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Electronic Arts celebrated Battlefield 3 in a very big way at Gamescom 2011 in Cologne, Germany. Over 275,000 fans flooded the convention center, and a key stop for many of them was getting hands-on with the 64-player PC multiplayer version of the game. Just across the hall from the long lines of people waiting to explore Conquest mode was a full-size jet, just like the one featured in the multiplayer. Gamers could get pictures in flight suits next to the plane.
Developer DICE is really pushing the visual experience of Battlefield 3 on the PC. Karl-Magnus Troedsson, general manager of DICE, says that the new Frostbite 2 engine has enabled the team to bring a level of quality to this game, in tandem with ANT technology from EA Sports, to a level not achieved before in this franchise. All of this technology has enabled the team to create more immersive battlefields, he says.
The Caspian Border map playable at Gamescom is the perfect example of this new technology. EA had the PCs cranked and all the sliders up all the way to bring the virtual battlefield to life. It’s worth noting that even with a full 32-versus-32 game match in play, there was absolutely no slowdown of the intense action on the screens. The desert level takes place in the Middle East and sets up a U.S.-versus-Russia scenario for players to engage in.
The best way to take in the amazing visuals is from a birds-eye view in a fighter jet (like the full-size one at the booth). The map is quite large -- large enough to fly around as long as you don’t mind pulling a lot of turns. In fact, vehicles are a necessity to navigate the map and engage in combat. In addition to jets, there are also choppers, tanks and Jeeps to help navigate the environment. The tank was one of the most versatile vehicles, although they are susceptible to both jets and rocket launchers. While they’re intact, they can take out anything in their way.
DICE has spent a lot of time creating an even battlefield. This map offers great lookouts for snipers high above the ground. But snipers are no longer invisible, as the desert sun glints off their scopes, allowing their targets to take out their perches.
This game forces players to keep moving. Even those huge tanks aren’t going to be a reliable ride for long with a full field of 32 enemies pitted against you. But that’s what makes Battlefield such a fun experience. Die as a sniper and respawn as a tank driver. Also helping to keep comrades alive during battle is the assault class, which now comes equipped with a defibrillator.
Gamescom also marked the debut of the new co-op mission called Exfiltration. This new two-player gameplay requires players to work together, a la Army of Two. In stark contrast to the open battlefield of the hands-on gameplay, co-op focused more on stealth as players snuck around close quarters in an apartment complex in the Middle East. The objective was to rescue a high-priority hostage from the heart of enemy territory.
The first part of the demo focuses on navigating basements, hallways and rooms in the complex. Once the captive is rescued, the game shifts to the outdoors with a full-on moving firefight as a band of American Humvees help the players make it out to safety. Battlefield fans will be glad to hear that night vision scopes are returning to the franchise, as they appeared in this demo. It’s been a long time -- Battlefield 2: Special Forces -- since players have been able to use this gadget.
Battlefield 3 is shaping up to be one of the best multiplayer experiences yet seen in gaming. DICE had some additional time for polishing, but the gameplay experience with 64 players was already fine-tuned and a big hit with Gamescom attendees.
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