The most popular game modes are Rush and Conquest. The other ones are Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch, but I'll focus on the first two modes.
|Arming an MCOM|
After destroying two MCOMs the map is expanded, the attackers advance and the defenders fall back to defend the next pair of MCOMs. There are usually 3 or 4 pairs of MCOMs. The game ends if the attackers destroy all the MCOMs or if the defenders kill all the attackers. The number of attackers is visible at the lower left corner above your minimap. That number is called the number of tickets. Defenders have an unlimited number of tickets.
|A destroyed MCOM|
Also, once one of your teammates has armed the MCOM station you should prevent the enemies from getting there. At this point the enemies are usually running quite blindly towards it, so this may even give you chance to go for the other MCOM station when the enemies are busy with the first one!
|Capturing a flag in an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV)|
In Conquest the teams try to conquer flags that are scattered around the map. The flags are initially neutral and are converted by hanging out near them, without any enemies in the vicinity. Once you get close enough to the flag you'll see and hear a counter ticking in the middle of the screen. Capturing flags earns you a lot of points, just like arming MCOMs in the Rush mode. The Back to Karkand expansion pack also added a slightly different variation, Conquest Assault, where one team, the defenders, starts with all the flags and the other team must conquer them to deplete the defenders from spawning points. The Conquest games end when one of the teams runs out of tickets. One important thing to know about the Conquest mode is that once one team controls more than half of the flags, the other team bleeds tickets. This means that they lose reinforcements even if no one is actually killed, so this gives you even more reason to try to capture flags from enemies.
Squads, character kits and their equipment
|Squad selection screen|
So, to join a squad check the squad menu from the spawn screen to see which squads have vacant places. A squad holds four soldiers, so to get a maximum amount of support from friends -- and to help a maximum amount of friends -- try to join a squad that has three players. In addition to the attacked/defender starting point or a flag, a server may allow you to spawn to your squad leader or to any of your squad member. Before blindly spawning, inspect the situation at least for a couple of seconds. You do that by clicking on the desired spawn location which moves the camera there. If your squad mate is in some good position, such as flanking an enemy, you'll want to join him. But also if he's under fire, you might want to join him as an Assault soldier in order to give him a medkit and to revive him if needed. In general I always drop a medkit or an ammo kit right away when I spawn next to a squad mate.
The assault soldier carries an assault rifle and medkits by default. Use the medkits! What I generally do when I spawn next to a squad member, I immediately throw them a medkit. Hanging next to a medkit heals you quickly and earns points for whoever deployed that kit. Assault soldiers can make good points without even killing anyone by deploying medkits and reviving fallen team mates (once you have unlocked the paddles). You use the paddles by aiming at your dead friend and firing -- there's no indication on when you are at the right position and sometimes the paddles seem to be buggy and won't have an effect (on the first try), but that's how you do it anyway.
The assault class also has an unlockable grenade launcher, but using that one uses up the slot where you'd normally keep the medkit. Once you kill 20 enemies with the grenade launcher, you earn smoke grenades for it. These are very useful especially for the attackers in the Rush mode as they help you to advance in the cover of a smoke cloud without the enemy seeing where exactly are you.
Engineers are good at repairing and destroying vehicles. By default they carry a basic rocket launcher and a repair torch or anti-tank mines. The main weapon of an engineer is a carbine. In terms of stopping power and accuracy carbines are basically as good as assault rifles; my favorite carbine is the SCAR-H which is the third or fourth unlock of the Engineer class, depending on how you count it, after 14000 points.
Engineers are similar to assault soldiers in that they, too, can earn lots of points just by helping the other members of the team. With this I'm referring to repairing their vehicles, of course. Choosing whether to use AT mines or the repair torch should be decided on a case by case basis. If you can get into a tank or some other vehicle the repair torch is always a good choice, but if there are no seats left for you then you might want to make sure that the enemies don't use their vehicles either. ;) However, when attacking in a Rush game you will usually want to equip the repair torch.
Applying the repair torch to an enemy vehicle causes damage to it, so it's entirely possible to kill enemies by destroying their tank with a torch. You should, however, be aware of a few points. One: many people use proximity scanners in their vehicles so you won't be able to approach the vehicle without being noticed. Two: you can be ran over by a vehicle if you are in front of it or behind it. Three: one member of the vehicle crew will probably jump out and kill you even if the vehicle's weapons cannot shoot you when you are right next to the vehicle. So mines are a lot safer for you if you keep clear from them when they detonate.
Notice that while unarmored vehicles will be destroyed by one mine, tanks usually won't. Instead they become disabled, which means that their turret can still turn and they can shoot, they just cannot drive away anymore, or only in crawling speed. The vehicle also catches a fire and will start losing health, but if there's no one to finish the vehicle off with an RPG then there's a good chance that a member of the crew will just repair the vehicle. I realize that it's boring and risky to wait for someone to drive to your mine and no one actually does that, but at least the defenders of a Rush round should be aware of this issue.
At 82000 points the Engineer class unlocks the Javelin missile. It locks on to a target and is then guided into it. That's at least in theory. In practice the locking time feels like an eternity and you seldom have the chance to shoot enemy vehicles from a distance where Javelin would be better than a regular RPG. You also cannot shoot Javelin without it locking into a vehicle first, so you cannot use it in quick situations or against infantry, nor can you, by default, shoot aerial vehicles with a Javelin. Finally, the basic RPGs are slightly more powerful than the Javelin if they hit their target anywhere but on the top. However, Javelin excels if one of your team mates is using a laser designator, more on which later under the Recon header.
|Stinger ready to be fired|
There are also anti-air missiles in the Engineer kit: the IGLA for Russians and the Stinger for the US troops. These need a lock-on just like the Javelin and they only lock on to aerial vehicles. The air vehicles then have a chance to defend themselves with IR flares, so it's still not a guaranteed hit.
Support soldiers are armed with a light machine gun and can deal ammo for their team mates. As with the Assault medkits, do deal ammo out too! Light machine guns are pretty effective if used correctly, but horribly ineffective if used incorrectly. A correct way to use a light machine gun is to deploy a bipod for it. If you have selected one as an accessory for your gun, the bipod is deployed automatically when you bring up your sights when you are laying down or close to a suitable obstacle on which to place the bipod.
The bipod makes the gun very stable so it is often quite feasible to just go for a long burst of automatic fire. However, when using a machine gun without a bipod, that's not a good idea. The recoil will throw your aim off and there's a great chance that you only get yourself killed by an enemy five meters away after spraying 50 bullets at him. So go for short bursts and in between correct your aim.
As a Support soldier you will quickly earn the C4 plastic explosives. Later on the Support class will also earn Claymore mines and a 60 mm mortar. The C4 can be used -- you guessed it -- to destroy stuff. You deploy an explosive with the right mouse button and detonate it with the left one. You can remember this from the fact that every other weapon is fired with the left button as well. You can have several explosives deployed at any given time, and when you run out, you can just drop an ammo box and collect new ones. Deploying "too many" C4s (or anti-tank mines or Claymore mines) will, however, make the oldest explosives disappear.
If you are brave, you can destroy enemy tanks with the C4. Just go to the tank, attach an explosive with the right mouse button, preferably back off and then detonate. The same cautions apply as with the Engineer and his repair torch, so you are likely to get noticed and killed, but hey, it's still worth a try especially if the tank in question is busy with shooting at your team mates in the other direction. I have also found the C4 useful as a Rush defender when you can attach the explosives to the MCOMs or right next to them and then easily kill the first one trying to arm a bomb.
The Claymore mines are anti-personnel explosives. Use them to protect the MCOMs and routes that you cannot guard the whole time. Be careful to set the mine so that the direction of the explosion is the direction from which an enemy is likely to approach. I also sometimes disguise the Claymores by dropping an ammo box right on top of it.
|You can also destroy enemy explosives with the mortar|
The Recon class is often regarded as the "sniper" class as they get the sniper rifles. This seems like a tempting class for many new players. However, a sniper's worst enemy is often another sniper, and unfortunately for you the truth is that most enemy snipers on the field are much more experienced and better equipped than you. Thus it might not be a good idea for a new player to camp somewhere with a sniper rifle when they could be in the frontline using some other kit.
In addition to the sniper rifles the Recon class also gets some nice gadgets such as the T-UGS. If you wish to use these but killing enemies with sniper rifles doesn't seem to work out, I recommend you to play some Team Deathmatch games as a Recon soldier using some all-kit weapon, such as the UMP-45 submachine gun. You can earn this gun using any other character kit and then use the gun to get some points with the Recon kit.
So, the Recon class gets these gadgets. The first one is the Radio Beacon. This is basically a spawn point for you and your squad. Depending on the map you might spawn next to the beacon or you might spawn into the air with a parachute! In some maps you can take advantage of this to attack the MCOMs by moving your parachute towards one. Using Radio Beacons is a good idea, especially since you have nothing to lose. Or, well, they do beep so they might give your position away, but in general the ability to spawn to a critical point greatly overweights this drawback.
The second gadget is the cryptically named T-UGS. It's short for Tactical Unattended Ground Sensor. It is basically a motion sensor. You deploy it anywhere and it will then spot enemies that come nearby. Again, you might want to put these near MCOMs or somewhere behind you to prevent enemies from sneaking up to you. These do, however, get destroyed pretty easily and the enemy will also seek to do just that.
|SOFLAM and its remote controller|
|SOFLAM tracking a target|
|A view from the MAV|
General tips & tricks
More on the knife, as promised. The knife does some damage to the enemy if you just swing it at them, but the real way knifes are used is the takedown, which is instantly fatal. You perform a takedown by approaching the enemy from behind and then holding down the knife button when close to them. This wasn't told anywhere clear enough for me so at first I missed a couple of takedown chances when I didn't know I need to hold the button down. When you perform a takedown the game goes out of your control for a couple of seconds to show an animation of you cutting the victim's throat. When performing a takedown you also get the victim's dogtags. Not that there's any value in them in the game, but they are valued as "trophies" outside the game.
Next, the helicopters. I'll be the first one to admit I'm still a bad helicopter pilot. However, I found them easier to control once I changed the default keys so that mouse controls the pitch and yaw and the keyboard controls the roll. That basically allows you to aim with the mouse, as usual.
|4x scope on a PKP Pecheneg machine gun|
Another thing you should know about the weapons is that many of them, especially assault rifles, have a firing selector. This means that you can choose between single shot fire, burst fire and fully automatic fire. Not every weapon has all of the options available to it, but anyway. The default key for the selector is "V" and you'll see a firing mode indicator at the bottom right corner next to your ammo count: *** means full auto, ** burst fire and * single shot fire. Full auto may be the best in close quarters but single shot has its use with long range shots.
Well, that concludes this post. I hope you learned something. Again, comments and questions both from new and experienced players would be much appreciated. Finally, here are a couple of nice links: The Battlefield Wiki and the BF3Stats.com site for tracking your statistics. Also, the software I used to capture those screenshots is called FRAPS.