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Battlefield 3 Beta Impressions

I'd like to start out by making it clear that I'm not a fanboy.

I must say that I have never played a Battlefield game before, except for a few matches against bots of BF2142. This happened for two reasons: first, I only bought a PS3 last year and I didn't want to buy BC2 just to see it become obsolete when they released BF3. And second, I've never had a PC which was good enough to run any game whatsoever (except for WC3, but that's not my point). Now that I have a console and a PC and the beta was open, I decided to try it out to see what I'd think about it. I'm more used to simpler games such as CoD, but I wanted to see if BF was just as tactical and strategic as people claim it is.

The result? It's pretty far from what fanboys and DICE claim it is.

I've played plenty of matches on the PC and about 5 on the PS3, and they all played pretty much the same way. I've encountered many glitches, which is exactly what I expected, considering it's a beta, so I'm not taking them in consideration.

My first playthrough on the PC was also the first time I've played a FPS in a computer in about 1 year and a half, so I spent a lot of time dying and running around to get to know the controls and stuff, but I had a lot of trouble to find out controls because you can only access the menu when you're alive - when you're dead you can't do absolutely anything other than watch your killer. After getting used to the controls I started playing seriously. I chose the Recon class because it's the sniperish one, and I've heard very nice things about sniping in BF. I loved the spotting idea, but I couldn't pick Recon to go spotter-only because of the map they've picked for the Beta. I must say that Metro is one of the most awful maps I've ever played in my life, because it was simply filled with campers and had one section on which the devs hadn't finished the textures and 3D models for the game and decided to destroy all the lights so people wouldn't notice (yes, I'm talking about you, 2nd part of the map). And yet, there were still people that could shoot me from a hundred yards away with a SMG. I won't complain about guns and balance because the game is a beta, but still. They could've made it lighter so people could actually see things.

The gameplay was nice overall. Guns seemed balanced, the shootings were intense and it indeed had a lot of strategy involved. Squads would move pretty much together, covering areas and defending or attacking the objectives together, and it really gives you a sense of organization and tactic. The Recon class didn't seem right to me though. All the others would have a specific strategy in mind. The Assault would (duh) assault the objective, rushing to it and then defend it once the bomb had been planted. The Engineer is supposed to use vehicles and repair them, but it wasn't possible to see how that would work out. The Support class used a machine gun and it's meant to provide suppresive fire. The Recon class seemed out of place, because it was some sort of lonely wolf that is underpowered. It'd sneak alone to sniping positions and quickly die, because sniper rifles don't kill enemies that easily. Or maybe I just didn't understand it and need more time to practice.

The Frostbite 2 engine, praised by its awesome graphics, sound effects and destruction.. is not that awesome after all. Yes, the sound effects are great, and if you have surround sound on your PC or console, you will surely feel like you're inside the battlefield, with bullets streaming overhead and explosions sounding just like I believe they are in real life (I've never actually blow stuff up enough to know how it sounds - sry). And yes, the destruction is also very good, and almost everything has the ability to be destroyed and break into pieces. That includes trees, walls, props, benches, posters, cars and more. The graphics, however, are far from what DICE promised. I'm running the game with all settings maxed on my PC and they look far from what they've promised it would be. Lightining effects aren't really that realistic and when light hits some stuff like boxes or even people, they don't reflect as they should. With people, it looks like people are completely leveled, and magazines and other things in your uniform just don't reflect the light the way they should. The textures aren't that great either. In some parts, such as big buildings, floors and walls, the textures are good looking and highly defined, but in smaller objects like posters and ground clutter, they look awfully detailed.

Don't get me wrong, but the graphics overall are really good-looking, but it's far from what we've been promised. Yes, I do know DICE said the game is still in beta and the final version will look better and everything, but I doubt it will. I mean, the game will be released in 20 days. It has probably already gone gold and production of discs must've started already. If it hasn't, they don't have enough time to tune the engine enough though, so I guess graphics are already in final.

Now, please let me compare my experiences with the PC and PS3.

On the PC, everything ran smoothly and graphics were just as I described above. I rarely had any sort of lag and issues, and, to be honest, I only faced minor bugs and a few crashes and even less slowdowns. On the other hand, the PS3 version was completely awful. I suffered from major lag and hit detection was just awful (BF3 fanboys that claim Black Ops had awful hit detection, I must say your game's hit detection isn't that great either). I shot guys with the sniper 1, 2, 3 times and the game even did show me the little X that marks when you've hit your enemy, but he didn't feel a thing. Also, sometimes I clearly shot my enemy in the chest or the head and the game didn't mark the shot at all.

The game is still in beta, though, so please ignore all those complaints above.

The PS3 version's graphics were awful. Textures had incredibly low-res and almost all objects had jagged edges. Some of them had more noticeable jags, others not so much, but it was still annoying. I also noticed a lot of framerate issues, with actions as simple as me, sprinting alone, slowing down the whole game. After playing two matches, I also felt the console to see how warm it was and it was pretty hot. More than 10 minutes later, still a little bit warm. It amazes me that the PS3's graphics were so bad, considering that Crysis 2 had really good looking graphics on the PS3 (and I didn't notice any differences between the Crysis 2 beta on PC and PS3, graphics-wise AND bug-wise.)

Battlefield 3 seems to be fun overall, but it still suffers from a few issues. DICE has to fix a lot of those problems before shipping the game, otherwise the end result will be far from what has been promised, and it'll be very bad for the BF community. I believe it's got a lot of potential, but the beta was just not right. They've picked a bad map for it, and it ruined a lot of the potential. They've promised us a lot of vehicles and they gave us a map without any vehicles at all. They've promised huge maps, and they gave us a map that wasn't really a big one (I mean, it's huge, but in Rush you just spend a lot of time in one section then move to another one and then you move to another one and so on).

The Stagnation of the Call of Duty Series

Lately we have been receiving more information about how the new Battlefield game is going to be. It's going to be released on Fall 2011, at about the same time of the release of the new Call of Duty game. Due to that, many people are now deciding which one they're going to buy, and that is bad news for Activision.

The Call of Duty series has been pretty much the same since the beginning, and they haven't been making anything really new since they made the Zombie mode. So, essencially, people pay 60 dollars for the game and may pay 15 dollars for every DLC every year just to change the year in which the game is. The game is the same, but the setting changes. The first game for all platforms in the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, was set in the year 2011, then World at War happened during World War 2. Then it came MW2, which was set in 2016 and now there's Black Ops, which is set during the Cold War.

Although I haven't played Call of Duty 1, 2 and 3, I am familiar with the series, for I have played MW, WaW, MW2 and Black Ops. I must say that there haven't been great changes. In fact, the only difference between Modern Warfare and Black Ops are: Zombie Mode, pro perks and the weapons. Oh, and with every release in the CoD franchise, the developers screw up a little bit more the respawn system in the game, making spawn camping easier and easier. Oh, and they also make it harder and harder to use snipers.

Now let's talk about Battlefield: I have never played any games in the series, but I've seen a ton of videos, a friend of mine showed it to me once and I've seen what is it like. It's far more complete than Call of Duty, because not only it has plenty of guns, different classes that perform different tasks, but it also has vehicles, multiplayer with more people and bigger maps. All those features, added to the great Frostbite engine that allows destruction of buildings and has great graphics, Battlefield 3 is a strong candidate to take down Call of Duty.

Of course people won't just quit playing Call of Duty to play Battlefield, specially because CoD really is a great franchise, but as soon as people realize it has stopped in time, there will be fewer and fewer people to play it.

Games' manuals

For most of the time, people have been buying games the same way: going to a store and buying the game from the box. What happens if you lose the CD or the CD-Key? Most of the times, you lost the game and the only way for getting the game back is buying the game again. There are 2 other options though. Blizzard, in example, offers a simple method for playing their games if you lose the CD by any reason. For World of Warcraft, you can always download the game and then you enter your account info and you'll play again on your account, without losing anything. For Warcraft III, you go to an website and enter your CD-Key and you'll then download the game and play again.

However, lately stores like Steam and even App Store are changing the way people buy games. Those stores allow you to download the game and if you delete the installer, you'll just enter your account again, which is something most companies don''t allow you to do.

This 'advantages' really helps the companies. Imagine the money they waste by distributing the game, making the CDs, the boxes, the manuals and everything. Recently, Ubisoft announced that would stop making the manuals and putting them inside the games. They claim that it would help saving trees (which is actually true), but since they won't reduce price, the only ones who lose are the gamers.

I don't know about most people, but I've always loved to check the manual of the game before playing. It's part of the whole gaming experience. You buy the game, and when you're doing the unboxing, you get the manual and check it out. It's also very useful to read the manual whenever you have a doubt during the game. I don't know the way they'll do it but if you have to leave the game to read the manual it'll really ruin part of the game.

Imagine if you buy a console and the box is arranged the most simple way possible, and it only contains the console, cables and controller. It'll feel like something is missing. And that'd be the manual, tips, safety warnings. Most of it isn't useful, but it is part of the experience. It's hard to describe it, but it's easy to imagine. You buy your brand new PS3 and it comes without manual. Or you buy your brand new top-of-the-line notebook and it doesn't come with that bunch of useless CDs of drivers and stuff. It'll feel like something is missing.

I hope that Ubisoft will find a way to make the in-game manuals easy to use and that they will at least make up for it. Reducing the price of their games is something that most people should find very attractive.