People have been clamoring for a sequel to Battlefield 2 (not counting Battlefield 2142) and it’s been a long time coming. Well, the day is finally here as DICE has given the fans what they wanted with the release of Battlefield 3.
Set in modern time, Battlefield 3 features a single player campaign, something new for the series not named Bad Company, as well as the multiplayer modes we all have come to know and love. Let’s start with the weakest part of the game, which is the single player.
The basic premise is you’re trying to stop a terrorist group from setting off nukes in Paris and New York. Along the way, you’ll get to step into the shoes of a few different characters at various parts of the story. The game starts out near the end of the tale and is told in a flashback sequence. Now, the single player does a tremendous job at showing off how incredible the Battlefield 3 looks. The Frostbite 2 engine has some amazing effects and the single player game uses them effectively.
The problem is that the single player story and sequences are pretty linear and sometimes boring. Now don’t get me wrong. There are some neat moments here and there and I did enjoy the F/A-18 Hornet sequence in the game, but the way the story’s told and the action is portrayed didn’t really pull me in. I will say it’s a valiant attempt for a team that’s mostly concentrated on making a great multiplayer game in the past, but the single player campaign is rather short and dull.
It doesn’t help that I ran into a lot of little bugs while playing it. For example, in the Night Shift mission while sneaking up to a PLR terrorist to silently knife them, I just fell over dead. Mission failed. No explanation as to why I died. In another sequence where I was being gunned down by a plane, I was hiding behind a car when I suddenly just fell over dead. Replaying the sequence, I was in the same position and nothing happened and it allowed me to continue. These are just some examples of where the inconsistencies make for a frustrating experience at times. Also, I’ve had people just disappear from my screen, which was rather weird to see. I’ve also experienced the other aspect where some would just appear out of nowhere. Perhaps I got to the section to quickly, but at one point I was staring down my scope and next thing I know two PLR soldiers appeared in front of me at the other end of the hall. There’s work needed to refine the single player experience more so than just the story, so hopefully some patching can help these situations.
But single player is not why we really pick up Battlefield 3. It’s to get in with 63 other folks and partake in a war of intense proportions. I am glad that DICE did put a single player feature in there for those that want it, but let’s get to what most of us really bought the game to experience.
Finding servers to play has taken a twist. Instead of an in game browser, DICE decided to just leverage your computer’s web browser instead, opting to install a plugin or ActiveX controller. I racked my brain thinking why would they do this over just supplying you with an ingame browser to use, and the only thing I can think of is the fact that if you’re waiting for a server, you can do other things in the mean time. Now, some might run it in Windowed mode, but I know of some setups that don’t handle Windowed mode gracefully. A bad aspect of this decision though is that you have to completely quit the game in order to jump onto a new server. This can get pretty annoying if you are having problems finding a good server and want to quickly try another. I hope DICE puts in an ingame server in an update later on down the road and let you have the option of using either or.
The web application does do some great job at giving you information on both the games you play and the games your friends play to. It’s nice to be able to see how your friends are doing at a glance and to compare how you are doing with them. Even though I am not thrilled with the choice of making the web browser the main component to join servers, DICE did do a great job at presenting you with a great deal of information with it.
I did have some times where the application would crash before joining a server. It would just sit there and eventually say something about an error. It didn’t happen too much, but enough to be a little bit annoying. Hopefully, updates will help fix this and I have been prompted to download a few updates over the weeks.
For those that just want to play with another friend and complete some missions, there’s the co-op mode. Similar to Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops mode, you and a buddy will be tasked to complete some mission objectives. You start out with a choice of two missions to partake in, one a ground attack mission, while the other has you two manning a helicopter, and unlock more as you go. For me, it’s great to just play with a friend without having the need to get into a full blown game and to have the co-op mode is a nice welcome addition to the series. I hope more missions get added in as DLC as playing co-op mode is something I’ve always enjoyed.
Being a long time player of the series, I was very excited to get into some multiplayer Battlefield 3. DICE has gone and made some welcome changes to the series. Like some modern FPS shooters today, you’ll be earning experience points as you play giving you unlockables as you go along. You’ll level up in rank as well, so that’s a simple way to see how well you progressing compared to your friends. DICE has stated that you’ll need to play over 100 hours to unlock everything so there’s a ton here for players to acquire, which is good to hear.
Classes are now down to four different types so there’s a little less complexity in that area. The medic class has been rolled into the assault class so anyone playing that class will initially have access to the first aid kit. Those that played Battlefield 2142 will find this change familiar. The support class provides ammo on the battlefield and has a light machine gun that can fire a ton of rounds and is great for suppression. For sniping, you have the recon class. Finally, the engineer is back to fix vehicles as well as take out heavy vehicles. I’m not too concerned with the reduction of classes from past Battlefield games, and I’m happy with how DICE has chosen which classes are available to the player as I think they provide a nice mix of roles that are important to the game.
Veterans of old Battlefield games are used to waiting around for a vehicle to spawn. Well, DICE has made it a lot more simpler here in that an available vehicle is now a spawn point so you don’t have to fight over a vehicle with someone only to be left out in the cold if you don’t get to it first. It’s another good change as I don’t know how many times I’ve spent just waiting around for a tank or plane whereas now I can concentrate on the battle and jump into one if it’s available when I am in deployment mode.
Two helpful features that have been added, in my opinion, are suppression and scope glare. With suppressive fire, anyone can open fire on an enemy to help reduce their accuracy and blur their vision. I definitely like that I have the ability to get closer to the enemy and impair their accuracy giving me option to work my way up to a heavily guarded area.
With the scope glare, you can now pick out snipers a little bit easier as you can see a nice bright light from their scope. Snipers can be really hard to see when prone from a distance so having this balance that out is great way to even up the odds. Being sniped can be really frustrating in a game like this so at least there’s something to help spot the enemy.
I don’t know if I like that vehicles can heal itself over time, but at least this feature doesn’t render the engineer less useful as it’ll take a long time compared to having an engineer work on a vehicle to get it back in tip top shape. I do like that vehicles can be disabled, but have their turrets work so you’re not going to be totally helpless sometimes when your vehicle can’t move.
Having spent many hours in the beta and in the final game, the action can get pretty frantic. Whether you are playing rush, conquest, or death match, Battlefield 3 does a wonderful job at portraying intense military action. Combine the intense firefighting action on the ground with the option to fly various vehicles or drive land vehicles, I had a great deal of fun playing with a large group of folks in the various game modes and maps.Now, the PC version supports up to 64 players and there are a few maps that include plenty of square footage for a large group to battle in. The feeling of playing against a large group in large open maps is pretty awesome.
What’s nice is that you don’t even have to do well in the kill area to earn a lot of experience. Battlefield 3 rewards teamwork very well so you can earn a lot of points just by spotting enemies for your friends to kill, providing healing or ammo, and suppressing the enemy when they are taken out. If you’re just having a bad day at killing the opposition, go ahead and drive a support vehicle or heal some friends and you’ll have a great chance at leveling up.
The Frostbite 2 engine is just freaking amazing. Thanks to the impressive graphics features it has, the engine really provides you with a visual feast for the eyes and some strategic options. The texture detail is top notch and support for tessellation can make for some very detailed landscapes when you are flying around.
There are destructible aspects in the maps, but they are not as abundant as you think. Yes, you can destroy barriers and walls, but there are some limits in the amount you can do and I think the map makers may have done it on purpose so that you won’t be playing in a barren area when all’s said and done. Still, there are plenty of environmental elements to blow up and it’s a great to be able to make areas your own when need be.
Make no bones about it, the Frostbite 2 engine delivers in spades. A lot of nice subtle effects combine with big explosive destructive elements make for an engine that’s one of the best in the business today. The detail in the characters, buildings, and vehicles all combine for one of the best looking games today. Not only is it visually impressive, the audio is just about perfect. All the weapons, vehicles, and explosions just sound absolutely incredible and there were plenty of times when all the sounds combined made for an intense audio experience.
All the looks does come at a price though. I’m playing on an Intel i7-2600K with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 with all the settings turned on Ultra at a resolution of 1920x1080 and the game ran at 40fps and up. Now, the game takes some good horse power and this one is a game that you’ll want the biggest and best video card you can get. Thankfully, you do get a lot of options to change, but trust me as you’ll want to pick up the best video card you can get, The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 was able to handle everything I threw at it at a high resolution. For those wanting to play in 3D, Battlefield 3 doesn’t support 3D Vision yet, but I’m hoping for a patch in the future to add this in as well.
Like anything these days, Battlefield 3 does have some bugs that I've encountered more than a few times. I've seen the enemy get stuck and not disappear after being killed. I've had issues with reloading where you don't think you reloaded as the animation doesn't play. I've had a few crashes here and there. The game's not without some major and minor bugs, but let's hope DICE patches them quickly.
It’s been a long time coming, but Battlefield 3 delivers an incredible multiplayer experience. It’s not a game where you can run and gun as teamwork is essential in this one. If you play this game like you play Call of Duty, you won’t get too far. It takes a different skillset to play Battlefield 3, but once you get used to it it’s a very, very rewarding experience. Get a group of folks, play as a team, have a ton of fun. Battlefield 3 on the PC is just a gorgeous and an incredibly fun time and DICE has done a tremendous job at offering up a realistic and fun team based shooter.