Battlefield 3 Updated Multiplayer Impressions - Limitless Situations AboundBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Oct 14, 2011
For as impressive as it has been for Battlefield 3 to feature both a single-player and a co-op mode, the series’ bread and butter undoubtedly is its multiplayer, a feature that developer EA DICE doesn’t appear to hold back on with the latest installment of its flagship shooter. At a recent day-long media preview session in San Francisco, we happened to get a good helping of all three modes. From the maps we played, it was easy to tell that EA DICE was sure to give multiplayer shooter fans a solid variety of level sizes, some with vehicles, some without.
The first map I tried out was Seine, a very Parisian setting. Aesthetically, it feels like a very well researched map, loaded with whitewashed buildings and neon green cross-shaped pharmacy signs. Strategically, a small part of the level has a series of very short tunnels that lead to enclaves. This area can then be used to surprise incoming players who might not have wanted to stumble upon the tunnel’s linear path.
I’ve had my share of Paris in past Battlefield 3 previews, but this area was especially refreshing for being the first one I played in an outside setting. It was also the smallest map that I played that day as it was also one of the few levels without vehicles. As an urban setting, it was very surprising how well I managed to use the environment as camouflage. I learned this the hard way by being the target of a number of well-hidden opponents. The subtle shadow placements and the prevalence of bushes certainly helped my kill/death ratio.
Seine was also one of the maps short of multi-level buildings, but I definitely got my indoor building fix in Grand Bazaar. Within seconds I could tell it was a much larger map overall. It is also a very familiar style map, the kind you see in every decent shooter that has a Middle East setting. It has that kind of right angle-heavy design that should make team deathmatch veterans feel right at home. Generic visuals aside, it was easy to picture how a number of factors will make this one of the most used maps at launch. The presence of corridors and alleys do a lot to encourage tense getaways and chases. Those tight spots make for a suitable temporary refuge if a tank spots you. These tanks in Grand Bazaar can be game-changers as much as any well-designed Battlefield map featuring vehicles.
Of all the maps I played, it was Noshahr Canals I enjoyed the most. It was the kind of map that I was eager to play again the moment a match ended, which is rare for me. I could imagine playing this area two dozen times before having a full understanding of the best strategies for all its distinct spots. You also have to consider the overhead solar glare, which can be both beautiful and intentionally distracting at the same time. Although there are some spots where you can take a dip in the canal, the map is more of a shipping port with a railroad. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the largest map in Battlefield 3 that didn’t feature flying vehicles.
At one point, I was sniping from a second floor window with a good view of one large set of shipping containers. Before I knew it, I had spotted a three-man squad heading toward those large metal boxes. I managed to get a headshot on one of them though the other two managed to escape in the small maze of containers. Feeling brave and assertive (especially since they might’ve gotten an idea of where I was), I decided to confront them up close, despite the possibility they might spot me as I tried to shorten the 70+ yard gap between us. I was successful in reaching the boxes, where it only took a handful of turns before finding one of my targets. A few rapid pistol rounds took care of him, but not before he injured me severely.
I didn’t want to stay still and heal, thinking that my last target might be right behind me. I remained cautious, assuming that the gunfire attracted the third guy. For a brief 10-second span the tension made me recall the final showdown from the Pacino/DeNiro film Heat as we weaved through and around these shipping containers. I wasn’t even 100 percent the other guy was still in the area. Well, he certainly was there, as evidenced by the skillful melee kill he dealt me on the back of my head. Despite dying, this 60+ second moment was a definite highlight of this preview event.
Staying with Iran, the next map was a nighttime skirmish at Tehran Highway. This battle was not based on the highway itself, but rather under it and the surrounding buildings. As with many multiplayer maps designed on a stretch of road, this level is one of the more lengthwise maps, although it’s certainly not symmetrical; the majority of the buildings are based on one side of the map. Much like our previous dive into Operation Guillotine, Tehran Highway’s nighttime setting made for a fine display of the Frostbite 2’s lighting effects. It was one of those stages where I wish I had multiple playthroughs in order to decide whether I liked it or not.
Breaking away from Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch, the next fight shifted to Rush mode. It builds upon the Combat Mission game type from the multiplayer mode that EA DICE was in charge from last year’s Medal of Honor reboot. It’s a traditional goal/defend format that can have as many as five mission goals.
I tried out Rush on Damavand Peak, where I was part of the attacking team. Structurally, the predominantly downhill typography of this map gave a lot of good opportunities to be a sniper. The drawback is that any good player on the defensive side will realize this, and you’ll have to work hard to find suitable hiding places. Moreover, the length and multi-stage design of the map rewards players who aren’t attached to their initial loadout weapons and learn to adapt with the situation. The halfway point of Damavand Peak found me and my buddies at a dam-like structure where the next segment of the map seemed assessable only by helicopter. There were plenty of copters to go around; the question was, how many game journalists actually remember how to pilot them? Hilarious crashes aside, at least the game respawned most of us at the bottom of the next segment to continue our mission.
There’s a tragic beauty about the map titled Operation Firestorm, which has a giant field of burning oil in the background. In fact, depending on where you initially start on this map, you might not actually see all the black smoke at first, which makes its eventual reveal all the more dramatic. Its mix of open fields and buildings lend well to the classic Conquest gameplay mode. It’s amusing to successfully stuff a tank into a tight warehouse as you take and camp at a capture point. Just be sure you know how to navigate your way out of the building in that Abrams or else a few grenades and a rocket launcher will make short work of you. As a large level with both tanks and planes, this was definitely an area I’m looking forward to studying and mastering on launch day, which, if you don’t know by now, is October 25.