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Battlefield 3 Review

Review; Dec. 23, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
The biggest FPS of the year falls slightly short

If you were even remotely following the video game industry this year, you heard of Battlefield 3. After releasing to an enormous amount of hype following this year's E3 and a marketing campaign that set its sights on its closest competitor, Call of Duty, the game has finally come out, and the dust has finally settled. Gone is the rivalry, the hype, and the massive anticipation, and what we are left with is a look at the game with a clear head and unclouded views.

Battlefield 3

BF3 is the sequel to the PC multiplayer Battlefield 2. It is a military FPS that incorporates an equal amount of squad combat, vehicular combat, and air combat as two opposing forces clash across massive, destructible maps. Console gamers who have not experienced the previous PC titles will find this latest installment also shares a lot with its console spin-off, Battlefield: Bad Company. In it, the destruction of cover and the ability to destroy obstacles comes into play more than any other official Battlefield title in the past. It serves as a nice conglomeration of all the previous titles and adds enough new features to elevate this FPS to the modern echelon of games.

The visuals and audio aspects of Battlefield 3 are excellent. Whether you play on PC or console, the graphics for characters, vehicles, and weapons are some of the best seen in this generation of games. Characters move through the environments and maps with a fluidity that involves little interruption even when the areas are littered with debris. The destruction from the Bad Company series returns as well, and even though it's not quite as detailed as those previous titles, what is here is still impressive. Buildings slowly degenerate into bullet-riddled messes, and roads and sidewalks become smoking craters as battles progress.

The audio is also as excellent as one would expect from an FPS with gunshots, explosions, and guttural engine rumblings ringing out from all corners of the map, greatly adding to the chaos of battle. Soldiers scream profanities as they are shot, and radio commands squawk orders as you capture points or destroy objectives. It all adds up to an incredibly immerse and exciting environment.

Battlefield 3 Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

Unlike most FPSs, BF3 is class-based, and unlike most class-based FPSs, shooting is less important than performing your class's role. Don't get me wrong, shooting is still an essential class option, but the ability to use each class as it was designed rather than as an excuse to rack up kills is essential to performing well. For example, the assault class, while armed to the teeth with offensive options, comes with the ability to heal and revive your allies during combat. The engineer has the ability to repair vehicles, lay mines, and take out vehicles more proficiently than any other class. The recon class has the ability to easily spot enemy soldiers and vehicles, along with the usual sniping duties. Finally, the support class comes armed with a heavy machine gun along with the ability to replenish fellow soldiers' ammunition. Each of the class's abilities is essential to winning two  of BF3's multiplayer modes. It becomes immediately apparent which teams are coordinating their abilities and strategies and which are simply trying to get kills. Even the points system (points that you can use to unlock weapons, camo patterns, and gadgets) gives out more for assisting your allies rather than pure offensive tactics. It's a system that comes with its own pros and cons, and either way requires teamwork to succeed. If you refuse to play the classes as such you will lose. There is no avoiding this fact.

Each soldier controls incredibly well with the ability to go prone or crouch at any time. If you've played any modern FPS, you'll be at home here. What is here works very well and feels natural with only a few moments of playtime.

Along with each soldier class, Battlefield 3 comes packed to the teeth with vehicles. From tanks to Humvees to jet fighters, there are plenty of vehicle options to use against your enemies. For the most part, each vehicle controls very well, with easy-to-grasp controls. The flying vehicles, however, are much more difficult to control, and can sometimes prove useless in certain situations. Choppers can transport soldiers to different zones, and some also provide a decent offensive option. Jets, though, are difficult for use in assisting your team. More often than not, you'll see two jets dog-fighting, occasionally shooting at the ground, but rarely making any progress in advancing the team and its efforts. Like soldiers, vehicles can also be modified and tailored to each person's abilities. While this is handy for ground vehicles, air vehicles get useful abilities much later than they should (such as flares). Most beginning jet pilots will be quickly dispatched by stinger missiles from the ground before they even have the chance to get used to the jet.

Battlefield 3 Screenshots

The maps in Battlefield 3 are, for the most part, well-done and well-designed for a variety of game types. Large rush (in which each team has to destroy and protect its M-Com station) and conquest (in which teams fight to control flag points) work well with the high player count that each mode allows, while smaller maps (especially the recent release of the Back to Karkand maps) play well for the smaller player counts and team deathmatch. There was never a point where I felt I had to cover too much ground to reach my objective. Most maps struck the right balance size-wise. Yet one of the biggest flaws of each map is its respawn points. More often than not, especially on smaller maps, the spawn points are too close to one another, resulting in death as soon as you spawn and sometimes a cluttered and chaotic mess where players can spawn camp to their heart's content. This could have easily been fixed, especially with the fast-paced team deathmatch mode. Games from nearly 10 years ago had this option; it's unthinkable that an FPS in 2011 does not.

Along with the main attraction of multiplayer, Battlefield 3 also comes with a single-player and multiplayer co-op mode. This is somewhat new for the Battlefield series because previous titles were usually multiplayer affairs, not counting the Bad Company series. Unfortunately, both the single and co-op mode are boring, tepid campaigns that can be completed entirely too quickly and feel nothing like a Battlefield title.

In the single-player campaign, you fill the role of Sergeant Blackburn, a U.S. Marine Corps soldier being interrogated by the CIA. The story revolves around a series of flashbacks as he struggles to remember past events in order to stop the potential bombing of New York City. The campaign makes a nod to other more recent military FPSs including the Modern Warfare series. Battlefield 3 also borrows one of the series' biggest flaws: linearity. By itself this wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but given that this series is known for wide open and varied gameplay, this design choice comes off as a disappointment. You'll spend a majority of this short (six hours) campaign moving down linear hallways and alleyways, taking out enemies that occasionally pop up in front of you. Even the vehicle segments offer the same amount of linearity with the jet level being nothing more than finding and shooting enemies that fly past and a tank level that is little more than driving in a straight line, shooting at enemies that dot the horizon. Granted, I have nothing against linear level design if it offers a tight experience, but what is here is neither tight nor compelling. It's paint-by-the-numbers that has been done a dozen times before and still remains as uninspired as previous efforts. Even the story could have been a politically charged tale of missing nukes and the lengths one man will go to to prevent them from detonating. What we get is a convoluted mess of multiple characters whose intentions and motives are never clear and a villain whose aims to blow up New York never go any farther than "Let's do it to be evil!”

Battlefield 3 Screenshots

Co-op mode fares no better and comes across as another missed opportunity. Never mind the thinly written “narrative” that serves as nothing more as an excuse for you and your buddy to shoot some baddies. The missions themselves, as with single player, are bland and uninspiring. More linear hallways, more corridor shooting, the only exception being the vehicle level in which one pilots an Apache attack chopper and the other serves as the shooter. If there was not an option to unlock additional weapons for multiplayer, I would not have had the interest nor the desire to continue playing this mode.

Battlefield 3 is a game that aspires to dream big and be the best FPS on the market but isn't willing to get over a few of its hangups. I can't speak for the PC audience, but as far as the console version goes, it's occasionally fun, if a rather uneven experience. There are moments in multiplayer where brilliance shines through, and the fun factor is higher than ever, but the occasional annoyances that pepper every aspect of the game hold it back from attaining true greatness. Battlefield 3 aspires to be king of the FPSs and ends up being something lesser.


Review Score


Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

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