The thing that never quite comes across in all of the footage EA and DICE have released is how likely Battlefield 3 is to get you kicked out of your apartment. Take this video, for example. It looks great. We're seeing the Frostbite 2 engine at night, for a change, and that light mortar? Awesome. And there are plenty of explosions in there, and gunshots, and yeah, they seem loud. But the videos just don't cover it.
How do I know? Because I just sat at Dolby Labs in San Francisco and played it. And let me tell you. You have no idea.
Most games' gunfire pops – Battlefield 3's roars. It features some of the most aggressive use of positional audio I've heard, and it really works to establish the feel of the campaign. While Operation Guillotine starts off slowly, with a quick sitrep courtesy of your commanding officer's discussion with Haymaker squad, you're in the, er, poop, soon enough.
Explosions rocked me as I raced down a hill with the rest of the fireteams involved in Guillotine's assault. As rockets exploded in the distance, there was a distinct difference in tonal quality to the whumps and booms. NPCs don't raise their voices, they shout like their lives depend on you hearing what they have to say.
Having seen Modern Warfare 3 in a similar capacity, it's sound, not visuals, that sets Battlefield 3 apart so much. It isn't that Modern Warfare 3 sounds bad, exactly. It's just not Battlefield. And it's good that there's that distinction, because spending an admittedly limited 15 minutes with Operation Guillotine, Battlefield 3 doesn't play much differently – at least on this level.
The guns have multiple fire modes, and I appreciated being able to set my G3 to semi-automatic fire, but my play style fell directly into the Call of Duty habits I've developed over the years, right down to using the aim-down-sights zoom to do most of my aiming for me. Operation Guillotine is pretty funneled, and as great as it looks, and as great as it sounds, when I went to the door of a building full of insurgents and couldn't blast it off its hinges with a shotgun... well, I was disappointed.
It doesn't play badly. I still had fun. But my brief time with Battlefield 3's campaign didn't feel as Battlefield-ish as I'd like. Still, we'll have to see how the full campaign turns out when it releases next month. And please, warn your neighbors.