A first-hand account of the first multiplayer map, plus DICE talks about the class changes in store for Battlefield 3.
Before we could jump into combat, DICE general manager Karl-Magnus Troedsson shared some new details about how the game's class system is being restructured. The biggest change is the marriage of the assault and medic classes. After analyzing players' gameplay habits in Bad Company 2 and in listening to community feedback, the team decided that since the assault class is typically the bullet fodder in the frontlines it makes more sense to endow those soldiers with healing abilities like medic packs and defibrillators. These soldiers are armed with your standard array of assault rifles like the M4.
The support class now replenishes ammunition for teammates, and many of the LMGs feature bipods for increased stability when firing. These can be deployed on the ground, on cars, or even on low walls. Support players also benefit from a new suppression mechanic; when you're firing in the general direction of enemies, you don't need to actually hit them with bullets to affect their ability to fight. As bullets whiz over their head, the opposing player will lose some combat awareness thanks to a gradual screen blur that mimics the sensation of being caught under fire.
The two other classes received small but interesting tweaks. Engineers still carry the anti-vehicle weapons and repair tools, but their weapons now support undersling attachments like a flashlight, which can be used to blind approaching enemies in low light conditions. The only major change to the recon class is a new breath-holding mechanic that momentarily increases accuracy. Once your character exhales, however, the weapon will have more sway for a short period of time so timing your shot is critical. This should kill off the quick scoping exploit that plagued earlier versions of Battlefield. Each class gets three specialization slots to customize their experience, but this feature was locked.
Players can also customize their dog tags. Now when you knife an enemy to take his or her tags, you'll receive a unique item that highlights that person's Battlefield triumph of choice. The examples DICE offered included the kills with a specific weapon and total hours served.
With no consoles in sight, DICE was only allowing us to try the 32-player PC version that pits Marines against the Russian Spetsnaz. The map I played, Operation Metro, takes place in the streets of Paris. The four-stage Rush map starts out in an open urban garden, transitions into the cramped and darkened underground subway, and eventually spills into the Parisian financial district directly in front of the Paris stock exchange. The beginning area featured smartly implemented changes in elevation that provide players with natural cover positions as they descend on or defend the crates. Once the battle descended into the subway, the support players gained an advantage in the darkened hallways thanks to the blinding flashlights and the ability to shoot out other light sources. The fighting here featured natural choke points, and overcoming them requires coordinated strikes.
The gameplay doesn't stray too far from the traditional Battlefield experience, which is a good thing in my book. You can still spot characters to highlight them for your teammates, take out cover with heavy weaponry, and generate tons of experience points by helping out teammates. The Frostbite 2 engine is also used to great effect, with varied lighting, realistic soldier animations, and impressive facade damage to buildings amidst all the multiplayer chaos. I wish we could have seen the map with 64 PC players or on a console, but we've got a lot of time to kill between now and the Battlefield release date on October 25. I'm sure EA will provide another opportunity to check out what's shaping up to be one of the company's biggest games in years.