Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Battlefield 3

Game review – PS3, Xbox 360 & PC.

When it comes to popularity contests, you can’t really argue that the first-person shooter genre takes the biggest slice of the gaming cake. With such an overabundance of shooting games out there, it really takes something special to stand out from the rest. Battlefield 3 valiantly tries to pole-vault to the top of the list and the phenomenal multiplayer does warrant a position at the top. However, the single player content fails to get near the summit of perfection, forcing gamers to once again overlook campaign features and engross themselves primarily with the online content.

The campaign while not staggeringly impressive is certainly playable. Battlefield 3 doesn’t stray from the norm of your typical modern war conflict – setting the scene with beautiful environments and forcing you into dramatic set-piece battles. With the focus being entirely on realism, there is certainly an edge of excitement as you slowly engage with your team and begin to feel as part of a closely-knit unit. However, the campaign is quite predictable and you won’t see anything here that you haven’t seen before. You will also feel relatively restricted as set piece battles force you to engage enemies in limited warzones as opposed to having the opportunity to explore and find vantage points, although this is largely due to the realism element of not being able to move far while under fire. Nevertheless, there is action to be involved in and a few shock-and-awe moments that will have any gamer sit up from their chair. However, if you were expecting something fresh out of the box, you will be disappointed.

Now that we have got that out the way, let’s move onto what makes Battlefield 3 a terrific experience, the multiplayer. Arguing whether a game can be perceived as brilliant when not being a full-package can be saved for another time, but there’s no doubt that the online experience here is awesome. A variety of beautiful maps that take you from destroyed urban environments to plains of greenery, wherever you find yourself, be sure that the sound of war will follow.

The first step before entering battle of up to 24 players is choosing your class and weapon loudout. Things have been tweaked since Battlefield: Bad Company 2 but core ideas still remain with the assault, engineer, recon and support classes still your choices. Each class has their own specific skills and abilities, be it using a recon’s long-range target systems or the engineer’s ability to manipulate vehicles, however you choose to play it’s a sure blast to give each class a go and unlock their unique weapons and abilities.

Speaking of vehicles, this is definitely something Battlefield has always boasted about. With map size generally on the larger end of the scale, vehicles are an excellent way to traverse environments while also causing serious damage to the enemy. These can range from simple Humvee trucks all the way to fighter jets and tanks. Vehicles can cause serious mayhem on the battlefield and are one of the most enjoyable aspects of this multiplayer experience.

So by this point it seems Battlefield 3 has all the boxes ticked for an engaging and thrilling multiplayer ride. If only it offered an incentive to keep you in the heart of battle? Well of course you gain tones of experience points or continuously burning lead into your opponents – commitment to the cause unlocks new abilities and weapons for your active class and switching between the lot can provide for some dramatic variation in combat. Leveling up can get very addictive, very quickly in Battlefield 3, I’m sure all the FPS gamers reading this are fully aware of the addictive nature these games entail. A well-peppered assortment of unlockables distributed evenly amongst the classes makes this a very tough game to put down.

So we have established that the campaign isn’t the star attraction, while the multiplayer sits on a shiny golden pedestal – but did you know there is a middle ground in Battlefield 3? You can also get involved in six cooperative missions with friends. These additional challenge maps have a slight link to the campaign mode but are generally tougher and more grueling than anything you’ll find in the single player. Playing through these coop missions is actually a lot of fun and there are plenty of rewards for doing so. Unfortunately the lack of them is frustrating, but we can hope that future DLC could add extra missions.

From a technical perspective, Battlefield 3 is quite hit and miss. On the PC the game looks outstanding, but console versions lack that sparkle and actually require a texture pack that needs to be downloaded to get the most out of the visuals. The Frostbite engine used to build Battlefield 3 isn’t as perfect as we were lead to believe, with bodies still sticking into walls and a few other fiddly issues here and there. The sound however, is incredible – the sound of war has never been so realistic with bullets barraging your position and suppressing fire nullifying your senses, it doesn’t get much better than this. The game handles reasonably well, but vehicle segments can be a nuisance and it is quite frustrating that you don’t have any opportunity to practice using the majority of the vehicles anywhere other than in combat online.

I think Battlefield 3 received such a huge build up because gamers truly believed that an excellent multiplayer experience would finally be coupled with a terrific campaign mode, something that the FPS genre desperately needed. Unfortunately, this was not the case as while the multiplayer does stand out as the highlight of the package, the campaign fails to live up to expectation. This is a real shame but doesn’t take away from Battlefield 3 as a truly marvelous and engaging first-person shooter. Does it have enough momentum to tower over Modern Warfare 3? Only time will tell.

9.0 | Gameplay |
Battlefield 3 simulates the war experience like no other and with terrific online multiplayer, it’s hard the experience. Unfortunately the campaign is all too predictable and rarely steps out the generic FPS comfort zone.

9.0 | Presentation |
Beautifully presented, especially on the PC. There are some slight issues on the console version and a texture pack is required before you can play the game in its highest visual settings, which is pretty strange!

9.5 | Replay Value |
This is of course where Battlefield 3 shines – an engaging and hugely satisfying multiplayer experience will make you want to come over and over. Plenty of cool unlockables, great variety in the classes and awesome vehicles make this one seriously cool game.

9.0 | Final Thoughts |
I feel it’s important to always be wary when a game receives such huge build up before release. Battlefield 3 was hailed as the game that will re-invent FPS as we know it today. This is certainly not the case. However, it is remarkable multiplayer experience and a very engaging war simulator. Perhaps not the most rounded of packages, but still thoroughly entertaining and a great game in it’s own right.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor.

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