Review: Battlefield 3

November 7, 2011, By Christian Davis

Battlefield is EA’s better modern war shooter that’s known for being good at primarily one thing, multiplayer. The more “realistic” approach to the title is a nice change from the other more arcade type shooters that are on the market. With large scale battles reaching a total of 64 players on the PC and 24 on consoles (what I reviewed) the game is a constant blast to play with your friends and really rewards you and your squad to work together as a team and coordinate attacks. Oh, there’s a single player campaign too and that honestly didn’t need to be there much at all; we’ll talk about that first.

The start of Battlefield 3’s campaign is pretty fast paced and surprisingly intense. The opening scene starts you off on an out of control speeding train and for some mysterious reason your character is handcuffed and making his way to the front to stop it. This gameplay portion is very reminiscent of the ending scenes for both Mission Impossible and Speed films. It’s pretty cool. As you make you way though you engage in a few surprise quick time events, end up on top of the train dodging signs, and then are greeted with the game’s antagonist, Solomon. Then the game flashes back eight hours earlier to your character, Sergeant Blackburn, being interrogated by his superiors. From that point it takes a while before you take any action in the present day and everything you do is in a flashback. The voice acting is solid though and the graphics (when you have the HD texture pack downloaded) look really sharp as well; think a more polished Battlefield: Bad Company 2, The Frostbite 2 engine really shines on the consoles.

When the first mission begins you and your squad is sent to find a missing squad of soldiers and of course they’re in the most dangerous part of the city. You follow your squad leaders until the inevitable shoot out. During the first shootout there’s a guy in a building with an RPG, you’re told to take him out. Not a problem. Then you and your squad head to the rooftops. This is when I really started to notice the great character animations. Your comrades cling to walls, duck, slide, crawl and take cover realistically and it’s unbelievably fluid.

You and your team cross a few alleyways and streets to get to your destination and though you’re in a rush, your teammates sure like to get in your way. While running I was told I needed to “get the led out.” I could have if the character didn’t run directly in front of me, halting my progression.  After the rooftop is reached we start to get attacked by a sniper in an adjacent building. We make our way to some cover while dodging 50 caliber sniper shots. They tell me that I need to take this rocket and watch for his sniper scope to glisten and give away his position. Then it’s my duty to shoot at him. That sounds intense and I was looking forward to it a lot, except I didn’t get to experience any tense moments because the game told me exactly where the sniper was and all I had to do was shoot at a large orange dot. This happens often in the campaign and you’re hand is held a lot more than you’d expect it to be. That moment was essentially ruined because the game didn’t think I could do it on my own; It never feels natural to do these actions.

Though you have a squad at times, it does feel like you’re on your own quite a bit primarily because the enemy pays no attention to your squad at all. You can wait behind cover and just watch your teammates and the opposition shoot at each other essentially forever. The second you step into view, they all focus on you and the other members of your team don’t exist. The enemies themselves are also on a track too which showed that their artificial intelligence didn’t kick in until a certain point. For example, I was running to another designated area and saw an enemy run around the corner and then run into me without shooting. I moved to the side and the opposing soldier ran to the wall he was scripted to take cover behind, and then turned to shoot at me. It was something I had never seen before and it was just so odd. Your squad also isn’t memorable at all. In Halo: Reach for example; I could remember each member and their traits because they had some distinct personalities. Your squad mates all look the same and sound the same so when one of them was mentioned in a story, I had no idea who they were talking about and just didn’t care. It gives a complete disconnect to the story and you lose interest.

Like most games of this sort, the enemy has some pretty good aim so naturally you’d want to take cover behind certain walls and not rush out and get shot. There was an instance where I had to escape the city and a group of guys were impeding my path. I took out one group no problem and that alerted another guy with a shotgun. I tried shooting at him and he kept killing me. I could not figure out why he wasn’t going down, so I decided to throw a grenade. Turns out, there was some invisible collision in the center of the path and my grenade bounced back right at me and killed me. Essentially, I was shooting at an invisible wall and having my bullets stopped. Not a great feeling to have.

Thankfully the area I was looking at was highly detailed and diverse from the previous area. The locations that you’ll be traversing are really nice and also dynamic. There are several instances where you will see a building collapse while you’re moving or encounter an earthquake that will alter your path. It’s a nice change of pace and it provides for nice spectacle.

There are a few, brief cool moments in the campaign though that helps make up for the inconveniences that you’ll face. One in particular stands out in my mind and that’s when you’re a passenger in a jet and are in control of the offensive and defensive maneuvers. It was basically a dog fight that you didn’t take control of. Which already was strange to see. Of course controlling your own jet would have been significantly better and why that wasn’t relayed into the single player makes no sense. Despite that, this was still a somewhat enjoyable segment. Though, again, the game still held your hand throughout this scene. It’s obvious when you have to shoot down a jet or send out flares to divert incoming missiles due to the actions of the jet and warning beeps inside the jet. You’re constantly told from the pilot what the jet is doing and what to do. “It looks like the jet is moving back to fire; you’d better get ready to deploy flares.” Yes, we see that.

The campaign is just so scripted it feels as though it’s forcing itself upon you and it’s saying “Hey, wasn’t that explosion cool!?” Not at all what you’d expect from this game especially when Bad Company 2 had a much better campaign and significantly more personality. Though some games are said to be “known for their multiplayer” you still should not skimp out on the quality of the single player. If it’s there, put as much polish as you’d put in the multiplayer, which is easily the best part of this.

The multiplayer of Battlefield 3 alone is worth the $60 price tag. It’s so intense and you’re always so captivated by the gameplay. Though it’s in the same style as previous Battlefield titles, it still feels like a new game. There are some notable changes to weapons and classes that make the whole experience feel more complete and well rounded.

When it comes to weapons, each gun feels completely different from one another and you will really find yourself being attracted to one. Each gun has a bit of a leveling system so the more you use it, the better it gets. Using the M16 enough will eventually unlock a 4x zoom scope which makes the gun substantially better and more accurate. Keep using the gun with the scope and get the laser sight. There are even some add-ons you can put that have pros and cons, this most notably occurs with the flashlight. The flashlight has multiple functions surprisingly and it’s a very strategic option. When equipped, obviously it helps you see in dark places but what it also does is create a blind spot to your opponent. If the opposing soldier looks at you they’ll see the shine of the light in their eyes and it makes it hard to really pin point where the enemy’s body is. Of course, if the enemy is at a distance, the light will give away your position.

Classes have been altered as well and for the better. Usually you have about five classes each having some sort of specialization, whether it be the medic and his defibrillator or the engineer with his repair kit. When playing as the medic, you always played a bit more passively because your job was to resurrect fallen soldiers. A lot of the time you’d stay in the back and it got somewhat boring. In Battlefield 3, the medic has been combined with the assault class so you will be encouraged to go up and fight on the front lines while having the ability to revive and heal teammates. This keeps the gameplay constantly moving progressing and moving forward. Genius.

The level design of Battlefield 3’s maps are as grand in scale as you’d expect and even at times, exceeds your expectations. One level in particular really gives that “Oh my God” moment. When progressing through the rush gametype, I saw that the next objectives were below me. I saw a bunker and head inside and to my surprise, there was nothing in there. I thought I was lost but then after a minute, I realized what I had to do. I had to jump off this mountain and parachute down. It’s such an exciting feeling to parachute down several hundred feet while avoiding sniper fire, helicopters, and jets. It’s just too fun and those kinds of moments really submerse you into the gameplay.

Jets are one of the new vehicles added into the console version and haven’t been seen since Battlefield 2. Even if you don’t like piloting vehicles (like myself) just having dogfights take place overhead and hearing jet engines zoom past your head adds to the whole phenomenal experience. Having a nice pair of gaming headphones on while you play is highly recommended, though not required, if you want the best possible immersion.

As great as the multiplayer is, there is still one major issue that is perplexing. When playing with friends, you cannot gather multiple squads in one lobby and then launch the game together. It’s something that has always been in Battlefield and it’s always been a major flaw.When you form a lobby and have more than three friends who want to play with you, you have to have them join up after you and your squad has already loaded into the game. It’s extremely cumbersome and it’s not even assured that your other friends will end up on the same team either. Why the option to have an entire team join up in a lobby, separate into multiple squads, and then load in a game together wasn’t implemented makes absolutely no sense. It’ll bring team work to the entire team as a whole rather than just your squad. I don’t see a negative in this.

Battlefield 3 is one of those games that you’ll lose six hours to in the blink of an eye. Though the single player is lacking in several aspects and is just forgettable, the multiplayer is exquisite. The gameplay flows so well and is embarrassingly tight. Though another modern war shooter will be here in a very short amount of time, this game isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and will continue to have a steady fan base. Battlefield 3 is a game that you need to own if you’re a multiplayer enthusiast. If multiplayer isn’t your thing, pass this up.

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