Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Battlefield 3 Open Beta: PC vs. 360

Battlefield 3 betaLike many of you, I signed up and downloaded the new open beta for Dice's upcoming war shooter Battlefield 3. Unlike many of you, I did so on both my Xbox 360 and PC, just to get a feel for how different they may be and to see which layout I like better. I didn't expect the betas to be all that different from each other but, unfortunately, I was wrong.

Before I played the beta for Battlefield 3, I was fortunate enough to get in on the alpha. An alpha is like a beta to the beta, in case you were wondering. I was initially very impressed with the alpha. Graphically the game looked very good and the different play style from Call of Duty was a fresh change. The game felt more tactical and I seemed to rely on my team more than I would in Call of Duty.

Since it is a Battlefield game, there had to be vehicles, the series' trademark. There was only one in the alpha map, a large armored truck with a cannon on top. The good thing was that the vehicle didn't feel overpowered, especially when three or four RPGs were hitting it from all directions.

Skip over to the beta and things are a little different. The map, Operation Metro, is the same from alpha to beta but not everything is alike. Gone is the armored truck, as well as any other vehicle, and one of the MCOM stations has been moved parallel to the other, avoiding the annoying aspect of trying to plant a bomb directly in the middle of the defenders' spawn point.


The PC version of the beta runs a lot smoother than the 360 build. This isn't surprising considering that fact that PC games usually run smoother than console games but also because the Battlefield series has, until now, been a strictly PC-only game. Aside from Battlefield: Bad Company 1 and 2, all the other games have been on PC.

Graphically the game is much smoother and more crisp and the graphics themselves look very good. Trees fall down from explosions and foliage blocks you from the enemy and the enemy from you. The textures look very realistic and character movements are more realistic and fluid as well. Knifing an enemy, for example, has you turning the person around and stabbing them in the chest while simultaneously ripping off their dog tags, a very satisfying kill indeed.

As far as gameplay goes, Battlefield 3 plays like a mix between Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty. The characters feel bigger than they do in Bad Company and the map you play on feels smaller, much like a Call of Duty map. However, every map is tiered. In Operation Metro there are four tiers: the first is outside in a park, the second is in a blown up subway terminal, the third is in the lobby/ticket area of the subway terminal and the fourth is outside in a city street.

One complaint I do have with the PC version is that it seems like I die with one shot, no matter the gun or the distance. However, that could either be glitch in the game or my extreme lack of experience with PC first-person shooters.

Xbox 360:

Compared to the PC beta, the 360 beta looks like complete crap. Graphically the game looks bad. The character model of your hands and weapons look about the same as any first-person shooter but everything else looks very rough. While I would normally dismiss this as just being part of the beta, I am hesitant to do so, especially considering that the game is coming out in about three weeks. Any type of polish should be done asap if Dice wants to make a stand against Modern Warfare.

The gameplay of the 360 beta also felt very buggy. The game didn't feel as smooth as the PC build and seemed very choppy. There were also some serious glitch issues when you die and you see who killed you. I can't remember how many times it looked like a floating person or a helmet on the ground killed me after I died.

Combat felt more balanced though there was still the occasional one-hit kill from a pistol or heavy machine gun from across the map. The gameplay is still basically the same as the PC version just not as good. It's like wanting a whole pizza and getting a pizza hotpocket, the hotpocket is good if you can't get a pizza but it just isn't the same.

As it stands right now I am leaning more towards getting the game for PC. While more of my friends will probably be getting it for consoles, I honestly feel like I will have a better experience on a PC, as far as the beta is concerned that is.

Additional Comments:

There are some things that worried me about the beta and some things that didn't quite make sense. One is the lack of vehicles. The one major thing that Battlefield has over Call of Duty is that addition of fully operational vehicles. The ability to fly a jet or a helicopter or to drive a tank right into the battle is something that I loved most about Bad Company 2. Not putting the main feature (in my opinion) into the open beta seems like a big mistake on Dice's part.

Another thing that Battlefield has going for it over Call of Duty is destructible environments. However, that was lacking in the beta as well. Battlefield prides itself on having fully destructible environments that add a tactical aspect to the game. However, in the betas as well as the alpha, the only thing I found really destructible was on the last segment of the map. Players can take position in multi-story buildings and shooting the window areas with an RPG crumbles the exterior of the area, raining debris onto the streets below. While doing this is cool, I want more in the final product. Having a map with only one destructible feature just isn't going to cut it.

Battlefield 3 is going to have to pick it up if it wants to beat out Call of Duty during this holiday season. What I thought was going to be a landslide in favor of Battlefield 3 has suddenly turned into a footrace to the finish.

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