The Battlefield 3 Open Beta came out on the Xbox 360 today (well, yesterday I suppose, as it’s past midnight), and I have, of course, been playing it! But having played for a good few hours so far I’ve been left with more questions than I had beforehand. Before I started playing I assumed the “Beta” tag was just a ruse, with the game just three and a half weeks from release (in the US at least, it’s out a few days later over here) wasn’t this going to be more like a demo than a beta? Surely the game is pretty much finished now? But after just a few minutes it became apparent that I was very wrong, the vast number of bugs and quite low quality graphics more that meriting the use of the word beta. Of the bugs I’ve encountered, by far the worst is the one which caused my character to fall through the level into the empty void below, which has happened to me three times now! Several bugs relate to buttons not working right; such as being unable to sprint, by clicking the left stick, until it has been re-centred, and pulls on the left trigger not doing anything, instead of bringing up the scope. On one occasion I had the same problem with the right trigger, leaving me unable to fire my gun! As the day went on the servers also ground to a halt, making it impossible to join a game, though even earlier on I had trouble getting into a game while keeping my friends in the same squad as me. There were many more little annoyances, but I won’t list everything.
My experience has left me puzzled about what EA and Dice wanted to achieve by releasing the beta at this time. If this is old code then why bother releasing it to the public with so many bugs, so close to release? All it will do is put potential buyers off; I know it has left me and some of my Xbox Live friends very worried about what the game will be like when it first comes out, and, coupled with the server problems that plagued Bad Company 1 & 2 at launch, our confidence that the game will be worth purchasing at launch has been shaken. And, after looked at the comments on a few gaming sites, I know we’re not the only people who feel this way. The question I’m left asking is if all these bugs have been fixed already, and won’t be in the final game, then why not release part of that as a Beta/Demo instead? I’m reminded of the beta for Call of Duty: World at War, which also came out about a month before the game’s release date, and was also quite buggy, coincidentally also featuring a glitch that let you get “underneath” a level. That problem remained for the final release, and was left unfixed for around a month or so, if I remember correctly.
Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not all doom and gloom, before the number of bugs started to grate on me, and when I was actually able to get into a game, I was actually rather impressed with many aspects of the game. Perhaps the most important change between BF3 and Bad Company 2, at least for me personally, is how much more responsive the controls feel. My biggest gripe with the two Bad Company games was how sluggish everything felt, especially when compared to Call of Duty, but in BF3 everything feels much smoother, almost, but not quite, as smooth as CoD, which is quite an achievement given that BF3 only runs at 30fps to CoD’s 60fps. I like the way you can leap over obstacles with the tap of a button, it makes moving around much simpler and faster, and I also like the fact that players can take less damage before dying, as another thing that used to bug me in Bad Company was that it always took a large number of bullets to kill anyone. So there are things I like about the game, but it doesn’t really make up for all the bugs. Time will tell if the Beta is actually representative of the quality of the game proper, but on this evidence, I certainly hope not.