Answering the call of duty
In a market filled with military shooters only a few IP stand out from the crowd. One of them is the Battlefield series, which has always been known to offer a brilliant multiplayer with huge landscapes, vehicles, and buildings crumbling around you. Battlefield 3 delivers in all these areas when online. However, this game is a double-edged sword. On one side, you have an amazing multiplayer that goes above and beyond in every way but on the flip side you are left with a stale single-player campaign that fails to capitalize on the strengths of the multiplayer and leaves you with a forgettable experience.
The campaign starts off with you being interrogated for an unknown reason. Each mission plays out as you explain your involvement in the events that lead up to nuclear attacks on Paris and New York. It’s confusing at first but in the end it all makes sense. Along the way you uncover the usual plot twists and turns you come to expect from modern military shooter games with nothing too exceptional.
While there is nothing wrong with the story, one thing bothered me while playing through it. EA claimed BF3 was going to be the Call of Duty killer, yet each mission feels like it was pulled straight from the series it was meant to replace. For instance, you begin the game in an interrogation sequence. Black Ops anyone? Then there is a level where you ride in the back seat of a car with two Russians driving you through the city – just like in Modern Warfare. These are just a couple examples of the uninspired copy and pasting of ideas with which the campaign is littered.
Granted, it also features some really amazing moments like when buildings crumble around you during an earthquake, or when you skydive thousands of feet out of an airplane, but they are too few and far between.
Enemy AI is ridiculously challenging. Throughout the whole game you run into the most highly trained enemies who can blind fire from 100 yards away, through a cloud of smoke, past every other person on your team, and land their bullet square on your forehead. And this is on Normal difficulty. Sadly, this leaves you crawling on your belly through most of the game, taking away from the action.
The cooperative campaign suffers from some of the same design issues as the main game. There are six missions in total, which you can blow through in three hours. It plays similarly to the single player but the missions are a bit more fun because you have to work together, something that is a staple for the Battlefield series. However, like single-player it feels like another tacked-on mode just so EA could write co-op missions on the box.
With the single player and co-op feeling like a poorly followed blueprint, Battlefield fans know that this series is all about the multiplayer. BF3 is no different. Its online component stands on its feet as one of the best gaming experiences to date. Maps are huge and filled with different vehicles, turrets, and some of the best level designs I have seen in a multiplayer game, and still emphasizes objective-based game types Rush and Conquest. Rush involves joining teams that alternate between attacking and defending entrenched positions. Meanwhile, Conquest has you battling for different territories to win more spawn points and lives. There is also Team Deathmatch, but it is poorly executed with bad spawn points causing you to die before your eyes even open.
The aspect that always sets the Battlefield series apart from other shooters is still here and it’s better than ever – the ability to form squads and work as a team. Lone wolves have no place in this game and will die quickly without the help of their squadmates. If you get three of your friends to join with you there is nothing like the buzz you get from working together. With four different classes and the ability to spawn at each other’s positions, there is a big emphasis on teamwork. Having each member choose a separate class will give your squad one guy supplying ammo, one healing, one doing recon, and one handling the heavy firearms to shoot and destroy. When all these factors come together you can become an unstoppable force and that’s where the beauty lies.
The multiplayer maps in BF3 are gigantic and almost seem daunting as you sprint towards the objective. You can snipe from a distance, rush in to attack, dominate in the air from one of the many jets or helicopters, knife your opponents to collect their dog tags, or simply explore all the little nooks and crannies peppered throughout each level. The options are endless and allow you different ways to approach each match every time.
Dice and EA go to great lengths to make Battlefield sport some of the best sound effects on the market. If you have the funds, I highly recommend investing in a good surround sound stereo or headset before playing this game. There is nothing like the sense of realism you get from the sound effects. Each bullet that flies by you and every chunk of concrete that falls off a building sounds absolutely perfect. If you listen closely you can even distinguish the different size shells as they hit the ground. It’s amazing and arguably the best sounding shooter on the market.
Also, the first appearance of the Frostbite 2 engine suggests it is powerful. While it doesn’t completely blow the original engine out of the water, the graphics are spectacular (especially on the PC). However, it struggles on current gen consoles, as they have a difficult time keeping up, causing texture pop ups and screen tearing. However, the console version does allow you install the textures on a separate disc to optimize the graphics. While the environments are beautiful and characters look good, there is still the shadowing problem on the details that was present in the original Frostbite engine. However, these are small flaws and overall the graphics in BF3 are stunning.
While I beat the single-player campaign in five hours and the co-op in another three, the multiplayer will have you clocking in hundreds of white-knuckle hours. If you go into BF3 for its multiplayer experience, you will have a game that will most likely outlive your console.
There are so many ways to approach each online battle and the teamwork offers strategy rarely seen in today’s shooters. Buy this game solely for the multiplayer and you will not be disappointed. If you allow the single-player campaign to undermine your Battlefield 3 experience, you will be missing out on one of the greatest games to grace this green Earth.
Tested on 360