Frostbiff: Battlefield 3 Revealed At GDC

I was there for the reveal event. Read on below to find out what happened.

The Temple Nightclub in San Francisco was full to the stylish mezzanine with the world’s gaming press. We waited. DICE producer-man Ben Cousins came on stage and admitted that he was the support act. Poor Ben. He talked about Battlefield Play4Free, which will be released on April 4th. Okay, fine. It will also be getting a server browser after launch. So that’s good.


That question was to be answered by producer Patrick Bach, who was going to play a chunk of the single-player campaign live in front of the crowd. Yes, the single-player game was what was shown at GDC. What we are looking at here is nothing less than DICE taking on the military manshooter genre and trying to win the war. The first salvo was strong.

Before there was any playing of games there was another DICE man (whose name I ignored, because I am almost dead) who showed us the new Frostbite engine. I gasped at one bit. It was when an earthquake ripped up an entire road. Yes, they were showing off the destruction tech, and it looked formidable. The capacity to shoot chunks out of things has been ramped up so that blowing holes in walls or knocking individual bits of scenery to pieces is far more effective (and far more possible) than it was in BFBC2. But the destruction goes much further: we were shown a big, built up area – Paris – with massive damage being wrought on the buildings. DICEman talked about being able to take out entire buildings. Then the camera cut to vast landscape: the maps Frostbite can do are big and, judging by that panning camera, big on quite a serious scale. There was also talk of animation. It’s the animation tech from the latest FIFA game, apparently. I don’t know what that means, but it looked pretty animated to me.

However, said DICEman, the engine was not what mattered. And he was right. The full game will be single-player, multi-player and co-op, and how all that plays out is going to validate the tech, one way or another. What we saw was the PC version of the game.

Bach’s demo was a play through a linear bit of single-player game. We’ve all seen this stuff before, but the impact was nonetheless impressive. A team of American soldiermen dismounted from an APC into a humming, vibrant city, and the environment was staggeringly realistic – both in its visual details and in the incredible depth of the audio. DICE games tend to sound good, but this entire demo was whatever the aural equivalent of glistening is.

The soldiermen walked up to their office type, who was down an alley for some reason. He pointed at his map: dudes were going to get shot, he said. Well, something like that, I didn’t write it down. Anyway, the gist of it was that dudes were going to get very shot. With this in mind the four man fireteam ran off down a further alleyway, giving Bach the opportunity to show off more of the astonishing lighting and other visual subleties.

The soldiers found themselves at a doorway, and ventured out into the sunshine. A sniper opened up. Now, I keep mentioning DICE’s capacity to make impact effects visceral and physical, but there MUST be a point where they can’t get any more impressive. This might be it. The air seems to scintillate with the impact of the bullets, with the usual chaos of particle effects selling it to your eyeballs. It’s as impressive as pretend bullets smacking into stuff as ever been, and it was only going to get more impressive later into the demo.

This bit involved killing a wave of AK-47s and their attached men, while finishing things off by blowing out a balcony where a man with an RPG was sat quitely rolling 20-sided dice. Only joking, it was the other type of RPG.

Then the scene cut to a rooftop where a sniper had to be a eliminated. Up on the rooftop the cityscape was – perhaps predictably – breathtakingly pretty. Anyway, the sniper wasn’t really a sniper, as it turned out, but a man in a nearby tower block with a .50 calibre machinegun. He did like to shoot at the marines, which was good, because it meant that we got to see more things blasted into particles, and more of the animation. The crawling of the marines was, well, extraordinary. You could tell it was convincing because I can see here that I underlined “crawling” in my notepad, to remind me to tell you about it, and emphasize its excellence. Anyway, the soldiermen used a rocket-launcher to deal with the .50 guy, and that was the end of him. And of much of the building he was hiding it.

Then there was a scene of some interior events. These involved crawling down an air duct – in what I suggested to the silently large man next to me was clearly a clever homage to Half-Life – and then bashing a hapless enemy’s head in via brutal close-quarters melee, seemingly resolved by clicking the mouse until the assailant was dead. The audio during this fight was staggering, seemingly getting across the very distortions and pressures you’d get inside your head if you were struggling to murder a man with your hands.

The final sequence saw the marines storm a pedestrian bridge over a freeway. AK-47-carrying rascals scampered below, and helicopter above. The shooting of men became seriously intense that this point, culminating in some big gun action from the back of a commandeered jeep and then an earthquake. Yeah. The whole demo had been teasing it with tremors, but the demo ended by dropping a building on the protagonist. Crikey.

Three things became clear that this point: firstly, there wasn’t really much AI going on in this demo. Baddies were shooting at the player, yes, but they were also waiting to be shot. It was very much a shooting gallery. Also, it was definitely being played live, because there were bugs on screen: a couple of characters popped out of existence as the demo played on. I could hear the hearts of the assembled EA marketing people stop for a moment there. Don’t worry guys, we won’t mention it. The third thing is: holy crap it looks good. The graphics, as Kieron would once have said, are high.

And that was it.

As the crowd dispersed to the bar, Will Porter, former editor of PC Zone came over to me. “What did you think?” he asked.

“It’s very pretty,” I said, non-committally. “But then games are very pretty these days.”

“I think I was more blown away by it than anyone else!” said Will, ruefully. I didn’t say anything, but he was right, it really did look like something else. If DICE can stay on target, they’re going to trouble Call Of Duty and also produce a multiplayer game that I can give a crap about. Heady propositions, both.

Here’s that trailer again.


  1. konrad_ha says:

    Now that the tech is there, would anyone care to fill it with a story I can even remotely care about? The whole marines vs. terrorists things is getting a little stale.

    • jplayer01 says:

      A little? It’s World War II all over again. Give us something *new*.

    • Tuco says:

      Honestly, no one gives a fuck abut the story in a Battlefield game.
      It’s all about the multiplayer.

      Hell, this is the very first with a proper campaign in it.

    • konrad_ha says:

      Well, I do give a fuck about a story in a Battlefield game. So there’s that.

    • Scythe says:

      Quite so. The campaign, co-op or no, is a totally irrelevant part of any battlefield game.

      At least irrelevant to anyone with an opinion worth holding.

    • Insanara says:

      How about Space Marines vs. Space Terrorists and Space Pirates? :)

    • scienceshoew says:

      They’ve been wayy better multiplayer games to be sure, but you can’t say it wouldn’t be nice to have a decent singleplayer.

    • Bennus says:

      I do believe Game Informer said the team is 3 to 4 times the size of the Bad Company 2 team, so the SP section isn’t necessarily to the detriment of MP (in terms of dev resources). Just thought I’d say that before someone makes the point.

  2. Njordsk says:

    ZOMG §

  3. SprintJack says:

    There is a new and long SP gameplay footage you should see ;)

    • safetydank says:

      I recognized one vocal sample from BC2 near the beginning halfway through, presumably a placeholder. They still have no peer in sound design.

    • Theory says:

      The “follow” icon made my heart sink. But hey, I’m sure the campaign will pass the time when EA’s multiplayer servers go down.

  4. Eggy says:

    Nice tech and the trailer looks good as well. But WHY God WHY does the weapon take up a quarter of the screen. This trend we see nowadays is freaking annoying.

  5. crainey92 says:

    Whilst I will agree that the story is imprortant and it’s to be expected of a AAA game I do think that multiplayer is where it’s at, especialy so for Battelfield. Battelfield traditionaly, if you have been onboard for the long haul, has been about going online into massive landscapes and shooting eachother utilizing tanks, jets and helicopters along the way.

    • bigtoeohno says:

      Oh the fickle nature of us gamers a dev takes one step off the expected path and we pounce. But tis what it is. At least dice seams to be trying to make a complete package which to me translates to value. Besides can’t see dice skimping on multiplayer.

  6. s3rioussam says:

    Remember when you played Call of Duty for the Single Player campaign and Battlefield for the multiplayer?

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I do remember that. Now I remember playing call of duty for the single player and… oh dear what a disappointment. I am glad that we’re getting a single player here, it might actually be GOOD. Which would be a nice change of pace these days. Then I can play Battlefield for my single playaer AND multiplayer.

    • s3rioussam says:

      That, THAT, sir, would be awesome.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      I dunno, the classic CoD’s (1, UO, and 2) had pretty sweet multiplayer. That was before perks and ranking and killstreaks and all of that bullshit. Plus it was fresher back then.

      I know I for one had some really good times online with those games.

  7. Inigo says:

    “Someone asked Patrick about mod support. He laughed heartily, then slapped them in the face with his gangrenous genitalia, screeching like a rabid chimp.”

  8. Gnoupi says:

    Not enough wizards.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Magicka took up all the wizards. There are no more wizards available.

  9. Bodylotion says:

    I would put it like this: If DICE (EA) tells you the game will not be a multiplayer game but will also contain a singleplayer mode I want the story to be good. I find it no excuse to make up some shitty single player story as an extra next to the multplayer mode.

  10. wazups2x says:

    I love how DICE is going back to their roots and showing great support for the PC.

    I cannot wait for this game!

  11. coldvvvave says:

    Were men attached to AK-47’s of Slavic or Arabic origin?

    • P3RF3CT D3ATH says:

      They were or Arabic origin. But does it really matter? Those enemies are overdone and I’m tired of shooting the same people over and over again.

    • coldvvvave says:

      I just wanted to know who am I playing in multiplayer.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      The new trailer shows it to be along the Iraq-Iran border, and the enemies appear to be uniformed, so it could very well be Iranians. Which are neither Arabic or Slavic.

    • Bret says:

      I was hoping to fight the Kaiser.

  12. Shadow Aspect says:

    Would like to know when DICE/EA are going to talk about the promised Beta for Medal of Honour purchasers.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Yup, same here! If the game is due for release around Nov it’s kinda something they should start talking about soon…

  13. Muzman says:

    How do we have debates about the relevance of first person perspective whenever developers (seem to) want to change it for Thief and Deus Ex, while stuff like this is being made?

  14. mkultra says:

    Something about poo and something about myself.

    EDIT: Also, system requirements.

  15. Bungle says:

    Here’s hoping they find a way to improve their net code.

  16. Gap Gen says:

    You are good journalist.

  17. bill says:

    Is it weird that this looks amazing – yet i have zero interest? I think i’ve totally overdosed on teams of soldiers fighting random ak47s. I don’t really want to do it again. (and i haven’t even played half the ak47 hunter games out there)

  18. Shatners Bassoon says:

    Any idea how badly this is going to rape my system? Because oh my that lighting, those textures. Hmmm. Thinking that Xfire 6970s don’t seem like such a bad idea right now.

  19. gillesv says:

    Anyone notice the bursts of static when they show the title mimic the BAM-BAM-BA-BAM-BAM of the Battlefield theme?

  20. Radiant says:

    Not to put a downer on the whole thing but they essentially put you into a nightclub with a city renowned sound system and ear fucked you.
    It probably wont sound that good in my bedroom.

  21. Vaerriek says:

    I wish it had the battlefield theme.

  22. LieutLaww says:

    it did at the end did you not hear it through the static :p

  23. Vaughn says:

    They went all Terminator: Salvation on this shi…

  24. KilgoreTrout_XL says:

    Looking good- reminds me of the upcoming Ghost Recon for some bizarre reason that will take me about four or seventeen years to figure out, if ever, as there are no similarities whatsoever between the two.. Still, I’m mostly interested in what the MP has to offer as I’ve never played a battlefield campaign.

  25. Στέλιος says:

    All I wanted was an updated BF2. You know, better graphics, optimizations, new maps, new weapons and factions but with the same command structure, VOIP et.c. Bah, humbug.

  26. Dreamhacker says:

    “I could hear the hearts of the assembled EA marketing people stop for a moment there. Don’t worry guys, we won’t mention it.”


  27. Duffin says:

    No fucking Carl Gustav pllleeeeaaaaasssseeeeee.

  28. PaulOHara says:

    BF3 has got me back on PC manshooting in a big way after the letdown that was Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s got me back so much that I’m building a new PC to play this game in all it’s glory and then some!

    • crusty1 says:

      NO need PaulO.
      link to This tech is helping power some aspects of Frostbite2 & it runs on current gen GPUs fine.
      So unless you plan on playing it at >1680×1050 it should be fine.