You can't help to notice that Battlefield 3 has been one of the most anticipated titles of this year, and what better time of the year than to go rifle and grenade against the annual release of the Call of Duty franchise - Modern Warfare 3. The game brings vast open levels; air, sea and land vehicles, and for the first time in this particular series a single player campaign. So a few months after its release, is Battlefield 3 all what it has been hyped up to be? Let’s rank up and find out.
Battlefield 3 is a game that should be approached in two parts - the single player and the multiplayer. Each of these parts have their own pros and cons with them, however it really depends on the type of gamer you are and what you want to get out of the game as a whole. So let’s tackle the single player first…
When comparing the two big releases this year, this game’s single player felt a little diluted than Modern Warfare 3’s offering. I did however found the single player campaign to be more of a realistic warfare experience than its rival, not that I’d know mind, but to me, BF3 felt more Ridley Scott rather than the J.J. Abrams feel that I got from MW3’s over the top campaign scenarios. With that said though, BF3’s campaign dealt everything that I was expecting and more, however for the pure fun factor and shear entertainment value, MW3 stole it for me.
The story, if you could call it that, follows a series of flashback events from a US soldier that has been put into questioning by government authorities, as they track down a threatening terrorist attack on US soil. As seen in many games, the aid of flashbacks allows the game to hop you in and out of many locations and gameplay experiences and Battlefield 3 is no exception. From fighting on underground trains to flying in a jet shooting down planes over enemy territory, the game has you going here, there and everywhere as you reenact the events from this soldier's story throughout the campaign. Sadly, I didn’t really bond or care with the game’s main character being questioned. Instead I mostly ended up waiting for the next mission to start whilst sitting through each pre-level cut scene, mildly paying attention, just incase I wasn’t going to miss anything important.
Things get hot up once these cut scenes are over and you are in the game. The power of the game’s Frostbite 2.0 engine shines throughout every level. You can understand why EA have adopted this technology in a fair few of its new releases – it’s exceptional. There is a level where you take off from a USA aircraft carrier and climb into the skies to dogfight against enemy planes. This particular level shows off the game’s graphical prowess. On the ground things get even better as the jaw dropping visuals go one step further as soon as Destruction 2.0 unveils itself to you. Visually there is no competition at the moment; as good as MW3 was at times I still felt I was playing an old and tired engine in that game, Battlefield 3 on the other hand felt fresh, new and shiny, with a bit too much lens flare. Rich detail and vast open landscapes is what the Battlefield series is about, and the power of the Frostbite 2 engine delivers this ability in spades.
Overall, the single player campaign is enjoyable, but as with most multiplayer focused games, it generally feels like a token offering that showcases the game’s ability of what is really going on under the hood. The AI in the game was good and felt less checkpoint-like when compared to MW3’s AI system. To be honest this game really didn’t need to have a single player mode, it never had one in the past series, but with the game going up against MW3 it felt as if EA and its developers DICE had to oblige to add one. All in all they did do a really good job at it, and as a result it does stand up there as a decent solo campaign. Thankfully the developers didn’t sway away from Battlefield’s roots and they gave all majority of their attention to its Multiplayer, which is the meat and veg of this game, so let’s look at that now…
Fans of the previous two games will feel well at home in this third release. A big chunk of the Bad Company series has rubbed off here, including a co-op multiplayer mode, which you'll find to be a little lackluster. Fans of Bad Company 2 should look at Battlefield 3 as a Bad Company 2 on steroids, with the added air vehicles, bigger maps, a better ranking system - and that is just scraping the surface of this calorie-rich cake.
The most noticeable element of Battlefield 3 is in its maps, which are huge, and at times if you are not riding, flying or driving a vehicle into the action, then you are in for a long walk – it is that big! Some more city-based maps can bring you down to Call of Duty type of maps, but most of them are vastly open. The scale of these maps can put some gamers off, and some claim that this lends itself to an increased amount of snipers in the game. At times you maybe right, but on the other side of the coin it really comes down to the type of mode you are playing as modes like Rush and Conquest require the defence of snipers at times in what is predominantly a team-based shooter, not a solo one.
Conquest, Rush, Squad Rush, Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch are the types of modes available to you in the multiplayer aspect of the game. Deathmatch tends to be the more frantic of the bunch and are mostly held in smaller more condensed parts of the bigger maps with very little if any vehicles available, whilst Rush and Conquest modes open the maps up to bigger distances between flags to capture in Conquest mode to M-COM stations to destroy in Rush mode.
The ranking system is again an enhanced version of the one found in Bad Company 2, which is a very welcome decision. This time around it will take you much longer to rank up as well as to earn the weapons you desire, as scopes and accessories such as launchers and grips for your weapons are unlocked per weapon, based on how much you use it. This ushers you into choosing a weapon you prefer and to stick with it to unlock all the sights, scopes, and under-slung launchers for it. With the added vehicles in the game this opens even more unlockables to earn for, such as air and land vehicles as well as anti vehicle types and ground vehicle enhancements. Like Bad Company 2 your stats and awards are shown at the end of each round and if you wish you dig deeper through your ranking progress EA’s Battlelog online is also available should you wish to browse though your achievements and also plan what next to unlock through your web browser.
With Battlefield 3 being a team-based multiplayer it will only appeal to a particular gamer that is willing to work as a team and share their kills, which is something not many of us are happy to do. Without any online friends to partner up with, and can trust, it can be difficult at times to feel that you are acting as part of a team. Squad orders have been carried through from previous Battlefields, where you can announce to your team points of interest to capture as well as spot and call out enemies, but sadly the level of player teamwork has not carried over from Bad Company 2's multiplayer.
Teamwork can vary from server to server, and can also differ on the platform you play on. I hope this gets better over time as more players get onboard the game, form squads, and learn that they need to work together. DICE has included smoke grenades, mortars, infer-red scopes and claymores, all of which would aid teamwork and a team's advancement in the battlefield, but sadly you rarely see these used by players. If you do have a few online buddies that you can play with; forming together in a squad can be the most fun you’ll have in an online shooter, as you all jump into a jeep or helicopter, ride into battle, and collectively work together to take down the opposition and capture the flag - it's epic!
This experience alone sums up what Battlefield 3 is about. It isn’t a John Rambo run and gun shooter and it shouldn't really be compared to MW3 in terms of how you play it. For players to truly understand the Battlefield experience you need to embrace the teamwork by joining a squad and calling out your spotted enemies, as after all, sometimes you also need your back covered too. If you want to run around small maps and play solo then I’d say buy Modern Warfare 3; if you want to feel part of a bigger thing, a team effort, you know, like real warfare, then I’ll see you on the battlefield once you have bought your copy of this game.