Battlefield 3 – Review

Title   Battlefield 3
Developer  DICE
Publisher  Electronic Arts
Platform  Xbox360 (reviewed)/PS3/PC
Genre  FPS
Release Date  28th October, 2011

This is just the beginning. It would be nice to think that now the game is out the onslaught of the year long marketing push is to be retired and we can all have a rest from the BLUH NUH NUH BLUH NUH NUH, but the war’s only just getting started. And this is a war, it’s not a game. Battlefield 3 is EA’s shot across the bow at Activision’s Call of Duty, the warning that they’re coming after the billion dollar generating Modern Warfare franchise, and that they’re willing to bet the farm on it all too. Were it that they were starting from scratch, they would certainly have a mountain perched on top of a mountain to climb, but that’s not exactly the case here, is it?

Battlefield is one of the best loved FPS franchises of the last decade, redefining what it means to be a multiplayer shooter on the PC, and then spending the last few years trying to find a way to make that same magic work on the consoles. Whether or not DICE have succeeded with the Bad Company franchise is a debate best saved for another day but few can deny the ambition of the studio in attempting to bring the large scale FPS to the limited net capabilities of the home console, and the advances they’ve still managed to make on the technology side of things with the continuing development of their in house physics engine, Frostbite2.

It goes without saying that the console has been dominated by the Call of Duty franchise in the past few years though, and that the Battlefield games have always had more love on the PC side of gaming thanks to the much wider scope of the games previously released for mouse and keyboard. It should also be noted that the Xbox version of Battlefield 3 has been the most silent of the three platforms in the run up to release, owing to ‘secret’ backroom dealings between the major powers that has seen the title become a beacon for the Sony marketing campaign, while Modern Warfare lends its green advertising palette to the green of the big M.

With the PC version acting as the very definitive version and the call to up the arms race in the next generation wars, and the PS3 version being the favourite child, the very best way to review Battlefield 3 is to go for the weakest link: the two disc, retarded, bastard child that is the Xbox 360 version. Is the hype justified? Should Activision be scared? Should EA breathe a sigh of relief that this huge investment is likely to see a return? Should Captain Price hang his moustache in shame? And does any of this game of peeing highest up the wall actually benefit the consumer?

Let’s start at the meat of it: the multiplayer mode. This is where the game needs to make its mark and a failure here will easily eradicate the good work invested elsewhere. Multiplayer this time arrives in two flavours with a handful of extra toppings and assorted decorations to help keep things mixed up. The first flavour is co-op, a first for the Battlefield franchise, first debuted at Gamescom this year and the answer to Modern Warfare 2′s Spec Ops mode.  Co-op mode stands entirely apart from the main campaign, with only a few references to events from the story and with most of the levels being reconstructed from assets taken from the single player experience. It’s two player only, purely online, with no split screen action available.  On the statistical side of things, the only other point of note is how few co-op levels exist in BF3, with only six on offer, spread across a four tiered tree, with two levels on the first and third tiers and one on the alternate second and forth tiers. Completing each tier unlocks the next, though your progress is not tracked locally and so if you have reached the final mission with one friend, you won’t be able to access that with another until you have made the same progress. By comparison, MW provides more and so Battlefield is going to look far more shallow, but DICE revealed their co-op mode on the promise that this was to be an experience you’d want to repeat and so less was, for them, to be most certainly more.

In reality, I honestly don’t think that’s quite the case. Each mission is a standalone element, designed to be picked up and played when you feel like it, sold under the promise that each time you do, the experience won’t necessarily be the same as the last. By the very laws of videogames, of course that statement will always be true as you’ll never kill every enemy in the same order or catch every bullet thrown your way. Whenever we’re told this sort of thing, we expect that we’re likely to see a random generation of spawns and variation in scripted events, but for BF3 this is not the case. Every enemy will come from the same direction as the last time, and each tank will make its stage call like it’s been running the show on Broadway for five years.

The levels vary from story focused experiences, as found in ‘Exfiltration’,’Drop ‘Em Like Liquid’ and Horde, and wave based type missions seen in ‘Operation Exodus’ and ‘Fire From the Sky’. The latter takes place entirely in an attack helicopter, with one player operating the main gun and one flying the chopper. There’s no option to ever choose who gets to take which spot and it will be entirely random on level load too (with the role never alternating between attempts), so if you’re not any good behind the stick, brace yourself for an awful lot of level reloads while the positions rotate to your needs.

It’s not a bad game mode by any standard as it’s always enjoyable to hook up with a friend and work together against enemies that you know you can handle, but the experience is still a deeply flawed one. There are no checkpoints in the levels at all, so if you’ve fought for 20-30 minutes (which some of the missions can run to) and fall at the final hurdle, well tough. Your progress is still rewarded through the mode’s separate XP system, derived from a system of kills, assists, accuracy and cooperative rewards that will unlock new weapons for the full multiplayer modes, but it still hurts to have got so far and have victory snatched from you by a lucky pair of bullets or one of the many glitches that will literally have you screaming at the TV.

In ‘Exfiltration’, for example,  it’s not uncommon to exit your HUMVEE at the final stage of the level, only for both players to be entirely rooted to the spot and be able to do nothing but move the right stick and pull the trigger. On death, you would hope that you would be able to make use of the mode’s Gears of War inspired incapacity feature that would normally allow you to crawl to the safety of your team mate, armed with a pistol for protection, who could then revive you and allow you to carry on. Of course, that’s not the case and until this little problem gets fixed, you’re just going to have to cross your fingers every time you get out of a vehicle and pray it doesn’t happen to you.

Overall, the mode is alright, but that’s all it is; it feels tacked on and like a late addition to the series. Perhaps patching will help and later DLC may help to expand the mode into something more promising. With no direct ties to the single player and a wealth of options available to DICE in that regard, you really would hope that there would be a far greater quantity of missions on offer, and so you look to the opposite side of things where you expect that they have created a separate and full mini-campaign for you to share with a friend… but again, they haven’t. The whole thing feels schizophrenic in that sometimes they seem to want to give you a full co-op campaign with a nice tight story, and then they throw you a mission where you find yourself just sat behind a wall, waiting for it all to end.  The extra unlocks are a nice touch and they give you reason to check in on the mode every now and again but, given the massive balancing required for a large scale shooter like this, the investment of time and energy doesn’t really justify the rewards to anyone who isn’t pleased by shiny new weapon models and sounds.

Onto the real meat of the purchase then and here we are, still on disc one for the game’s showcase multiplayer mode. Battlefield really was the king of this during the 1942 and updated modern combat setting and I can honestly say that they still are. I felt a little guilty when, a few months ago, I loaded up Bad Company 2 for the first time and saw what DICE were looking to do with the mode in the run up to BF3. I honestly never thought that the Battlefield approach could translate to the consoles, but I loved every second of what I played of my most overlooked game of this year and when the tickets were set to reach zero, I was always amazed to stand and look at the battlefield for what Frostbite 2 had transformed it into, in comparison to how the place looked when the round first began.

Being a PC veteran of the franchise, I still had my doubts for what the next true sequel could bring, knowing that the number of concurrent players would always be restricted to twenty four, whilst PC users could boast a forty player advantage and I worried that the maps would all be pale reflections of their PC counterparts, which highlighted nothing more than wasted potential. With the beta having also being a shambolic display of shambling shambles, my concerns were even more amplified recently, and so my apprehension for getting stuck into the game proper was understandably high. And then it’s four in the morning and, despite wanting to carry on and keep playing, I have to concede defeat and go to bed before tomorrow becomes an issue.  Battlefield has its flaws in the multiplayer and I’ll make no excuse for them, but the game is ultimately a success because of one thing: it’s fucking cool.

The ‘High Five’ brigade is something to fear in the multiplayer shooter. The frat boys that will shout racist remarks down a headset and spout sexist comments the second a girl appears are still present but it’s not them who are giving the high fives to one another, it’s you giving them to your squadmates, your friends, as you overcome a self created challenge or do something so incredibly brave (read: stupid) for the fiftieth time that still warrants an over excited cheer down the headset to a chorus of reciprocal “Woo!”. It doesn’t matter that your K/D is so far negative that even Newton is starting to question the basics of maths and that you haven’t had a kill, let alone a kill streak all round, as nearly everything you do can in some way still make you feel an integral part of the fight.

For the objective based game modes, Rush, Squad Rush and Conquest, you’re just as able to climb your way to the very tops of the scoreboards and earn the coveted MVP ribbon without killing so much as a song through squad based actions such as Heal, Revive, Resupply, Repair, Suppression, Objective Attacking and Defending, or just acting as a spawn point for your squad mates. If you’re able to complete actions multiple times, you’ll earn ribbons that further your score, all of which translates to XP that unlocks new weapons and equipment for each of the game’s four classes; Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon.

Whereas the franchise used to feature more classes (Medic, Anti Tank and Spec Ops), those classes have now been rolled into others to help streamline things. The Assault class now doubles as the game’s Medic, the Engineer functions as a more versatile Anti-Tank class and Support and Recon share the additional features previously exclusive to Spec Ops.  With most weapons able to be used by each of the classes, and only a handful serving as purely exclusive to each of them, it’s incredibly simple to find a way to play the game however you want to. The main draw to each of the classes lies in the special abilities and unlocks such as the Assault’s revive capable Defibrillators and the Support Class’s Mortar weapon and it’s here you’ll really find what suits you and your mood, and helps you find your own way into each of the battles.

The squad mechanics, while far from perfect, will further help you stay in the thick of things, always allowing you to spawn on squad mates when they’re alive and save you the hassle of having to backtrack your way across the maps and, on the flip side, can deliver a new intensity to the battle, whereby a four man squad can continually rotate through the squad spawn feature to make it feel like you’re fighting the army of 300. Mobile spawn platforms such as helicopters and APCs will also provide support in ensuring you can get to the front lines and out of your spawn protected HQs, even during the grimmest of Conquest battles.

Beyond the widescale warfare, more intense and focused experiences are available in the squad based variants of Death Match and Rush, allowing for one full squad of four to take on two other squads in some Death Match combat or, for the ultimate test of squad strength, a head to head, four on four game of Squad Rush. These really are high intensity games where the smallest mistake can cost you a victory and the tiniest of changes to the makeup of your squad could gift you the game. Despite the game being restricted to only twenty four players on consoles, it’s still easy to get lost in the system during the bigger battles of Conquest and Rush, so it’s fantastic to have these two game modes available where you can get a more accurate measure of your worth, if that’s the kind of glory you seek.

The inclusion of Team Death match into the franchise is no surprise really given that it’s where Battlefield’s major rival has made its mark on the console shooter.  It’s the same chaotic mess that you’d expect, with plenty of action to go around and lives so short that you won’t ever worry about holding back. Spawns will rotate around corners of the map as the battle changes up so that you should always spawn in a safe location (though there will be times when you’ll find that the frantic nature of it all can sometimes lead to stray and lucky bullets taking you out before you’ve even set a foot outside). Despite vehicles being a signature mark of the Battlefield franchise, this is a purely infantry only affair with no fixed gun emplacements or tank tipping additions to the scale of action to ever stop this being about you, your own skills and your own tools of destruction.

Probably the most disappointing aspect of the mode is the lack of map variants and it feels absolutely bizarre given the incredible size of the maps available. In total, the multiplayer mode features nine maps, all of which are very well represented in the other game modes but in Team Death Match, it feels like they could have made better use of them. Each arena is taken from a small sampling of each of the nine maps, but only one sample is taken, leaving potentially dozens more map possibilities for each environment laying untouched. There are easily three additional arenas available for each of the maps, and it would have been a quick (and welcome) addition to the game had someone at the studio taken the time to make it happen. My main concern is that they’re aware of that fact all too well and we’re liable to see players extorted for that privilege further down the line.

Beyond TDM though, the maps hold up pretty well. There’s never been a time in the twenty four solid hours I’ve dedicated to the multiplayer where I’ve felt that a map is skewed in favour of one team, or that it holds choke points and king of the hill style checkpoints that will gift either team a win purely because they manage to control them. A win is just as likely as a loss, and even when it feels like the other team has you beat or when you’re looking at your own team and thinking that you just don’t measure up, four squad mates can turn that on its head in moments, just by being in the right place at the very right time.

That wasted potential I discussed earlier in reference to the twenty four player cap is dismissed through that high level of balancing.  While there are times when you’re buzzing around one of the larger Conquest maps, spotting stations and elements that were clearly designed to be used as game objectives in the sixty four player versions, the benefit of having fewer control points means that the action stays focused and directed and never just becomes a game of flag-cap cat and mouse.  One of the most interesting examples stands as a contrast to my complaints about TDM’s lack of map variance: in the game’s Rush mode, teams are designated Attackers and Defenders, working within shifting boundaries of an expanding map as you progress through pairs of destroyable/defendable objectives that show parts of the maps that you just don’t get to experience in Conquest.

As an example, Damavand Peak in Conquest charges you with the task of breaking out of your respective bases, capturing a station outside of either end of a tunnel that passes underneath a mountain where the third – and balance tipping – flag is located. It’s a decent sized level with plenty of room for manoeuvre and doesn’t ever feel like it’s something that’s been unnecessarily scaled down, and it plays exactly as it was supposed to. So imagine my surprise when I hit the ground running on the Rush variant of the map, only to discover that I had absolutely no idea where I was.

After breaking through the first objective, fighting my way down a hillside to the next pair of destructible M-Com Stations, I found myself getting quite confused, as the map appeared to end, with the defenders now literally fighting on the edge of a cliff. With most Rush modes requiring the destruction of four to five sets of objectives, it was truly baffling to think that two was the lot, and I was left wondering where it was we were supposed to go next. So when the new objectives loaded up on the game’s UI, imagine the grin on my face when it dawned on me which way the twelve of us were supposed to go next. Down.

The second you jump off that cliff, you realise where you are and where you have been for the past twenty minutes: way up above the Conquest starting point for the US forces. It’s hard to put into words just how amazing that really is, as when spawning for that first time in Conquest, you spin around on the spot, waiting for the green light to get stuck in and never give a second thought about that sheer wall of vertical rock behind you, just chalking it up to level design. It literally extends up into the sky and so the rush of having your entire team shoulder to shoulder with you as you leap from its highest point is like no other I’ve ever had in a multiplayer game. Ever.

For those who aren’t satisfied by the good times alone and need a little more bang for their buck, Battlefield has its own multi-tier XP system in place to keep players coming back for more. All of those points you’ve been earning in a Brink-esque fashion, which pop up all over the lower half of your screen, feed into your overall progress across the game’s level system. Rank up and you’ll unlock new weapons and more customisation options for your soldier, providing new selections of camouflage and perks which enhance your core abilities, like Suppression and Sprint. If you earn those points with one of the game’s four kits, a sub levelling system will provide additional unlocks, exclusively available to you for use with those classes.  As if that wasn’t enough, each of the weapons you acquire have their own levelling system, which provide extra customisation options such as scopes, laser dots, torches, bipods and barrel upgrades such as sound and muzzle flare suppression.  It’s a rewarding experience as the game is always up for giving you a pat on the head for having done well with something and is happy to provide you with this meta game of unlockables that will distract you from playing the same maps over and over again, challenging you to take new approaches with different kit setups into each fight.

Tracking all of this and everything you do is the much touted Battlelog system – Facebook for your War. I’d love to be able to sit and praise the feature as a wondrous addition to gameplay, something that has finally stepped up to Bungie’s stat tracking plate that will change the way you experience an FPS game but, in reality, it’s sadly none of those things. At least not for consoles anyway. For PC users, the website acts as your game client and your entire portal into everything you do in Battlefield. If you want to launch the game’s single player or fire up a game on co-op, this is where it all has to happen. Playing the PC version of the beta, I actually found this to be one of Battlefield’s strongest features as it’s truly revolutionary in everything it does and genuinely makes you question why all games haven’t gone down this route and got rid of their artsy fartsy, useless title menus.  If you pick to join a server on PC, you’re not made to suffer the game loading up, to then sit and watch a loading screen, to then finally get into a game. Battlelog can do all that in the background and when you’re ready to leave the desktop, you can jump straight in.

For console users, however, none of that is important and so when you’re logging in for the first time, you’re left wondering why it is you’re staring at the PC options for launching parts of the game. Three very large buttons for the game’s three modes dominate the top portion of the website’s landing page – three very useless buttons for the console user logging in to check on their status or connect with friends. Further down, you’ll find Battlefeed – another well misused function of the website, which contains nothing more than a long list of ‘Look at what you and your friends have been awarded or unlocked’. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure I get plenty of friends on the service in a bid to discover if it was just a case of people leaving the feed to automatically generate updates, and never doing anything with it themselves, but beyond people occasionally clicking the ‘Like’ equivalent of ‘HooRah!’, one has to ask why the feature exists.

After you’ve navigated through all of that to find your Soldier (of which the service automatically assumes you will have multiples, tied to one account, and so labels them Xbox, PC etc. – because why wouldn’t you have multiple copies of the same game tied to one account?), your stats are at least well presented, your history well documented and your potential unlocks teased to you with a detailed breakdown of what you’ll have to do in order to unlock them. It doesn’t have anywhere near the detail of Bungie’s heatspots service, with any Battlelogs saved simply being a breakdown of your (and everyone else’s) scores and, despite how incredibly fast the service updates (instantaneously on level completion), I don’t expect you’ll find yourself using it all that much.

With a few updates and a dedicated design layout created for the console user, I think it could provide a great service for Battlefield’s multiplayer side of things. As it stands, I’m approaching the halfway mark on the path to top level and a full inventory and my friends are too; once they have everything, my Battlefeed will dry up. More social features may help to redeem it. I’m not going to herald the dawn of a new Facebook, but a great place to hang out with squad mates would help focus this experience dramatically. I have a a niggling that says this is nothing more than a dry run for EA and its online services, with something telling me that this is one day going to be the spark that started something much bigger and provided EA with a whole new social network of cross-platform and cross-genre gaming.

Before moving on to cover the final weapon in Battlefield’s arsenal, it’s important to note some of multiplayer’s fantastic bugs and glitches. At present, it’s entirely possible for you to spontaneously, and with no correlative action, lose the entire of your HUD. If this happens you can’t even play blindly as death will present you with an information-less spawn screen that won’t allow you to interact with any non-existent buttons. There’s also no option to press ‘Start’ and exit the game either, should you encounter the glitch, and so your only hope is to wait for the game to kick you out through inactivity or hope that the round ends so that a new map load can be triggered.

Another favourite of the Battlefield community is how the game will occasionally gift the power of the gods to one lucky individual who is then free to run around like Superman, only with guns. No bullet will harm him, whilst his own bullets do untold damage to people’s scores. You’ll hear cries of “CHEAT” and “HAX0RZ” when the player in question has no idea what’s going on, how they entered such a mode or how to bring an end to it. I say this because it happened to me and, whilst I enjoyed it for the first few kills, I quickly felt pretty cheap about the whole thing and so took to standing in the busiest of firefights, just watching the chaos unfold around me until an RPG took me out.

Note to all players: if this happens to you, be kind. If you see it happen to someone else, one SMAW launched rocket will kill them first time.

Note to DICE: sort it out.

There are other odd things that are irksome in the multiplayer, such as a lack of true spawn protection, which can often see you punished for having done nothing but to push a button to spawn. For squad spawning, that’s to be expected as you can’t unbalance the game by having it any other way, but for fixed base spawning, the game will occasionally drop you directly in front of the only enemy soldier in the entire base (of which the population can be as low as yourself and him), and you’ll find a knife in your back before you know what hit you.

I also find that the lack of any ‘disconnect from server’ options at the end of rounds to be incredibly annoying, helping – somewhat dangerously – to cultivate compulsive habits, as the second a round ends, you lose all ability to drop from the game until the next map loads, forcing you to spend that extra time on a loading screen and on the thirty second post game breakdown. That’s not even a bug, that one’s a conscious decision and it scares me a little as there have been plenty of times when I would have liked to have bowed out gracefully, only for the game to subtly bully me into staying for ‘just one more round’. Granted, the option for me to leave was still in my power at the start of the next game and it’s really a battle of my own wills, but it still feels very underhanded.

One upshot of all of this is that I’ve reported it all to DICE directly using Battlelog’s inbuilt support system. Creating tickets on there genuinely feels like an open invitation and DICE and EA officials will respond to them directly. Should you or another user post the same issue, the system will analyse them and offer you to add it in response to another player’s complaint or suggestion, creating a petition of sorts for the community to rally around. Regular round-ups of the week’s hottest issues are regularly addressed, and so even though it’s a shame that these problems exist in the first place, the corporate monolith that is EA is shown in its best light, making it appear that they want what’s best for their customers, and that they’re happy to hear concerns and are willing to address them.

The single player side of things is a truly compelling experience.  A large part of me made contact with a solid material when I read that Andy McNab was on board to advise on the game’s plot, characters and elements of the gameplay. I thought “great, one of military history’s greatest fuckups is trying to turn a game into something that isn’t a game”. How much influence he really has had on the project is unknown, but one thing that can be said for sure is that Battlefield’s single player campaign is a fantastic example of how an FPS title can do storytelling and shift focus without the player ever having to question the design decisions that ultimately drove them.

It’s standard fair for a shooter game to simply flit between locations and characters with no regard to any continuous sequence of events, all in the name of providing the best, balanced experience possible. You don’t want to play two intense shooting levels back to back, we’re told, we have to break that up with a stealth mission, and the last mission was during daytime in the snow too, so the next one has to be night time in the forest, all with little and no regard for the hows, whats and whys. The Battlefield story manages to circumnavigate all of those problems by telling you one story, from the end (in a very JJ Abrams’ Alias like fashion) that answers as many questions as it asks rather than the infuriating other way around.

The main protagonist acts as a narrator for the entire story, which is retold by him in interrogation for the consequences of his actions. While all being relevant to him, the plot manages to still jump inside the stories of other characters, fighting on both sides of the war and provides enough through those short and unique sequences to create a bond with a character who you never get to see. Whilst they’ll still throw in a tank level, a plane level, a night time level and a stealth level here, there and everywhere, whenever they do it feels entirely natural and delicately done.

The entire single player experience is a fantastic one, still full of the same nuances and problems that haunt the rest of the product, but entirely unique all the same. Part of the problem with all of that praise is that it’s attained purely by doing what’s right for the story and the experience, so if you were hoping to find a place to practice any multiplayer tactics, have a toy around with cool weapons, pieces of equipment, loadouts or classes, you’re going to find all of those things absent.  It’s an extremely schizophrenic change to the multiplayer side of the game as everything you do is a carefully scripted sequence of events. There’s no Battlefield-esque heading off of the road to take a more devious route through the level, or any of the excellent Squad mechanics to ensure the game keeps advancing; it’s a traditional affair of checkpoints and hand holding from A to B, with a whole load of computer generated high fives along the way.

This may sound like a complaint, but it’s not. While it would be great to see DICE take their own stamp and wield it like the master smiths they are, the existing formula, made profitable by their CoD counterparts, has instructed them to not play their own game, but to play them at theirs. At time of writing, I cannot say whether or not Battlefield have trumped the third instalment of the Modern Warfare franchise, as I only have the older, second part of that story by way of comparison. I always found that MW2 tried too hard to impress, introduced too many characters too quickly and moved the story along at a pace I couldn’t keep up with, and it feels that in Battlefield 3 DICE have addressed all of that with professional finesse.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll connect with the characters and want to play the next stage of the game and unlock the next mystery, and all despite playing the exact same basic formula that was created by Infinity Ward. Every sequence of action takes place in a narrow avenue of cover and suppressive fire, quick time events will occasionally take control of your character, and every bullet out there has your name on it, no matter if your AI squad mates are looking like the more dangerous threat or not. In order to advance, you don’t really have to do any serious killing and can often get away with just being so far forward that you trigger your AI team mates into pushing forward with you and actually killing the enemies in the process, rather than just sitting waiting for you to do so. There really is nothing dramatically new here and while DICE haven’t managed to do anything radical, everything they actually do is done in a fashion most befitting of the studio.

Fans of Mirrors Edge will recognise design elements that tell you just how much that franchise means to DICE and I counted two incredible on-foot chase sequences in the game that managed to bring up some incredibly fond memories. Animation across the board is at the absolute height of what you’d expect from a studio under the EA banner and the audio is right up there to match it. Visually, everything from tracer bullets to distant smoke and roaring fire is a visual massage and the lighting in the game in unmatched anywhere else in this industry.

For the very first time playing a game this generation, I did notice that some of the textures and the lack of any proper anti aliasing around certain models was actually a sign of the age of the current tech and that the PC version really must be something special to play. The high definition content upgrade is an essential component for the experience, because while some elements may look bad despite having it installed, they look a whole lot worse without it. There are times when you notice all of these flaws and then there are times when you’re in absolute awe of the visuals, so it’s hard to criticise the game on that front given that these changes in mood tend to occur at ten second or twenty minute intervals, depending on just how into it you’re getting.

I played the game through on Hard mode and the whole thing probably took around nine to twelve hours. Other than going back to dust up a few achievements, there’s no replay value at all in the game other than simply re-enjoying the same content, with no collectibles to discover or alternate paths to follow.  Along the way, I still encountered my fair share of bugs, such as a squad of stacked to breach team mates that just walked straight through the door rather than blowing it up, leaving me trapped until it magically opened to reveal nothing but the level with no enemies on the other side. I also found myself trapped in the terrain at times, at the mercy of dodgy models that allow bullets through where they shouldn’t, and running side by side with AI that would often pay no attention to any clear and present danger.

Bugs aside, there are other problems I found with the game that were, once again, clearly a product of poor design. I accept that Hard mode is designed to be Hard, but half of my problems in finishing the later stages of the game was due, in most part, to bad checkpoints. Each checkpoint in the game is fixed and badly placed, often requiring you to make the same tedious run along the same empty corridors, change up your weapons, have the same conversations and then get involved in a firefight which, on death, will then tell you that you have to do it all over again. At one point I found that after having equipped myself with two new weapons from inside an armoury, that I’d never moved close enough to an ammo crate to stock up beyond the first magazines. In trying to go back to ammo up before I triggered the next fight, I found myself smashing into an invisible wall on a staircase that didn’t want me to go back. Thanks for that.

Still, as much as these things genuinely annoyed me, the game still had me chasing it right to its satisfying end. The hints of a sequel are there and there’s plenty of room for a little extra back-story or sideways based DLC should EA wish to crack the whip. Whilst Battlefield still doesn’t manage to do anything new for the genre, it manages to get some of the very worst parts of it all right, even if they are still ignoring some of the smaller parts that are still wrong and creating a few silly mistakes in the process.

  • One of the best multiplayer experiences this generation
  • Still a success despite the console limitations
  • Outstanding visuals and animation
  • One of the first shooter experiences to make me use the word 'compelling'
  • Lived up to and surpassed my expectations
  • Hasn't really done anything new for the shooter genre
  • Launched with too many bugs
  • Battlelog for the console user is not as good as it should be
  • Co-op mode is a tacked on disappointment
  • If you thought the EA/Activision war so far was bad....

Battlefield 3 is not as good as we're told it should be. That I chose to ignore the hype and trust in DICE to deliver the next evolution of the Battlefield franchise was the right step to take but all of the singing, dancing, and shouting from the PR campaign may well have oversold the game for everyone else. This isn't the strongest showing of an incredibly talented studio that would have done better if they weren't pitted directly against the world's biggest selling franchise. It's a decent attempt and a good shot across the bow but is only of any dangerous concern if Activision have failed to continue with their trend of upping the game and allowed the new developers of Modern Warfare to deliver the same tired old game under a new name.

If Activision fail to better themselves, EA win this fight hands down. But Activision really don't have to compete against EA and have the luxury of only having themselves to beat and a little more patience and thought from the Battlefield camp could have completely turned that on its head.

Despite the bullet holes in its feet, Battlefield is one of the best games you'll play this year. If you're choosing to play CoD instead without ever giving it a second look then you're going to be missing out on one of the most epic and large scale gaming events of this entire console generation. The single player is a great experience and the multiplayer is an especially limitless one.

Don't hesitate.

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  1. Ste Ste says:

    Great review. I’ve not played this yet but I will be getting it for my birthday. Can’t wait to jump into a 64 man game, the little bit of the beta that I played was alot of fun.

  2. Edward Edward says:

    If games were as great as your reviews, this industry would be a better place :)

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