One out of the two modern military games is finally upon us. Though the other game has a cult following of millions of fans, there is no denying that the Battlefield series have put online competitive multiplayer on the map. Recently the Battlefield series has taken a break from being numbered and focused more on the single-player elements, but Battlefield 3 not only comes back with full force when it comes to the online experience, it also delivers a fairly enjoyable, albeit cliche-filled and slightly buggy, single-player campaign.
The story puts you in the shoes of Sergeant James Blackburn, a man being interrogated by the CIA for committing certain acts against the country. Through flashblacks, you learn the true story behind what really happened. Expect some twists and turns, but nothing we haven't already seen multiple times in military shooters. In fact, Battlefield 3 uses an all too familiar formula we have already seen in last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops.
I was quite surprised just how much it felt like a Call of Duty game. Prior to playing the single-player campaign, DICE and EA have made multiple claims that it will not go for the shock value or try to be controversial. Playing through the game, there were definitely some controversial parts, some of which included a scene where I was able to willingly shoot police officers down. Controversial? I'd say so. The single-player experience holds your hand throughout the game. It's as linear as you could possibly get, sprinkled in with the occasional quick time event. When you think about the freedom you have with multiplayer, you're almost taken aback as to how limited you feel during each campaign mission. With that said, it does contain some pretty epic levels, including one which puts you in the shoes of a co-pilot of a fighter jet. The level feels like an intense roller coaster ride, as you're locking on to enemy fighters, taking them down, shooting off flares, and performing bombing runs.
The fairly short single-player campaign is but an appetizer to the epic meal that is Battlefield 3 multiplayer, though there is very little doubt that people might skip single-player altogether and jump online right away. In short, BF3 multiplayer is nothing short of amazing. So many elements come together to craft an epic online experience that will undoubtedly keep people hooked for a long time.
The maps are gigantic. You can almost get lost in many of the maps due to their immense scale. This makes sense since a lot of them offer vehicles from tanks, trucks, helicopters and even full blown jets. This is warfare at its finest. Since the maps are so big, it takes a while to get used to them, and a lot of the times you'll spend wandering around, picking favorite spots though getting killed in the process. This is part of the learning process however. Instead of just learning the ins and outs of each class, you're practically forced to learn the layout and strategic points of each map. You could say this applies to any online shooter, but believe me when I say Battlefield 3 maps are unrivaled in terms of scope.
The classes have been streamlined, this time combining the medic and assault class into one cohesive class. Engineer, Soldier, and Recon each have their obvious strengths and weaknesses. Figuring out which class is needed, both depending on what your squad-mates are playing as and what map you're currently playing on, will make the difference between a successful game and a train wreck. Even graphical advancements have made their way into gameplay. Lens flare, for example, can easily give away a sniper's position even without him taking a shot, and the Engineer's flashlights can blind enemies.
Conquest Mode will have your team of 12 (on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) or 32 (on the PC) going up against another team in order to capture and hold control points. You'll also be able to take on Rush Mode, which has your team either attacking various points and progressing through the level, or defending these points from being taken. This mode, even more so than Conquest, requires extreme team coordination and strategy. Aimlessly running and gunning, something you shouldn't be doing in Battlefield 3 anyway, will easily get you killed and cost your team of precious tickets. Same goes for defending, as staying together and working as a team will go a long way, rather than being the lone wolf. The other modes include Squad Deathmatch, Squad Rush, and Team Deathmatch, though Conquest and Rush are definitely the meat of the experience.
Multiplayer offers an extreme amount of progression, as each class has it's own leveling system, aside from your standard rank that you advance by racking up kills, assists, and point captures. You also unlock weapons and skills that are specifically associated for each class, such as a defibrillator for the Assault class, an EOD Bot which the Engineer can use to repair vehicles, as well as arm and disarm explosives in Rush mode. Everything from using various weapons, driving vehicles, racking up kills will bring you one step closer to another piece of equipment you can outfit your soldier in. You're always just one game (or a few games) away from unlocking the next weapon or gadget that will constantly take you a step further.
The co-op levels are fun in their own right, as teaming up with a friend in missions that relate to the single-player can be a blast. Unfortunately, it's over before you know it, since it's only about half the length of the single-player campaign (and that is already a fairly short affair). Don't expect anything out of the norm, as it treads very similar ground that the single-player campaign does.
The Frostbite 2 engine looks undeniably magnificent. Assuming you have the texture pack installed when playing on the Xbox 360, the attention to detail is quite astounding. However, this didn't fully translate to the single-player portion. Though the game still looks great, the destructibility found in multiplayer with walls being able to be blown away by a tank just aren't there. You can shoot at a walls and objects all you want, but they don't deform like they would in multiplayer. That said, the game still has a few "bugs." Enemy soldiers get stuck in environment, they fly into the air after being shot in the foot, and there are other random graphical glitches. These obviously don't break the game at all. If anything, they make the serious campaign feel slightly more humorous, but in no way should these bugs deter you from purchasing this game.
As if this wasn't the obvious statement of the year, fans will buy Battlefield 3 for the multiplayer. To date, it offers the most robust experience you can possibly get with a modern military shooter. The single-player feels like a bonus when compared to just how big BF3's multiplayer is. A few graphical glitches aside, Battlefield 3 is hands-down a must-own game.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]