When Battlefield 2 was released in 2005 it quickly became one of the most-played first-person shooters online due to its fantastic 64-player multiplayer mode and brilliant gameplay. Prioritizing teamwork and tactics over frag counts, Battlefield appealed to gamers looking for something new and refreshing, different from the standard multiplayer shooters of the day. Since then developer DICE has released two installments of Battlefield: Bad Company, a story-based spin-off with a comedic slant and a new multiplayer mode, and several other well-received Battlefield titles. Now, six years later, DICE launched of the long-awaited Battlefield 3, one of the most anticipated games of 2011. Built on four central tenets, Battlefield 3 is set to shake up a genre too often clichéd with space marines, chest-high walls and repetitious me-too action. The first of these four tenets was decided upon even before the first line of game code was programmed; it being that Battlefield 3 should be the most technologically advanced game ever made by DICE, and in general when compared to all other shooters on the market. Utilizing version 2.0 of DICE’s internally-developed, industry-leading Frostbite engine, Battlefield 3 taps into the power of the latest DirectX 11 graphics cards, raising the bar by a considerable margin to deliver unprecedented graphical realism that has some gamers questioning the authenticity of untouched in-game screenshots, all of which can be seen in our Screenshots section. Whereas many multi-platform games fail to make full use of the PC, DICE has placed its focus squarely on the PC and then scaled back a separate version of the game just for consoles. In a Battlefield 3 interview with GeForce.com, Executive Producer Patrick Bach had the following to say when asked if consoles were holding back PCs:
“Yes, absolutely. That's the biggest problem we have today. Most games are actually still based on the same core idea that the consoles are your focus, the superior platform or something. I don’t know why. That was the truth 5 years ago, but the world has moved on. PCs are way more powerful than the consoles today and there are actually almost zero games out there that actually use the benefits of this. So for our target of what we want to hit, we are now using the more powerful platform to try and prove what we see gaming being in the future rather than using the lowest common denominator, instead of developing it for the consoles and then just adding higher resolution textures and anti-aliasing for the PC version. We're doing it the other way around, we start with the highest-end technology that we can come up with and then scale it back to the consoles.”At the heart of Frostbite 2.0 are four key technological advancements that help put Battlefield 3 at the top of its game. The first, a real-time radiosity lighting technique, creates real-time, accurate, high-quality lighting across the entire environment, ensuring that shadows and lighting in buildings and on the terrain are updated dynamically, so if a RPG blows a hole in the exterior wall of a dark house, the inside will now be accurately lit based on the strength of the sun, the level of cloud cover, the sun’s angle, and any other factors. Using an improved version of the destruction engine seen in Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3 allows players to destroy even more elements of a map in more explosive, visceral ways. The second, Deferred Rendering, allows DICE to insert numerous, complex, dynamic light sources into a map without incurring the performance cost seen with Forward Rendering. Combined with Compute Shaders DICE is able to insert an almost unlimited number of these dynamic lights, creating rich scenes full of color, and dark, moody interiors that generate visually accurate soft shadows. The third technological advancement involves with the use of movie-quality color grading, a form of post-processing that allows designers to adjust the color balance, exposure and contrast of each and every scene. Kenny Magnusson, a DICE Rendering Architect, states that unprocessed images in Battlefield 3 appear “grey; nothing is white and nothing is black." With color grading applied upbeat scenes can appear bright and vibrant, and dark, distressing ones muted. The final advancement is a highly realistic method of rendering particles, used primarily to create photo-realistic smoke. The improved smoke responds to dynamic light sources like explosions and creates rich layers of self shadows, adding immense weight and visual awe to the intense battles of the game. On top of all that, the engine also utilizes Tessellation and Displacement Mapping for detailed terrain, and NVIDIA Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA) for effective removal of jaggies. For those with multiple graphics cards, Battlefield 3 has native SLI support allowing frame rates to remain as high as possible at super-high resolutions with every one of the aforementioned bells and whistles enabled and maxed out. Games evolved greatly following the release of Battlefield 2, and so for Battlefield 3 DICE also had to raise the bar for their second tenet, multiplayer, the core focus of any Battlefield game. Every aspect of warfare shown on-screen is designed to be top-tier, so whether you’re on foot, in a tank, or in a plane, the experience you receive should be equal to, or even better than that of a game focusing on just one of the aforementioned elements of war. Within the multiplayer portion of Battlefield 3 there are several gameplay modes to cover all tastes. Leading the charge is the classic Conquest mode, played out on gigantic maps that support 64 players on the PC (consoles support at-most 24 players and on smaller maps), vehicles, and aerial jet action. Meanwhile, a refined version of Rush makes it way over from the Bad Company spin-offs, tasking players with the destruction of key objectives in a linear fashion along the length of a map (Squad Rush is also included to cater to smaller groups of players). And finally, for those looking for a more chaotic, less focused multiplayer mode, Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch are included too. Unlocks and progression trees now encompass vehicles, in addition to each of the four infantry roles and all the weapons they can wield, meaning a completed profile with everything unlocked and maxed out will take around one hundred hours to achieve, forcing players and members of clans to prioritize and specialize at launch to ensure that each team has a mix of specialists and well-trained vehicle operators. The third tenet is that Battlefield 3 should include a serious story-based campaign superior to those seen in games devoted solely to single-player. As such, players will be able to experience a visceral single-player campaign that takes place on either side of the Iraq-Iran border as three different forces fight for control. Shown in detail in the Fault Line and Thunder Run gameplay trailers in our Video section, the single-player campaign places players in control of various allied soldiers and tells the story of their war in an incredibly immersive manner by giving all elements of a scene greater physicality. For example, foot soldiers under your control are blown off their feet by explosives, landing with a thud, the tinnitus from the deafening explosion resonating through your speakers and subwoofer, the screen becoming distorted as the soldier struggles to retain consciousness. It is this eye for detail that that makes you feel as if you’re there, smack bang in the middle of a modern-day warzone. The fourth and final tenet of Battlefield 3 is that it should allow you to play with friends outside of multiplayer in a co-operative fashion. Previous Battlefield PC games have given you single-player and multiplayer action, but never pure co-op experiences where you and friends complete specific missions and objectives together as fast and efficiently as possible to compete with every other player on the planet on global leaderboards. For Battlefield 3 DICE wanted to amend that situation, but unfortunately, as with the single-player campaign, co-op details are tightly under wraps. What we do know is that the co-op missions follow a story that ties in with the campaign, that elements of the missions are randomized to keep each play through unique and exciting, that vehicles will occasionally feature, and that weapons and equipment can be unlocked in co-op to use in the core multiplayer mode. Together, these four elements create a hugely varied, content-rich, technologically advanced title that will give you hundreds of hours of fun and make full use of your DirectX 11 graphics card. Peruse the screenshots and trailers - Battlefield 3 truly is breathtaking to look at, and the action contained within will make your heart pound when Battlefield 3 is installed on your system.