So as the two opposing forces gather momentum, they get closer to their inevitable clash, and it is the underdog in many eyes who fires first. The first game of the two big military shooters has arrived. Battlefield 3 has been proudly boasting that it’s a better game than Call of Duty all year. Now the time has come to prove to everyone else that they have been buying the wrong shooter. Does Battlefield 3 hit the target or has its building of hype led to some friendly fire?
Battlefield 3 is all about the multiplayer. It’s the reason why it has gotten such a huge following over the last decade, but more about that later. The series never had a campaign until 2008’s Battlefield: Bad Company and Bad Company 2 after that. While both those campaigns feature humourous dialogue and characters, Battlefield 3’s campaign is really serious in its tone.
Is it a good campaign though? As far as military shooters go, it’s adequate. It has its intense and memorable moments, but for a Battlefield fan, it sometimes feels like a different game entirely. The campaign really feels like every military cliché from the past 20 years. You’ve got your standard WMDs, evil Russians and a global threat. They story therefore never goes anywhere surprising and just feels underwhelming. The missions themselves fare a little better.
Throughout the missions there are glimpses and moments of greatness, but unfortunately they really are just moments. You sky-dive, fly in a jet, experience and earthquake and more but the rest can just be simply disappointing. Battlefield 3 is at its weakest in the campaign when it seems to try mimic its competitor with tight corridor twitch reaction gameplay. It’s not that it controls bad at these points, it’s just the fact that that’s not what Battlefield is about.
What can be said positively about the single-player campaign is the fact that it prepares you for the multiplayer. Throughout the 6-7 hour campaign, you will utilise quite a few of the weapons, control and use a variety of vehicles and experience the different gameplay and map layouts that you will encounter when you take the fight online.
And when you do take the fight online, there’s really no going back. Battlefield 3 features the greatest multiplayer component in any game ever released. From the different modes, to the variety of maps, mixed with the classes, and unlock system creates possibly the deepest and worth-while experience available.
The game features three main modes: Team Deathmatch, Conquest, and Rush. Conquest is the old Battefield classic in which you must capture points on a map. Rush was made famous by the Bad Company series which sees the attacking team trying to destroy stations while the other team tries to defend it. If the attacking team destroy the two stations, the next section of the map is unlocked. This can lead to you playing the map multiple times before you finally see all of it. Team Deathmatch is exactly what you’d expect.
What makes Battlefield 3’s online component so impressive is the depth and expansiveness. Thanks to the different classes, playing the same map and even mode using different classes create a completely different experience. Being the assault class leads to faster pace and supporting your fellow teammates. While being a recon class is slower with spotting enemies in the distance for your teammates to take out. That is just one tiny example of the many different ways you could approach the online.
Battlefield 3 is all about working together as a team. You can earn just as much points by reviving a fellow team member or fixing up a tank as you do for killing an enemy. This means you don’t have to be an expert at shooters up your rank. There’ll be matches when you die more than you kill but earn a fair amount of points for kill assists, and supporting fellow members; every match feels like progress.
Each class has its own unlock ladder. When using that particular class, the points you earn goes toward your rank as well as the particular class you earned those points with. That way everything you unlock will be associated with the class you choose. You never unlock weapons you’ll never use. Not only do you unlock weapons, you unlock new scopes, gear and other specs to further enhance gameplay to your play-style.
The Battlefield series has always been known for its huge, expansive maps and this iteration is no different. Each map though has been scaled down from its PC counterpart due to the limitations on the amount of players available on the different formats, but the maps remain massive in scale. They range from docklands, to open fields, and even dense urban areas. To fully appreciate this, play Rush mode. For example: when playing on the Paris map, the match begins in a park, then into the subways system and ends on the city streets.
The developers have done a great job designing these multiplayer maps. Each one takes a couple of matches to realise what strategy and play-style you will need to use to fully benefit and perform well. The maps are so varied and different classes add so much variety that you could honestly play the same couple of maps for dozens of hours and never feel like it’s getting repetitive. One game could have you sniping from the top of a building where the next could see you take a tank through the city streets, all on the same map.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the multiplayer without talking about the vehicles. The vehicles add that unique staple the series has always been known for. Ground based vehicles like the tank are easy to use and rack up some kills, but when trying to man an aerial vehicle is a whole different experience. It will take some time to master these vehicles but the trial and error will pay off once you can.
There is so much more I could talk about the multiplayer but it would easily double the length of this review. It is the best competitive multiplayer experience around. It will take you hundreds of hours to unlock everything and reach the highest rank, but the persistent unlock system means something is always just out of your grasp.
For people who want to play the game with a friend but in a non-competitive way, Battlefield 3 features a co-op mode. In this mode, you play with a buddy through six different missions, from single-player campaign levels but with different objectives and layout. It feels like a decent mix between the single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game. Unfortunately it never really goes anywhere. Still, it is a nice addition to an already full package.
The final two stars of the show are the Frostbite 2 engine and the animation system. Simply put, both these are amazing. Players move realistically and impact is felt every time an A.I. opens a door. The running and all-round movement is fantastic. The frostbite engine may not be the best looking but it is still beautiful. Faces are really lifelike and the destruction system is unparalleled in military shooters.
As a whole package, Battlefield 3 has one insanely good aspect, and one mediocre aspect. Should they each have an equal pull on the overall review? In most cases, yes. But people who know the legacy of Battlefield know that it’s a multiplayer game. Most games now have a multiplayer of some sort tacked-on but it never detracts from the overall score. It’s usually told to just avoid it. So Battlefield’s 3 campaign is disappointing but it’s the multiplayer you should be playing for anyway. If you’re looking for a good single-player shooter this year get RAGE. But this is the game you want for multiplayer