Battlefield 3 Review

I've played a lot of FPSs in my time and there's only truly a few where I've had memorable experiences, namely Quake (and its excellent mod Team Fortress), Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress 2 and Battlefield 2. What was special about Battlefield 2 was that it not only allowed you to fly planes and drive vehicles like its predecessors, but that the game ran a bit like a Real-Time Strategy (RTS). You had a Commander Mode where you could direct your squad leaders what to do and in turn the squad leaders would relay the orders to their squad mates. Well, that's how it was meant to work - obviously playing on public servers meant this only happened maybe 5% of the time - however when a Commander, his/her squad leaders and the team as a whole worked as a cohesive unit, it was a true sight to behold. Being the Commander of a winning team and earning the respect of your peers was a rare experience unmatched by other FPSs, except maybe Natural Selection.

I continued to buy into the franchise, waiting patiently for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BFBC2) to be released. Once the bugs were ironed out, BFBC2 was a good game, but it still didn't feel like the original Battlefield 2 - it felt a bit light. So now we have the official sequel to the Battlefield series, Battlefield 3. Jets are back, big maps are back, large server limits are back, but wait, whatever happened to Commander mode?

Plot (3/5)
I don't believe there's a plot for the multiplayer portion of Battlefield 3, but just like BFBC2, it involves Russians and Americans fighting each other again.

The single-player campaign is set in the near future, where it appears there's trouble a-brewin' in Iran. You play various roles throughout the game, the two main characters being a US marine and a Russian GRU agent. You also get to play minor roles as a tank operator and a Naval Flight Officer. As you play the game fighting around the world, you realise things aren't what they seem and that Iran isn't the real enemy but that there is in fact an evil terrorist at work that is fooling both the US and Iran to think he's working for them. It's all been done before and while there are some fun missions in the single player campaign, ultimately this is typical computer game fare - which is surprising considering Andy McNab, a military fiction author, helped in the game's development (although I'm unsure if he was involved with devising the plot).

Gameplay (4/5)
The single player component of Battlefield 3 is pretty much like many single-player FPS fare out there, so I won't go into too much detail. Of course, the campaign is linear and to break the monotony of ducking around corners and firing a variety of firearms, you get Quick Time Events occasionally popping up (there you go, I learned a new word today). Quick Time Events (or QTE) are basically when the player has to mash a combination of buttons quickly in order to get past certain segments in the game. While more prevalent on consoles, it seems that they're starting to permeate the PC world as well. There are pros and cons to the inclusion of these. As mentioned, it's meant to break the monotony of whatever genre you're playing with something totally different, however it is definitely a gimmick and doesn't really require any skill, just reflexes (the...the...the..the...the reflex).

But I digress - so your typical linear FPS campaign for single-player? Check. Oh, I almost forgot to mention but something that was slightly weird and kind of ruined the experience was the fact that once you moved up a certain distance, friendly soldiers behind you would basically die for no reason and discarded! Sloppy!

Multiplayer is where the Battlefield series truly shines though, and BF3 is no exception. The game is similar to the Battlefield games before it where you have two teams fighting each other with a variety of classes and vehicles on offer. Within each team are several four-man squads and you can be either a leader of one of these squads, which gives you the ability to issue orders, or a squad member. Just like BFBC2, helping out fellow squad members will give you more points when compared to helping out a member of your team, so it's worth joining one if not to at least have more spawn options. Again, like BFBC2 there are the four modes of Team Deathmatch, Squad Deathmatch, Rush and good ol' Conquest, and there are persistent stats which allows you to level your character and unlock more weapons.

Unlike BFBC2, jets are back in the game, maps are larger and server limits increased. One nice new feature is the ability to spawn directly into the vehicles as well. This solves the problem (somewhat) of teammates waiting around for vehicle spawns as they will already know if it's available or not by checking the spawn points menu. Choice!

Also, the classes have been shuffled a bit. The Assault Class now not only fires grenades but they also act as a medic (you can choose whether to equip a grenade launcher or a medkit). The Support class is back to supply ammunition but now gets the old Recon abilities or being able to plant and lay explosives. They're also able to fire a mortar. The Recon class now has Radio Beacons which act as an extra spawn point. They are also able to provide intelligence on troop movements, using the MAV and designate targets with the SOFLAM. The only class that hasn't changed dramatically is the Engineer, however you now have to choose between using anti-tank weapons or anti-air weapons when equipping your soldier... unless someone has setup the aforementioned SOFLAM...

So, it looks like there's not much to complain about when it comes to the multiplayer gameplay of BF3 right? Well I'm afraid I have to spit the dummy about the exclusion of Commander mode. Sure I know Commander mode could be abused but it really set BF2 apart from other games and it was a breath of fresh air to play the game from a tactical perspective instead of at an operational level. Listen DICE, EA or whoever, you really need to make the Battlefield series tactical again - you're missing out on a potential market here!

Sound (5/5)
As always, sound effects in the Battlefield series are pretty authentic and they just keep getting better and better. Soldiers curse at the top of their lungs when they need help or are under fire, klaxons go off when missiles are locked and you even notice the Doppler effect as jets swoop from overhead.

Music (5/5)
While I wasn't a big fan of the soundtrack by itself, the soundtrack integrates reasonably well with the game. I especially think incorporating music with the end of multiplayer games as a particularly choice touch! As the map ends, the infamous 6 starting notes of the Battlefield theme start to play culminating in either a victory theme or loss theme at the end of the match.

Graphics (4/5)
Graphics in BF3 are sensational. Not only does everything look pretty in screenshots but rest assured the animations are fantastic too. Soldiers no longer turn on the spot but their upper torso and head moves around first making the animations appear more realistic. Soldiers will also skid if suddenly stopping from a sprint and you're actually able to see your legs as you mount objects.

The attention to detail doesn't just apply to the soldier models either. For example, the more damaged your attack chopper becomes, the more warning lights start to flash up on your HUD. While on the topic of HUDs though, I did experience a very annoying HUD/menu disappearance glitch in the early days of the game which made it quite impossible to play (if there is no menu, how can you setup your soldier or even deploy on a spawn point?). Thankfully, I believe this glitch is gone (at least I hope so)!

Replay (4/5)
Thanks to the Battlelog, Battlefield 3 probably offers the most replay value yet out of all the Battlefield games. Battlelog is basically a website that acts as your server browser for BF3 but also as a BF3 social network. You can chat to friends, "like" (known as "Hooah!"s in BF3) their recent achievements and posts, compare stats and medals with friends, even check out the stats from the last game you played as each game played has its stats recorded on the Battlelog.

One of the best new features is the inclusion of platoons. Platoons act like groups or clans and it's quite easy to create one. You basically give yourself a name, create a logo with the tools provided and start inviting friends to join. Once you've got a few friends you can then start chatting on the wall or comparing who is the best at Assault Class in the platoon, or who is the best pilot. The platoon page has an area that lists which platoon members are best at particular classes, vehicles and aircraft.

The only thing I find annoying about BF3 is that it appears you can only have one soldier per account, which is a bit different to previous Battlefield games. Also, whatever name you sign-up with you're pretty much stuck with for the rest of your life (unless you're patient enough to raise a support call with EA).

Polish (3/5)
It wouldn't be a Battlefield game without a few bugs and there were definitely quite a few around release. I actually thought this release, however, went a bit more smoothly than the BFBC2 release although it was quite annoying at the start when you weren't able to display the ping of servers in the Server Browser. How were you meant to know which server was best for you then?

Also the single-player campaign itself was slightly unpolished. Sometimes the cutscenes in the game would repeat themselves or the character models would be loaded but were not in the correct pose (e.g. a soldier being plopped in the game looking like Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man).

Score - 9/10

While the single-player campaign isn't terribly original, and there are the usual bugs that plague a Battlefield release, Battlefield 3 is simply the best multiplayer FPS on the market.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Origin.

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