The Battlefield franchise is one of the most storied series in gaming over the last decade. Beginning in World War II, the class-based shooter has seen multiple incarnations and offshoots throughout the the years. Though Battlefield made its name as a class-based multiplayer affair, recent iterations have seen the franchise include character driven narratives to provide a bit of depth to the experience. In an effort to capture the zeitgeist of modern warfare (no pun intended), Battlefield 3 leaves the Bad Company behind, and in the process loses a bit of the charm that had endeared it to so many. Sure the multiplayer is still rather strong, but Battlefield 3 isn’t quite up to the task of going toe-to-toe with the year’s other first-person shooters, and the end result is a rather mundane overall experience.
Telling a story from multiple perspectives is always a challenge. When you’re successful, the narrative is a wonderfully woven, complex tale in which each individual storyline complements the others surrounding it. When you fail, the end result is a convoluted mess, often full of plot holes and lacking in clear motivations for the characters therein. Unfortunately, Battlefield 3 falls into the latter category. Featuring a mix of ground troops, tank battalions, and fighter plane pilots, the plot revolves around a scheme by a rogue Russian to steal nuclear devices, which he intends to utilize in the destruction of three major cities around the world. That is the only clear plot point in the entire story. The narrative being a hot mess is only one of the aggravating issues of the single-player campaign. The other is the insufferable cheapness of the enemy AI. Coupled with incompetent computer-controlled squadmates, and moments that are heavily influenced by Activision’s recent Call of Duty titles, the campaign in Battlefield 3 is about as disappointing as it could possibly be. Not only does the copycat nature of the game’s big moments ruin any hope of breaking away from Modern Warfare comparisons, but it also hints at Battlefield 3 being a reactive answer to the juggernaut franchise. Instead of being able to forge their own path like they had been for the past few years, DICE’s efforts borrow so heavily from MW (and poorly, I might add), that the whole affair feels like a cheep clone.
Fortunately, Battlefield 3 still has a rather strong multiplayer component. Gameplay modes Rush and Conquest are incredibly fun to play, and offer completely different experiences for each of the multiplayer maps. You could also lose yourself for a while in the Deathmatch options, but the real meat of the game is in the advantages all the class warfare presents in the objective-based modes. Slight tweaks to each class from the last Battlefield title makes playing as any class worthwhile. Sure, there are certain advantages unlocked as you progress in each class that may make them more valuable for prolonged multiplayer addicts, but no playing field has ever been as balanced as that of those found in Battlefield 3. What makes it even better is how experience is earned by playing to a class’ strengths, instead of merely relying on kills and captures. Healing people, providing cover, repairing vehicles, and dropping ammo for those in need are just a small sampling of the ways you can earn bonus experience beyond assisting on a kill. Though the initial waves of online players were plagued with connectivity issues, most of the problems have since been rectified. There are still the occasional problems, such as lag, but a few weeks after launch, DICE and EA seem to have gotten it together.
It’s strange that the competitive multiplayer can be so strong and the cooperative can be so awful. Six different missions pit you and a friend against opposing forces in what appears to be an exercise in futility. There’s some sort of story going on, though the vagaries leave many of your objectives up to interpretation. Sure, the game tells you “defend this” or “shoot that,” but beyond that, there’s no real context to the events that are transpiring. The co-op missions are also incredibly boring, and lack any real sense of importance. They merely exist as an additional piece of content seemingly included because Call of Duty also gives players a co-op choice. It’s yet another example of DICE and EA acting in response to what their competitor offers, instead of focusing on what makes their product so strong and worthwhile to gamers who enjoy what Battlefield has to offer.
You’ve no doubt seen the comparison videos of what Battlefield 3 looks like with or without the “optional” texture pack installed. There’s nothing optional about this texture pack. It’s absolutely necessary to make Battlefield look like a game that was developed in the last five years, and not a leftover from last generation. The difference is absolutely stunning, and I can’t believe DICE was so careless with something so important. When the pack is installed, the single-player campaign looks incredible. There isn’t much of a difference in how the online looks at all, but that portion of the game isn’t focused on minute details either. Curiously, for all the time spent prior to the game’s release talking about the capabilities of the Frostbite 2 engine, there’s way less destruction in this sequel. While cover and buildings break down, and there are the occasional fences and trees to bowl over, there’s far less of it happening. Compound that oddity with the strange drops in audio (both dialogue and sound effects), and you have to wonder just how much of an upgrade Frostbite 2 really is. Despite the frequent sound issues, the score for Battlefield 3 is a strong point, and really adds some much needed impact to an otherwise pedestrian single-player effort.
Reviewing this game has been an odd affair for me. Battlefield 3 has a near-perfect multiplayer experience. Unfortunately, it also has a sad single-player campaign with a mess of a story (even for a first-person shooter), and the co-op is just barely above adequate. A lot of time was obviously put into providing gamers who bought this game more content than just a competitive online experience, but those portions of the game are so poor, it begs to wonder if that time wouldn’t have been better spent making the multiplayer even stronger. It seems that instead of focusing on making the Battlefield brand stand on its own, DICE and EA got so caught up in the Call of Duty comparisons that Battlefield lost its sense of identity. The Battlefield franchise had taken some steps in the right direction over the past few years, but sadly Battlefield 3 is a slight regression.
Release date : 2011-10-25
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : DICE
Gameplay : Shooter
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