For: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: DICE
Publisher: EA
When? Autumn 2011

What’s it all about? If you’re reading this then chances are you’ll have seen the series of Battlefield 3 ‘Faultline’ trailers thus far released to much hype on the information superhighway. At EA’s 2011 UK showcase, the assembled hacks got to watch those same sequences, the difference this time being the action was being driven live, by a very well-practiced EA type – so what’s the verdict?

Bear in mind that not only did EA use the most ninja quad core PC you’re ever going to meet, but also had the gameplay beamed on to a cinema screen, while beefy 5.1 surround sound shook the room – nevertheless, we have to say we were blown away by the visceralness of the spectacle on show.

Without a shadow of doubt Frostbite 2.0 – BF3’s visual engine – dwarfs anything else out there seen so far; that’s when maxed out of course and yes, we’ve yet to see the obviously in development but not yet announced Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Rest assured though MW3 is going to have to be special to top this.

We might also point out that thus far there has been neither sight nor sound of BF3 as seen on either Xbox 360 or PS3. EA’s employee doing the driving did hint that console versions were close to the PC version – as he put it EA were happy with the console version’s “fidelity”, adding that Frostbite was capable of compressing visual and audio in such a way as compensate for the relative power differential between top-end PCs and current generation consoles.

We’ll save judgement for when we see it, fingers crossed on this fidelity promise though. As for the actual gameplay, the only word that really does what we saw justice is Intensity (note the capital ‘I’). As unsubtle as a sledgehammer, the explosions, reports, confusion and general mania of the short, sharp fire exchanges looks about as close to the real thing you can get without being shot.

‘The Red Wire’ mission for example sees the player following a wire to it’s source – you guess it, a bomb – whereupon the player is set upon by a hostile and engaged in QTE-style close-quarters fighting. Enemy contended with and bomb disarmed you’re off out into the war zone, seamlessly heading from enclosed, dark, building to open, bright street scene complete with helicopters, armoured cars and troops on both sides. That the engine doesn’t miss a beat in the transition is again remarkable.

What follows is a huge face off between elevated friendly forces and hostile PLR insurgents (that’s the People’s Liberation and Resistance). Helicopters hammer down supporting fire, parked cars explode in a torrent of bullets and eventually the tide of the enemy is turned. Then the earthquake happens, levelling buildings and leaving the street cleaved in two – this isn’t called ‘Faultline’ for nothing after all.

Worth the wait? It’s looking like another winter to look forward to for fans of the FPS genre. While remaining largely turgid for the last couple of years BF3 looks like the next step. We hold some reservations of course, not least that the while the intense shooting is all well and good, it will be in the juggling of pace that the single-player campaign lives or dies. After all it can’t always be as full-on as in the section we’ve seen, or it’ll cause people to have palpitations. Multiplayer (64 players on PC, 24 on console) hasn’t been discussed yet either, though expect the usual mix of vehicles and soldiers, not to mention deformation of the field of battle (though that’s just a guess). As ever, more when we get another look.