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Preview: Electronic Arts' Battlefiled 3

In what could be the most heated battle for the crown of top military shooter, Electronic Arts is pulling out all the stops with its highly anticipated Battlefield 3. This ultra-realistic first-person shooter has upped the ante with jaw-dropping visuals, stunningly realistic sound effects and a greater level of destructible environments. With Activision's perennial juggernaut franchise -- Call of Duty -- releasing Modern Warfare 3 this November, does EA have enough in its arsenal to capture the top spot?

The bread and butter for most first-person shooters is the competitive online gameplay, which Battlefield is known for. The series has made a name for itself with its realistic depiction of large-scale skirmishes. Past iterations have included military vehicles (tanks, boats, helicopters, etc.) to traverse the large maps while also providing serious artillery. Another staple has been the freedom to destroy cover, and even level buildings, removing the feeling of truly being safe. Squad-based actions have also been a calling card for the series.

Developer DICE has made a key addition to its vehicular gameplay. Instead of limiting the air combat to helicopters like in previous releases, Battlefield 3 will include jets, which is a very intriguing addition. It will be interesting to see how DICE will meld the explosive ground combat with the high-powered jets while also maintaing the necessary balanced gameplay.

DICE has also made an important tweak to Battlefield's online classes. The developer has merged the medic and assault classes, providing more firepower to those who revive fallen teammates on the front lines. It will be interesting to see if this class becomes the go-to option for players because the medic seemed to rack up the most experience points in Bad Company 2 with their ability to revive teammates and give health packs.

Another important addition is prone. All classes will be allowed to go into this position but this tweak might have the biggest effect on the recon class (sniper). With the large size of the maps, snipers can kill from long range with little fear of retribution from other classes except from opposing snipers. Prone will limit their profile even more, but DICE has balanced this too. There will be weapon glint, providing opposing players a quick hint at where snipers are positioned. Recons will also have to deal with weapon sway -- subtle movement that increases the challenge of aiming. Snipers can hold their breath, which will stop the swaying effect for a few seconds to line up a target

Engineers, the lone class that didn't undergo any significant change, are still equipped with a repair tool and a selection of rocket launchers to take down vehicles. One new addition to the class is a flashlight attachment that can temporarily blind enemies at close range in dark areas. The support class will be able to lay down a bipod and attach his weapon to just about anything to improve accuracy. The class can also use suppressive fire that will blur the enemy's vision and also administers ammunition to teammates

DICE has also said that it has increased the number of unlockables from Battlefield Bad Company 2. This is another critical change because without that incentive, players are less likely to grind through all of the levels, especially considering how difficult it was to climb up the 50 levels in Bad Company 2.

These multiplayer tweaks have Battlefield 3 ready to make another permanent mark on the military shooter landscape. But will they be enough to take the crown for No. 1 selling shooter? It will be interesting when Battlefield 3 deploys October 25th on PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360.