I love Paris in the wartime.
I'd already had a chance to check out the insanely amazing visuals of the single player Battlefield 3 mission Thunder Run featured earlier in the week, so this time around DICE offered to let me play through the urban multiplayer mission, Operation Metro. Set in the heart of downtown Paris, the new mission differs quite a bit from the tank race across the wide-open deserts. It's a cramped, infantry heavy fight where the enemy is often just across the street.
My team, the Americans, start off in the middle of a beautiful park. Just on the other side, the Russians have set up a pair of anti-aircraft guns that are preventing my planes from coming in and bombing the hell out of their position. Our team pushes forward from the start to try to demolish the AA guns. The firefights in the wooded park spill over into the adjoining side streets before we finally manage to get in around behind the enemies and plant the charges on the guns.
With them out of the way, our planes come in low and fast and smash the barrier leading to the Paris Metro. Heading underground through the tunnels and trains of the Paris subway system, there's plenty of opportunity for even more close-in fighting, which is perfect for a light machinegun fan like myself. The platforms are connected by short passageways, which, along with the trains themselves, provide plenty of opportunity to sneak up on someone. As we move past the ticket counter, we emerge into the streets again where we assault the Russian's final position. This final phase of the battle takes place with the forces fighting across a narrow city street, where there's very little place to hide.
Though you can still customize your kits and weapons, the developers have made some key changes to the overall class system in Battlefield 3. First, the medic and assault classes have been merged. The reasoning was based on two key features: first, the assault guys were doing most of the dying and, second, the medics weren't designed to fight as close to the front lines as the assault guys. With the old system, assault guys would die waiting for medics to come up to the point of contact with the enemy. Now, assault players will have their own health packs and paddles and can rescue each other as they go down.
The support class has also been changed a bit. Most players who drift towards the light machinegun, myself included, like to use it as a run and gun weapon. But the designers decided to add a bipod that can be deployed on almost any surface to increase the weapon's stability. This makes the support class much more effective, not just in terms of taking out enemies, but also in terms of using the game's new suppression system. Now when you come under fire, your screen will blur and you'll get a bit of an overlay to hamper your accuracy. It clears up in a second, but it's a nice way to give the support guys something to do to keep enemies' heads down. Support soldiers also earn points for suppression now, which makes it a very attractive tactic in multiplayer.
The other two classes have had changes as well. The engineer is still heavily vehicle focused, both on offense and defense, but now he also has a flashlight slung under his rifle that he can use to blind his enemies in the cramped, dim subway tunnels. The recon class, better known as the sniper, now benefits from the ability of all classes to go prone but the developers have added weapon glint and a slight sway when aiming to keep them from being overpowered.
It's nice to see DICE taking measures to make the game more meaningful and balanced. Given the flow of the multiplayer mission we played, the changes to the new classes seem to be a substantial improvement over previous games in the series. We'll be first in line to try it out when the game ships October 25 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.