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Buildings collapse, helicopters explode, jets scream overhead and machine-gun fire echoes down dusty alleyways. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a San Francisco nightclub on the second night of GDC, a group of us is watching the first substantial gameplay footage of Battlefield 3. The crowd is focused on the screens and eerily quiet -- some people around me appear to be holding their breath.
The game looks and moves with almost unnerving realism. Thanks to that and the well-paced combat set pieces, the room falls into a shared visceral tension. When the demo ends and the lights go on, I hear deep exhalations in the moment before the applause.
It is within that twisting anxiety and those deeply realistic visuals that developer DICE hopes to find the means to take the modern military first-person shooter crown. That the Battlefield franchise (and really, every video game with a gun) lives in the shadow of Activision's Call of Duty games is obvious. But even more ambitious than going head-to-head with that money-making juggernaut is the fact that Swedish developers are focused on the PC version of the game.
Battlefield, with the exception of the two Bad Company games, has been a PC legacy from the start. Recent word from DICE, including general manager Karl Magnus Troedsson, has been that the PC version of the game will not only take advantage of all the latest technology (including their own new Frost Bite 2 engine) but will also drop support for Windows XP in order to focus on making the most of Windows Vista and 7.
The end result? The definitive Battlefield 3 experience, from the visuals to the gigantic 64-player multiplayer maps, will only be possible on PC.
Stu Horvath is the managing editor of DIG, as well as the man behind the geek culture website, Unwinnable.com. Previously, Horvath has worked at the New York Daily News, Wizard magazine, Random House, CrispyGamer.com, and Joystiq.com. He is also a founding member of the NYC Videogame Critics Circle.
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