As we filed into the 12 minute screening of Battlefield 3 at EA's showcase earlier this week, we were excited. We were more than excited; we might have squeaked a bit, we're not sure.
This is Battlefield 3 we're talking about, the EA and DICE FPS that looks so good it could blow COD out of the water, never mind kill it. We have, of course, already seen a fair bit of Battlefield 3 footage; the nuanced, slick animations, the spine-tingling destruction - big and small - and the blinding shafts of light that somehow manage to beat the real thing only served to fuel our anticipation for this day.
We were a bit disappointed then, to find out that the 12 minutes of gameplay footage that EA had prepared for us was more or less the footage we'd already seen on the internet tacked together. Our hearts sank, we'll admit.
But they didn't sink too far because it wasn't long before we realised this was going to be a completely different experience. Firstly it was an extended version of the Battlefield trailers that we were being made privy to; there was some extra gameplay footage bridging some of the sections to feast our eyes on. All was not lost.
Secondly, we weren't watching this on some tiny computer monitor, sitting on unforgiving office chairs with the threat of the whip if we blinked for too long; this was big screen, HD, surround-sound. It was how Battlefield 3 was meant to be experienced, and then some.
With a full-blown showing of Battlefield 3, we were able to witness all the subtleties of the gameplay for the first time: Things kicked off with a scene that was new to what we'd seen of Battlefield 3 but a well-worn classic for the military FPS; the old 'sitting in a jeep with your squad while the one with the loudest mouth talks through the situation' scenario. Except this one was the best we've seen by a long way, not because anything particularly revolutionary happened in terms of the scene's structure or mechanics but because it was absolutely flawless. The animation was smooth, fluid and detailed with the slightest movements putting the characters well beyond the slightly puppet-like movements you could accuse much of DICE's competition of still exhibiting and closer to human replication than ever before.
The best bit is that the briefing followed not with a fade out and a loading screen but with the jeep arriving at its destination and the CGI cutscene quality squad standing, leaving the vehicle and stepping onto the streets of Iraq, beginning the mission. There wasn't even the slightest of pauses in the flow of the scene as control was handed to the player, those cutscene quality graphics doubled up as in-game visuals with a shrug of the shoulders and a "What of it?" from Frostbite 2.0.
A TOUCH OF FROST
That lead us into the opening of first gameplay trailer released at the beginning of March, only this time our tour guide took a little bit more time to look around. It gave us the chance to really drink in the incredible draw-distance and the surrounding detail. The war-torn city was brought to life as fellow soldiers stood watch, searched civilians and generally got on with tasks that the player wasn't involved in at all - it felt like the player was just a small part of something much bigger, and largely unnoticed, really adding to the feeling of authenticity.
What also added to the authenticity was the absolutely stunning scenery which, on a big HD screen, looked as close to photorealistic as our brains could comprehend any in-game graphics ever doing.