Review: Battlefield 3 / Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE / Publisher: Electronic Arts, Sega (Japan) / Format: PS3, Xbox 360 (reviewed), Nintendo 3DS, Wii, PC / Release Date: Out Now
EA’s Battlefield franchise has been around for a while now. Starting off with Battlefield 1942 on the PC, way back in 2002, the game has progressed through a number of incarnations and has become one of the most popular online games on both PC and consoles. The latest game in the series, Battlefield 3, promised to be the best one yet, with an updated graphics engine, destructible environment and a whole range of new weapons and unlocks.
So, does it live up to the hype?
Yes…and no. Let’s look at the negatives first. By this, I mean the single player game.
In single player, you take the role of Sergeant James Blackburn, a hardened military veteran who has been attempting to stop a terrorist organisation from destroying the civilised world as we know it. The story is told as a series of flashbacks, as Blackburn is interrogated by a pair of CIA operatives. If this brings on a sense of déjà vu, it should. It’s really quite similar to the way that COD Black Ops was presented.
The similarities to the Call of Duty series don’t stop there. You have brief, break away missions in jet fighters, for example, that don’t actually allow you to fly the plane, but instead focus on firing missiles and countermeasures at the right time, or guiding munitions onto ground based targets for example. It’s by no means terrible, but the whole thing comes off as a cheap attempt to make the single player Battlefield experience into something more akin to its rival title. It’s not awful by any means, but its not as much fun as the single player on the COD titles, or even its predecessor, Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
But let’s be honest here. No one buys a Battlefield title for the single player game. This series has always been about massive, class based multiplayer battles, and that is where this game shines.
The classes have been tweaked a little from Bad Company 2. The medic is now gone, with the Assault class now getting the obligatory med kits and defibrillator paddles. The engineer is still there, but has a few more toys to play with, including Stinger missiles, which can be very useful for taking down those pesky helicopters. A new support class is present, who now has the ammo boxes, but also the C4 charges that used to sit with the snipers, and some other lovely bits of kit like Claymore anti-personnel mines (which are used to great effect on the MCOM stations in Rush games) and a mortar. The recon class is also present, with a nice array of long range weapons including a remote control drone that, with practice, can be used to carry one of your buddies into some very awkward positions.
The game modes are cut down from Bad Company 2, and only seem to support Rush mode (where teams have to attack and defend a series of MCOM station) and Capture the Flag. As no-one seemed to bother with the other game modes on Bad Company 2, I don’t think that too many people will be upset by this.
The vehicles have also been upgraded and expanded. Most maps have a fairly wide range, from tanks, APC’s, amphibious assault craft, jeeps, hum-vee’s and several types of jet fighter and helicopters. The controls on the choppers have been tweaked a little and are initially more challenging than in the previous game, but once mastered do give a greater amount of control. None of the vehicles appear overpowered, however, and as with the classes, seem to be very well balanced.
The maps vary considerably in scope and complexity. They range from wide open battles in the middle east, to tight street fights in the streets of Paris. Each map requires a different approach, and as with other games of this type, you need to communicate with the other members of your team to get the most out of it. The only map that I didn’t particularly like is set on the Paris subway, which almost always seems to degenerate into an intense fire fight at the choke point in the middle of the map, and leaves little room for strategy. The other maps are all virtual master classes in game level design.
The new Frostbite engine looks good, as long as you are prepared to install the high res texture pack onto your hard drive. It’s all very nice, but not the quantum leap in quality from Bad Company 2 that EA would have you believe. Without the texture pack installed, things look decidedly worse. This game is the best argument there is for investing in a HDD for your Xbox.
There are a few little issues and bugs, such as enemies floating within scenery, or your legs sticking through walls when you are lying down, waiting for an enemy soldier to come wandering through the door of the building that you are hiding in. Also, the weapons upgrades make a huge difference at the start. Until you get a few levels under your belt, be prepared to die an awful lot at the hands of other players with long range scopes and stabilising fore grips on their weapons.
These niggles aside, this is by far the best incarnation of the Battlefield series to date. The multiplayer is fast paced, well balanced and, if you have a decent squad, a whole lot of fun. There really isn’t very much that comes close to the multiplayer experience of this game, on any platform, and if you have even a passing interest in large scale battles, then you owe it to yourself to check this out.