Shaping the Face of Battle – Battlefield 3 Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Once the Battlefield 3 beta finished, the weeks that followed, leading up to the release date, felt like an eternity. The game was well worth the wait, however, as Battlefield 3 has Para-dropped in and is blasting away at all competition. With the new and vastly improved Frostbite 2 engine, DICE has built themselves a fun, adrenaline pumping, and realistic shooter that will make your jaw drop. Strap in, load your weapon, and prepare for war!
The first objective to tackle for most is the campaign, which is something relatively new to the Battlefield series. Battlefield 3’s story marches in a different direction than its Bad Company predecessors, but delivers an explosive payload nonetheless. The tale is told through a framed narrative, mainly revolving around Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn and his attempt to stop a terrorist attack on the United States. Chapters take place across the globe from Paris to the Middle East, with each section having its own unique feel and design. There are even a couple vehicle-based missions seeing you dog-fight in jets high above the ground, and fight an epic tank battle across the desert. All in all, the single player mode keeps the military style and feel that Battlefield is known for, while bringing a little bit of Hollywood flavoured story to deliver an entertaining and fair-sized experience.
Once a tour of duty with the campaign is complete, that next stop is multiplayer. Battlefield 3 sports not only the traditional online 24 player (64 on pc) brawls, but six co-op missions for you and a buddy (or random stranger through matchmaking) to tag-team. Each mission has its own theme and objectives, from defending an evacuation zone, to rescuing hostages through silenced sniper fire. The levels are of decent length and have three difficulties for replayability. There are also multiplayer weapons that can only be unlocked in co-op, giving an extra incentive to try it out.
The online multiplayer component is your usual Battlefield experience, with four different classes for players to choose from. Assault, using assault rifles and grenade launchers to fend off enemies, while healing allies with med-packs and defibrillators; Engineer, wielding carbines, RPG launchers, and a repair tool, tasked with repairing friendly vehicles and destroying the enemies; Support, carrying LMGs to pin the enemy with a hail of bullets, and ammo-packs to re-supply friendly infantry; and Recon, armed with long range sniper rifles to deal death from afar, and many gadgets to help target enemy infantry and vehicles. Each class brings something to the table and a careful balance of all four will help ensure victory.
There are a total of five game modes and nine maps to wage war across. Returning modes are Rush, which sees one team attempting to place explosives on progressing sets of stations, while the other tries to defend against them; Squad Rush, like Rush, with only one squad of four on each team; and Conquest, where both teams attempt to hold the majority of bases to steadily chip away the opponent’s total respawns count. There are also two modes new to Battlefield 3: Deathmatch, where players are set for an all out brawl without any main objective, and Squad Deathmatch, where four squads of four battle each other for the most kills. Each map is uniquely designed with a variety of settings, from flat and wide open desert oil-fields sporting vehicle battles, to tight close-quarters battles in downtown Paris. While most maps are quite large, they’ve been custom-tailored to each game mode, so smaller sized matches will use a smaller map variant, keeping players in the battle.
While it may seem like business as usual, there are many expanded and improved features thanks to the Frostbite 2 engine. The first and most obvious would be environmental destructibility, which tears apart that of previous games. Set pieces no longer just blow away, they realistically crumble or fall, often leaving debris on the map, which can be harmful, or fatal, to players should they be directly under falling rubble. Many pieces of scenery that are used as cover can be destroyed by gun-fire now, so explosives might not be required. Chances are if it won’t break outright, it can have pieces chipped away, leaving a different looking map after every round.
All projectiles still have real world physics, so any bullets, rockets or tank rounds fired will take time to reach their mark and will also be affected by gravity, making you think before you shoot. There is also a new ‘suppression’ feature, which causes your in-game vision to blur from the outside in when a shot flies close by, but doesn’t hit you. This allows the player on the shooting end to not only pin their target down with suppressive fire, but to restrict their vision and accuracy as well.
The customisation has also taken a revamp, with attachments now unlocked per weapon, by getting kills with the specific gun. There are new and innovative attachments as well such as flashlights to blind the enemy in close-quarters, and bi-pods to mount your weapon on a flat, horizontal surface to reduce recoil and give an accuracy boost. Each class can have its camouflage changed between a wide array of patterns, which are unlocked at certain levels. This allows players to pick a bit of aesthetics for their character, which is a nice, though small, addition.
The graphics and animations are another improvement and a very large one indeed. Graphics and textures are all amazing, as long as the texture pack in installed. It’s highly recommended you do so if ever prompted to, because without it the game looks more like a previous generation title than a current release. There is the occasional texture pop, but I’ve only noticed it at extremely long distances, so most players will not encounter it. Animation is stellar with every movement and shot realistically captured. Characters take time and effort to lie down and stand again, preventing players from aiming down sights and going into the prone position at the same time. This dissuades the annoying practice of ‘ground humping’. If an obstacle is in the way, and is short enough, players can now do an animated vault over top, instead of looking silly trying to jump over it. Characters will even turn their heads before their bodies, and grit their teeth while firing full auto, mimicking real-world movement. While mostly small and only noticeable in kill-cams or on teammates, these make characters in-game seem real and alive, creating a war like none-other.
For every beautiful movement and action there is an equally impressive sound. Each weapon has a unique fire sound, steps change based on what you step on, and buildings fall with the satisfying crumble of concrete smashing against concrete. These audio bits will also change tone based on their distance from you, so gunfire across the map will sound like it is far-off in the distance. All ambient noises are created by players, not pre-recorded. This creates a unique background sound every round that mimics a real-world battlefield. In-game chatter is also well done, with believable voice acting letting you know what’s going on, such as a sniper being spotted or a base being taken. There is a fair share of profanity however, so playing with the little ones around is not recommended, unless you have headphones.
There are some hiccups, however, with server issues. Since launch, servers have been going down for all platforms. Sometimes they’re down for only a few minutes, sometimes they’re down for hours at a time. This interrupts matches, prevents online and co-op play, and even stops players from making customisation adjustments. The squad feature, which is supposed to allow you to make a squad of friends pre-match that carries over from round to round, has yet to work as well. The feature often puts you and your friends in the same game, but on different teams and in different squads. This makes players suffer through trying to change teams and find an open squad to accommodate their numbers. For some players, playing with friends is what makes the game, and so this hiccup can often be a game-breaker. I’m sure in the next few weeks that many (if not all) issues will be resolved, but at launch, attempting to play online with or without friends was a very large and frustrating challenge.
When the last bullet flies and the war is over, Battlefield 3 comes out on top. There are a few casualties from its side however, from the aforementioned server issues and some light texture pop. These wounds, though patchable, keep the game from a flawless victory on its initial release. Give it time though and it will be a glorious war-machine, destroying the competition in a hail of gun-fire. With its above-average campaign, diverse co-op missions, and its incredible, massive multiplayer, Battlefield 3 truly is “above and beyond the call”.
Final score: 4.25 / 5.0
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