Battlefield 3 verdict – my first two hours

Battlefield 3 Verdict PS3

At ease, soldiers. I’ve been scuttling around the first couple of hours of Battlefield 3’s single player campaign like a terrified child, and I’m ready to tell you my first impressions.

Firstly, the visuals. Military shooters have long been the benchmark for ultra-realistic visuals, and Battlefield 3 looks hyper-real. Its plumes of smoke and inky carrier-filled oceans made me stop and stare, despite all the bullets headed towards me with my name on them.

The interiors I stumbled into were full of incidental detail, and reduced to dusty rubble after a bit of over-zealous gunfire There is an unnerving period when you’re killed and respawn in which the world starts off in low-detail, then populates the pretty stuff again after a few seconds, but other than this I’ve seen nothing to damper the anticipation that BF3 is the visual event of the year – it’s absolutely arresting.

Having seen gameplay footage of the early levels months ago and played through a chunk of it at preview events, I’m fairly au fait. What struck me this time around was that although I’m stepping over old ground, I’m still having fun. I’ve mentioned visual detail, but early levels are also bustling with human detail – marines thrifting people up against Humvees, aircraft carriers teeming crew members guiding fighter jets into the air.

Speaking of jets, about an hour in, I got a first taste of BF3′s vehicular combat. As a co-pilot in a fighter jet I felt like a kid who’s too small to ride up front in the car. The moment before I stepped in the plane was built up brilliantly, and though I was irked not to be in full control, swinging my neck around to Exorcist-defying angles to get a lock on enemy fighters and firing off flares was tense, frantic fun.

Something that my repeated play has flagged up is the nature of BF3’s combat – so far, it’s an entirely scripted affair. I knew when the next shooting gallery would appear, and enemies rarely tried to run to better ground or flank my squad – to his credit, one fella did try it though, it isn’t impossible in the AI’s coding. I also knew which enemies to not bother shooting, because they were impervious to damage until a set-piece killed them.

Which brings me neatly onto my biggest Battlefield 3 bugbear. As a series of spectacular scripted scenes (sorry, my alliteration circuits are going haywire) BF3 excels. As soon as I tried to mess about or do my own thing, it threw a bit of a wobbly.

Example – if you grab cover in a position that your squad mate is supposed to occupy, they’ll shunt you out of the way rather than find a new spot. Once you get in certain vehicles to man the turret, you’re stuck in there no matter what until a certain scripted event occurs (which you could easily avoid by exiting the vehicle).

These problems could be forgiveable gripes or major taints on the game after a few more hours. Time – and our review – will tell, but so far BF3 is everything it should be – beautiful, full of clinical combat and po-faced military terminology; explosion-heavy, varied and a lot of fun.