Battlefield 3 Open Beta: Reactions from a first-timer

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I’ve never truly played a Battlefield game. Sure, I played the Bad Company beta a while back, but I wasn’t enamored by it and quit. I have played a few shooters in my time, though. Started with Quake, moved to Counter-strike, and then Halo: Combat Evolved appeared and changed me forever. I became a player of console shooters, through-and-through. Much of college was spent playing Halos 2 and 3. A few months after Call of Duty 4 came out, a few friends and I decided to rent it. And from there, I again didn’t look back. I thoroughly enjoyed COD4, despised World at War, had a ton of fun playing Modern Warfare 2, and have come to terms with Black Ops, for the most part. But in all that time, I never did pick up a Battlefield game.

The first thing I have to say: I played this on Xbox 360. I also downloaded it for PC, but had sundry problems getting it to work (making DirectX 11 work, matchmaking general error 1, matchmaking general error 2, etc.). In the end, I gave up.

Second thing: This is a beta. Not a demo. There are bugs. Many. This is OK. The beta is based on a slightly older build of the game, so some polish is lacking. But for the most part, things are where they should be and Dice is gathering the information they intend to. So I won’t be bringing up visual bugs, loading issues, or anything else that is inherent to a beta.

I had a number of difficulties when first picking up the BF3 beta. I quickly learned the different button layout and figured out the game objectives without much trouble. In terms of other shooters I’ve played, the available gametype, Rush, is a mixture of COD‘s Demolition and Homefront’s Ground Control. Offense needs to plant and detonate two bombs at set locations. If this is accomplished, two new bomb sites appear in a different section of the map. The offense has 100 collective lives to accomplish this. The defense has two jobs: kill the attackers 100 times before they detonate the two bombs and defuse bombs when they are set. When both locations are destroyed, the defense gets a few seconds to fall back before the offense charges in with a fresh 100 respawn tickets. Now comes my first complaint. The rules for winning heavily favor the defense. Even when my team on offense runs over the competition through the first two to three rounds, if we run out of tickets on one of the later points, the defense wins outright. Defense only has to win one round, offense has to win four. Now, this is not usually a problem. If the defense is going to pose a serious problem, they will generally win the first area. But the third area heavily favors the defenders, and sometimes allows for a defense on the ropes to rally from behind.

Weapons seem rather balanced, different kits all seem effective, and attachments seem useful. My only comment on weapon and class loadouts is that I should be able to change them before entering matchmaking and in between games. This is time that I can’t really do much of anything but wait, so please let me play with my new weapons and/or attachments. One other thing about the waiting period between matches: If you finish a game and want to back out for any reason, you have to wait until the next round starts and then quit. This is troublesome if you have friends getting online or offline at different times and want to back out to get them between games.

Friends are a whole other issue, and easily my greatest concern for the final product. I regularly play with between one and six friends at a time in whatever game I’m playing. Call of Duty and Halo games have mostly accommodated this setup. This beta? Not so much. So I sign on and try to play with a few friends and we struggle for a few minutes to get everyone into the same squad. That was the first mistake, since only four people can be in a squad at once. If there are five or six of us on together, we can’t all be in the same squad, meaning we probably won’t be in the same game. I do understand limiting squads to four, since that reduces the impact of a single group on the game as a whole, but I would still like to be able to play with many of my friends at the same time. So, we move on from that, all a little discouraged that our level of teamwork isn’t being rewarded in a game that touts teamwork as the highest virtue. We get a squad of four and go to find a match. I’m going to ignore the times not all of us make it in as a bug to be expected, but it’s when we all make it that poses a bigger issue. We are no longer in the same squad. Sometimes we’re not even on the same team. Team changing is an iffy proposition at best, and usually downright impossible. And trying to all get into the same squad again was an exceedingly rare occurrence. I’m not sure why this is technically difficult. Halo 2 didn’t have issues with setting up teams in lobbies, and that was in 2004. Call of Duty and Homefront have also used the lobby method extensively. I think Dice should have taken a cue from other popular franchises and integrated some sort of lobby mechanic to improve its product. Anyway, the one time four of us did manage to be in the same squad, it was glorious. We pounded our way through the opposing team round after round. We always held the attackers to the first area, and had several rounds on offense that lasted around 10 minutes, which is very quick and indicative of the steamrolling we delivered. This was the most fun I had with the beta over the weekend. I wish it could be like this every game, but alas, it cannot.

BF3 beta, uncut gameplay

Our four friends, led by Web Designer Zach King, take their first, brave steps into Battlefield 3‘s multiplayer territory. Will they find salvation with an M16 or suffer great loss at the hands of veteran Battlefield players?

After a rocky start for me getting used to the game, I have come to enjoy it quite a bit. With a few minor quibbles (balance of the gametype, loadout editing) and one major issue (playing with friends in my squad/team), I can safely say that I had a lot of fun playing this beta over the weekend and look forward to playing for the next several days. For me, the jury is still out whether this will be a day one purchase for me, or if I’ll wait for a price drop in a few months, but I feel that I can say that Dice has made a solid game in Battlefield 3.

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