chazmonkey's Battlefield 3 (PC) review

Battling High Expectations

Battlefield 3 is just one of those games.

You’d think that after a third entry in the main stay franchise, a series of console spin-offs, and a glut of free play experiments, that you’d be tired of that same old tune. That’s true, to a certain extent, but it bodes well have a sense of familiarity in this case. My history with the franchise is spotty at best: in my youth I played a tremendous amount of Battlefield 1942 offline, waging war with shell-shocked bots because I lived in the middle of no-man’s land with nary an internet connection. When I delved deep into console gaming, I had left those memories behind. I recently rediscovered it, like many others, on the Xbox 360 with the advent of Battlefield 1943, and then again on the same console with Bad Company 2. Both games were great reintroductions into a system of gameplay that has pretty much been perfected since I played the first entry almost ten years ago.

And now we’re at Battlefield 3. To be honest, I’m not completely sure what to think of it yet. The marketing machine behind it is confusing. Is it a Battlefield game? Or is it built specifically to compete with Call of Duty? After your first hour or two with the multiplayer, it may seem more like the latter. The game places heavy emphasis on its upgrade path and statistics. What sets it apart—aside from the high res textures and shiny lens flares—is the pace of gameplay. Whereas Call of Duty focuses more on fast twitch, in-your-face, ADD close encounters, Battlefield, as it always has, opts for a more patient, long ranged affair. It’s a remarkable refreshing experience in the face of the Modern Warfare dominated industry we find ourselves in today, despite being a nearly decade old design. Yet despite this, battles still feel frantic, chaotic, and engrossing; you’ll just find yourself thinking and strategizing a bit more than usual if you’re used to the Call of Duty grind-fest.

It’s also quite apparent that DICE strives for realism in the game. The fidelity of the graphics is not the only indicator of this, but the gameplay mechanics as well. Vehicles are the most obvious indicator of realism. Jeeps are wickedly fast but fragile. Tanks feel like, well, tanks. And Helicopters and jets are notoriously difficult to control. Each type is complemented by nuanced visual details, such as HUDs in first person mode as well team indicators, which can sometimes play into a tactical advantage. And while vehicles play an important role in the overall flow of the multiplayer, they’re not exactly overpowered: DICE has done well in balancing the game, making everything vulnerable to something.

In the attempt to balance the game, however, is where the game faults at times, breaking the realism so that a tank can be repaired, or that a map is perfectly suitable for 64 player mayhem. Sometimes it’s forgivable, seeing as though the game has to remain fun somehow when your tank is on the fritz after a series of hits from an enemy RPG. But there are times when you realize that the realism has totally been broken. Operation Metro on Conquest mode is a superb example, reducing the game to a chaotic stillness where players spam bottlenecks with rockets and grenades in hope of trying to achieve something.

Aside from Operation Metro, however, the maps truly do shine. Aside from a few maps that focus on chokepoints, all the maps function pretty well on Conquest mode. Those that fail to impress on Conquest succeed on Rush mode, where bottlenecks become crucial in defending and attacking a M-COM. Granted, there are a few frustrations, such as spawning difficulties and lack of flanking in some areas, but it all balances out in the end, making for a more enjoyable than irritating experiences.

Whatever irritation you do feel about Battlefield 3 will probably poke through because of Battlelog, though that’s a far stretch especially when time progresses. You won’t find your problems with Battlelog’s user interface; in that respect it’s really slick and streamlined. Getting from one place to another on the site is really no problem. But in the early days of Battlefield 3’s release, it can be difficult to go a few hours without having a server disconnect once in a while, which really becomes a downer when you’re trying to find a specific game type on a specific map. Regardless, Battlelog is functional, pretty, and promising.

As far as the single player is concerned, I really haven’t touched it. I made it past the fighter jet level before I ultimately just got bored. During the short amount of time I did spend on it, I did like some of the ideas it presents, and the visual and audio flair along with it. The soundtrack is astounding, seemingly inspired by the memorable yet haunting synth of Apocalypse Now. The lighting, too, is just as awe inspiring. It just so happens that each interesting idea outside of what’s been mentioned is executed awkwardly, causing myself to lose interest fairly quick. This goes especially for the story, which hasn’t done anything to really grab my attention. It appears to be a case of replicating Black Ops’ rather bland roller coaster ride.

DICE has accomplished a lot with this game, making technological strides that will change the video game industry for the better. The amount of polish behind the visuals and sound is also matched by the almost-perfect online gameplay. And despite the fact that the single player campaign is dry as real desert combat, and that I haven’t tried the cooperative mode yet, Battlefield 3 earns my recommendation based on multiplayer alone. In the end, I’ve been really enjoying the game, and hope to continue playing it for years to come.

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