploy those nifty bipods attached to their weapons, enabling them to lay down some serious suppressive fire. Bipods can be deployed in a high-kneel or prone position on any surface that's sturdy enough and it's as simple as holding down on right-click. This plays into Battlefield 3's new Suppression system, which is a neat little feature that, regardless of whether those many rounds fired off hit an enemy or not, will affect and reduce the combat efficiency of those on the receiving end of said rounds by shaking and dimming their vision. And as fans of the series expect, this amounts to a Suppression score.

In any case, Operation Metro was a surprisingly small, but very focussed, map. It starts out in a relatively open park fit for flanking and whatnot before moving underground into the metro system where it's a long stretch of tracks to the station that opens into the street that is home to the Paris Stock Exchange. With at least 16 of us on either side, it was an intense firefight the whole way through. The LAV-25 vehicle is available on the map, but other than that there isn't a whole lot to vehicle variation. Operation Metro is a map built for infantry action.

Battlefield 3 - Contact!

Outside of Operation Metro, Gustafsson confirmed that Team Deathmatch will join the ranks of game-types in addition to Rush and the classic Conquest mode. Knife kills have been given a cosmetic makeover, making them a whole lot more dramatic. Not to mention, dog tags are fully customizable and will dynamically update player information "“ these can only be gained from a knife kill in the back. Flashlights can also be used as weapons to blind enemies. It's an interesting mechanic to say the least, and certainly very annoying when you're up close and on the receiving end.

On the community side of things, Battlefield 3 is all tied together by Battle Log, a suite of social networking tools for the community. It tracks player stats and information, allows players to form squads, platoons and connect in a variety of ways. Most importantly, it's free. I see what you did there, EA.

Battlefield 3 is set to make one hell of a splash on October 25 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. A multiplayer beta is planned for September. While some are crying foul, DICE also premiered the first gameplay footage of Battlefield 3 running on PS3 just last week. It obviously doesn't compare to the PC version, but it's easily one of the best looking shooters in comparison to the competition.

Oh, and DICE clearly let us win that game of Rush.

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