Battlefield 3 Beta - Hands On - October 5th 2011

Powered by a brand new engine, upgraded multiplayer functionality, and a truckload of hype, Battlefield 3 is almost upon us. The open beta has been unleashed into the eager, judgemental hands of gamers worldwide, as DICE prep their servers and bug test their way to victory. There's world holes, graphical weirdness, and connection errors aplenty, but underneath the work in progress exterior is a sensational FPS that could very well turn out to be the defining shooter of this generation.

As a huge fan of the genre, my expectations were pretty high. EA have spent millions assuring us that this will be the finest game in the series, and their biggest videogame launch of recent times. These aren't claims to be taken lightly. This beloved franchise has repeatedly propelled online multiplayer to new heights for countless PC and console gamers, and so I'm sure the developers are feeling the pressure to deliver a quality product. Thankfully, this beta offers a delicious, albeit glitchy, taste of what we can expect later this month when the full game launches on October 28th.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but Battlefield 3 is shaping up very nicely.

In terms of gameplay, the fluidity of player movement has been vastly improved. Vaulting animations add a greater sense of weight to your character, and there's a slight visual drift as you pan across the screen. Transitions between different stances are also very smooth, especially when you throw yourself down into prone in order to take cover in a pinch. The dog tag stealing stealth kill is also an absolute treat, and reinforces the notion that DICE have put a fair amount of work into improving context sensitive interactions.

Combat, on the whole, is great. There's an appropriate kick to most weapons, and the thud of a grenade explosion is magnificent. It should be noted that you'll need to have lightening fast reflexes and make regular use of cover to get ahead here. This is a hardcore game through and through, and there's some highly skilled players doing the rounds already. Admittedly, it doesn't take much to put someone down (although hit detection is a bit wonky at times), so checking corners and generally being careful is crucial. Rush tactics fail more often than they succeed, which minimises any frustration from cheap deaths. The new suppression mechanic further incentives you to pin down other players, which in turn makes the multiplayer feel more thoughtful than a series of run and gun encounters.

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