Battlefield 3 has a lot going for it, and on consoles, compares only really to the other games in its long series – my own experience is with Battlefield 1943 (still cracking value for money on Xbox Live Arcade) and Bad Company 2 plus its brilliant Vietnam DLC. I haven’t personally played the epic 64 man battles of the PC titles, and I’m aware that I’m missing out on much of what this series is all about. But, as far as consoles go, this is the best large scale, vehicle heavy, all out warfare available, and stands up against the other heavyweights of the multiplayer FPS scene proudly.
The two game disks for the Xbox 360 are actually labelled ‘disc 1’ and ‘disc 2’, perhaps indicative of EA’s intention, the campaign is found on disc TWO!
Disc one is your first priority regardless, as it has some essential texture packs that you’ll want to install onto your hard drive to ensure you don’t end up playing ‘LEGO Battlefield 3’!
I’ll get some negative criticism out of the way early, and end on a high note. You must gather already that I’m quite enamoured by the multiplayer side of this game, but EA have seen fit to include a Single Player campaign, which ensures it can ‘compete’ with the standard offerings of contemporary shooters. Unfortunately, in my mind they should have more confidence in their core interest of multiplayer, and plough their efforts into that – the resulting single player campaign feels awkward, tacked on and certainly smells a little bit like ‘afterthought’ (whatever THAT smells like?)
Within the first few acts of the single player campaign, I had a list of ‘negatives’ three pages long, with just ONE positive point peeking its head out of the wreckage: the sound is AMAZING, explosions nearby make you duck for cover, bullets ping past your head and ricochet off surrounding scenery, choppers fly in overhead like thunder. And it’s worth noting, these stunning sound effects are all present in the multiplayer, and if anything, more impressive because of the random nature of online gaming.
It’s one thing to have scripted moments, with dramatic sound drawing you in and immersing you in the action, but to be able to implement those sounds so seamlessly into a multiplayer arena where anything could happen at any time is really impressive, and again, immersive in a way that other only FPS games don’t quite achieve.
Onto the negatives – now, I don’t want this to put you off the game. If you’re thinking about buying, but you’ve never played a battlefield game before, try the free multiplayer demo of battlefield 1943. If you like that, you’ll like this, end of story!
The single player didn’t even enter into the equation when considering this purchase, but in the interests of fairness, I wanted to complete its campaign on the off-chance it was good and added value to the purchase – it wasn’t good, and it didn’t add any value, but to be fair, it didn’t really de-value the game at all either. At worst, it was a bit of a waste of my time (and I guess, the time anyone spent creating it too, bless ‘em!).
First mission, after a little skirmish, we’re onto taking out a cheeky sniper in a building opposite your position, you creep up, you MUST stay at the back of your four-man team, following their every command, lest you get automatically shot by the psychic sniper. They’re a very slow bunch of crawlers, I’m looking for a bit of fast paced action to snag me and keep me playing. No, its apparently best that they ease me into the whole thing painfully slowly, as if no-one has ever played an FPS before.
So, our slow and scripted crawl has bought us to the edge of the rooftop, you can’t edge ahead of your team leader at all, I found this out by crawling up to get a better view and being taken out immediately. Which is when I was introduced to the badly placed auto-save markers, taking me way back to a long run up some stairs, pointlessly, and to the agonizing crawl again – this sounds petty, but it’s about three minutes that feel more like thirty!
Here we are again, listening to the instructions this time, I reach for the rocket launcher, struggle to see where the sniper is because I can’t understand what the leader is twittering on about, and get shot again, mercilessly.
BACK TO THE BADLY PLACED SAVE POINT!
This is not the way to introduce a gamer to your campaign, fair enough to introduce some sneaky, slow paced stuff at some point, and some harsh, unforgiving one shot deaths by sniper fire, but for the love of god, let me shoot a few people first and get a bit more action under my belt.
Back to the stairwell, slog through the terrible exposition again (couldn’t it have saved when I picked up the rocket launcher?), fire off the rocket, building explodes only for the enemy inside to fly like a ragdoll about 80 foot up in the air in some weird physics glitch that totally broke immersion and looked ridiculous – please tell me if you experience this glitch too, I hope it was a one-off for me – probably punishment for trying to rush the mission and being on my third try already!
In other negative points, enemies seem to be invincible until they reach their scripted cover point and start firing on you, which again breaks immersion and doesn’t exactly reward quick thinking. Maybe my shots were actually missing, but it seemed to happen too many times, with various different guns. Innocents are also invincible, totally ruining the message that war is devastating. I only shot at them for completest sake, honest.
There are too many quick-time button mashing moments, although for me, one quick-time event is ‘too many’. It’s a personal bugbear, but thought I would mention it in case you loathe them too.
There was also a bit where I ran and jumped for a helicopter, and ‘nearly’ didn’t make it, except, of course, I did. Can’t think where I’ve seen that happen before…..In fact, when they screamed at me to “run, jump to the chopper” I just stopped to see what would happen. It waited as long as I wanted. I took a break for a couple of Jammy Dodgers. Turns out I STILL made it, miraculously.
The jet mission seemed like it could inject some interest, amazing visuals, and I know there’s jets in the multiplayer section, so they know how to program for it, and… oh, wait, I’m the co-pilot so I’m just spotting for the pilot who’s going to actually fly the thing. It’s an on-rails spotting missing, and lasts way too long, with not enough going on – I even had time to notice the nice art detail that one of the nuts is missing from its bolt securing the Perspex canopy, but really, I would rather have been too manic to have noticed this.
Your AI team-mates are also stuck rigidly to a scripted pathway through the game, and there’s not a hint of them ghosting past you or giving you a bit of space. If you’re in their way they will PUSH you into the line of fire, often getting you killed because you’re out in the open where they game doesn’t want you to be. To make matters worse, if they’re not bullying you, they’re running through your line of sight and getting themselves killed – and of course ‘friendly fire will not be tolerated’, so its back to the badly placed save point to do all the slow stuff again!
I have to admit, after about five acts, I got used to these quirks in the design. As long as I avoided all the above and took the game at the achingly slow pace that it wanted me to, I did end up having a fairly good time shooting naughty terrorists by shattering brittle office partitions and crumbling building support struts – although I was also at the mercy of this ever evaporating cover! Regardless, it shouldn’t take this long to wrench some enjoyment from a game.
I couldn’t get excited by the generic plot, and would be surprised if anyone but the most easily pleased could find anything of merit in it. Storyline is never my personal motivation for FPS games, so this doesn’t really have much impact on me, but bear it in mind if it affects you.
Here’s where you get your money’s worth!
This is where the amazing Frostbite engine and vehicle warfare comes into its own, with serious destructive power, behemoth tanks crushing through walls, rockets bringing concrete structures down around their inhabitants and the whole face of the battlefield changing as you play through the more epic rounds.
I don’t want to waste time describing the game modes on offer, you can find these in detail on the EA site – instead I want to focus on the experiences that these game modes throw at you.
‘Rush’ and ‘Conquest’ modes are my preferred options – offerings which encourage teamwork and discourage the one-man-army antics of other online FPS games.
Rush opens up new areas of the map as you progress through capture points, the highlight of this comes at ‘Damavand Peak’, giving you the opportunity to base jump from a mountain ridge down onto the next capture point, all within the same map – this level is HUGE, and really shows off the scale without ever feeling under populated. The base jump is exhilarating and never gets old, I found myself and two friends jumping, deploying parachutes, sailing in with rocket launchers, and then landing to knife waiting snipers on the rooftops – moments like this are in NO other series of games!
The size of other maps can leave you with a bit of a long run into the fire-fight, often to be met immediately by a defending squad, but if you wait a few moments, you’ll likely be able to snare a vehicle, and some team mates to give yourself a fighting chance at insertion.
It’s the squadding-up which will usually change your game experience, above all else – without a squad you’re just another number on the battlefield, another ticket to deplete and lose the game for your team. SQUAD UP, and COMMUNICATE for god’s sake soldier. You’ll find you get killed less as opponents have multiple targets, you’ll find you make more kills or at least gain extra points for suppressing fire and assists. You can spawn on members of your squad as a quicker way into the action, and you’ll capture objectives quicker as part of a team. The whole experience is more rewarding when you use teamwork, and not only rewarding in an XP way, but literally rewarding in the experience you have with your brothers in arms.
“Holy s**t, did you just see that chopper I took down, it crashed right in front of us”
“There’s the pilot, parachuting down, take him out”
“I’m on the mounted Jeep gun, drive me over there”
“His squad are spawning on him and I’m just mowing them down – mwahhhh hahaha!”
“That’s ‘effin teamwork!”
Most rounds will contain crazy moments that you want to tell people about – Hummers jumping from a hill into a capture point, with one on the mounted gun and two jumping out to clean up. Choppers dropping parachuting snipers onto 300 foot radar arrays who are subsequently sniped themselves and fall to their miserable ends. Dogfighting jets being shot from the sky, their blazing hulks crashing head-first into the populated war-zone.
Sometimes it’s enough to just witness this stuff, other times its YOU and your mates who are doing it, creating stories and experiences that people take away and tell others about!
And for me, that’s the difference between Battlefield and its nearest competition, I’d rather have a few stories to tell and laughs to be had than earn a silencer for my M16A1 or be given a new rank insignia.
Verdict: Multiplayer 5/5 (Campaign 2/5) – ignoring the single player let-down, and taking it for what it was always supposed to be, a fairly brutal but very rewarding multiplayer, there is much fun to be had, and many moments to be seen, but remember to SQUAD UP soldier, there’s no ‘I’ in team and there’s no ‘fun’ in running for 5 minutes across a barren desert to be met by a bullet when you finally reach the Battlefield!Have a game you want to review and fancy yourself as a bit of a writer? Find out how to become a guest blogger. Or you could make a suggestion by following us on those new-fangled social media-thingers Facebook and Twitter.