I am lying prone just below the crest of a hill, waiting with my M4A1 automatic rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher for enemy armor to come rolling into view.
Bullets being fired toward my position ping off the rocks in front of me.
Suddenly, I look up and see a plane, spitting flames and belching smoke as it cartwheels out of the sky toward me. Fortunately, it crashes somewhere to my rear.
It is moments like these that make Battlefield 3 a standout first-person shooter.
No other game comes close to the spectacle that is Battlefield 3 from Electronic Arts and Dice.
For me, the second important thing about BF3 is its Rush game mode (which has been featured in other titles in the series).
Rush is a mode that demands team play for success rather that just trying to rack up your own personal stats.
In Rush, one team is tasked with destroying two locations at points on a series of maps. The defenders try to delay the attackers long enough so that time runs out.
For the record, the other game modes are: Team Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch, Conquest and Squad Rush.
In BF3, there are four character classes: assault, engineer, support and recon. The medic and assault classes from previous Battlefield games have been combined.
Each class comes with its own abilities and equipment. As one plays, one levels up and unlocks more weapons, gear and skills.
The amount of customization available is almost unlimited.
In fact, I can't imagine how many hours of game play it would take to unlock everything BF3 has to offer.
The maps include Caspian Border, Damavand Peak, Tehran Highway, Seine Crossing, Operation Firestorm, Noshahr Canals, Grand Bazaar, Kharg Island and Operation Metro.
The variety is tremendous, offering battle in everything from the confines of a subway system to the wide open spaces.
The Battlefield series also is known for its combined arms approach. It is not just infantry here. Players can command tanks, Hummers, APCs, helicopters and more.
Making a return to the series are fighter jets.
Another significant change is that players now can go prone. When prone, you offer a smaller target and your weapon becomes steadier.
It may not sound like much, but it is.
Single and multiplayer
BF3 does feature a single-player campaign. It involves a Marine sergeant, James Blackburn, and efforts to thwart a terrorist attack in New York City.
For me, the campaign served as a way to learn the ropes of BF3 before diving into multiplayer.
Multiplayer is where the action is in this game.
BF3 also does offer a cooperative mode covering six different missions.
Battlefield 3 is powered by Dice's Frostbidt 2 technology.
What this means for players is environments that are almost totally destructible, spectacular graphics and subtle lighting effects.
Playing BF3 is like starring in your own movie where you are both the director and the actor. It is that cinematic.
It does not get any better than this.
Details: Battlefield 3 is available for the Xbox 360 (reviewed here), the PlayStation 3 and PC. PC requirements are a quad core CPU, 4 GB of RAM and newer video card.
Note: The 360 version comes on two discs (one for single-player and one for multiplayer) and to take advantage of the HD graphics, 1.5 GB of hard drive space.
This just in
EA announced the release of a BF3 expansion, "Back to Karkand." It is free to owners of BF3 Limited Edition, or can be bought for $14.99 or 1,200 Micosoft point.
The expansion includes popular, remastered maps from previous games - Strike at Karkand, Wake Island, Gulf of Oman and Sharqi Penninsula.
The expansion also offers new weapons, vehicles and the assignments feature, which provides faster unlocks and upgrades.