Battlefield 3 Review
The time for talk is over.
October 25th is finally here and it’s time for EA and Dice to put their money where their mouths have been for the past few months. Battlefield 3 is an ambitious step forward in the field of military shooters. It features a whole new engine; the Frostbite 2 engine, as well as a number of gameplay tweaks, visual upgrades and textures so high you have to install them before playing the game. Touted by its creators as a ‘Call of Duty Killer’, we take a look to see if Battlefield 3 lives up to its billing.
Battlefield 3’s single player campaign is a great way to be introduced to Frostbite 2’s updated visuals. This game is simply stunning at points and quietly, confidently beautiful during all the rest. This is, unfortunately, the only real reason to stick around, in the campaign, for any length of time. This is not Bad Company 3, by any stretch, and that’s too bad.
The campaign finds you in familiar circumstances, fighting Russian boogeymen while the story is told via the interrogation of a U.S Marine by Agency types. You will have access to the same host of guns and gadgets we’ve become accustomed to in modern shooters with a focus on vehicles. Battlefield 3 has a ton of vehicles available, what’s too bad is that they’re not used in the same way here as they are in multiplayer. For instance, early in the campaign, you will climb into a fighter jet, only to be relegated to the gunner’s seat with your job being to lock onto targets and fire missiles. That doesn’t sound bad, until you realize you can actually fly the fighter jets in multiplayer.
There are some really cool moments in the campaign, with some stunning visuals but these are quickly overshadowed by ‘quick time events’ where you are asked to press the button that is flashing on the screen. This mechanic feels gimmicky and primitive when coupled with the advanced engine that Battlefield 3 presents. The story is boring, linear and, thankfully, short. Most of you are really here for the multiplayer anyway, but after all the talking Dice did it would have been nice to see more effort put into the campaign.
Let’s go with the bad news first, since we’re on that track already. Battlefield 3 has a co-op mode but I suggest forgetting that fact. There are six short co-op missions that are only two player. These missions are based the single player campaign but not exactly the same. The only real difference here is that you can pick up your co-op partner if they are shot.
Now, let’s look at the real reason everyone is here; multiplayer. Battlefield 3’s competitive multiplayer is outstanding. If you’ve played Battlefield Bad Company 2, you’ll be familiar with the general concept, but there are a number of improvements that we’ll get to later. Battlefield 3’s multiplayer is focused on teamwork. This aspect, I find, is what sets it apart from other competitive shooters. Even though team sizes are large, with up to 12 players per side on the Xbox 360, you will find yourself in a Squad of four. Your squad mates will show on the map as a different color and you can, and should, choose to spawn on their position after you die. Spawning with your teammates allows seamless re-grouping that you don’t have to worry about coordinating with a group of strangers. Where other shooters offer a series of duels randomly set up by the map and the players, Battlefield 3 finds you in complex firefights between Squads more often than it finds you playing the lone wolf.
Battlefield 3 offers a load of different ways to progress. First, you have your overall Rank which is raised by earning XP in any mode. Second, you level up each of the four character classes individually by earning experience while playing as that class, unlocking new guns and gadgets along the way. Next, as you use each gun you will unlock scopes and other accessories for it. Finally, each vehicle type gains experience as you use them, unlocking perks for them as you level up. There are plenty of goals to keep you around for a long time.
The Battlefield series has always been about large scale battles, with a lot of players and that is still the focus. The maps are huge and often filled with a variety of vehicles for you jump into. This time, Dice have added a couple of options that offer a more traditional experience while still holding on to their objective based gameplay. The first is, finally, a Team Deathmatch mode. Simply jump in with up to 24 players and fight for the highest kill count. The other is Squad Rush. This is the classic rush mode, but on smaller maps with two teams of four, for a fast paced and intense experience. My favorite mode, Squad Deathmatch, also makes its return with four teams of four all fighting each other. It’s going to be very hard to get bored with Battlefield 3.
On top of all the variety, intense gameplay and progression is the fact that the Frostbite 2 engine looks fantastic and brings a level of realism that you simply don’t find in other shooters. Shooting through a haze of smoke, next to a burning tank, with your squad mates around you while a fighter jet screams overhead is just something you won’t experience unless you’re playing Battlefield 3.
I love how many of BF3’s achievements have to do with the multiplayer. Other multiplayer focused games tend to ignore online achievements so achievements like Decorated, for earning one of each type of ribbon, are a welcome sight.
A lackluster, but functional, campaign and co-op mar what could have been a fantastic overall package. Not to worry, Battlefield 3’s multiplayer outshines it all with the most realistic, fun and addictive action available in the shooter market. You absolutely have to see it to believe it. The visuals are stunning, the effects suck you in and the vehicles top it all off (you can fly a freaking fighter jet!).