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Battlefield 3 Impressions!

Earlier today I was hanging out at PAX East and decided to have a look at Battlefield 3. Every time I looked at the Battlefield booth the line was long, this was very discouraging but since it was the last day I had to get in there. I would have failed as a gamer to have been at PAX East 2011 which had the hottest new shooter in the works known to man and I wasn’t going to see it. I walked up to the counter and started speaking with the nice EA man. He was pleasant, but me waving the media badge had no affect on him. It was like a bad Star Wars episode, you know when Obi Wan Kenobi plays his Jedi Mind trick on the Stormtroopers in Episode IV to let him, Luke and the two Driods pass. Well it was like that except this guy wasn’t weak minded, he stood firm. I looked around and decided I had no choice, media or not I wasn’t getting in there any other way, ironically the line ended right where I was standing so I didn’t really have to go far.

So the demo starts of several seconds before the video below which I am sure most of you have seen. The only thing that happens is that your squad gets and order which is why your vehicle stops. You guys go meet one of the big wigs whom tells you that another part of your squad is in a bad part of town, contact has been lost and it’s your job to go get them out.

At about the 1 minute and 30 second mark as the screen fades out and fades back in showing you guys running up to a building has a piece of the video cut out. It doesn’t really cut out a lot. The only thing that happens after you go up the stairs and into that room is that you guys get against a wall because the insurgents drive by in their typical insurgent type jeep. Since there are a lot of insurgents in that area you guys just hang out quietly until they pass. Once they are gone that is were the video picks back up. Once you run through the building and your squad member gets shot you drag him off. This is something that you actually need to do, as you can see the keys light up towards the very bottom of the video showing you how to do it. Once you pull him far enough into the building you lean him against a wall and go back out there and pop some rounds off.

Here’s the thing about this game, this isn’t just another shooter. By now you are probably saying “no **** sherlock” but it’s true. This game is as much about immersion as it is about being a first person shooter. The team at DICE wanted to put you right in the action, really wanted you to feel everything that is going around you, as well as the environment. When all hell breaks loose, and the APL (insurgents) as they are known in the game shoot the RPG at the van that you are crouching next to, is really when you start to understand it. Just look at the explosion, look at the affect it has on your guy as he gets bounced back and hits the ground. This is just like a movie, it really pulls you into the story as you pick up your jaw from the ground.

So what happen next you ask? Well once you recover and kill some of the other insurgents near you, you get close enough to the building where the insurgent with the RPG is hanging out and deliver him from evil. How do you do that you ask? Well the guy that was actually controlling the game threw a grenade up there. After a few seconds you see an explosion, some of the concrete wall that he was using for cover blow to hell and him along with it. I couldn’t help but throw a big grin on my face when that happened. It felt like the bastard final got what he asked for after giving you so much trouble. So now that Mr. RPG is out of the way, you and your squad head back inside for cover to check on your injured comrade. This is where the screen went black, but it wasn’t the end. We were then told that the squad worked their way up onto the roof. To look for that sniper that shot your buddy earlier.

You start standing next to a wall and for good reason, if you move and part of your body is in the snipers view you can kiss it good by. Two of your squad mates actually argue about which type of rifle the sniper is using as he shoots at the flower pots to intimidate you. Here is another awesome example of how the roof top and view look, not to mention how freaking awesome the pots look as they explode from getting tore into pieces of clay from the high powered sniper rifle. To add to that, words don’t do the sound effects justice in this game so I won’t even waste your time trying to describe it. Just believe me when I say my mind blown! So finally you and your squad mates lay down on your bellies and start to crawl your way to to edge of the build in the direction the sniper is shooting from, at this point the sniper fire intensives as the sniper is fully aware of your presence and knows he has to do something. As he keeps firing everyone pulls into position. One of your buddies rolls the rocket launcher over to you and tells you to make it count. As pieces of the wall start to crack and fall apart from the snipers shooting you can’t help but notice a light emit from the nuzzle of his sniper rifle. As your guys all pop up and give you suppressive fire you manage to fire off a missile that fly’s towards the area of the building where the sniper is camping from. All of a sudden you see a massive blast, and for a second it looked like the entire building was going down. Right away I thought that was over excessive but the building never went down. When the rocket impacted the building all of the dust and debris shot out and made me think that the building was heading down. At this point we were told it was okay to clap, but I don’t think we were on the same page as the EA guys. We were still trying to figure out if what we saw was real. None of us in that room had every seen anything like it, we were all totally blown away.

After game play was resumed we found ourselves in the next section of the game which is in the next video. When it starts just skip 30 seconds in. This was leaked footage from GDC 2011, surprised it hasn’t been pulled yet. Do remember that the video you are about to watch looks like crap, not sure what was used to capture the footage but it wasn’t very good at all. Wonder if it has anything to do with why everyone was so up tight about taking footage of the game at PAX East 2011. I had a nice little SONY 1080 Handycam with me, I would have totally taken care of them. It would have totally saved me time from remembering everything that I saw 7 hours ago.

So as your inside the vent there is another tremor, if you watch and listen closely you will see it. More amazing affects take place here, you actually see some of the vent get crushed on the side and dust fall from the top. Once you jump down, run up to the bomb and try to defuse it here is where it gets even more exciting, as you defuse a portion of the bomb you turn around and get rocked by one of the insurgents. Once again I jumped the gun here. Totally misjudged DICE again, I thought I was playing your typical shooter here and thought this is the part where you get knocked out and dragged into a cage. Boy was I wrong, you actually have to press buttons and fight with the evil doer. Talk about a high action packed game, the only thing that might be missing from this scene is sex. I mean you have a guy crawling through a vent, trying to defuse a bomb, get attacked by someone and duke it out. It was nice to see innovation again, taking a head butt from the guy, recovering and throwing him up against the fence just to see him bounce off it like you would in real life was amazing. Then with seconds to spare you defuse the bomb as the bomb is about to go off. This was totally a Hollywood moment, that and someone shouting from the back off the room “kick his ass”. So once the bomb is defused and the baddie has drifted of into a deep sleep you can skip to a minute and six.

This completes the end of what we saw, which so far hasn’t been released into the public. I think that on the 16th that will all change, keep your eyes on the Battlefield 3 website for Part 2 of the video.

So in my closing notes, the game is a whole lot more realistic and immersive. The explosions and fires make you feel like your really there, just look at how animated the soldiers are when they are running or moving. This has nothing to do with cinematics. Even after a battle when vehicles have exploded and are just burning, the smoke that is in the air looks just as it does in a movie. I guess these are the results you get when you look back at your work, ask yourself how you want to improve it, toss away all of the code and start from scratch remembering fully well what you need to do to make it that much better. That and around six years of work on and off on an engine that is now the Frostbite 2 Engine. Hopefully the competition has been working on something as well instead of rehashing their games because EA’s shooter is starting to look extremely good right now. Look for the game on store shelves in the Fall of ’11.