Battlefield 3 Review (PC)
For months, gamers have been treated to the PR battle of the year as EA and Activision promote their two flagship titles, Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. We’ve even compared the two. Now, the first shot in that war has been fired, as Battlefield 3 is available in stores and through EA’s Origin download service. But will it live up to the hype?
Game: Battlefield 3
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, XBox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: October 25th, 2011
Battlefield 3 is the successor to 2005′s Battlefield 2. There were those Bad Company games and Battlefield 2142 in the middle, but DICE has proclaimed BF3 to be the next game in their much heralded core Battlefield line. Like its predecessor, BF3 is a modern war game. Unlike BF2, the newest title also incorporates a full single player campaign experience.
BF3′s single player campaign shows a lot of influences from the current king of the genre, Call of Duty. There are huge set pieces, Russians, terrorists and stolen nukes galore. Unfortunately, it also apes the negative side of CoD campaigns by having a plot so convoluted it makes little sense even at its most coherent. You’re a Marine Sergeant (or a Navy pilot, or a Russian special ops guy) who’s apparently being questioned harshly by two civilians.
Let’s stop right there. This isn’t even believable, as under no circumstances I can conceive of would civilians question a serving NCO of the military about military operations without a JAG rep present, or at the very least a senior officer. To make matters worse, the entire campaign is presented as a series of flashbacks to events that you’re being questioned about (sound familiar?). Admittedly, it’s not necessarily worse than the campaigns offered by the competition, but there’s very little character development here, turning what could be compelling into a disjointed series of missions that really don’t tie together well. It also incorporates far too many quick time events. I’m sorry DICE, but PC gamers aren’t interested in these console-based sequences, and they really need to stop.
Rather than build on the campaign from Bad Company 2 (the first one included in a Battlefield game), which featured some great characters in lackluster missions, it improves the missions and leaves the characters behind. It’s a source of disappointment, especially with the focus DICE is said to have put on it. What’s even worse is that I encountered a bug with one of the aforementioned quick time events that prevented me from finishing the campaign. We figured it out, but that’s something that shouldn’t make it out of QA.
But Battlefield games aren’t really known for their single player campaigns. In the past, they were just bot-populated multiplayer maps that served only one purpose: training you up for the online play.
The Battlefield series is well known for its expansive multiplayer, and BF3 is no exception. The game ships with 9 multiplayer maps across 5 game modes (Rush, Squad Rush, Team Deathmatch, Conquest and Conquest 64). All five game modes are available on every map. Unlike some games, BF3 presents a wide variety of experiences across its maps. You can enjoy large scale, vehicle heavy battles on maps like Operation Firestorm and Caspian Border, or you can go for the more urban, infantry focused experience of Grand Bazaar or Operation Metro. Whatever you choose, prepare to be wowed.
Wisely, DICE hasn’t strayed far from the formula they were so successful with in Bad Company 2. Squad mechanics are basically unchanged, allowing you to spawn on any member of your squad that’s alive instead of at a pre-determined spawn point. You can join or leave a squad at any time, although it does require you to pull up the game menu to do so.
While the leveling and unlock systems haven’t changed much, they have been greatly expanded. Players can still gain points for everything from kills to having a squad member spawn on them to dropping health and ammo. The big expansion is in the amount of available unlocks. Each weapon has a wide array of attachments to unlock as you use it, each class has a bunch of options to unlock, and vehicles offer their own unlocks as well. All of this is in addition to the unlocks gained at each experience rank. It’s a great system that keeps players interested and playing towards the next thing they can acquire.
All of these attendant systems are solid, but the meat of any shooter is the combat, and Battlefield 3 pretty much nails that as well. The action ebbs and flows beautifully, and you can find yourself alternating between stalking an enemy, firing wildly in a pitched battle, or running flat out to escape an advancing vehicle. Weapons feel a bit more lethal than they did in Bad Company 2. There’s still a Hardcore mode, and it still removes crosshairs, minimaps, and other various elements. However, Hardcore and Normal modes feel closer in BF3 than they did in BC2. It’s even accessible to long-time Call of Duty players, once they learn the ropes
BF3 also includes a new co-op mode that is surprisingly fun. You can play alongside a friend or a randomly selected online partner in a series of challenge maps. Basically, these are sections of the multiplayer maps that task you with specific objectives such as defending a base, providing air cover from a chopper, or securing and escorting high value targets. These missions take around 10-20 minutes to complete, and are an enjoyable addition to the Battlefield formula.