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Published on October 31st, 2011 | by Chris Hayes

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Battlefield 3 Review: A Shooter in Crisis?


Let’s get this out of the way straight off, Battlefield 3 is a phenomenal game.  If you like multiplayer shooters, and you’re ok with the content, go buy it!  The second thing that I need to mention is that I have not played the console version of the game.  This review is based off of the PC version.  Ok, now that I’ve made myself clear, let me tell you a little more about it.

At first glance, Battlefield appears to be in crisis, an identity crisis.  I mean, what exactly is it?  It’s part Call of Duty, part Facebook, and part Classic Battlefield.  There’s a single player campaign mode, a 2-player online co-op mode, a dedicated multiplayer mode, and a social networking site to keep track of it all.  Let’s start at the beginning.

Battlelog

When you fire up Origin and run Battlefield 3, the first thing that comes up is not a series of company logos followed by a main menu.  The first thing that comes up is your preferred internet browser, with a new tab opened to EA/DICE’s new Battlelog site.  The PC version of Battlefield 3 doesn’t have an in-game main menu.  Battlelog is the main menu, and it’s in your browser!

While most people think of browser launched games as cheap F2P shovel-ware titles, Battlelog demonstrates how it may just become the wave of the future.  Battlelog is where you will hunt for servers, check your stats after a match (or series of matches), jump into a co-op game, and even launch the single player campaign.  It features an impressive number of statistics, and gives each player information that they can use to be successful.  Simply by clicking my user name I get instant access to stats showing me how many kills I have with each of my top 5 weapons, my win/loss ration, my accuracy, Ribbons I’ve earned and much more.

Battlelog also let’s gamers create “Platoons” (clans), and provides specific group pages for each platoon where you can see all of your buddies progress, as well as your own.  Each time they unlock new gear, go up a level, get a new Ribbon, etc. it’s posted to the Platoon “wall”.  Finally, to top it all off, because all of this is on the web, players can check their progress or even their friends progress with any internet capable device: tablets, mobile phones, other computers, etc.; it’s all accessible as long as you can get online.

Single Player

Sadly, it's not as fun as it looks.

The single player campaign is by far the worst this game has to offer.  While it looks astonishing, the gameplay is lackluster and uninspired.  If you’ve played a FPS campaign in the last 10 years, you’ve probably played something very similar to this.

The story follows the adventures of a Sgt. Blackburn, and his role in a near future fictional war set in Iran/Iraq.  It is largely a cinematic affair with plenty of cutscenes and a large number of quicktime events sprinkled throughout.  It only lasts a few hours and feels uncomfortably like Call of Duty.  Like the FPS King, you get to see stunning vistas, and breathtaking valleys, only to be relegated to an unreasonably small area.  You will be put in the roll of several different characters through the course of your missions, but nothing new ever really happens.  You get to move from area to area, along a set path, taking down hundreds of enemies with just a few allies along the way.  On the whole, the story is pretty much a waste of time.  You get nothing for it except another predictable roller coaster ride.  Fortunately, the game doesn’t end there.

Multiplayer

Meet one of the largest multiplayer maps you'll see…Operation Firestrom

The Battlefield franchise has been around for nearly ten years now, and has developed quite the reputation as a competitive multiplayer title.  After a six year hiatus, and two “spinoff” titles, many were wondering if DICE would be able to recapture the magic that was Battlefield 2.  I’m pleased to say that they’ve not only captured it, but they’ve built upon it as well.

Where the single player falters, the multiplayer makes up for it in every way.  Tired of being forced down a narrow road?  Explore the massive landscape of Caspian Border or Operation Firestorm.  Tired of being stuck in the same alley?  Run through the streets of Paris alongside your teammates in Seine Crossing, or fight through a middle eastern trade center in Grand Bazaar.  Tired of being stuck in the back seat?  Take charge and command tanks, pilot Jets and Helicopters, drive Jeeps, and captain (very small) boats.  The Frostbite 2 is on full display.  The graphics are ridiculously far beyond the competition, buildings take damage and crumble, tanks and buggy’s churn up dust and debris, and explosions rend the air around you.  DICE has crafted an experience like nothing else on the market.

The game ships with nine multiplayer maps and support for up to 64 players (24 on consoles) in a single match.  There are several different game modes to choose from including the Battlfield classic, “Conquest mode”; as well as a Bad Company Favorite, “Rush”.  There are options for basic Team Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch, and Squad Rush as well.

Conquest plays out like a basic Territories game type and supports up to 64 players total.  There are several objectives that must be captured and held.  Each team has a “ticket” counter.  Every time a player dies the team losses 1 ticket.  If one team holds more than half of the objectives, the other team bleeds tickets.  The key to winning is to work together, communicate with your team and rely on them to do their jobs.

Rush mode is more of an Assault variant and caps at 32 players for the PC and 24 for the consoles.  One team tries to blow up six or eight targets (in groups of two), the other defends them.  Should the attacking team destroy the first two, they move on to the next pair, and so on until the battle is won or lost.

Team Deathmatch lowers the default player count to 24, and is basically a shootout between the two teams.

Squad Deathmatch lowers the player count even further (16 players) and pits 4 squads of four players against each other (a.k.a. four way team deathmatch).

Squad Rush is the smallest gametype and takes the principles of Rush and boils it down to 8 player insanity.

In the end, the multiplayer alone makes this game worth the purchase.  It’s hard to explain what makes it so great, but when you’re huddled behind a tank, trying to find the sniper who just took out your squad, with jet’s screaming overhead and helicopter’s bombing all around you, you’ll understand.

Co-op

The dedicated co-op mode was a bit of a surprise, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but it does come in a little short with just 6 missions, four of which need to be unlocked by competing previous missions.  The maps have you and your partner doing everything from guarding a military retreat to taking up pilot and gunner positions in a helicopter gunship.  They provide a nice distraction from the hectic pace of the multiplayer, as well as unlocking weapons for use in the multiplayer mode.  If you get a solid partner and some good communication it can be a right fun time.

Voice Chat

Speaking of communication, that’s an area where Battlefield really does start to fall apart.  There is no in-game voice chat.  None, zero, zilch.  See those teammates locked in deadly combat with the enemy?  They can’t communicate unless they’re Battlelog buddies.  You see, Battlelog does have a party chat system, where you can talk to your friends while you play, but in terms of getting some voice chat going in a random game, there’s nothing.  Naturally some of the more hardcore players have quickly turned to the old standbys: Ventrillo, Teamspeak, and other 3rd Party VOIP services, but this still doesn’t do anything for casual players or co-op missions.  The total lack of an in-game voice channel definitely hurts, but it doesn’t kill this beast.

Content

Battlefield 3 is a mature game, intended for mature gamers.  It is rated M (Mature) for Blood, Intense Violence, and Strong Language and is intended for gamers 17 years and older.  That said, if you feel strongly about violence or strong language, this is probably not the game for you.  There is plenty of violence (it’s a shooter) in all game modes, and there is a fair bit of language in the single player mode.  The multiplayer mode does have some strong language, though it’s not nearly as prevalent as it is in single player.  As for co-op, I haven’t noticed any language thus far, but it wouldn’t shock me if it turned up.  That’s pretty much it.  There’s no crass humor, and no sexual content.

Conclusion

Battlfield 3 is an amazing experience.  It doesn’t do everything right, but it nails the important aspects, and does so with ease.  If you aren’t bothered by the language or the violence, consider this game.  If you prefer working with a team over duking it out alone, buy this game.  Is it better than Call of Duty?  That’s hard to say.  Each series will have their supporters and each their detractors.  More than likely, team players will be drawn to Battlefield 3, whilst lone wolves will flock to Call of Duty.  They’re two different games aimed at two different populations.  They’re both hardcore, but the mode of competition is just a little different.

- Chris Hayes

A Second Opinion

With all the hype surrounding this game leading up to its release, the anticipation has led many people to believe that it will beat out Call of Duty.  Does Battlefield 3, created by DICE, live up to this?  Find out in the following paragraphs.

Battlefield 3 is a multiplayer game.  You do not buy this game for the single player.  In fact, to me the single player could’ve been thrown out altogether and sold as a MP only game.   The single player is not polished at all.  I feel like it was slapped on at the end of the development cycle so they could justify a $60 price tag.

For starters, your teammate’s AI is not good; there can be a guy standing right in front of them, and they will not shoot him…at all.  The enemy AI isn’t much better.  When you go to the higher difficulties, they know where you are at all times.   The atmospheric objects (boxes, tables, chairs) seem buggy, with the items glitching through other objects when you run into them.  But my biggest issue is that it seems like the whole single player experience is one big follow the leader.  This is the typical level format: follow a dude, shoot some guys, follow a dude somewhere else, get ambushed, shoot some guys, rinse, and repeat.

The multiplayer, however, is a completely different story.  Even on the consoles with only 24 people on a map, the battles feel epic.  Explosions are everywhere, the battle is fast paced at all times, and there is always something going on.

- Brandan Isaacs


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About the Author

Avatar of Chris Hayes

is a primary contributor (and former lead editor) of the Hardcore Christian Gamer, a longtime Christian, and a married man. Chis has been gaming since 1989, and views his contribution to game journalism as a good way to make use of all the skills he gained while writing academic papers in college.



3 Responses to Battlefield 3 Review: A Shooter in Crisis?

  1. FuZZ_E_BiZkitZ says:

    Agreed. They didn’t need to add SP to justify the price tag IMO, don’t tell DICE or EA this but I would have paid more just for MP. Shhhh!

  2. To be honest, I had high expectations for this game, but I am somewhat disappointed in the campaign. Seemed to me the story was pretty short in the sense it wasnt original…at least it didnt seem that to me. I just started the multiplayer…I am enjoying it, but I get lost on the ranking up/guns/accessories method…..

    Excellent review – thank you for writing it up

  3. SerialSleeper88 says:

    By far one of the best shooters I’ve ever played. The campaign is pretty much awful (I made it through the first 4 missions before I got tired of it and went back to multiplayer), but the multiplayer is amazing. The language was a little over the top, but I solved that by switching the dialogue to German. This game is definitely the way to go for gamers that play as a team.

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