Reviews

Battlefield 3 – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: DICE
Publisher: EA
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: No
Multiplayer: Yes
PEGI: 16+

The hype has been building, the insults have been flung and the fanboys have gone to war, leaving scattered body parts and blood covered corpses in their wake. It’s been a hell of a build up to the release of Battlefield 3, with a massive amount of people hoping it will topple the Call of Duty beast that continues to dominate the market. So has it done it? Has Battlefield 3 beaten the beast? Well, not in the singleplayer, but in the multiplayer its got Call of Duty on the ground and is kicking it in the nuts.

We’ll kick things off with the singleplayer portion of the game, which is DICE’s third, and arguably best, attempt at providing something for the people who simply don’t want to have to fight real opponents online, but sadly while it may be the best of the series it never does better than simply being decent. This is mostly thanks to a rather odd feeling that pervades the entire singleplayer campaign; the feeling of being strangely similar to Call of Duty. Somewhere along the line either DICE themselves or EA have seemingly decided to try to tackle Call of Duty at its own game by crafting a linear singleplayer  with a heavy emphasis on cinematic moments and annoying quick time events, but the problem is they just can’t do it. By trying to tackle Call of Duty head on it has lost its sense of identity; it doesn’t feel like Battlefield, it doesn’t feel like any of the elements that have made the game loved by so many on the multiplayer front have made it into the singleplayer, instead it simply feels generic.

The story is told through flashback sequences that focus on the memories of one Seargent Blackburn who is being interrogated by US agents. It’s hardly an original storytelling method, but it lets them tell a tale of nuclear threat and, of course, Russians that circles the globe. It’s all just a little bit familiar. On occasion you’ll get to inhabit the body of some other character in the story and experience events through their eyes, again feeling a little familiar here. Still, the story is solid enough, supported by some strong voice acting talent that manages to work around the clumsy dialogue, but it all gets ruined when the story comes to a jarring moment in the closing stages of the game which, quite honestly, is downright horrible. Shortly after that, as the singleplayer is a mere four hours long, you get a highly disappointing finale that uses a bloody quick time event. The story could have survived all of this if it wasn’t for the final nail in the coffin; the evil villain whom the entire story centres has absolutely no motives at all. Seriously, there’s no actually reason as to why he’s doing any of this, leading me to assume that he just liked to cause chaos, or had been reading the evil-villain hand book for too long and skipped out the section titled, ” Why I’m an evil bastard”.

Every mission is very restricted, carefully ensuring that you go exactly where the game wants you to goo when it wants you to go there. No, you can’t open that door yet, or pass over that invisible line on the ground yet, either, despite the fact that you damn well know that’s where you’re going, because the game says you can’t. It’s disappointing that Battlefield 3′s massive multiplayer with huge amounts of freedom doesn’t make its presence felt on the singleplayer aspect of the game.

Like any linear shooter there is a reason for the lack of freedom, though. As you battle through the different locations around the world, shooting people in the face, there’s some pretty cool moments to be found, such as being caught up in the middle of an earthquake, buildings collapsing and fighting off a jet that’s determined to strafe you into oblivion. While there’s a definite Call of Duty feeling going on with these over-the-top moments, Battlefield 3 doesn’t over-use the set-pieces, unlike its rival. The epic moments were well paced, providing plenty of breathing room between each new explosion filled event. However, the game does seem to have an over-riding love for quick-time-events and uses them far more often that they have any right to be. Somehow there isn’t a mission that can go by without you having to carefully hammer a sequence of buttons to win yet another struggle with an enemy trying to grab your gun. Why can’t I just press melee and hit him the face, for crying out loud? Considering the singleplayer lasts just four hours a considerable portion of your time will be spent inputting these specific button pushes, giving the general feeling of being a monkey in a lab hitting a button so you get some food.

The games linearity and hand-holding nature even extends to the famous Battlefield vehicles, arguably one of the games biggest features. Throughout the entire campaign you will get to drive/pilot a grand total of one vehicle; a tank. Ok, so the tank level is actually pretty good, but really just one? Hopes will doubtless be raised when you find yourself on an aircraft carrier heading up some stairs to a waiting jet, only to be dashed when you discover that you’ll only be the gunner and get no control over the jet at all.

Still, the shooting holds up well. Since the last Battlefield outing the shooting mechanics have been tightened up, resulting in a much smoother feeling game compared the ever so slightly clumsy Bad Company 2. As always the guns feel nice and meaty to use, giving  a real feeling of power when blasting through the legions of evil baddies who foolishly get in your way. A few other tweaks now mean that you can prone as well, something which snipers will doubtless appreciate., and can hop over fences and walls with ease. Coupled with the smoother shooting it actually gives the action a slightly quicker pace than we’ve seen from the Battlefield series before, something which translates into the multiplayer portion of the game as well, but it never over-powers the traditional Battlefield gameplay.

The enemy AI, though, are a pretty inconsistent bunch, one minute oblivious to your existence and barely able to hit you, and the next they’re omnipotent beings who target you the moment you enter the conflict. This strange power extends to their aiming skills which seemingly let them hit you through solid object and blind-throw grenades with amazing accuracy. This is most apparent when they can seemingly pulverize your body with rounds, despite the battlefield being covered in so much smoke and fire that you’re incapable of seeing that bloody wall that’s about two feet in front of your face. It’s like magic!

There’s also numerous bugs, glitches and other problems throughout. On one level the enemy that were supposed to be fleeing from some vehicles as you called in a jet to dispose of them simple didn’t appear on the screen, at another time some enemies turned around and shot me during a locked in animation where I had to stab a guard. At other times enemies could shoot through the ground. This can lead to some incredibly annoying deaths, with the majority of enemies suddenly turning on your during a fight and sending a barrage of terrifyingly accurate bullets into your face. At other times you might die to a scripted RPG blast that you just happened to be too close to, or an enemy who you’re about to knife might suddenly turn around and stab you in the guts. Strangely it actually feels like the game is holding your hand, often making every encounter feel incredibly easy up until the point where the unfair death hits you and leaves you staring at the loading screen.

Battlefield 3′s campaign is actually bad at all, it’s just not good, either. The override feeling of playing a Call of Duty title never goes away, and that’s simply not right because it feels far too much like Battlefield 3 tried to take Call of Duty on at its own game instead of creating something unique to itself. And so Battlefield 3 cannot be recommended as a singleplayer game to anyone looking for some solo blasting action.

At least it all looks bloody good though, providing you’ve got 1.5GB of free space on your hard drive, that is. You see, Battlefield 3 comes packaged with two shiny discs; the first contains the singleplayer, and the second contains the multiplayer and co-op components along with an optional; High-Definition texture pack install. Installing the pack, though, is pretty much required because without it you will be forced to look at a game with textures that seem to belong on the original Xbox. Install it and the game looks great, providing plenty of detail and awesome textures to stare at as you lie on the ground in a pool of your own blood. Extra kudos goes to the lighting effects which are truly wonderous to behold, but it’s certainly not without a raft of problems including texture pop-in, bits of scenery magically appearing, screen tearing, floating AI soldiers and scenery and much more.

Bridging the gap between solo play and full-scale 24-player mayhem is the new co-op mode that is made up of six missions that you and one friend, via Live only, can take part in. Like the singleplayer it’s a linear experience, but one that’s definitely bolstered by having a mate along for the ride. Still, you might find yourselves a little frustrated by the second level which demands that one of you pilot a helicopter to complete the mission, something which any Battlefield veteran knows can be a tough thing to do. The amount of people actually capable of flying a chopper in Battlefield 3 is actually pretty small, with the majority of people just crashing it into the nearest tree, mountain or other largely innocent piece of scenery. In a strange decision on DICE’s behalf they’ve also made it so that you can’t swap who gets to pilot, so it’s worth your time heading onto a private server and getting some practice in. Once again, though , numerous glitches and problems can be found during your co-op adventures. But still, there’s a good reason to venture through the campaign which  lasts a couple of hours; unlockable weapons fo rmultiplayer use.

Alright, so we’ve gotten the weaker elements of Battlefield 3, and now we’re onto what really counts in this game; the multiplayer.  All the major elements that make up the classic Battlefield multiplayer formula are present and correct; massive maps, loads of vehicles and carnage where ever you happen to look. War is a beautiful thing, and Battlefield 3 is easily the best multiplayer game on the consoles at the moment, offering a chaotic battleground that emphasis skill, teamplay and intelligence over quick reflexes and running around like an idiot. Patience is key here.

Core to the Battlefield experience is the sheer scale of every battle. The consoles may only support 24-players compared to the PC’s 64, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s lacking in the chaos department. Tanks trundle across the map, plowing through buildings, jets soar overhead and engage in dogfights and soldiers desperately take cover to avoid the hail of fire. It all takes place on huge maps, offering plenty of freedom to tackle the game in whatever manner you see fit. It’s this huge amount of freedom that makes Battlefield 3 the best multiplayer experience currently on the console. The sheer scale of the carnage allows plenty of un-scripted awesome moments  to occur on the battlefield, such as a radio tower collapsing after being hit by a jet, crushing all who are underneath it, or a mad last-minute raid into enemy territory in a jeep, narrowly avoiding been hit by the enemy tanks before clearing out an entire enemy base only to the be stopped by some smart-ass who rigged the building with C-4. Or you might find yourself involved in an aerial dogfight, only to be hit by a missile from the ground and forced to bail-out, gently floating down on to the top of a building and joining the infantry fight on the ground. You might even decided that a commando style raid is required, recruit a pilot and air-drop a squad of soldiers into the enemies base as the rest of your team charge forward in tanks and launch mortar strikes. These battlefield moments are what make the game truly stunning online, almost feeling as though they’re carefully sculpted set-piece moments.

Second only to the scale of it all, the Battlefield series remains the choice of game for anyone who favors teamwork  , something which many other shooters tend to forget about. While most games reward only those who simply aim to get kills, Battlefield 3 can allow players who barely got any kills and racked up a shed-load of deaths to be top of the leaderboards, providing they supported their team and use their intelligence instead of running in like some sort of drug crazed chimp. Giving team mates ammo, healing them, spotting enemies and marking them, repairing vehicles, blowing up objectives, keeping the enemy suppressed via the improved suppression system which blurs their vision and so much  more nets you beautiful points that unlock various gadgets and upgrades for the four different classes in the game, each of which is designed to be used in unison with each. The Medic class has been ditched, but not entirely forgotten as its skills have been blended with the Assault class giving them the ability to heal and revive team mates. There’s an almost baffling amount of unlocks  for each class that range from new guns to accessories for said guns and some truly kick-ass gadgets to use. For example the support class can unlock a handy mortar with which to blow the crap out of the enemy while the Recon guys can drop spawn points for their squad, giving them a damn good reason to pull of a commando raid into enemy territory. Each class unlocks their gear separately as well, so focusing on one class only is a viable option and will net you some sweet toys, but it’s both encouraged and advisable to swat between the different classes mid-game so that you can tackle whatever problems may arise or simply balance out your teams skills. For the purpose of this review I simply couldn’t unlock everything to test out, simply because there’s so much of the stuff! Each class unlocks its gear separately as well, so getting your mitts on everything should consume your life for the next two years until the next Battlefield game hits.

Conquest is back and as fun as ever, tasking players with capturing and holding points across massive, sprawling maps in an effort to reduce the opponents tick count (the amount of spawns the have left) to zero. The giant Conquest maps and the distance between points often results in the being the most chaotic of the modes. It gets a bit overshadowed by the welcome return of Rush mode, though, which appoints one team as attackers and the other as defenders. Your goal is then to blow up two M-Com stations, which when done unlocks the next section of the map. Its more focused nature than Conquest makes this one hell of a mode to play, and when you get two opposing teams of roughly the same skill level the battles turn into dramatic affairs and complete and total bloody chaos.  Squad variations of both modes are also available for play, using just eight players instead of the normal 24. Team Deathmatch also makes a rather unusual appearance, feeling rather out of place in the objective and team orientated Battlefield series, presumably only existing to appease the Call of Duty fanatics.

The maps remain as diverse and epic as ever, offering sprawling landscapes on which to do battle that offer plenty of scope for different routes and strategies with which to tackle the hated enemy. Having said that, though, the map designs in Battlefield 3 are arguably weaker than the fantastic battle grounds we witnessed in Bad Company 2. This time around several of the maps feel more restrictive than normal for the series, often funneling players into tight chokepoints, resulting in something that feels closer to a twitch shooter s, again almost mimicking Call of Duty at times. This is most noticeable in the returning Rush mode . They feel out of place, but do at least encourage different styles of play. But it’s the lack of destruction compared to Bad Company 2 that disappoints most; there’s plenty of walls and bits of scenery this time around that simply can’t be destroyed, taking away a layer of strategy that was introduced in the Bad Company series. Still, even if it is more limited blowing through a wall with an RPG never gets old.

Some of the huge maps are made even bigger by the simple fact that they’re designed for vehicles. There’s a solid variety of tanks, light transports, boats and helicopters to choose from. Jets also make a rather welcome return to the Battlefield series, although the fact that consoles get considerably fewer players per game (24, compared to the PC’s 64) it can make the jets feel a little pointless as trying to take out a player on the ground can be a bit of a struggle for anyone that isn’t willing to dedicate their life to becoming the next Top Gun, but they are bloody useful for taking out tanks, helicopters and, in the case of some bad flying skills, any offending building, tower, tree or mountain. Most of the time you simply end up fighting other jets, resulting in a detached feeling from what’s going down on the ground. Helicopters are still present, but this time are arguably even more of a bitch to actually pilot, making heading into a private server and getting some practice in a must, otherwise you’ll simply end up entertaining the enemy team by plowing your flying machine into the nearest friendly tank, surely earning you several enemies on your own team/  This time around the vehicles, and most noticeably the tanks, are able to take considerably more punishment, so tank battles can now be a fairly prolonged exchange of gunfire and curse words. Of course these massive maps designed for vehicles does also means that they can be a nightmare for infantry as there is a limited supply of vehicles and a not so limited supply of people unwilling to take passengers, so you might just have a long walk ahead of you to get back into the action.

One of the better new features to come packed into Battlefield 3 is a server browser, allowing you to quickly scroll through lists of available games, searching for specific game types and join any od the servers you want. It’s a nice touch and something that needs to be more commonplace on consoles .Getting together with friends to join a game is also nice and simple, quickly allowing you to get into the action, though it does occasionally split your squad up.

Battlefield 3 also introduces the brand spankingly new Battlelog feature, essentially a blend of a detailed stats tracker and Facebook, because the world really needs something else like Facebook. You can find more than enough stats to keep you happy, here, as well as plenty of leaderboards so that you can rub your sheer awesomeness in your friends face’s, because that’s what friends are for, right? right?

It may be the best multiplayer experience going on the consoles at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Numerous glitches exist throughout the game, such as loadouts sometimes failing to save, knife kill animations sometimes failing to work, terrain glitches, a glitch that lets you spam the mortar and more, plus some balancing issues exist within the classes theat needs to be fixed. But the biggest of the problems stems from a long running problem of the series that still hasn’t been fixed; spawn killing. This occurs most often in the games Rush mode where it’s extremely easy for an enemy player to sneak into your spawn zone and decimate your team as they appear. This is made all the worse by the fact that your team has a limited amount of respawns available in Rush mode to use, making it downright frustrating when you lose a chunk of them to someone spawn camping in your base, the bastard.

It’s also worth noting that Battlefield 3 uses an online pass system, meaning you’ll only have access to the multiplayer portion of the game if you bought a brand new copy of the game, each of which comes with an access code. Should you buy the game second hand, and in this current economy that seems very likely, you’re going to have to purchase an online pass via the Marketplace so that you can get online and blow the crap out of the people.

At the time of writing this review a patch was just released to fix numerous issues with joining a game on your own and with friends. This patch does seem to have fixed the majority of problems, but there’s still the occasional problem and bit of lag, though that is to be expected to a degree.

So, DICE’s third attempt at delivering a compelling singleplayer experience is a disappointment, delivering something that includes some fun cinematic moments, but lacks the Battlefield personality. The co-op is more fun, but still doesn’t do anything that exciting. But the multiplayer is where it’s at, and on this level Battlefield 3 isn’t just good, it’s amazing. It doesn’t just beat every other multiplayer FPS on the console, it stamps on their face, takes their dog tags and leaves them to die. And yet there’s the constant feeling that Battlefield 3 is an unfinished product – thankfully the online carnage more than makes up for it.

The Good:
+ Huge online battles.
+ Massive amount of unlockables for the classes.
+ Fairly fun co-op.

The Bad:
- Singleplayer is disappointing and feels too much like Call of Duty.
- Plenty of glitches, bugs and problems.
- Spawn camping.

The Scores:

Graphics: 8.5
Looks great but feels unfinished with scenery popping into existence, screen tear, floating trees and texture pop-in.

Sound: 9
As always the sound quality is superb, but like the graphics problems exist, such as sounds not always being in sync and sometimes disappearing, but they’re fairly rare.

Story: 6
Decent enough until it gets ruined by a clumsily executed moments towards the end and an abrupt ending. And what’s up with the villain?

Gameplay: 9
A disappointing singleplayer devoid of the Battlefield persona, but a multiplayer which kicks everything else in the face. Again, problems do exist, though.

Lifespan: 9
Singleplayer is around four hours with a few more for co-op, but multiplayer will last you….well, until the next Battlefield game.

Overall: 9
Verdict: A sense of being unfinished pervades the entire game, but this is still the best multiplayer experience you can find on the consoles. it’s just a shame that the singleplayer is entirely forgettable.

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2 replies »

  1. you never get that tactical feeling when playing on console
    Thank god i have a pc too 14 players being dropped into an enemy base via helicopter and 16 players going through the front door ahhh tactical mayhem at its finest

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