The Average Gamer

Battlefield 3 Review (360)

When the Battlefield 3 Beta was stealthily hinted at by EA on their Twitter feed way back in February, the excitement generated by the gaming media and Internet alike was almost palpable. Rumours and hearsay had been circling since the very first announcement all the way back in 2009 and the beta just added fuel to that fire. Could it live up to the hype?

The campaign of Battlefield 3 opens with a mechanic that has been a feature of many of the latest blockbuster FPS’s of recent times. You start with an ending scene, then spend the rest of the game figuring out how you arrived at that point as the plot unfolds. The main protagonist, Sgt Henry ‘Black’ Blackburn is interrogated by government agents. As he tells his tale of bravery you play as the characters in his story, revolving through several scenarios as both allied and enemy forces. The theme of playing as different characters to advance a plotline is one we have seen in previous games of the same genre.

The missions through the campaign contain some of the most breathtaking moments in video game history. It’s said that the major game releases of today have the million dollar budgets akin to big summer blockbuster movies and we can really see that come to the fore in Battlefield 3. The improved Frostbite 2 engine is working overtime as buildings collapse around you and explosions are a truly 360 degree experience. Battlefield’s infamous deformable environments are still very much apparent, where blowing a hole in a wall to get to the enemy is just as much fun as it always was. The only criticism is that these moments could’ve been more widespread as we have seen in earlier games of the series.

The use of vehicles such as tanks, helicopters and planes in the Battlefield series has always been one of the elements that raised it above the competition and this is none more so apparent than in the latest instalment. From blasting through the desert in a 40-ton Chieftan tank, to soaring through the clouds in a dogfight with enemy jets, Battlefield 3 makes you feel like a true badass, unlike the vehicle sections in Modern Warfare 2 where there isn’t really a sense of involvement as you’re more often than not a passenger to the action.

As you move from storyline to storyline, you play different characters in their various scenarios along the way. Although it’s a tried and tested method to get a few different viewpoints of the plot, it can be somewhat of a hindrance to your involvement in the action. That’s the problem with moving between protagonists. Every time you change you feel less and less attached to them and the storyline itself. It’s an issue that the shooters of recent times have had to face, and it’s a shame to see that Battlefield 3 has also fallen foul of the same fate. When you have one central character to believe in, it’s easier to relate. It didn’t matter if all you saw were his arms flailing wildly in front of you, this was your guy.

Scattered throughout the single player campaign are several Quick Time Event segments where you have to react with the correct button press when it flashes up on the screen. If you fail then you face a grisly death as the soldier jumping out on you pushes a combat knife slowly through your sternum. Since such games as Resident Evil 4, QTEs have been used to add an air of interactivity to a section or particular cutscene. Done well, these can really enhance your gaming experience. However, in Battlefield 3 these events feel lifeless and tagged on. A single button press can cause you snap an enemies spine in 26 places or stab a rat in the head. It’s all a little unbelievable.

The DNA of Battlefield is rooted firmly in a strong online multiplayer element, and here it’s perfected into a fine art. The visuals are beautifully polished and slick in their feel and execution. It’s an intense experience as you rally up your buddies to attack or defend an enemy stronghold, or work as a maverick renegade having a hell of time blowing shit up.

The class system itself is very interesting and is similar to the one you’d find in Valve’s brilliant Team Fortress 2. Battlefield 3 features fully customisable options and loadouts to enhance the individuality of each round. The loadout can be altered to reflect a different class depending on what feels the most comfortable, creating a whole new gaming experience every time you played. You start with your main weapon and the secondary varies depending on class. This can be anything from a medikit you can leave for your other team members to a rocket launcher you can use to blow up an entire building full of enemy players.

Tucked away across Battlefield’s two discs is a neat co-operative campaign consisting of several missions which embellish upon certain parts of the storyline. You and a friend over the net can get together and tackle the enemies both in the air and on the ground. It serves as a quirky change to single player action, which can feel like one guy against the world at times. By having a friend on board fighting the same war, it harks back to the good ol’ days of the Bad Company.

The familiar levelling and badge experience system that fans of the series will know and love is present here in full force. Adding a longevity that achievements can only dream of, experience points and badges are doled out depending on your kill/death rate, use of different weapons and vehicles among other factors. Obtaining more experience also yields weapon and player upgrades such as silencers, scopes and speed. It wouldn’t be a Battlefield game if there weren’t a large array of different vehicles to choose from, too. Tanks, helicopters and armoured cars litter the landscape ready and waiting to deal death to anyone who’s unfortunate enough to get in the way. Watch out, as the helicopters are notoriously difficult to fly and the first dozen flights will probably send you screaming into the side of a mountain until you get the hang of it.

One of the main foci in the multiplayer of Battlefield 3 is how you work as a team to either obtain the most kills or how many times you managed to defend or attack the target location. The multitude of game modes have been stripped down to just a few to give the player a more focused experience. As a result, you can just jump straight into the action with as little downtime as possible. The rounds roll one after the other with just a minute to review statistics and other information, and then it’s once more unto the breach, dear friends.

There were some connection issues at first launch; however these have been reportedly ironed out by regular system updates released by Battlefield’s creators. Battlefield 3 also features a fully interactive BattleLog, similar to Halo’s Waypoint system, where all your multiplayer scores are recorded on a huge online database website to compare with your friends and trade bragging rights with your enemies.

The ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality of Battlefield 3 is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the multiplayer has stuck to what has been a proven success in past incarnations (and those of its competition), winning widespread acclaim as some of the best to be had. On the other, adding a narrative that wouldn’t have felt out of place in any other FPS is a major issue with Battlefield 3. Instead of trying to carve its own niche with something unique to rise above the rest, there’s a distinct feeling of emptiness as the credits roll.

Battlefield 3 is the first game in its series to try and create a synergy between a well thought-out single player campaign and a strong, varied multiplayer. The latter here is a beautifully presented tour de force on how it’s done and has set the bar for shooters to come. However, the cues (and curses) of its peers are all far too evident. With the latest instalment in the all-conquering Modern Warfare series out now, Battlefield 3 needed to have a campaign that made it individual. However what’s here is a sad attempt at one-upmanship that fails to make the impact that it truly deserved.

Even with its campaign shortcomings, Battlefield 3 is still an incredible game and at £30 is very worthy of any gamer’s collection. After all these years, its multiplayer alone still sets the benchmark to which other shooters humbly strive. COD players take note; there’s a new gun in town and it’s name… is Battlefield 3.

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