Two game series could be considered mostly responsible for making gaming cool among non-gamers and non-nerds, one of these is Call of Duty Modern Warfare, the other is Battlefield. 2011 sees the two latest titles in these franchises facing off for a battle of popularity, with both likely to do very well in sales numbers; the answer to "which one will sell the most?" though, is really up in the air.
The latest Battlefield game is entitled as number 3, though in reality there's been quite a few interceding games that should make this numeral quite a bit higher if they're being accurate. First there was 1942 with its expansions, then there was Vietnam, followed by Battlefield 2, then 2142, then Bad Company, Battlefield Heroes and Bad Company 2. So technically, Battlefield 3, due for release in a couple of weeks should be Battlefield 8.
With so much history to the franchise, it's important for the company behind the game, DICE, to bring innovation to the series but to also maintain the things about the Octilogy that gamers enjoyed. Getting that balance right is the staple practice of any sequel developer.
BF3 utilizes the Frostbite 2 engine, which is used in the upcoming Need for Speed: The Run and possibly Mirror's Edge 2 if it ever gets the go ahead. It supports DirectX 10 and 11, with this being the first iteration of this game engine to not support DirectX 9.0c; this also means that Battlefield 3 will not be able to run under Windows XP. This might be an annoyance for some, but considering that XP is over a decade old at this point, most gamers have had plenty of time to move on; even if the intermediate OS stank.
Of course with a new rendition of an engine - Frostbite 1.0 and 1.5 being used in previous Battlefield games - there are new visual tweaks that make for a more aesthetically impressive experience. Frostbite 2 features improved tile-based deferred shading acceleration using DirectCompute as well as tweaked anti-aliasing known as Morphological Anti-Alisasing, or MLAA. There's also more detailed destructions brought about by "Destruction 3.0" which adds some more realistic physics for shrapnel and improved particle counts.
Luckily for fans of the series, they've recently been able to experience the game first hand via the beta. Those visiting shows like Gamefest and Eurogamer Expo even got a sneak peak before beta users. Whether you got a play or not though, there are countless in-game videos all over the internet, giving any one that wants a look at the game a great insight into what BF3 will look like.
For anyone that's played a previous Battlefield game, you'll feel that this new rendition is aesthetically in line with what you've seen before. In the same way that you know you're playing an Unreal Engine game, you'll know you're playing a Frostbite game. Physics, especially those for vehicles, seem nicely improved and despite the speed of travel in the jets and buggies, there's almost no pop-in or texture updating to be seen. Rage players will certainly be jealous.
Motion blur is looking great, with the Bokeh depth of field feeling in line with the way a human eye focuses. Perhaps some of the most impressive effects though are the particle shadows. Blood splatters and misting from bullet shots cast their own shadows, which is getting to a pretty extreme level of detail. The destruction improvements are also hard to miss, with impressive amounts of nearby physics interactions and debris effects from explosions.
System requirements have been revealed by many websites throughout the game's development period, but the final version of these was released by a Frostbite 2 developer.
Minimum System Requirements
OS: WINDOWS VISTA (SERVICE PACK 2) 32-BIT
PROCESSOR: 2 GHZ DUAL CORE (CORE 2 DUO 2.4 GHZ OR ATHLON X2 2.7 GHZ)
MEMORY: 2 GB
HARD DRIVE: 20 GB
GRAPHICS CARD (AMD): DIRECTX 10.1 COMPATIBLE WITH 512 MB RAM (ATI RADEON 3000, 4000, 5000 OR 6000 SERIES, WITH ATI RADEON 3870 OR HIGHER PERFORMANCE)
GRAPHICS CARD (NVIDIA): DIRECTX 10.0 COMPATIBLE WITH 512 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE 8, 9, 200, 300, 400 OR 500 SERIES WITH NVIDIA GEFORCE 8800 GT OR HIGHER PERFORMANCE)
SOUND CARD: DIRECTX COMPATIBLE
KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
DVD ROM DRIVE
Recommended System Requirements
OS: WINDOWS 7 64-BIT
PROCESSOR: QUAD-CORE CPU
MEMORY: 4 GB
HARD DRIVE: 20 GB
GRAPHICS CARD: DIRECTX 11 COMPATIBLE WITH 1024 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 560 OR ATI RADEON 6950)
SOUND CARD: DIRECTX COMPATIBLE
KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
DVD ROM DRIVE
SSD users might cry at the thought of filling such a large portion of their drive with 20GB for a single game, but this is a growing trend among new games, with Portal 2 needing 16GB or so and the Mass Effect games being only a little less than this. It's just something we'll have to get used to.
The minimum specs shouldn't cause a problem for most people, but those running with that setup are unlikely to experience anything near the full prettiness of the new engine. While recommended settings aren't too high in regards to memory or CPU - quad cores and 4GB have been a staple for most gamers for quite a while now - the graphics card requirements are likely to cause a concern among quite a few. With the latest generation - and relatively high end - cards recommended, hopefully these are very generous specifications, as in the past, recommended settings rarely gave you top in-game settings, usually middle ground at best.
Fans of the series will be pleased to know, that in typical BF and CoD Style, developers still package what is essentially two games in one: a movie like, single player experience and the competitive multiplayer that tends to get more play time. The SP experience - that many consider to be an extended training level - is set on the Iraq-Iran border where you play as a US Marine, facing off against the People's Liberation and Resistance army. No doubt that throughout the campaign this conflict will spill out across the globe, making for an expansive conflict. Screenshots and EA have shown that there will be vehicle usage, including jets, though how big a part they'll play has yet to be seen.
Likely to last around 6 hours or so if previous games are anything to go by, the real action - and what most people buy games like this for - is in the multiplayer, though that portion of the game is split in two as well. You have the traditional competitive 8-64 player (if you're on PC) experience, and also a cooperative system. This setup will run a shorter storyline in tandem with the events of the single player, offering some unique set pieces designed to utilise the two player experience. EA has said that some of the missions will include one player piloting a helicopter and the partner acting as a gunner. Another will involve players covering each other while they disarm explosives, or spotting for a sniper. It's also been revealed that scores and the time it takes you to complete the coop missions will be comparable with friends and other gamers.
The full multiplayer experience will continue the class based system from the past few Battlefield titles with Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon options making up the roster. Each one will feature different weapon loads outs for which players can choose from a predetermined list of armaments. Gamers of BF2142 will note that the Assault class has maintained its medic secondary skillset from that title, with the ability to revive and heal team mates; or go for a more damage orientated load-out and take a grenade launcher in place of the defibrillator.
Support takes its cues from BF2, providing re-arming via ammo boxes and the ability to provide heavy covering fire with light machine guns. This class will also be able to utilize the new bi-pod feature of Battlefield 3, granting greater accuracy. Certain weapons, specifically those of the support class, will also be able to blur enemy vision and reduce their accuracy by firing in their general direction. Covering fire is now more than just psychological. The Engineer on the other hand, is more like the one seen in Bad Company 2, with its main role being to take out enemy armor. Weapons include an AT4/RPG-7 rocket launcher or anti-tank mines. They will also be able to repair friendly vehicles.
The final class to touch on is the Recon. Taking on a variety of combat roles, including scout, sniper and target marker, players picking this class will have some varied options on their position on the battlefield. Load out will be a semi-automatic sniper rifle and a small sidearm, as well as quite a few team aiding gadgets. These will include a laser designator to mark targets for strikes from other ordnance and a radio beacon that all squad members will be able to spawn on.
Players will be able to utilize these different classes across several different game modes. There is the classic Conquest, where players fight for control of capture points across the map. Console versions will allow up to 32 players, with the PC variant handling up to 64. There's also classic FPS Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch; the latter being a maximum of a 6v6v6v6 setup.
The last couple of game modes are Rush based. Introduced in Bad Company - and somewhat in BF2142 - this is where one attacking team has to attempt to take over certain points on the map. It's the job of defenders to protect these points and to whittle down the opposing team's tickets/lives by gunning down their opposition.
Of course with several of these game modes taking place on giant battlescapes, it'd be silly to try and get around everywhere on foot. A staple of Battlefield combat has been vehicular battles and they're returning in BF3. So far confirmed are several classes of pilotable vehicles: Tanks, APCs, Helicopters, Jets and Transports. These will not only provide ways of getting about the map in a more timely manner, but several different attacking options; though it doesn't seem we'll be getting launch pods from the APC a la 2142. Boo.
The entire online experience will feature procedural progression in the same vein as previous games, with upgrades and weapon unlocks available for each class and vehicle. These will range from proximity scanners, to better guns, bipods and thermal optics to a secondary LMG on your tank.
While arguments may spew back and forth about which is better, Call of Duty or Battlefield, in reality the games are a similar experience that provide a visceral shooter with certain things that will draw certain people. The class free system of player characters in CoD allows for perhaps fairer fights, whereas the class options and squad centric nature in BF offers something a little more team focused.
Whichever you prefer, whichever you play, either, both or none, Battlefield 3 is shaping up to be a solid contender to its main rival and to be a pretty good sequel to its prequels. It utilizes the class based system that gamers know and love, it has vehicular combat, defined combat roles and some pretty new visuals to display it all in. This game is going to sell well, that's a given. If it lasts and is still being played when the next DICE/EA collaborative shooter is released, we're going to have to wait and see.