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Deep in the trenches of E3, TVG goes hands-on with Battlefield 3's multiplayer for the first time...
The PR machine is in full swing as EA goes head-to-head with Activision over this holiday season's battle to become the number one near-future shooter, with even the main entrance to LA's Convention Centre adorned with the Battlefield 3 banner during this year's E3. Both a first-ever demonstration of the game's tank gameplay and the October 25th release date (giving it a three week head start over Modern Warfare 3) were revealed during EA's press conference, but it was on the showfloor itself that we got our hands on with the game. Battlefield has always been about the multiplayer, and of course this is what EA was so keen to show off at its booth.
EA DICE's veteran Creative Director, Lars Gustavsson, was on-hand to demonstrate all of the new features that Battlefield 3 will include. We'll see a return to the series' excellent vehicle combat, with the fondly remembered fighter jets making a comeback, as well as an all-new tank capable of carrying you and five of your squad-mates around at a time. This could surely be a perfect opportunity to set up some sweet mine multi-kills, or conversely to launch a concentrated attack upon one of the game's multiplayer objectives.
The franchise's famous Rush and Conquest modes are still present, and a supposedly highly sought-after Team Deathmatch mode also rears its ugly head for the first time in a Battlefield game. It's hard to see this as anything other than a pandering to the masses in order to more effectively compete with Infinity Ward's impending behemoth, as all veteran Battlefield players know very well that DICE's games have never been about racking up kills. Whether this focus upon kill counts will hamper the quality of the teamwork and objective-based play of the classic modes remains to be seen, but there is a large and vocal fan-base of the series that is fiercely proud of Battlefield's co-operative distinction from its contemporaries.
Other concessions to the competition are a bombastic, globe-trotting, Neo-Conservative nonsense storyline and customisable dog-tags, to be collected upon knife kills. These playercards, sorry, dog-tags, can show a range of different player information, from clan insignias to air kills to number of stabs, which dynamically update as the player progresses.
In Battlefield 3, players will have the opportunity to gain points without actually killing the enemy, or directly completing objectives. One of the new ways they can do this is by laying down suppressing fire, covering the advance of their team-mates and scoring points for doing so. Also included is a personal torch for each soldier, so that the darker tunnels and caves can be navigated with greater illumination, though this certainly leaves room for tactical stealth play when they're turned off. For the first time in an FPS, we're told, players can now mount their LMG weapons onto pretty much any surface, granting them greater accuracy and stability, at a cost to mobility. Even players who use guns other than LMGs will finally be able to go prone, as the game now lets you shimmy down onto your stomach in the same way Call of Duty has allowed for years.
When actually in control, it feels much more agile than ever before. Strafing and leaping around flows smoothly, and navigating round and over obstacles is both easy and stylish. The city of Paris and its underlying network of subways were the setting for the map we played; Frostbite 2's awesome engine rendered the environments in stunning detail and furthermore, let you tear it apart. Blowing huge holes in buildings and shattering enemy cover is par for the course here, and it's amazing to see the environments crumble as the matches progress.
In a closely-fought victory against other E3 attendees, TVG came out on top, commanding an elite squad of four journalists through each wave of explosive objectives in Rush mode. Countless hours of Bad Company surely contributed to our success, and it's quite indicative of how similar this game plays to DICE's most recent Battlefield release. However, that was always to be expected, and Battlefield 3 looks set to be the biggest and best Battlefield title yet, with minor but carefully placed improvements in every area. As it heads into the last few months of development it will be interesting to see what elements they can conjure up to differentiate it from Modern Warfare 3, which at the moment looks to be almost indistinguishably good.