Though just a small slice of the pie to come, the Battlefield 3 public beta may signal the defeat of its one and only rival, Modern Warfare 3. Remember that despite all the reported bugs and fixes that's still ongoing, Battlefield 3 comes packing with its own story and co-op campaign to complement the meaty online multiplayer mode. Battlefield has always been about online. It's not so much the story it's trying to tell as it is capturing that feeling of team play in a massive battlefield, that feeling of contributing to the bigger picture despite being only a small squad of troopers. The beta does admittedly have more bugs and issues than I can appreciate, but when it works, it works beautifully. After all, it's only a beta and what's a beta if not for ironing out these niggling issues?
Let's get those issues out of the way first. Unstable connections seem to have been rectified in the latest update. Hit detection feels much more on target than before. Battlelog/Origin is still a nuisance of a platform to launch the game from and there are still too many that refuse to play the objective or support their teams when playing defence. The SVD needs a nerf while the so called Tactical Light needs to be adjusted to be fitting of its namesake (although these last two are just personal opinion).
So how exactly does the beta signal Modern Warfare 3's defeat? Firstly, the fact that so many people are playing and talking about it, regardless of whether its the common whinge that it's not Call of Duty or that it's not traditional Battlefield. It's hard to argue the power of word-of-mouth. Look at Dead Island as an example. It made its debut with a CGI trailer that was on the receiving end of both creative praise and critical grievances. On one hand, it really was a great trailer, on the other, it's a game from Techland and not a single cut of gameplay was shown. Yet it still managed to shift two million copies in its first week, despite a rocky launch on Steam. Secondly, we know next to nothing about what Modern Warfare 3 is going to offer other than more of the same.
How about Battlefield 3? Not only is it already an established franchise with a solid fanbase that will support it just because it's Battlefield, but DICE will undoubtedly deliver quality over anything else. What the beta has done, despite all technical intents and purposes, is give consumers a taste of the cake. The beta gives the general gaming community a chance to experience some of its new features like the Frostbite 2 engine, delivering top-notch visual and audio presentation. The suppression system, a new class and weapons progression system, going prone and little details like the glint off of scopes to help point out where campers lay hidden are just some of the really cool things about this game. Don't forget about the new community hub and what gamers can expect out of it. Tracking friends is an easy task, whether they play on PC, PS3 or Xbox 360, you can find just about anything you need on Battlelog. It's also no secret that DICE is going to be a big proponent of community related dealings, including the creative side what with gameplay commentaries and epic montages pouring into YouTube.
More importantly, the beta gives gamers a chance to see how the gameplay works and what it's like to play as a team. It's balanced, functional and easy to pick up as long as you kick that lone wolf mentality out of your head. Some of the hardcore may whinge about the influx of new players, but that is saying something. Despite the negativity surrounding EA's potshots at Call of Duty & Activision and despite the complaints from the user base about players that don't know how to play the objective, new players are still picking it up to give it a shot. The shooting mechanics feel tight, the team play feels right, the addiction and need to get that next unlock for your weapon of choice is a guilty pleasure, and hearing that final climactic beat of the Battlefield theme as the screen flashes white to say 'Your Team Won' gives not just the top players, but everyone on the team a sense of achievement.
Not to the detriment of Modern Warfare 3, but while DICE is doing everything in its power to make sure Battlefield 3 is a the top of its game, not just in terms of visuals and presentation, but also in gameplay and community, Activision will need to take a good long look at itself and what they're trying to bring to the table with Modern Warfare 3. Will it bring innovation and competition? Can fans expect something new or more of the same? Will it bring together a community? Or will the premium membership of Call of Duty Elite be the cause of segregation? Activision have been quite mum on these aspects and should they bring anything less than the experience this beta offers (or at least more than a repackaged Modern Warfare 2), it's hard to believe that it'll be able to top Battlefield 3.