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Battlefield 3: Will it steal Call Of Duty's thunder?

Getting to grips with DICE's stunning shooter...

We've learnt a lot over the last couple of years," explains Battlefield 3 Executive Producer, Patrick Bach.

"We now have both the tools, with Frostbite 2 (their new graphics engine) and the knowledge to build something truly great". It's a bold claim, but on the evidence of our brief but thrilling in-game demo, Swedish developers DICE might be crafting the best modern war shooter, not just of 2011, but of this generation.

So far, consoles have only been given a taste of what DICE is capable of. Battlefield Bad Company 2, arguably the console's best multi-player shooter, is their finest work and they also contributed to the online element (or what we refer to as 'the good bit') of the recent Medal Of Honor remake.

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Mirror's Edge was theirs too, although something of a departure for the studio now synonymous with war. Battlefield 3, though, is different. It's the first main-series game on next-gen, coming five years after Battlefield 2, it's powered by an engine that has been three years in the making (Frostbite 2), and the team working on it is twice the size of that committed to Bad Company 2. The end result is... well, just look at it.

SOLO SKILLS
Anyone who has picked up a Battlefield game on PS3 will already know that multi-player is king, but this time around DICE are aiming to bring the traditionally good-but-not-brilliant solo experience up to standard. "Our goal is to take what Battlefield stands for in multi-player - both huge and tight battles, vehicle and infantry warfare, destruction and play style variation - and transform this into a single-player experience," says Bach. This means getting serious.

The comedy and OTT scenarios from Bad Company have been ditched - now you're fighting serious battles in real-world locations all over the globe. Tehran, Paris, New York are all confirmed locations. New York? Again? Really? Hasn't that been done to death? Surely Crysis 2 is the last word on the Big Apple? Well, yes, New York is a popular destination for the trigger happy, but the prospect of taking the Frostbite 2 engine there sends a tingle down our spine.

DICE are promising huge set-pieces with incredible destruction courtesy of their new engine, and New York's wealth of skyscrapers is a perfect showcase for what it can do. Based on what we've seen so far, even Crysis 2's incredible visuals might look pedestrian compared to Battlefield 3's New York.

It's not just about the looks, though. DICE recognise the need to ease off on the SFX every now and then to give players a breather. "Adding drama and a varied flow through the campaign is always key to not make it just a shooting gallery," recognises Bach, subtly poking fun at Call Of Duty's relentlessly paced campaign. He has a point. Black Ops moved too fast for most, taking little time to contextualise its plot, leading many to criticise the single-player.

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It's clearly one of the 'knowledge lessons' Bach is referencing at the start of our interview, and one that will - hopefully - make big moments, like the planned earthquake during one level (really), stand out.

SQUAD DAMAGE
As for multi-player? DICE are keeping quiet for now; understandable, as this will be their trump card. Bach is coy when asked about it, reeling out a stock answer that hints at the 'If it ain't broke...' approach: "We are always learning and developing, and there are plenty of things we have learnt over the years.

The biggest lesson learned is how well the core concept behind Battlefield works when executed right". Reading between the lines, that means more of the same sandbox multi-player, but with even better tools.

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