Battlefield 3 Beta Hands-on: Gameplay, graphics & bugs - 75 maxed-out screenshots
Battlefield 3 has arrived - at least the Beta version. All "First access" members can download and join the open Beta test now. PC Games Hardware conquered the Battlefield for some hours to make a first report.
The Battlefield 3 Open Beta has started. If you're one of the lucky guys with a first-access code, the newest Battlefield is open for you. Since the BF3 Beta is multiplayer-only - fueled by dedicated servers - single players have to wait for the release in October. The only playable map is "Metro" in rush mode, creating and playing own servers is not possible. Warning: The game's status definitely is "beta" – we encountered many crashes while testing.
The game starts on www.origin.com: EA's download portal is essential for BF3, you have to register and activate your key there and sell your soul, then you can download the Beta client (round about 3,5 Gigabytes). Following that, another installation is necessary: Since the server list is located in your regular browser (i.e. Firefox), EA forces you to install a plugin that unlocks all functionality. Although this update can be obtained with a few clicks, we encountered some problems using the server browser: The list is laggy and the included filters don't work the way they should: Sometimes the browser doesn't list servers with at least 5 players, even with this checkbox is activated. Anyway, the matchmaking system works: A klick on "quick match" connects you to the next suitable server. Another klick on "join game" finally opens Battlefield 3 - windowed on the first start.
Pressing Alt + Enter takes you into fullscreen mode. Although the options menu is detailed, most of the graphical options don't affect the game's look. Only one feature, the Horizon-based Ambient Occlusion (HBAO), definitely works. You will seee these pictures in place one and two. As in other games, this effect improves depth and realism with enhanced shading in areas with less light. We expect gradual updates of the Beta client which will make all options work.
Battlefield 3 looks fine in the current status but doesn't set any new standards. The Metro map shines with many sharp textures that remember of Crysis 2's HD texture pack but also sports shimmering water and some areas with a low poly-count and low-res textures. DICE promises an "Ultra" graphics mode for the final version that is currently not implemented in the Beta. As for now, the performance barely fits the quality: Geforce GTX 570 and HD 6970 users "enjoy" the game with ~30 Fps in Full-HD (1.920 x 1.080) - as long as they're using the latest drivers. Following Nvidia's BF3 driver Geforce 285.38, AMD released the Catalyst 10.10 preview driver. Both AMD and Nvidia promise huge "up to" fps gains – and indeed, the game runs smoother with these drivers. GTX 580 OC owners don't get into trouble, with framerates over 40 Fps in open areas and drops down to 20 in heavy firefights.
You can take a look at the Battlefield 3 Beta in the gallery, packed with 75 screenshots. In the meantime, we're preparing further arcticles, dealing with the performance (GPU and CPU benchmarks).