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Battlefield 3 Online: Perfected by DICE, ruined by you

Where have all the good players gone?

The last thing I hear as, infuriatingly, my dogtags are taken and my killstreak is ended: "Look at that guy there. No, him. Nah, he's not on my side. Check it out, though, he's going to stab that soldier in the back. Yeah, that means you get his dogtags".

I'm playing Battlefield 3 in the first week of release, and although many claim to have sunk hours into Bad Company 2, few seem to know how to actually play.

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My most recent demise comes as the drawling teenager in my own squad - who is meant to be covering me as I hold a Conquest flag - decides to use me as an example while explaining to his father what the purpose of the combat knife is in Battlefield 3. Thanks for watching my back, Sergeant Douchebag.

So far, this mini-commentary on the game (which, thanks to voice chat, everyone on the team has heard) has included how to ignore squad-spawn, how to drive a vehicle, how to get out of a vehicle when you tip it over a cliff, and how to change your load-out as you wait to respawn after your unfortunate vehicle / cliff-based suicide.

ARE YOU BEING SERVED?

To be honest, I'm just happy to be in a game. Early on, BF3's servers were erratic at best, broken at worst. They're more stable now, but during week one finding a game took several attempts at barging into a session via the server browser.

Worse still, joining a game with friends often meant being placed on separate teams with no hope of transferring across. It's less of a problem now, and at its core - when everyone plays properly - Battlefield 3 is untouchable online.

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There are few better experiences than rolling in a tank with a PSN friend, racking up huge kill numbers, or reviving a buddy after seeing them courageously fall while defending an MCOM station in Rush. Playing as part of an efficient team makes you feel good, and you win more too.

Sadly, I'm not getting much of that right now - something exacerbated by my selfish, constantly nattering squad mate. Usually a lack of communication is a problem on PSN and Xbox Live; now I just wish this guy would shut up.

"I'm going to pick the Recon class now. Yeah, that's the one with the sniper rifle. Nah, I'll probably just sit back near the base and shoot people," I hear over my headset as I push towards point A on the Tehran Highway Conquest map. I swear lightly under my breath.
Dead again. And again. I'm glad when the session finishes in crushing defeat for our team.

I hate to lose, but like to think the opposition's coordinated teamwork (balanced squads, communication, good use of support and vehicles) serves as an example of what our clueless team could have achieved.

WAR CORRESPONDENT

The next map is Damavand Peak, one of the best in both Conquest and Rush (by far the most satisfying modes in the game). After being treated to a detailed explanation of the post-game lobby by my chatty 'friend', I spawn onto the mag and use the 30 seconds of pre-action grace (a great addition usually reserved for tinkering with kit) to see if I can escape to a new squad. No luck.

The game begins, and we're soon behind again. I've gone Engineer and picked the Stinger to shoot down the Little Bird that starts camping our spawn near A. Then a tank rolls in. "Yeah, that's a tank. No, I'll probably die. I'm just going to stay up here until someone else blows it up," I hear.

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Furious, I charge the tank, but realise I haven't got the right kit for the job. The Stinger is for jets and choppers − it won't work against tanks. It's a perfect example of BF3's clever risk / reward kit balance, but right now that's cold comfort.

So I whip out my repair tool and start circle-strafing the tank, whittling its health away bit by bit. It explodes in a glorious shower of flames, and I cackle. "Yeah, that was the repair tool. No, you can use it to destroy stuff too..."

Battlefield 3 is a brilliant playground of war, but one that relies on players working together to realise its true potential. Come on guys, shape up.

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