I obviously wasn’t there when David starting flinging rocks at Goliath’s head, but I was around when northern upstarts Oasis went up against Blur and yes – I bought both records even though Roll With It easily eclipsed the rather toffish Country House. It just seemed like the done thing to do – an expensive one for a student, sure – but I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun.
Ironically, countless years later, we’re here again, and we’re still months away from both Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 hitting the shelves. I can’t remember such a closely poised scrap between two videogames since Konami decided to release a football sim, and I’ve little to no interest in that particular genre anyway. First person shooters, though? Well, that’s big business.[drop]I’m guessing, if I had to pitch one way or the other, that EA’s entry would probably be the future king of Israel, or – indeed – the Gallaghers. Something of the underdog against the might of the Activision marketing machine and a set of fans so hardcore that they were willing to ditch internet-less PS3s for Xbox 360s just to keep a presence on the battlegrounds.
But whilst Battlefield 3 is clearly a step up from last year’s always doomed Medal of Honor reboot, this time around the publisher, armed with a clearly more capable DICE, mean business – and rightly so, if anyone’s going to topple a behemoth like Modern Warfare, it’s going to be one fuelled by someone like Electronic Arts, even if they’re still directly avoiding any comparison between the two.
And let’s be honest – going off the reactions to the various teasers that have dripped out of a very finely honed promotional campaign – EA are doing everything right.
If there’s one word that captures the spirit of what Battlefield 3 is all about, it’s gritty. Not just a reference to the noisy graphics, more about the way the chaos of war is presented to the player: everything that happens, scripted as it might be, appears dynamic, organic and unpredictable. Sure, you’re being led down corridors like most other shooters, but it’s all about how changeable those corridors are.
Not that you can ignore those graphics either. Naturally vastly superior on the top-end PCs the game has been demonstrated on so far, the console versions at least follow closely enough to appease the general public – the PlayStation 3 version shown is hardly shabby, maintaining most of the special effects and lighting, and keeping that all important environmental destruction.
In addition, you can use suppressing fire to disorient your opponents (vision is blurred and hearing is diminished) and flashlights can also temporarily blind anyone unfortunate enough to be caught out – all handled by DICE’s undeniably slick engine.[drop2]The Frostbite 2 Engine is a powerful beast – smoke and debris fill the streets, the draw distance is hugely impressive, the borrowed ANT motion capture tech has created believeable animation and, across the game’s four chapters, what we hope will be a varied collections of locales as you and your team make your way around the world.
And you’ll certainly be needing that passport: the game packs in trips to Paris, Tehran, Sarajevo and then across to the States for more familiar ground, and this being a thoroughbred Battlefield title there’ll be plenty of opportunity to make use of vehicles both in the stunning looking single player mode and the hopefully all encompassing multiplayer portion, the latter of which promises big things.
Again, we’re back to class-based mechanics, and Battlefield 3 will sport four such player types: Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon, across the three currently revealed game modes: Conquest, Rush and Team Deathmatch. The Paris map is the one that’s the cause of much discussion just now, its Rush variant a staggered series of pushes towards an ultimate goal, but one that feels markedly different at each stage.
And whilst Call of Duty’s new Elite service looks set to lock in its fans even harder than its ever done, EA’s Battlelog will play to the same sort of strengths as Autolog did for Need for Speed, combining social networking with detailed statistics and tracking, meaning everything you do in the game can (and will) be compared with the actions of your friends.
There’s a lot going on with Battlefield 3 – and whilst the game certainly looks the part already the developers are still only at alpha stage, refining and tweaking as they go. Time will tell whether the game will ultimately match up to its main rival, but from what we’ve seen so far, that won’t be too much of a problem.