Battlefield has always been a series focused on co-operative team play, massive battles encompassing land, sea, and air as well as a showcase of a variety of different military vehicles. The 'third' instalment of the series doesn't diverge from the tried and true formula, but does make some much-needed tweaks to the over-all gameplay to advance the series into the modern generation of FPS titles and beyond.
+Team-focused combat sees a return, and gets some balance tweaks.
+Impressive graphical upgrades over the series predacessors.
+A more compelling single-player campaign then previous ventures.
+Bigger better battles that let you take the fight on virtually every front.
-The main story feels like it cribs a little to heavily from Call of Duty.
-A couple of bad-apples can ruin the experience real quick, as you are reliant on your teammates.
-The flashlight/laser sight system can be abused for annoyance VERY easily.
Outside of the Bad Company sub-series, Battlefield has never been a series that's been held up by its deep or interesting story. What story was offered in the games previous was little more than an introduction to the mechanics of the game; an extended tutorial if you would. That's probably the reason why Battlefield 3's story-mode isn't getting a whole lot of focus from reviewers. Reviewers and gamers alike will be jumping into the game with one focus in mind, and everything else as a secondary. The game's multiplayer experience is, without a doubt, the primary focus and that mentality trickles down from the development team right on to the consumers. It's an unfortunate state, because I do feel as though there were some people working on the release of Battlefield 3 that did have an interesting story to tell, and provided some spectacular 'wow moments' through-out that caught my attention personally. The one down-side being, they are feelings that were already brought forward by Call of Duty about three games previous.
While this may feel a little like reader whip-lash, I'm going to start with the multiplayer component. Because, being honest with myself here, I think most people are interested in the multiplayer aspects of Battlefield 3. But don't worry I'll be working my way back around to my original point on the game's story mode/campaign.
Traditionally the FPS market has been divided into two. There are those that fell into: the CoD camp because they preferred ground war, increased damage (one-hit kills with the right weapon), lone-wolf combat scenarios (even in team-based online games), and, in the case of the later titles, the perks system. The other being the Battlefield camp, which at its core always seemed to boil down to vehicles. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty more to the game, like the more realistic effect of gravity on a projectile over distance, team-focused multiplayer and a variety of other tweaks, but whenever the debate starts up, it's pretty much where everyone runs to in that conversation.
In the past it has helped Battlefield to bring to life, more so than any other series, its namesake. Battlefield has always provided a venue for all forms of warfare: naval, air, and ground combat all taking place concurrently.
The 'third' instalment in the Battlefield franchise offers more of what we've come to expect on that front, expanding on the scope of the multiplayer to allow for full-fledged dog-fights in the sky, ground-based tank battles across expanding desert and cityscapes, plus the close-quarters infantry combat that we've all come to know and love over the years. There's something to be said for the scale of it all, especially within three's multiplayer conquest maps. Everything is so massive and encompassing that it's really worth a look, from time to time, around the map to see what all is going on (including insane air-show battles taking place miles above your head while you 'move and clear' a bunker in the middle of the desert somewhere). If you're looking for a game that encapsulates the full scope of modern war, then Battlefield certainly delivers, and on all fronts.
CPU Cooler Thermalright Silver Arrow
Motherboard Asus Maximus IV Extreme-Z
Graphics Dual AMD Radeon HD 6970 Graphic Card
Memory G.SKILL Sniper Low Voltage Series 8GB PC3-12800 Dual Channe DDR3 kit (2 x 4GB)
Hard Drive Crucial M4 SSD 128GB (Operating System)
WD 1TB Caviar Black 7200 RPM SATA III w/64MB Cache (Storage)
Optical Drive LG BH12 Super Multi Blue 12x Internal SATA Blu-ray Disc Writer w/ Lightscribe
Chassis Thermaltake Level 10 GT Snow Edition
Power Supply Corsair Professional Series Gold AX 850W Power Supply
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64bit
Battlefield 3 also expands, once again, with my personal reason for playing the series: team play.
Unlike other titles in the genre, Battlefield has always focused on the group dynamic as opposed to making each individual player feel like a 'super soldier.' Instead of getting upgrades to your character that help you run faster, jump higher, carry more ammo, deal more damage ect., the bulk of the character class unlocks focus around additional items that help your teammates out. BF3 provides the same class-structure that we've all grown used to over the years, with a couple of slight modifications.
The Medic class is obviously the best example, as it's now been rolled up into the Assault class. It's a move that, in a way, makes sense, considering that the Medic class didn't get as much love as it perhaps should have in the previous games. Now, if you want to be that 'lone wolf,' 'first-to-fight' type of soldier on the front lines, you'll be carrying med-packs with you as well... And that part of it seems a little bit broken. Sure the change means that you're likely to have more medics on the field, but it also makes them a little too independent, going against the heart of what makes Battlefield's multiplayer unique.
The spotting system returns in three, but has also been tweaked slightly. In Bad Company if you spotted someone, the orange symbol above their heads, alerting your teammates to their position, hovered almost indefinitely. To try and even things out, you now have to keep a beat on the person you're spotting for your teammates. If the person ducks into a build, or behind a wall then you'll lose your advantage on them. It's a welcome change that helps keep things moving quickly, while addressing some of the balance concerns that players had about the game's previous entries into the franchise.
So, spotting, team-based abilities and unlocks, vehicles that seat a minimum of two and up to six people. Large sprawling maps that run the gambit of FPS stereotypes: desert, city, tundra, etc. You can easily see how the game is focused primarily on the multiplayer component of the game, and more than that on the idea of a team working together; which is a double-edged sword. When it works, it works great. Everyone working together to achieve a common goal, people aiding one another when they take damage, drivers collecting a full set of passengers and moving lightning fast to a mission objective, airplanes providing air support to the troops on the ground... a glorious fantasy war-scape unparalleled by any other franchise... But that's only if you can get a bunch of like-minded gamers together. More often than not you'll run into the age-old problem of people jumping into a helicopter that seats four solo, and riding of into the sunset. Those that do wait are generally looking to fill seats on suicide run into the side of a building, or out of the designated area to explode the transport.
It's enough to drive a person back around to the campaign... Which might not be my best segue ever, but it does get me back round to my original point: Battlefield 3 finally advances the single-player campaign of the 'main series' in a way that is a little bit more than feeling like an extended tutorial. The single-player portions of the game branch out a little more often, providing cinematic sequences with Quick Time Events, and various vehicle missions. One of the best examples that I can provide is a scene in which you play as the co-pilot of an F-18 fighter, being taken through a rollercoaster of a ride as the pilot tries to swing you around into position on a series of Russian fighters. The scene is not only intense and rewarding, but the graphical style that they pull off for it is reminiscent of a battle from some Hollywood blockbuster (namely Top Gun).
The core story of the game is that of a US military Lt. who is being held for questioning by the US Government regarding a series of nuclear attacks that are in process around the world. Because of your character's involvement, there is a consideration that you may have taken place in the events that led up to the attacks, and, in order to clear your name, you need to provide your side of the stories; via a series of flash-backs that make up the game's 'levels.' It's a formula that works, though feels a little too much like Black Ops. Which isn't the only comparison to be made to the Call of Duty franchise as a couple of the scenes that you play through over the course of the game, feel like they were taking direct inspiration from the Modern Warfare series; specifically the bit about a nuclear attack on home soil.
At the end of the day though, it's not a feature a lot will be worrying over. Paying $60 for the multiplayer portion of the game is just fine, and I'm sure there will be many people out there that never bother with the campaign portion of the game. It's important though that people are aware that, while they might still be a few years behind on the whole 'shock and awe, war on the home-front, summer-blockbuster' style of narrative, they pull it off in a serviceable enough manner that it's worth at least one play through... and it doesn't even take that long to clear (around 6-8 hours).
Multiplayer enthusiasts though should find themselves right at home, as long as they enjoy team play and vehicles. The feel of the multiplayer has been ramped up significantly with little tweaks like the addition of flashlights and laser sights that allow you to blind/annoy your enemies and teammates alike. The locomotion of the characters is unlike anything before, when moving to hurdle an obstacle at waist-height, you actually throw your legs over it and shoot yourself forward. Movement in the game also carries momentum, if you throw yourself into prone whilst running at full-tilt your character will even slide into position. It's subtle changes like that which make Battlefield 3 a true successor to the franchise, even though a lot of people have suggested that Bad Company be the primary for the series.
This review is based on a Retail Copy of the PC version supplied by Memory Express.