Battlefield 3 Review
When it came to first-person shooters, I was always a fan from a distance. I never had any delusions aspirations to be MLG caliber but I did take care in making sure I was good enough to not suck. My gaming resume has always been pretty scarce when it came to FPS’s: Counter-Strike and its Firearms were an early middle school vice of mine. Early incarnations on the PS2 of franchises like Red Faction, Killzone, and Black kept me busy in high school. I latched on to the Call of Duty franchise when it hit next-gen consoles, and I had a go with Halo 3.
As I got older, I became less and less a fan of the FPS genre, though I did stick with the CoD franchise. One thing kept me going in those games: immersion. It was something about being pulled in to the atmosphere of a game that kept me playing for hours upon hours upon hours. All other concerns for me were secondary. FPS games need a high sense of immersion to keep us playing, keep us grinding it out. I always found it hard to play these games and go through the motions over and over if they were bland and uninteresting. Battlefield 3, however capitalizes on this invaluable perk of immersion, and runs away with it. If CoD is the video game equivalent of The Shield, then Battlefield 3 would be The Wire. The game manages to stand out in a genre which has become close to over-saturated.
Like most current console FPS’s, Battlefield 3 comes with single-player campaign and multiplayer online modes. Before delving into MP, I did what I always do; I committed myself to finishing the SP campaign first. I’m of two minds when it comes to this particular SP campaign. While there were a bunch of things I did not like, there was an equal amount of things that were done in a way that made it very, very enjoyable.
There’s not much to say about the story’s arc. EA followed the “How to Write a Terrorism Plot” book step-by-step. Start with the Iranians, throw in some Russians, some nukes, a threat to the homeland, and an easily foreseeable double-cross and you have BF3’s SP plot. The characters are not fleshed out as much as I would like. Do not get me wrong, I am not looking for fucking Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket-type material, but the characters should be interesting to a degree. This is true especially at the end of the game, where I could not have cared less what happened to the characters, especially one in particular. And when I wasn’t obsessing over how much I could not give a shit about these characters, there was the weird dusty film over the ‘camera lens’ that ruined almost every cutscene. It approached “Star Trek XI lens flares” levels of distracting; it brought back a lot of feelings I had buried two years ago…
The SP campaign shines brightest in the introductory and final sequences, along with the vehicle-themed missions (the F-18 mission is a true gem) to make a well-rounded, action packed campaign. You’re never given a chance to relax and there is an adequate amount of suspense regardless of the vapid arc and characters. So in essence, it’s not that bad; it’s like a Michael Bay film—a cheap thrill. Don’t expect much from it thematically, and you will have a fine time.
Multiplayer is the bread and butter of this game. BF3 employs a vast amount of different kits, weapons, and skins to keep any player busy revising and upgrading their character. Knife kills are also present in this game. Unlike CoD, these kills need to be earned. You need to position yourself in the right spot to strike, and when you do, you are presented with a unique animation in which you turn the other player around and slit their throat/stab them (You also take their dog-tags). It adds a layer of grit that is rare in most games.
The maps are beautiful and complex. Most are military themed, such as bases or encampments under siege, while others are labyrinths, city-landscapes. The dichotomy between the wide open maps and condensed urban warzones provided a mixture of insane air/land/sea and close-quarters/door-to-door craziness that only a German geneticist could have thought up.
Air, land, and sea you say? Yes, there are numerous vehicles at your disposal in BF3 with a variety in all three of the aforementioned categories. Take to the skies and you can choose between the calculated and focused strikes of a helicopter or you can strafe multiple targets at will with the maneuverability and speed of a jet. You want to be closer to the action? Take your pick: Use a tank to blast through the fortified positions of an enemy and/or protect your own. Capture positions with the stick-and-move capability of a jeep, or do a little bit of both with any of the smaller armored vehicles in the game.
Jets are most likely the hardest vehicle to master given their speed and lack of sufficient start-up weapons outside of the equipped machineguns. Helicopters offer a lot more variety in the way of armaments and they can be fun since they allow more than one player at a time to occupy them; same goes for all the land vehicles. Jets and helicopters both suffer however, when it comes to seeking out and destroying the enemy. With every vehicle/player in camouflage and the lack of sufficient radar capabilities it becomes harder to exploit the potential of these airborne beasts and miss out on the action (and points) when you’re retarding in circles, trying to find the enemy. All of these capabilities, including heat seeking missiles and other weapons need to be unlocked.
Along with the deep selection of vehicles comes an ever deeper selection of weapons, and with them, the options for customization. Unlike the perks of Modern Warfare; BF3 places more emphasis on the tactical advantages of different loadouts that players can customize. Accessories include but are not limited to: lasers and red dot sights, blinding tactical flashlights, repair kits, medical kits, mechanical drones, and a multitude of others. There are also ribbons and other accolades which can be earned in each round of play to further pad the players score. Similar to Warhawk, a mammoth kill-death ratio is not enough to earn you the top spot on your team. To gain points you need to work hard and clear objectives in addition to accruing a high kill count.
Like most MP modes in their infancy, there are noticeable latency issues. Personally they did not happen often and when they did happen they were confined to the Tehran map and when many vehicles were in close proximity to one another. The user interface and matchmaking could have been given a once-over and polished a bit more. Picking and choosing a room is more trouble than it is worth so it’s better to stick with the “Quick Match” option. No clan creation on the console-side is a letdown, as is no real interface associated with squad grouping before entering lobbies. The biggest pet peeve I have with this game’s MP is the inability to customize my loadout in the lobby between rounds. It gets worse when not only can you not do this at the most opportune time in the entire game, but you are not allowed to leave the lobby at all. Period. You have to sit there and wait until the next map loads so you can exit in the middle of the match like a dullard.
Still, with the amazing gameplay, amount of customization and unlockables, this game is a true champion in the FPS genre. The Frostbite II engine makes the entire game—both SP and MP—beautiful. You will be playing for hours before you can put the controller down. Come for the single player campaign, stay for the multiplayer madness.
SP – Rent it!
MP – Buy it!