Battlefield 3 Free Open Beta Wants You!

One of the most intensely anticipated games of the year, blah blah blah whatever...


Battlefield 3 is in open beta until October 10th, which means you can play it in all its semi-buggy glory for free.

I'll help you sort through the hiccups after the jump.

Being a beta, the game doesn't function perfectly. But it's free so only whiners are going to complain (which they're doing, a lot, on the BF3 forums).

One of the most common issues right now is the error message "There's a problem with your game's setup. Please reinstall your game" prompt. Despite how helpful this seems, reinstalling the game isn't the problem, nor does it likely help.

You can find out more info on this forum thread. The short version is this, though, you need to update everything for BF3 allow you to run it. Being in beta, it doesn't seem to have the intelligence to skip over unimportant stuff.

So check your Windows Updater. Ideally you'll have the latest service pack, etc. Some posts say you need the latest version of IE9, but I didn't and the game still worked.

Next, you'll need the latest video drivers. NVIDIA and AMD have special beta drivers just for this beta. I installed them and there was a slight uptick in framerate, plus no nasty error message before each game.

You can download the beta NVIDIA drivers here.

You can download the beta ATI drivers here.

You also may need to install DirectX 11.

Now, you can at least start downloading the game.

Just kidding, not yet. You'll need to sign up for EA's Origin. Origin is like Valve's Steam service, except crappy and written by morons. There's no other way to download the game, though, so you might as well get used to it. Plus, when Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out 12/20, you'll need an Origin account anyway.

Once Origin is installed, and BF3 downloaded - and after you install various other do-dads it'll ask you about during the process - you'll be presented with what is quite possibly the stupidest gaming interface ever invented. Instead of going into the game, finding a server, and then playing (like every other game), you have to search for a game via your web browser. Remember before when I said you might need IE9? I wasn't kidding. I don't know why anyone would use Internet Explorer, but if you're one of those people, make sure it's updated. Firefox works fine, though some have reported problems with Chrome.

You don't have to do just "Quick Match," which will probably dump you in some server in France or something. In miniscule print underneath the "Quick Match" button, it says "Configure Server Filter." Do this. You get a fairly bog standard server interface menu, where you can limit the search results to your continent, and then sort by ping or active players.

Remember, this is a BETA. Hopefully problems now won't be there at release. This stupid web browser nonsense, though? That's a "feature." That's going to be there. Whatever.

Once you finally get into the game. . . HOLY CRAP.

If any game was meant to be played on a home theater system, this is it. It has some of the greatest in-game sound I've ever heard. Most movies aren't this good. The realism and variety in the sound effects is astonishing. The graphics will make your video card weep. But if it can handle it, BF3 takes photo-realism in games to a whole new level. Stunning.

So go blow stuff up for free while you can. The full game comes out October 25.

More info:

S+V's Battlefield 3/E3 Coverage

Video Games vs Computer Games

Of Mice and Mousepads - the importance of a good gaming mouse