The war for the military FPS game of the year has begun, and Battlefield 3 has fired the first shots. DICE has held true to its promise by making an amazing PC-experience an unforgettable console experience. The attention to detail and care that DICE has put into its Frostbite 2 engine shows, and leaves gamers with a highly polished and addictive shooter.
The campaign can be compared to an action film. You’re in the shoes of Henry Blackburn, a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. You’re being interrogated, and as you tell your side of the story, you play through these events. You end up playing as a few different characters watching the story unfold from their perspectives (much like the Call of Duty franchise). The lack of identity is Battlefield 3’s only flaw; the campaign rings very familiar with its nuclear threat, Russians, and conspiracies. While fun and breathtaking, DICE tried too hard to capture the Call of Duty audience with its action sequences and quick time events (nothing’s more distracting than having a huge button flash in your face). Overall, the new direction hurt Battlefield 3 more than it helped.
However, it does have its moments. The Thunder Run mission, for example, sees the player taking control of a tank. That’s what Battlefield is all about: huge open maps, mass chaos, and an authentic military experience. Watching tanks get into actual battle formation added a level of polish you rarely see. The campaign features truly exhilarating and adrenaline pumping moments, such as a skydiving mission that made my heart race. There’s one scene during the campaign that I believe was tasteless, and a bit insensitive; it was done solely for shock value as it doesn’t advance the story in any way. I won’t ruin it but I was a bit disappointed in DICE. There’s also a great co-op mode that compliments the campaign. There are just six levels in total, but they are a great way to pair up and find creative ways to clear out rooms of enemies and carry out the missions. They add about two hours to a five-hour long campaign.
Besides the campaign’s small missteps, DICE has a sure-fire winner here. The Frostbite 2 engine is a technical marvel that is a sight to behold. Due to the Xbox 360’s limited storage space DICE had to split the game on two discs (one for multiplayer and one for the campaign) and gave players the option to install a 1.5GB HD graphic pack. The install shouldn’t be optional; I urge everyone to free up the space and complete the installation as the game looks extremely dated without it.
With the installation, Battlefield 3 is one of the most graphically appealing military shooters I have ever played on a console. Soldiers look authentic; pieces of equipment are easily distinguishable, and weapons are highly detailed. The environments are destructible, and it adds a bit of strategy. I found myself more than once destroying my enemy’s cover to leave them exposed. The lighting effects add character to the claustrophobic corridors, the raindrops stay on the screen, and smoke hinders your vision and makes you work for accuracy. There were times that I experienced slow down, even while the action was at a minimum. Minor glitches came up; enemies will die but stay in a crouched position, and at one point an enemy fell through the map and was still able to shoot me. This was a rare occurrence that can hopefully be patched.
DICE also took the time, and created one of the most realistic sounding military shooters. Soldiers yell out call signs during combat (I had to stop and look a few of them up). The weapons sound phenomenal, and the attention to detail given to each weapons sound is astonishing; no two weapons sound alike. Explosions send shockwaves through your speakers, and if you’re close enough to an explosion you hear the ringing for a while. There is something unsettling about hearing an enemy fighter jet; you don’t even have to see it, but you know to run. DICE took the time to make sure that this sounded like war. If you have a surround sound system or a gaming headset you will definitely appreciate this audio masterpiece.
Multiplayer is the star of the show. The squad based combat encourages teamwork and coordination. You’re given the option to choose from four classes; Assault, Engineer, Recon, and Support. Each class has its own set of abilities that aid the team. The Assault class can drop med kits to heal your comrades, the Engineer can repair damaged vehicles, the Recon class can spot targets and mark them, and with Support you can replenish your teammates’ ammo. There are also a variety of customization options for each class with dozens of primary weapons and secondary weapons to choose from, and camouflages to earn for your soldier. Unlocking new weapons, attachments, camouflage, vehicle upgrades are dependent on your performance and how well you work with your team. You’re just not awarded for kill; assists help you unlock equipment and weapons, too. Unlocking new items to customize your character is the heart of the multiplayer, and these rewards will keep you coming back for more.
The multiplayer maps are huge and expansive. Depending on the game type, different parts of the map are utilized. In Team Deathmatch on Operation Firestorm spawn points are placed closer to each other so players don’t have to travel huge distances to engage in combat. During Rush matches, spawn points are more spread out, and combat feels like small fleshed out engages with the opposing squad. The console version of the game has a 24-player cap (compared to the PC’s staggering 64).
If you’re looking for a deep multiplayer experience where working as a team is encouraged, Battlefield 3 is the game you have waited for. The campaign has its missteps, but the multiplayer is so fun and addictive that you can easily overlook the campaign’s shortcoming. Battlefield 3 will have your attention for months on end with its sharp graphics, amazing sound effects and team-based multiplayer. DICE once again shows that it knows how to make an enjoyable first-person shooter.