The Battlefield series has been with us for almost 10 years now. And since Battlefield 1942, fans simply have not been able to get enough of DICE’s multiplayer dealings. EA and DICE have finally unleashed their latest juggernaut to the world: Battlefield 3. BF3 seeks to marry the somewhat old school vehicle warfare with the more modern infantry warfare FPS gamers have come to know and love. Does it succeed? Or is it merely a shadow of its former self?
We played BF3 on PC for our review and have never experienced a game that both looks and sounds quite as good as Battlefield 3 does. At any given time whether it’s in the singleplayer campaign or the multiplayer, you can pretty much always count on some dazzling effect occurring on screen. Smoke rising from a recently destroyed vehicle, the sunlight shooting through the treetops and the artificial light glaring in your eyes, all add to the immersion and the realism of this beautiful experience. The multiplayer has had to sacrifice some of its good looks for the sake catering to 64 players; by way of lower resolution textures and less clutter in the environment. But both modes still easily beat every other game we’ve seen to date.
The weapons in Battlefield 3 all have that nice feeling of weight to them that we’ve come to know and love from modern military shooters. However some further balancing is definitely needed, as some guns are a little too powerful or practical, leading to the majority of players using the same weapons.
That said the level of care that’s gone into making each gun feel unique is unprecedented, which is particularly impressive when you consider the fact that the game features over 50 guns alone, not counting gadgets.
On PC the entire game menu has been taken out of the game itself and put into a website called battlelog. This browser based menu system has sparked hefty debate within the Elder-Geek staff, and definitely comes with its fair share of both pros and cons. The battlelog takes stat tracking to a whole new level; you can find out how you did in every individual match played, comment on the game for all the participating players to see, and even link the game page to a friend to show off your awesome kill/death ratio.
On your personal page you can check your accuracy, kills, headshots, and unlock progression with each and every weapon and gadget in the game, as well as your overall stats and rankings. The personal page also features a “battlefeed” which serves as a news feed updating you on all of your friends progression in the game, as well as any custom status update they might decide to post. It works great, and reminds us a great deal of the social functionality of Facebook, which is no small feat.
But while we like the idea of not having to boot up a CPU expensive process just to look at a menu screen and server browser, and do appreciate the ability to do other things while searching for a game, We would have liked the option of doing all of this in game. The mere fact that you can’t adjust your video settings or controls until after you’ve entered a server is a big no-no for us. Having the games main menu browser-based also means that playing the singleplayer without an internet connection is out of the question.
While singleplayer has never been a focus nor strong suit for the Battlefield franchise, Battlefield 3 does include a rather substantial singleplayer campaign. You play primarily as US Marine Corps Sergeant Henry Blackburn, with other playable characters making short appearances. The story itself is forgetful and clichéd, but the delivery both in terms of action and acting makes up for it with more than enough to spare.
The campaign is full of genuine and impactful moments. While submerged in the din of battle, it is easy to miss the RPG hurling towards you from a distance or the guy with the shotgun you just ran past, leading to many frustrating deaths. Luckily just when you’ve had enough of the somewhat chaotic infantry gameplay, the game paces itself by tossing in a vehicle mission or two. These aren’t nearly as well designed, however. The later part of the jet mission in particular can get excruciatingly boring, which is a shame because it starts as one of the strongest experiences in the entire game.
Then there’s the coop, which we’re sorry to say is definitely the low point of the game. You and a friend of are tossed into a handful of scenarios with very little context or connection to both each other and the main campaign. The missions themselves are dry. We had to try hard to muster any kind of excitement from the action, even on the hardest difficulty. You can always chose to just hang back and play it safe, with the only thing encouraging more playtime is to get a higher score. It isn’t all bad. There is a lot more variety in the coop than in the campaign, and while the environments are similar to those found in the campaign they still feel fresh and unexplored. Also we can’t stress enough the joy that comes from playing with a friend, there’s nothing quite like planning out strikes so perfectly that all the shots are fired before the bodies hit the floor.
Multiplayer is what the Battlefield series has always been about, and that’s certainly still true. From the get go the game features nine multiplayer maps, with four more on their way through DLC. Each map supports all the different game modes: Team and Squad Deathmatch, Rush, and Conquest which pits up to 64 players against each other in huge open vistas. Some of the maps are definitely better designed than others, especially when you pick a game mode which sections off a map that was clearly designed with Conquest in mind.
Before you start a match you get to chose a loadout, configuring four base kits with your preferred primary and secondary gun, gadgets, specialties and weapon attachments. Each kit gets two gadgets and one passive specialty. Each weapon can have up to three attachments such as different sights, scopes, laser pointers, tactical lights, bipods, grenade launchers, modified barrels, silencers and more. Every attachment improves one characteristic of the weapon while weakening another, meaning that each play style is given something special. However, not only do you have to unlock all the different weapons for each kit, but you also have to unlock every attachment for each weapon, just because you unlocked a holographic sight for your M416 Assault Rifle doesn’t mean it’s available for all weapons. It’s available for that specific firearm alone. While we appreciate always being rewarded for our efforts, this method seems a bit tacky.
At the time of this review the multiplayer is being plagued by a myriad of issues, glitches and bugs. While the hit detection seems to be pretty much perfect, the hit notification system is at points painfully delayed. Nothing is as annoying as getting instantly killed only to find out you were actually fired upon for a good few seconds before the game notified you, even on a low ping server. Couple that with a number of animation and graphics bugs which make people appear to clip through walls or lay prone vertically, and you have a recipe for a pile of cheap deaths. Most of the servers available also seem to be having some problems. Be prepared to get kicked from a server for no apparent reason, getting excruciating lag spikes, and being unable to check the server ping both in-game and in the browser.
Battlefield 3’s multiplayer features some of the most fun and team oriented matches we’ve ever experienced. No other game to date handles team coordination and cooperation quite as well as Battlefield 3 does, and it can be a joy to play…even with strangers. While the sniper class in most games is thought of as a lone wolf not contributing to the overall battle, in Battlefield 3 the sniper has a handful of tools essential for winning the battle. As a sniper you can laser paint targets for jets and attack helicopters overhead, spot enemies with controllable UAV’s and set up a mobile spawn point far behind enemy lines. Engineers can repair friendly vehicles and take out enemy vehicles with RPG’s, ground to air missiles or anti tank mines. The Assault class can heal teammates with disposable med-kits, or even revive them using the trusty old defibrillator. Lastly the support class carries around a large stash of ammunition to resupply teammates, along with a selection of anti tank and infantry explosives such as C4, mortars and claymores.
Battlefield 3 is as of now a very good game with great potential, unfortunately a slew of bugs and launch issues plague the title at the moment. But Battlefield 3 is the kind of game you buy and play for the long haul, and with that taken into consideration, we have no doubt that it’s going to stay relevant and be played by millions for years to come. We can wholeheartedly recommend this for any avid FPS fan, though if you want to wait a few weeks for bugs to get patched and servers to be optimized, that might not be such a bad idea.
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Name: Battlefield 3
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Developed by: DICE
Published by: Electronic Arts
Release date: October 25 2011
EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Buying and Renting”