Battlefield 3 ReviewJoe Green
At its core Battlefield is, and always has been, about the multiplayer experience. Let us not ignore that the majority of players will be buying this game exclusively for the multiplayer element. This is not some 'tagged-on', botched example of a game which has an online multiplayer included for added kicks and a few extra hours of longevity. Battlefield is multiplayer, and at its finest.
So, for those who are uninitiated in the way of the online Battlefield experience, let me shed some light on its brilliance. Picture multiplayer first-person shooting and what do see? Probably maps which are relatively small so as to add to the frantic 'run and gun' or 'cover and gun' experience. Probably also a deathmatch mode and more than likely team deathmatch modes. Now lets evolve that and envision a multiplayer experience where you are truly at war and must defy death by not only some guy with an AK-47 and a scope, but a sniper in a tree-top miles in the distance, a jet screaming overhead at hundreds of MPH, a combat helicopter churning row after row of missiles, a building collapsing under your trembling feet and a tank killing your squad mates with the realisation that you are next. Now you are picturing Battlefield.
And what a bloody glorious experience that is! Dice, the creative minds behind this multiplayer work of art, have made something which is timeless; an online experience which is hard to top and impossible to ignore. You'll find yourself at midnight, telling your mates that this has to be you're last game you've got work in the morning but work can wait, as you just have to play another.
It's for this reason that the compelling nature of Battlefield's online offering is an experience which those new to the franchise, will find themselves lapping up. If you've never played Battlefield before and don't find yourself hooked after a couple of hours, you're either a completely diehard COD fan, ignorant of the whims of another shooting genre and unwilling to try, or you just simply don't like videogames. The term which best fits Battlefield 3's online multiplayer in my mind, is "evolved". It takes the foundation for all shooting games and doesn't try to rework the mould but instead add depth and awe to the mix. Playing the game's new addition of Deathmatch in squads or otherwise now feels tired, it feels old. Battlefield's Rush and Conquest modes give you an objective; they give the senseless killing a purpose and when your squad works in unison to achieve that goal, it's a truly gratifying experience. For that reason, if you are new to the Battlefield experience I believe that the multiplayer should be one which is so rewarding, so different and inspired, that you will experience something us battle-weary veterans felt long-ago.
This is not to say that Battlefield has lost any of its charm for those of us who have played the games time and again, wasting' hundreds of hours. But it does mean we have different expectations and know what to expect. Battlefield 3 certainly delivers and its new additions in the way of abundant modifications to your arsenal of weaponry and gadgets is pleasing. The new maps are original and work well in creating scope and fast-paced action which is hard in a map the size of most game's entire collection. All maps in Rush mode expand with each objective blown, so that what began in the mountains of a stunning vista, progresses onto you throwing yourself off the edge of a cliff, only to parachute down onto the defenders of the next objective, hundreds of feet below. It is simply stunning and it has clearly been afforded its level of detail from the sophisticated developers' minds.
However as can only be expected, it has been done before in previous iterations, never quite as good as this, but a veteran's experience will be different to those new to the game. You will notice how much the game's insistence on breaking up your squad at the beginning of a match annoys you, that the number of hardcore servers is fairly limited and undoubtedly many other nuances which you have become accustomed to.
Last, but in my mind not desperately least, is the single-player campaign. Many commentators have heralded that this experience is one which pales in comparison to the multiplayer in Battlefield. In many ways this is true as the campaign mode does not have the same compelling, unbeatable nature of its multiplayer. It does hold its own quite well however, as the story provides unique and epic settings throughout its play, interesting mechanics which for the most part utilise those seen in the multiplayer and awe-inspiring scenes which are stunning to behold. The level of detail which the grunt of the Frostbite 2 engine provides is outstanding. The graphics are undoubtedly some of the best this season and are a step up from the last game. The sound is, as ever, unmatched in its power and realism and the action is frantic.
For some reason however, I find it hard to pin-point why this doesn't add up to a glorious single-player experience. The story and acting are pretty good, but they don't give you that urge to continue playing so you can find out what happens next. The gameplay is comparable to other shooters, but it's not quite as fun. Certainly, the computer controlled AI is not the brightest and as a result your victories don't always feel all that special. You don't feel like you have conquered a level as sometimes the enemies almost let themselves get shot. At others times, you will be infuriated that the game killed you, not because of a lack of skill, but because you did not specifically follow the route which it expected you to.
The end result is therefore that the single-player is by no means a poor one, but it is perhaps one which is not entirely worthy of a purchase on its own. In many ways, it feels as though the multiplayer is the true game and the single-player is the add-on. This is not a strictly negative point and therefore if you buy this game for its multiplayer, then you will get the experience which you have paid for.
So, go buy Battlefield 3 if you are a fan of its multiplayer. Buy the game if you are not. Enjoy the relief which the campaign provides, but don't expect it to rock your game playing world. Oh, and for goodness sakes get that bloody torchlight out of my face!
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.