Published by – Electronic Arts / Sega (in Japan)
Number of Players – 1-64 (1-24 on consoles)
Platform – Xbox 360, PS3, iOS, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date – October 25th, 2011
Genre – First-person shooter
ESRB – Mature
MSRP – $60
Let’s get this out of the way first, if you are only after a single-player experience then Battlefield 3 is not for you. The campaign is average at best, contains irritating and buggy AI and is far far too linear to be worthy of the Battlefield name. Coming from a studio who it seems hasn’t learnt that the Quick Time Events in Mirror’s Edge were pretty much the worst parts, this game is full of them, one sequence in particular is doubly annoying as the game makes you play through it twice and it’s just as boring the second time.
The action is never as epic as the multi-player side. The routes and options annoyingly limited and the whole thing reeks of a decision to copy the set-piece filled world of Call of Duty rather than developing outward from the series’ own roots.
The two best things I can say are the Jet level is stunningly gorgeous, albeit annoyingly limited, and parts of the Paris level remind you that someone at DiCE still likes to make levels that wouldn’t look out of place in Mirror’s Edge; the multi-player thankfully is a different beast entirely.
Cresting a hill overlooking Caspian Border you could be forgiven for believing what you are presented with is scripted, but every man, jeep, tank, helicopter and jet is controlled by one of up to 64 players (for the PC version at least), the Battlefield series once again taking glee in creating a Sandbox and letting players run amok within it.
The 4-man infantry squad you spy heading to the antenna are unaware a solitary sniper has them in his sights. The sniper fires, the squad becomes 3 and scatters, one of them spotting the sniper’s scope glinting as he readies his second shot. Ducking behind cover they ask for assistance from their team, a nearby helicopter is en route and thanks to a quick spot by the pinned down squad members, targets the antenna and kills the sniper. He bids the squad good hunting as they approach the control point below, but coming around to survey the area he flies level just long enough to be shot through his cockpit window by sniper #2. The squad look on in disbelief and completely unaware that they are defenseless against the approaching tank…
This is just one moment on one section of one map, every match is filled with dozens, from little victories like counter-sniping an enemy sniper you can barely see, to these:
Getting into a game has never been easier…when it works, but I’ll get to that. The new Battlelog system may take you by surprise at first as rather than launching the game you are presented with a webpage, I thought this was the dumbest idea until I tried it out, but it’s genius. No longer do you have to load a full screen game to locate a server, cutting you off from any other task you wanted to use the computer for while your friends get ready. Now you just create a party within the browser (all the others need to do is load the Battlelog page) and join as a group once everyone is available, the system even handles all the voice work for you. It may sound ridiculous given how many entries this series has had, but finally the server browser does what you want it to, it just works.
*Unlocks abound as you level up
Unfortunately the game is not without it’s faults, namely the myriad of disconnections I had whilst playing, disabling UPNP on my router appears to have solved this for now, but having to disable a useful service and route around forums for unofficial fixes does not warm one to an experience. For the first few days the game refused many times to even connect to servers and was prone to crashing, but these issues look to be resolved for most players now.
When you do get into a game though, the Frostbite 2 engine is a visual treat, rendering vast areas in beautiful detail. This engine shouldn’t just be praised for it’s visual flair though, every aspect from the audio to the destruction to the animation of the other players is outstanding.
The bullets zipping by as you make a break across a deserted street keep you focused and alert, they sound so terrifyingly close you can’t help but want to out of the open as soon as possible. You make it, relieved your avatar starts to catch his breath, you feel every inhalation as if it were your own, you eye up your squad and as you start heading onwards, the wall behind you explodes in a dizzying area of particle effects; as the sun streams through the remains, you see a tank through the dust, your ears ringing you start a hasty retreat.
Leaping over a barrier, your legs physically modeled below you as in DiCE’s own Mirror’s Edge reinforce your presence in the scene; as you dive into the returning prone position behind a container, you observe members of your squad sprinting towards you, their own presence reinforced with running animations derived from the EA’s FIFA games.
As a game, Battlefield 3 is by no means perfect, you will still run into stacked teams and players who love to swear all match in the chat and you will feel resent having to unlock basic equipment like the Assault class’s defibrillator and flares for the air vehicles, but past all that is an experience that’s breathtaking and not easily forgotten.
Story: 2 / Graphics: 5 / Audio: 5 / Gameplay: 5 / Overall: 5