Review: Battlefield 3
A weak campaign is the only thing keeping this incredible multiplayer package from soaring to new heights.
- Worth The Time?Definitely. This is a fantastic shooter that should not be missed.
- Things LovedThe extraordinary and highly realistic visuals made possible by the Frostbite 2 engine, realistic weapon mechanics and physics, fantastic character animation, good voice acting, compelling Co-op mode, incredibly addictive multiplayer component, immense maps that offer countless paths and strategies, multiple vehicles that you are able to pilot and drive, did I mention how great it looked already?
- Things HatedQuicktime events scattered throughout the campaign, cliché story, short campaign, only six Co-op missions, no way to practice flying a jet or helicopters outside of competitive multiplayer servers.
- RecommendationI'm sure you'd expect an "If you're a shooter fan, buy this now" type comment here, but that's not really the case. If you weren't a fan of Battlefield's multiplayer before, then you are sure not going to enjoy this one either, as there is no real change to the winning formula. A purchase just for the campaign is certainly not worth all your money, so make sure that you will invest a few hours into the multiplayer in order to get your money's worth. If you are a Battlefield fan, then rejoice, because this is the most complete multiplayer experience you will come across for a long time.
- Name: Battlefield 3
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Up to 64-player competitive multiplayer (PC), 24-players on Console, 2-player online Co-Op
- Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
- Developer: DICE
- Publisher: EA
- Price: R329.95 (PC), R495.00 (Xbox 360 and PS3)
- Reviewed On: PC and PS3
So, the war finally begins as many people wait in anticipation to see who will emerge as top dog between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 later next month. EA’s latest FPS entry enters stores first, providing an exquisite looking game that truly immerses you into the heated fictional battles that you are forced to plunge into. Sadly, the presentation is by far the only real strong point in Battlefield 3’s single-player campaign, with a cliché story and 2 dimensional characters that rarely make you care for them. Thankfully, the multiplayer does more than justify a purchase, delivering one of the most addictive and compelling forms of competitive multiplayer to date. The sheer number of unlockables will keep you coming back for months, making Battlefield 3 one of the best shooter titles to ever grace gamers.
Let’s get what Battlefield 3 is not, out of the way first. Battlefield 3 is not a definitive single-player experience. If EA and DICE were in anyway attempting to out do Call of Duty in this category, all they did was catch up. Think of it as a similarly action-packed campaign as Bad Company 2, without the humorous dialogue and bad ass attitude of Prescott and his squad mates. Battlefield 3 opens up promisingly, with you taking control of a soldier named James Blackburn. After a very cinematic opening sequence, the story takes an inevitable plunge for the worst, as the tired mechanic of re-visiting past missions and flashbacks becomes the name of the game. This mechanic of storytelling is made even more cliché when you take into account that the exact same thing was used in Black Ops, making Battlefield 3’s campaign immediately familiar and dull.
The story includes all the usual clichés that you’d expect, including nuclear devices, war-torn nations, greedy dictators and, of course, Russians. I mean really, is there honestly no one else to blame in war-themed shooters besides Russians anymore? The plot is predictable and rarely keeps you on the edge of your seat, meaning that the 6 hour campaign becomes more of a slog rather that a thrill packed experience. Some stand-out moments appear here and there (flying wingman on a jet is certainly one of them), but overall the campaign feels as though it was developed by another studio altogether. All the freedom, vehicles and destruction present in the multiplayer is missing from the campaign, with the game rarely giving you opportunities to plan your attacks, use rocket launchers to destroy walls, and even limits your vehicle helming to one short tank based mission. In place of this, DICE threw in some oddly present Quicktime events, which do nothing but slow the pace down and suck all the realism out of this incredible realistic combat atmosphere. Quicktime events litter each and every level, but thankfully they don’t go on for long and are rarely difficult, meaning that you shouldn’t really experience the same one twice.
Having these odd occurrences in the campaign also removes you from any immersion Battlefield 3 has put you under, which is a shame since the Frostbite 2 engine does an incredible job of bringing the best out of your console and PC. On consoles, you might not notice a massive difference when you compare Battlefield 3 to Bad Company 2, but the subtle differences do their best to make this one of the best looking games ever released. Dust floats in the air, with particles clouding your vision, while the sun beats down on a war-torn street in Iran. Smoke trails left by RPGs slowly fade away, while an earthquake rippling through a combat-filled street, bringing buildings tumbling down in an avalanche of concrete, is truly something of a marvel. If you have the option to get Battlefield 3 on the PC, then you should certainly go for it. Everything on the PC is phenomenal, bringing the battlefield right into your home. The way the rain beats down on a darkened aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean will leave you breathless, as the waves crash against the mighty ship, spraying water all over a deck lit up by beacons on the jets. The 30 frames per second is a bit disappointing on the consoles, especially when compared to a high-end PC, but if you’ve been playing previous Battlefield games on your preferred console, then you’ll hardly know the difference.
The Frostbite 2 engine is not without its flaws though. Often you’ll see legs and arms clipping through walls, and on some occasions AI enemies will remain standing after they die. On the PS3, there was the odd texture-pop in here and there, but these are small issues and nothing that is game breaking. You’ll still feel an indescribable rush as you free-fall down to your objective below, or fend off a seemingly endless wave of insurgents in a damp alley corner of a deserted city. Sound design also deserves a pat on the back, with each weapon sounding as powerful as possible. There were sections where I simply stuck to my shotgun, purely because of the sound it made when fired. The amount of power behind each shot made me smile every time, and gave me the exact right feeling that one should get when firing a 12-gauge shotgun.
However, the Frostbite 2 engine only really shows its true colours when you enter what Battlefield is known for; its multiplayer. Following on from the pedigree established in Battlefield 2, Battlefield 3 features 9 expansive, open and immaculately detailed warzones for you to lay siege in. What’s most interesting is the amount of contrasts that DICE were able to draw when designing these maps. From the beach assaults of Kharig Island, to the claustrophobic corridors of Operation Metro, Battlefield 3 always offers you multiple routes and directions for you and your squad to co-ordinate your assault. Smoke rises from the battlefield, jets engage in dogfights above you, while helicopters provide air support for you and your teammates. While online, you’ll really feel as though you’ve been sucked into a real life conflict, and that your contribution is just as important as everyone else’s. Destruction is more encouraged in multiplayer, meaning that if a wall stands between you and your objective, you should feel no hesitation to whip out an RPG and make yourself an entrance.
Battlefield 3’s multiplayer comes in all sorts of flavours to satisfy every type of shooter fan. Fans of traditional Battlefield multiplayer will welcome back the Rush and Conquest modes that have been made famous over the years. Rush involves a team attempting to attack M-COM stations, which need to be armed with explosives to be destroyed this time round, while another team attempts to defend the stations until the attacking team’s “tickets” (respawns) expire. When both stations are destroyed, a new portion of the map is opened up, meaning you may not even see the entire map during your first few matches. Conquest unlocks the entire map from the beginning, and places 5 rally points (3 on consoles) for team members to capture. Capturing a rally point decreases the opposing teams “tickets”, with the first team reaching 0 losing. These modes don’t present anything new, but are by far the most exhilarating. Team Deathmatch has wormed its way in, taking place on smaller versions of the 9 maps, while a Hardcore mode makes death more frequent and easier. Rush and Conquest modes are extremely team focused, and choosing one of the four classes will directly influence the role you are expected to play. Console owners may be disappointed to find that their online battlefields are a bit smaller than those on PC, as well as the distance between spawn points being much less. This is due to the fact that Battlefield 3 online supports up to 24-player multiplayer on consoles, as opposed to the 64 on PC.
Battlefield 3 offers up the familiar four classes for you to chose from and effectively make your mark on the battle. Assault soldiers are the medics on the field, deploying health packs and reviving fallen teammates while also being great soldiers for frontline battles. Engineers will do best sticking to nearby friendly vehicles, with their trusty blowtorch being the first aid to anything mechanical, and their RPGs being another main offensive against enemy armour. Support players wield heavy machine guns in order to put down serious suppressive fire, as well as being able to equip mortars for some long range attacks. Recon soldiers are the snipers of the Battlefield world, being able to take out targets from extreme distances and spot and mark other enemies for other teammates to deal with. Winning matches will require you to work hand in hand with your teammates, which means lone wolves will not get far before being tactically taken apart. Thankfully, you are rewarded for every single contribution towards your team, whether it be repairing a tank or arming the objective. Players with the highest score don’t always have the most kills, and often you can go for minutes of gameplay without firing a bullet but still scoring major points. This makes Battlefield 3’s multiplayer a very distinct experience, and one that should not be compared to Call of Duty in any way, due to the stark differences that they possess.
The addictive nature of the multiplayer comes in the form of the hundreds of upgrades that you are able to acquire. Use a certain weapon, and unlock weapon specific upgrades such as sights and grenade launcher attachments. Use a certain class for a while and you’ll be rewarded with class specific upgrades such as a remote control robot that can arm objectives, mobile spawn points, mortars, Javelin missiles and more. Sticking to one class has its clear advantages, but spreading yourself evenly between all four classes will make you much more adaptable for the battle at hand. Lastly, you have universal upgrades that you acquire through basic levelling up which include various weapons, suits and cameos, class specialisations and more. The sheer amount of upgrades will keep you playing for many months to come, as there always seems to be that one unlock that is just within your reach. The drive to just play one more game can often get the better of you, and before you know it you would have spent half the day playing. Trust me, it happens faster than you know.
Battlefield 3 also has a host of exciting vehicles and map specific weapons that just sit there and invite you to do something with them. From jets to helicopters, mortars to anti-air placements, speed boats to Abram’s tanks, and many, many more, Battlefield 3 offers more than one way to skin an enemy soldier. The best part about these vehicles is all the interesting and inventive ways in which you can use them. For example, you could use an armoured personnel carrier to rush the enemy lines, abandon it and use it as a mobile spawn point. Helicopters can provide some fantastic ground support, while jets can make flying runs for devastating carnage. Each vehicle comes with its own set of upgrades as well, with the full functionality for each vehicle only being fully unlocked after some TLC with your favourite mode of transport. Sadly, getting to grips with some of the flight controls can be a bit of a mission on the PC, and the absence of a dedicated training ground for flying means that you could potentially spend a few matches just learning how to bank effectively in your Thunderbolt.
If you were expecting anything drastically different to Bad Company 2’s multiplayer, then you might be a bit disappointed. Even though Battlefield 3 is the sequel to the highly acclaimed Battlefield 2, it feels like a refinement of Bad Company 2’s multiplayer more than anything else. That’s not to say that there aren’t any differences though. Bullets now have a maximum distance they can travel before falling victim to gravity, meaning snipers aiming for a long range kill will need to take this height change into consideration. Stabbing a player no longer means an instant kill, with two swift knife strikes now being required, unless you sneak up behind your prey for a surprise attack. M-COM points can no longer be destroyed by rocket launchers and grenades, with an explosive needing to be armed in order for the station to be destroyed. Even with these and more changes, veterans of Battlefield’s multiplayer will ease into this in no time at all, though newcomers may need a few hours or so of practice before they become something more than sniper fodder.
On top of this, there are some thrilling Co-op missions that you are able to take up with a friend online. These co-operative missions are a lot more challenging than the single-player campaign missions, and will require some keen teamwork between you and your partner. Voice communication is definitely a must, as Dean and I quickly learnt on our first attempt. All in all, there are only six missions that will offer around another 2 hours and terrorist killing fun, which is a bit sad considering how fun they are. Some multiplayer unlocks can only be obtained through experience earned in Co-op, meaning you may have to revisit some of them just to unlock certain weapons and gadgets. Enemies also seem to have super-human intelligence in Co-op, being able to immediately pick you out in a squad of AI teammates, and always knowing where to shoot at you.
The Battlelog system is in charge of everything you do in Battlefield on PC. After launching the game through Origin (which is not such a bad program), your browser will open up and you’ll be automatically logged into Battlelog. From here, you are able to launch the campaign, multiplayer and co-op. as well as check numerous stats such as overall accuracy, time spent as each class, XP needed for the next upgrade and more. The Battlelog system creates a very sleek and helpful hub for everything Battlefield, and so far I have yet to experience any problems with it. It’s not as flashy as Call of Duty’s Elite service, but then again you don’t have to pay anything for Battlelog. The ease of access is also amazing. By simply dragging a friend’s name to a server, you automatically invite them to your game, and the server filter will let you fine tune nearly everything. It’s also nice to see that the console versions of Battlefield 3 have a server browser included, making matchmaking all the more easy.
Battlefield is certainly a game you should have in your collection right now, but don’t expect it to be the game changer that some thought it would be. In terms of campaign and story, it rests on the same level as your regular Call of Duty, which is odd considering that this was the section of the game that DICE aimed to outclass the CoD franchise. In terms of multiplayer, I’ll reiterate what I’ve been saying for a while now. You cannot compare the two at all. Both offer different multiplayer experiences, so comparing them would make no sense. That said, Battlefield 3’s explosive multiplayer more than justifies a purchase, and will keep you coming back to the immaculately detailed virtual warzones for many months to come. Put away those dusty copies of Battlefield 2, because Battlefield 3 is here, and it’s better than ever.