Editor’s note: Ryan Smith is a longtime gamer and freelance writer who lives in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in business and marketing, he has written in the past for WRAL Tech Wire and GameArgus.com. He currently plays Xbox 360 and PC as well as Nintendo DS. For story ideas, tips and feedback, he can be reached via e-mail (ryannicksmith@gmail.com)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – This year is a historical year for the First Person Shooter genre of video games. In recent times “Call of Duty” has been the reigning champion of the FPS genre – having produced over 55 million units sold and $3 billion in revenue – with “Halo” and “Battlefield Bad Company” as the main competition.

Before Call of Duty it was Counter Strike or Battlefield if you wanted some great competitive multiplayer FPS action. But Battlefield 2 – the game that set the standard for Modern Combat shooters two years before Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – was almost forgotten after Call of Duty arrived.

However, with each year bringing a new Call of Duty game – including Black Ops last year and Modern Warfare 3 this year – fans were starting to complain about the repetitive nature of the series and a desire for something different.

Enter Battlefield 3.

Battlefield: Bad Company was a console exclusive Battlefield title released in 2008, and it was a genuine Battlefield experience with fantastic vehicles, destructible buildings, great weapons and class selections. Above all it had a fantastic squad system that allowed you to stay coordinated with your team. Bad Company 2 came out in 2010 for console and PC this time and was an even better game, but still it didn’t receive the attention that Call of Duty got.

As time has gone on, the community knew that Battlefield 3 was on its way, they knew that Bad Company was in many ways superior to Call of Duty and many started to wonder if Call of Duty might finally be toppled. We will know for sure once Battlefield 3 drops on Oct. 25 and Modern Warfare 3 drops on Nov. 8.

Until then we can get our hands on the Battlefield 3 Beta which started Sep. 29 and is running through Oct. 10 for PC, Xbox360 and PS3.

So far, I have loved the beta on the PC despite the numerous glitches and problems that can be expected from a game’s Beta stage. The first thing that strikes me about the game is how fabulously splendid the graphics are. This is one of the most visually attractive games I have ever played, with the Frostbite 2 engine pushing modern graphics to their utmost.

The guns are great, with numerous unlocks for every weapon and class, enough to make you play an estimated 100 hours per class to completely max out. Running out of things to do like in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem, not at all.

In the beta I have primarily been focusing on the Assault class, as in Bad Company and Battlefield: 2142 I preferred the class that allowed you to heal and resurrect team mates. With my defibrillator for resurrection, my med packs for healing and my assault rifles for battle, I proceeded to rack up massive points and have a blast doing it. I haven’t gotten too many upgrades yet, but some great unlocks I have seen so far have been: under slung grenade launcher, tactical light – which blinds your enemies -, an assortment of scopes and sights, barrel enhancements and more.

Despite the glitches – some which make a crawling player look more like a Necromorph from Dead Space – the characters look and move very lifelike. For instance, when running and climbing over an obstacle, you can actually see your whole body, legs and all, climb over, which makes it even more immersive. If you look down while standing still, you can see your feet!

Those may seem like small things, but they really add a lot to the immersion of a game, combined with the near photorealistic graphics, it’s hard not to think you are in an actual combat zone as rockets soar into the sky and bullets whiz past your head.

The beta has only one map for open access: Operation Metro. Set in Paris – which is rendered in a lifelike and accurate portrayal – it features 3 fantastic locales and transitions beautifully between them. First it starts out in an open, shrubbery infested park with the two objectives – to either be bombed or defended depending on your team – which is a sniper friendly area that I don’t much care for.

If you aren’t being picked off by a long distance gunman, there are plenty of shrubs for your prone – Bad Company didn’t allow for the prone position – assailants to lie in wait from. Once the attackers have pushed their way to the next area you will find yourself in a close quarter’s combat zone via the subway system. This is a nice transition from the open map area before it, allowing those who prefer to be up close and personal to have a bit of fun as well. Finally you will fight your way into Paris’ famous city streets, fighting for your lives next to famous statues and landmarks.

So far the FPS community has loved Battlefield 3, me included. The glitches are being addressed by DICE, the weapons look, sound and behave like real guns, the classes are all wonderfully fun, the map is amazing and overall it’s just a roaring good time.

I haven’t gotten to try out Modern Warfare 3 yet, but Battlefield 3 is looking very strong, and we haven’t even gotten to try the vehicles yet – something Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t have.

Will this be the year Call of Duty falls to another series? Many people in the Call of Duty community became jaded with Black Ops and have been looking forward to Battlefield 3 with feverish intensity. So, not only will Battlefield fans rejoice, but so will those burnt out on Call of Duty, who are looking for the next great shooter.

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