Battlefield 3 ReviewPC
key review info
- Game: Battlefield 3
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: Yes
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
This year we’ve seen the release of quite a lot of blockbuster games but many shooter fans have no doubt anticipated Battlefield 3 the most, the next installment in DICE’s very successful series, and one of the few franchises from Electronic Arts that might stand a chance against Activision’s Call of Duty behemoth.
With the promise of a “next generation engine for current generation platforms,” in the form of Frostbite 2, and a multiplayer even more refined that the modes from previous games, Battlefield 3 definitely looks like the shooter most gamers will talk about, at least until next month when Modern Warfare 3 rears its head.
So, after all this waiting, does Battlefield 3 distinguish itself in the extremely crowded shooter genre or does it need to be dishonorably discharged? Let’s find out.
It’s odd to start Battlefield 3’s review with the story section because this is arguably its only flaw, in an otherwise extremely sharp package. While visuals look great, gameplay feels sharp, and the multiplayer is top notch, the story in the campaign looks to be from a different game altogether.
You mainly play as Sergeant Blackburn, a U.S. Marine that was stationed in the Middle East, who is now being interrogated (Black Ops anyone?) by a couple of government agents in regards to a terrorist threat involving, you guessed it, WMDs, in the form of the perennial favorites, tactical nuclear bombs.
While at first you fight against the PLR, a terrorist organization from Iran, you quickly learn that behind the threat is actually a Russian called Solomon, who, surprising no one, has a grudge against the good old US of A.
You also control a few other characters, including an airforce gunner or a tank operator, not to mention a Russian special forces agent, but most of the action focuses on Blackburn, which is a bit of a shame, as most of the touching or dramatic moments happen when in control of others.
While the events sound nice in theory, in practice the story of Battlefield 3 takes you through lots of claustrophobic maps, where most of the times you just follow one character or another, blasting bad guys and proceeding forward. While in the last two Battlefield games, Bad Company 1 and 2, we were treated with some tongue-in-cheek characters, especially in the first, Battlefield 3 tries to pull off its narrative with a straight face and just ends up awkwardly trying to replicate things from Call of Duty games or from Hollywood movies.
Sadly, while there are some moments that stand out, it mostly falls short of actually showing you what you can actually do in a Battlefield game, and its length, around 6 hours or so, depending on your skill level, also disappoints.
If I was disappointed with the narrative, the gameplay of Battlefield 3 kept me going, and, once you reach the multiplayer, it becomes apparent that DICE is still one of the best shooter studios around.
Everything feels sharp, from moving around to targeting or even shooting, as you always feel like you’re in complete control, and responsible for your own actions, whether they end in taking down a foe or being shot yourself. During the single-player or cooperative campaigns, however, sometimes you do feel a bit cheated, as the AI always manages to spot you, even in complete darkness.
Speaking of darkness, light plays a huge role, especially during the nighttime missions, as you can easily be blinded by enemies that use their flashlight to your disadvantage. You can pull the same maneuver in multiplayer against others, but you might often leave yourself exposed to others.
Cover plays a pretty big role, but you shouldn’t forget that this is a Battlefield game, so, given enough time, the enemy’s bullets will erode the pile of sand bags, piece of concrete or the vehicle you’re hiding behind. As such, you need to choose your moments, your weapons and your course of action if you’re to be successful.
Another trademark of the Battlefield series, vehicles, also play a big role in this new game, although you might not think so after the campaign. In it, you barely get a few glimpses of these array of vehicles in BF3, and even then it’s usually just a second hand view, like with the fighter jets where you’re just a gunner, picking out targets and launching rockets. Sure, it serves to help those who can’t really handle a jet, but a choice would’ve been great, even if it might break the scripting.
In multiplayer, however, you can jump in whatever vehicles you want, from tanks, to jets or choppers, and often engage, like with jets in particular, in your own battles, forgetting that other players are fighting it out on the ground.
The Frostbite 2 engine isn’t just a gorgeous one, like I’ll detail below, but also serves to produce some great gameplay and even set piece moments, with massive buildings falling down or other such feats of destruction.
That said, there are some glitches, however, with potted plants rolling around uncontrollably, fellow soldiers just warping through fences or vehicles, or other such issues that prove DICE has yet to master the engine. Still, for its triple-A debut, Frostbite 2 impresses, and then some.
Let’s first talk about the cooperative multiplayer in Battlefield 3, which sees two players engage in six missions, a la Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops mode, where they need to work together, even alongside other AI companions, and just survive until the end of the stage.
While this can be fun at times, on consoles there’s no form of split-screen, while the online connectivity on the PC is done through Battlelog, which sometimes might not work as well as you’d expect.
You do get to control more vehicles in these co-op missions, but, like with a chopper in a certain stage, you can’t choose who does the flying and who does the shooting. As such, you might end up with someone who can’t control the flying machine or someone who can’t even spot the enemies.
While that might not such a big problem, all of the missions are heavily scripted, so, if you start going through them again, it’s just a test of memory, knowing from where the bad guys spawn and where the optimal cover can be had.
But, while the single-player disappoints and the co-op mode fails to provide the best experience, Battlefield 3 and DICE make it up when you jump into the competitive multiplayer.
This is where everything fits together: the maps are huge and sprawling with lots of places to explore, the number of players even more impressive, especially on the PC where you can have up to 63 other people playing with and against yourself, the amount of customization options and unlockable items, as well as the variety of play styles that it can accommodate.
You have four classes, Assault, Support, Engineer, and Recon, and can engage in gameplay modes like Conquest, Rush, Squad Rush, Squad Deathmatch and even Team Deathmatch. While this doesn’t sound all that appetizing, the multiplayer mode has a distinct Battlefield feel, and it’s unlike most shooters out there.
I can go on and on, but, simply put, if you care even remotely about shooting other people online, then Battlefield 3 is definitely for you.
Visuals and Sound
After praising the game for its multiplayer, it’s time to highlight yet another part where it performs flawlessly. Battlefield 3 is a gorgeous game and when I say that, my eyes mean it with all their cells: Battlefield 3 is by far the most impressive game of this generation, managing to delight not just with the nitty gritty war visuals from Middle Eastern conflict zones, but also with sharp vistas from urban environments like Paris, in which a building is certain to remind players of the same sharp design and vibrant colors used in DICE’s Mirror’s Edge.
From big details like lens flares to smaller, less in-your-face moments like the lighting effects of actual flares, Battlefield 3 will leave a lasting impact on the player and will remain a benchmark for quite some time, or at least until the next generation of consoles will be out.
We tried out Battlefield 3 both on an AMD (formerly known as ATI) graphics board, as well as on one from Nvidia, and we have to point out that the Nvidia card delivered the most impressive experience. We cranked up all the details to Ultra, on a full HD 1920x1080 resolution and the graphics card, a 570 GTX, always kept a smooth framerate even in the most hectic moments from the single or multiplayer modes. What's more, Nvidia's proprietary PhysX effects made some scenes pop out even more, especially ones set in Iran, where papers and debris are flying all over the place.
In terms of sound, things are pretty good, with quite a few established actors lending their voices and likenesses to the main cast in the single-player, although you won't remember anyone in particular once the credits roll.
In terms of the score, regular battles aren’t disturbed by music, with DICE letting you listen to the symphony of bullets and shouts, but high points are emphasized by some pretty good instrumental music.
Battlefield 3 is a game of contrasts, starting with mediocre, in the form of the single-player story, building up to decent, with the pretty short co-op campaign, and finishing up with excellent, in the form of the competitive multiplayer.
It’s one interesting ride, to say the least, but if you stick with it, Battlefield 3 will deliver one of the best and most visually advanced shooter experiences of the year.
Battlefield 3 is now available across the world for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.