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TVG's office team-building exercise translates our FPS skills to Hampshire's New Forest....
When it comes to office team-building exercises, the options are as varied as they are expensive: go-karting, indoor skydiving, trips in a balloon, bull's-eyeing womp rats... okay, not the last one, but you get the idea – you can do loads of stuff. Should you choose to go down the realistic combat experience route, the options are similarly plentiful: piantballing, airsoft, laser-tag. It's a veritable menagerie of ever-more creative ways for humans to shoot at each other without actually dying, long may that pass-time continue (perhaps all wars should be fought that way, in fact). But we've become a little tired with these options over the years – laser-tag and quasar are filled with rambunctious 10 year-olds, while paintball and airsoft are populated by overly keen 30 year-olds with custom weapons that cost a packet. For TVG's office team-building exercise, we wanted something a little more refined; more elite. We wanted Battlefield Live.
Set in Hampshire's New Forest, our Battlefield Live location (of which there are dozens in the UK) was a dense forest about 200 metres in length and around half that in width with plenty of shrubbery and obstacles to take cover behind, trenches to stealthily crawl through, and high-ground to dominate. It was, in effect, a little slice of wargaming heaven. But where Battlefield Live's particular brand of outdoor combat experience really sets itself apart from the competition is the guns. Using patented SATR technology, Battlefield Live's guns utilise an infra-red detection system that accurately registers and traces shots fired over a range of up to 300 metres. The guns tell you when you've successfully hit another opponent, if you've been shot yourself, and how much ammo and health you've got left; they've got toggle buttons for semi- or fully-automatic fire, realistic gunfire sound-effects, and even simulated muzzle flashes whenever you pull the trigger.
The detail doesn't stop there either. Guns come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, each one representing a specific type of firearm that can be programmed to precisely emulate models of real-world weapons. Take the Spitfire Machine Pistol (shown left): it's a sub-machine gun that can emulate an MP5, Uzi, and Sten MKII amongst a variety of others. Our group played with a range of guns that included the Spitfire, another sub-machine gun called the Scorpion, the Commando Carbine assault rifle, and Morita sniper rifle (all of which are shown in order from left to right in the image below). They range in weight from 2.2kg to 4.3kg and all come with tailored accessories. The Morita, for example, comes fitted with a powerful scope (we're talking count-the-freckles-on-somebody-50-metres-away powerful) that features an electronic zoom and flashing crosshairs whenever you successfully land a shot on the enemy. All three of the other weapons then come with a helpful laser dot sight, which is so well engineered that it'll pull ever so slightly away from the centre of the crosshair as you scour the battlefield, effectively taking angular momentum into account (just like in the pros).
It's enough to make the guy from FPS Russia blush. And yet there's more, video game fans! Battlefield Live's format has been built around the likes of Activision's Call of Duty and EA's Battlefield series. It's all about the balancing of different gun classes and how useful these various classes are in different game types. For example, while it can take up to five direct hits to record a kill with the sub-machine gun and assault rifle gun models, the Morita sniper rifle is a one-shot, one-kill weapon. 'Surely that will unbalance the classes though!' we hear you cry – not so. Because the Morita is around twice as heavy as the sub-machine guns, your movement is considerably slowed as a result (in fact, the officials don't like you running with the sniper rifle lest you break their expensive toy). As a result, as a sniper you'll have to find a spot from where you can camp and pick enemies off from a distance. If any adversaries get in close, then they'll easily outflank you and make a mockery of your powerful scope and the gun's 300m range.
The sub-machine gun is all about manoeuvrability, then; it's about skipping through the undergrowth like a panther and outflanking other players with heavier weaponry. Because they have a faster rate of fire, these sub-machine guns also have a slight advantage over the assault rifles at close range, although this is then balanced by the fact that the assault rifles have a longer range of 160m (the Spitfire and Scorpion can only manage 120m). The actual games in Battlefield Live are mostly team-based (although we did play one free-for-all deathmatch), so a healthy mix of all the various gun types will effectively turn your team into a well oiled killing machine. When playing a game of capture the bag, you'll need sniper and assault rifles to cover the base, and then sub-machine guns to move-in on the enemy's bag. We also participated in games of Demolition, where one team has to hide a claymore mine and the other must seek out and destroy it to win the game (blowing up all enemy's in the claymore's vicinity while there at it). Fast-moving 'spotters' are particularly useful for breaching the other team's perimeter and locating the claymore, but a sniper can be equally useful to destroy the mine from a long way off before the enemy even knows what's hit it.
What really struck us about Battlefield Live is just how close it is to first-person shooters in the video game world, which is a particularly strange comparison to make given that we'd usually be measuring games against real-world authenticity. Paintball and airsoft can have their mock-bullets means that matches tend to gravitate towards a hailstorm of fire with no room for tactics or strategy (not to mention the expensive consumption of ammo). Battlefield Live is something different. It's the Enemy At The Gates to paintball's Commando; the Black Hawk Down to airsoft's Rambo III. It requires a little thought, you see, and the ability to execute clear and proper orders. It's something altogether more sophisticated.
To find out more about Battlefield Live, click here to check out the website of the location we visited in the New Forest (you can also find them on Facebook), or alternatively take a gander at the main Battlefield Live site.
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