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Battlefield 3 co-op preview: Army of one


If EA weren't already inviting so many comparisons between the two, maybe I'd feel guilty about juxtaposing the co-op section of Battlefield 3 that I played with the co-op ("Spec Ops") section of Modern Warfare 3 I played this week at Gamescom. Like MW3, my colleague Alexander and I were given hands-on time with a specific co-op mission in BF3 -- the same one played on-stage during EA's press conference.

Unlike Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games' demo, however, Battlefield 3's co-op section didn't feature any interesting kink in the experience. Moreover, Battlefield 3's co-op section wasn't co-op at all, other than the fact that I was playing it with a buddy. It could've been ripped from any section of the campaign and I'd have been none the wiser. While the Spec Ops mission we played in MW3 was built around the concept of cooperative play, with one player acting as eye in the sky and the other as bomb defuser, the mission in Battlefield 3, well, it wasn't. It was just a campaign mission with two people.

Gallery: Battlefield 3 (Gamescom 2011) | 8 Photos

The mission, named "Exfiltration," starts with myself and Alex slipping out of some armed transports and into a building being reappropriated for hostage duty. An important gentleman is being held inside, and we've gotta sneak in (or roar in, depending on how you like it) to extract him. While sneaking, we could carefully plan our attack and take out conveniently paired guards -- or, as we learned after a few failures, you could simply run through guns blazing as a single soldier. Wait, isn't this a co-op mission?

The incentive towards co-op play got thinner as we extracted the target and headed back outside to our transport. As we rolled down the road to our next objective, gunfire broke out and enemies dotted verandas, hunkered down behind cover, and took fire from all angles. While harrowing, and quite technically impressive, the concept of cooperative play seemed lost in the mix. Sure, we were fighting together towards our next objective, but other than that, where was the mutual dependency?

Given the demo's difficulty, we didn't make it much further than halfway through, with a gunfight continuing as we lurched through the streets of a Middle Eastern city (not for lack of trying, I assure you). It's possible that the mission becomes more focused on cooperative play as it progresses, but what we played could've been ripped from any part of the game's single-player campaign. Was it fun? Sure! It's still Battlefield, right? While running between destructible cover, spotting enemies (now available in some of the campaign, apparently), and sniping from afar, I was having a great time.

But I wasn't having an experience based in co-op. The closest we came was alerting each other to various snipers in the balconies above the street, or when one of us was downed, the other had to help revive that person. Perhaps I'd be more forgiving had I not played the direct competition's parallel mode just a day prior, but for me -- a fan of both series -- it was clear which game's co-op was built around co-op and which wasn't. I have no doubt that Battlefield 3 will be a great game when it arrives this October, just don't expect its co-op to rattle Spec Ops from the leader's chair just yet.

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