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Battlefield 3 Review

4
  • PS3
  • PC

A short, derivative campaign does little to get in the way of the best version of multiplayer Battlefield yet.

It took more than five years for the Battlefield franchise to move from 2 to 3, but that's not to say there haven't been plenty of other battlefields to visit in that time. Giant mechs, cartoonish heroes, and comedic misfits have all gotten their chance to duke it out in traditional, download-only, and free-to-play versions of the series. For good or bad, almost all of them operated on the belief that the Battlefield you knew needed to be changed in some fundamental way. Battlefield 3 instead feels like a return to the series' roots, with most of the effort put on the large-scale multiplayer action and impressive visuals that made the series popular in the first place. And that's totally OK, because Battlefield done this well is still a total blast to play.

You'll spend a decent portion of the campaign in bad QTEs.

That's not saying Battlefield 3 doesn't make any mis-steps of its own. A mediocre, me-too single-player mode feels overly serious and almost feels bolted onto the side of another, better multiplayer game. It doesn't help that the six-hour campaign plays like a direct reaction to the popularity of the Modern Warfare series, emulating that game's tone and pacing. Heavily scripted sequences are the focus here, and you'll spend a good bit of your time unable to do much but watch the game play itself. This happens in both a number of on-rails levels and a disturbing number of Quick Time Events that often begin and end with the press of a single button. The QTEs happen so often that when even a rat in a sewer pipe triggers the mechanic, you'll begin to wonder if the developers at DICE were purposefully making fun of themselves.

The actual plot involves a small group of American and Russian soldiers trying to prevent nuclear attacks by a group of terrorists called the People's Liberation Resistance and a man named Solomon. The events unfold through a series of globe-trotting flashbacks as the main character, Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn, is interrogated by a good-cop-bad-cop intelligence duo after the fact somewhere in New York. The writing is easy to follow, but the high drama and always-on-the-go pacing feels a little tired when compared to its modern military peers. It doesn't help that Battlefield 3's campaign very much wants you to go where it wants you to go, providing warnings anytime you stray too far off course. This can be annoying when you think a side street might offer a better flanking position or when you try to get the jump on enemies before the scripted sequences begin. Still, the action flows fast throughout and introduces you to the weapons and vehicles you'll encounter in the hectic multiplayer modes.

Taking off from a carrier is one of the campaign's biggest thrills.

What Battlefield 3's main campaign does well is show off the game's beautiful, varied level design and set pieces. You'll fight through city streets, jungles, corridors, deserts, open skies, and office buildings with very little motive other than for DICE to show off how impressive its Frostbite 2.0 engine is. Early in the game you'll walk out onto the deck of an aircraft carrier in choppy seas and seconds later move seamlessly into a cloud-filled sky as a jet pilot. It's gorgeous stuff and feels like a noticeable step forward in terms of graphical realism on both the console and the PC. Of particular note are the lighting, rain, and fog effects, which give these environments a real sense of depth. Your surroundings are lit up with the addition of realistic flashlights that not only pick up the dense air around you, but can be used quite effectively to blind your assailants. You'll also find streetlights and lamps that, depending upon the angle, can either hurt or help you. Combined with the engine's destructible environments, this provides an ever-changing landscape that play a little differently depending on how the battles continue.

This sense of realism transfers over to the multiplayer maps, which are inspired by the campaign but seem grander because of their immense scale and the removal of invisible walls. Previous Battlefield level design always felt a little sparse to me, letting fast vehicles do much of the work to hide the often empty areas between contested zones. By contrast, Battlefield 3 feels saturated with minute detail. You'll find giant radio antennas that peak out of hilly outcroppings and crowded Parisian streets that run parallel to rushing waterways, to mention just two examples. One map called Damavand Peak even features a thrilling base-jumping portion where the attacking team skydives off a cliff into the opposing team's stronghold. You'll find yourself waiting until the last possible moment in a 10-second freefall to deploy your parachute before enemy players shoot you down. That feeling of naked vulnerability is a constant throughout the multiplayer, and the brief relief of cover and shade becomes your chief strategy as you try to outposition your opponents. You'll also lose visibility if the sun is low and in front of you. At night, the opposing team's flashlights are either a dead giveaway from afar, or a deadly strategy up close.

The multiplayer modes themselves are nothing terribly new, and are instead refinements and tweaks of the previous games in the series. While most players will jump straight into Conquest mode with its 64-player (or 24-player for consoles) point-to-point action, the attack-and-defend Rush mode from Bad Company returns and feels the most improved. Teams can no longer destroy stations with brute force and must now physically place charges when outside vehicles. That gives the mode the tension it previously lacked, and provides for longer firefights where the defenders have just a bit of an advantage. Small changes like this abound and are mostly for the better. Battlefield commanders are gone, making the game more squad-oriented and easier to grasp. That's good, because most players will only bring one or two buddies into their matches and just want to be able spawn and support each other without having to worry about completing objectives.

The four-class system has also received a bit of a makeover in a few key ways. The medic has merged with the assault class and can now deploy health packs. Sniper-based scouts have to deal with scope sway, and will give of glint from their scope if they sit in a position for too long. While that glint does help identify campers, the large areas of engagement still tend to reward patient players who attack from cover. The addition of secondary scoring and bonuses for spotting enemies helps with obscure enemies, and gives players a real incentive to keep their teammates aware of incoming or obscured attackers. With these tools, a group of even two voice-chatting opponents can really dominate the battle if they work together and provide spotting for each other.

The smoke effects really stand out in the desert maps.

Vehicles are still a big part of the large battles, and you'll normally spend about half your time cruising in a tank, boat, plane, helicopter, or whatever else spawns near your base. Tanks can now be disabled, which gives you a few quick moments to exit before certain doom. That doesn't always do you much good, since you're most certainly in bigger trouble by the time your tank explodes, but it beats the instant deaths that were so common in the previous games. I won't lie, I still find the helicopter and jet mechanics a tad tricky, especially when using a mouse, but this seems more a fault of my own as my teammates were more than willing to take the driver's seat as I took over the guns. You can also unlock abilities for your vehicles similar to the way you unlock accessories and weapons for your base soldier class.

Outside the team-based multiplayer, two-player co-op provides a third mode of play for those willing to take on missions with a friend, and I'd highly recommend you communicate with mics if you want to get through these quickly. The co-op missions are substantially harder than the campaign mode and usually require some level of teamwork to get things done. There are six scripted missions that unlock in order and usually require multiple playthroughs to learn the scripted events. The "Drop Um Like Liquid" level seems to suffer from this the most, where you have to snipe several targets with a buddy extremely quickly before hostages are killed. Since the spotting mechanic will often target two enemies when grouped together instead of one, you and your teammate might get confused on who's attacking who. With no checkpoints, that means patient gamers will need to replay the 15-or-so-minute levels a few times to learn exactly when certain scripting triggers are going to happen. Other than the repetition, the co-op levels are pretty exciting and provide a much better experience than the campaign missions they support.

In addition to the PC, I played through the campaign on the PS3 version, and it seemed to be a smooth experience that mostly mirrored the high quality and visuals of my beefier home PC. The console version does come with a slight bit of pop-in for the larger levels, but is certainly still a looker. The difference between the versions then mostly lies in the online and social networking Battlelog service that the PC version requires to play. Although your console and PC soldiers will both display stats and info on Battlelog similar to something like Bungie.net, the PC version actually does its matchmaking, party management and voice control through the browser itself. I went into Battlelog worried and a little confused at this different approach, but after a half dozen hours of online play I'm now convinced it's an altogether better way to manage your game sessions. Although I did have some problems importing my friends list from other services, once I got Battlelog running it was pretty seamless to start up games with friends and chat with buddies. The best advantage to the system is that you spend less time looking at connection screens and can instead peruse your own stats and snoop on other platoon members between games.

Battlefield 3 is exactly what Battlefield fans most likely wanted: a chaotic, gorgeous multiplayer game with small, but important tweaks to what already worked in past games. That it includes a short, somewhat mediocre solo campaign and some hit-or-miss co-op action does not detract from the fact that, online, this is the best Battlefield game yet. The PC version's online matchmaking tools are way ahead of the curve and a good example of how to do social networking in video games the right way. For those who didn't enjoy Battlefield before, the extra features likely won't be enough to bring you over, but those who just want to play a much-improved Battlefield--mixed-up, crazy, "I can't believe that just happened" Battlefield -- should feel right at home.

Dave Snider on Google+
195 Comments
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Edited by xdaknightx69

a review by dave?

first and was expecting this from jeff, oh well

Posted by MattBodega

REAL TALK FROM DAVE SNIDER.

Edited by BlueOysters

Good review. Surprised Dave is reviewing this game. Need more reviews from Dave Snider. Not really interested in single player campaign but multiplayer looks like a lot of fun, I just wish I was better at Battlefield. Also this is the first PC game I can't run on high with 4870 and E8400.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Pro tip: don't align all the images to the same side. It looks too calculated and boring. Alternate the sides.

Posted by therealminime

Couldn't have said it better myself. The campaign and co-op aren't interesting, but the multiplayer is utterly phenomenal.

Posted by Moonshadow101

FOUR STARS? That's exactly equivalent to an 8, which (as we've established) is a objectively wrong score to give. I haven't played the game yet, but you should probably be fired.

Posted by Chadster

Did Jeff have to hand the review off to Dave because he's gone this week? Sure would like to see just what the hell went wrong that made it one of Jeff's "bottom five review experiences".

Posted by Vorbis

It's a shame to see a bad campaign dragging it down, the need to have singleplayer content continues to confuse me.

Edited by Dany

g

ood review, sucks the SP is not that great. Is there going to be a separate 360 review?

Posted by Sander

Dave Snider writes reviews? Fantastic review, of the right size and detail.

Note: Dave's the Man.

Posted by Dany

@Vorbis said:

It's a shame to see a bad campaign dragging it down, the need to have singleplayer content continues to confuse me.

It is a video game being sold in 2011. You do not put a 60 dollar FPS on the shelf with ONLY MP

Posted by shawnlreed

Dave is the hero Battlefield 3 deserves

Posted by RockinKemosabe

Hardcore Dave speaks the truth.

Posted by Wraxend

@snide Is your review avatar about to fight a Dragon? Good review glad to see you included both PC and Console.

Posted by MisterMouse

I thoroughly enjoy the illustration for Dave, also cool to see dave do a review. Daves a cool dude... not sure if people know that.

Posted by csl316

I wasn't sure about this until I watched the TNT.  Reminded me why I spent so much time with Bad Company 2.  Which is crazy, since I usually play FPS games solely for the single player.

Online
Posted by sanchopanza

Weren't there whole topics in the forum from fanboys about how Jeff was going to give this a bad score cos' he's reviewing the wrong part of the game and he is jaded blah blah? Makes them look kind of silly now, great review Dave, ignore the G-tard complaining about image placement (most people don't care yo').

Posted by Zimbo

I was expecting a review from Jeff. Nice surprise to see another Snider review though!

"best version of multiplayer Battlefield yet." is pretty much all you need to hear.

Posted by RE_Player1

I'll trust a review from Dave, he knows more shit that half the people that reviewed this game on other sites.

Posted by RadixNegative2

Nice review!

I really did hate the QTE's as well, but still thought the campaign was an enjoyable ride that complements the multiplayer quite well.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Nice review Dave.

Posted by WaltJay

I see Dave's review avatar is armored up for all the hate for only giving it a 4/5! :- ) At least his score makes sense unlike most reviews I read. "Single player and co-op are a letdown. Multiplayer is fun. 10/10!!!"

Posted by delrobertto

dave dominates the european reviews

Posted by lordofultima

@Dany said:

@Vorbis said:

It's a shame to see a bad campaign dragging it down, the need to have singleplayer content continues to confuse me.

It is a video game being sold in 2011. You do not put a 60 dollar FPS on the shelf with ONLY MP

Strange though, that single player gaming is less relevant than ever in 2011.

Edited by Arlecchino

A true gamer may play Battlefield 3's single player, but a true gamer would never like Battlefield 3's single player. Despite lacking this quote, good review Dave.

Posted by ModernAlkemie

@Dany said:

@Vorbis said:

It's a shame to see a bad campaign dragging it down, the need to have singleplayer content continues to confuse me.

It is a video game being sold in 2011. You do not put a 60 dollar FPS on the shelf with ONLY MP

Furthermore, you don't set up an ad campaign trying to directly one-up MW3 and not expect the single-player component to be an important point for criticism.

Posted by shiro11

@Moonshadow101 said:

FOUR STARS? That's exactly equivalent to an 8, which (as we've established) is a objectively wrong score to give. I haven't played the game yet, but you should probably be fired.

Waiting to see how many people on the site don't understand sarcasm

Edited by Dany

@lordofultima said:

@Dany said:

@Vorbis said:

It's a shame to see a bad campaign dragging it down, the need to have singleplayer content continues to confuse me.

It is a video game being sold in 2011. You do not put a 60 dollar FPS on the shelf with ONLY MP

Strange though, that single player gaming is less relevant than ever in 2011.

Uncharted 3, Batman, Rage, L.A. Noire, Portal, Assassins Creed, Dead Space, Red Dead Redemption,

Resistance, Demon Souls. Limbo, Bastion, Braid.

I could go on but your statement makes no sense in any context.

Posted by Floppypants

Dave's reviews are a rare treat.  I think his taste in games align with mine the most of all the staff.

Posted by project343

@Vorbis said:

It's a shame to see a bad campaign dragging it down, the need to have singleplayer content continues to confuse me.

Shadowrun released earlier this generation. It was multiplayer-only. With about the same number of multiplayer maps, and the same number of game modes. It snagged a wealth of negative reviews (a 66 on Metacritic) for this fact alone. I'd argue that the multiplayer is quite spectacular, but reviewers mostly only cited the lack of content as the game's weakest aspect.

Posted by sanchopanza

@shiro11 said:

@Moonshadow101 said:

FOUR STARS? That's exactly equivalent to an 8, which (as we've established) is a objectively wrong score to give. I haven't played the game yet, but you should probably be fired.

Waiting to see how many people on the site don't understand sarcasm

Waiting to see how many people come out and make comment like that for real.

Posted by Stubee

Hell yeh Dave getting to review a big ass game like this!!

Posted by sushisteve

It's too bad that the campaign lacked a lot of the character and charm that the Bad Company titles have had (the first especially) as the gunplay is as solid as battlefield has ever possessed. It doesn't aspire to be a training tool for players who would need help in the fine arts of being able to pilot vehicles or work as a squad and that is to its detriment. The multiplayer experience is extremely rewarding, especially if playing with friends and DICE, to their credit have obviously focused their efforts there. Larger maps, more vehicles, jets(!) extensive expansion plans give me confidence in the game's future...if they made the game as mod-able as BF2/1942 I'm sure we'd be playing the game well into the next 5 years.

Posted by SomeJerk

The SP took 6-8 hours for me - I lost track - but that was because I did it on Hard. But it felt good. Not like Black Ops where the AI is on aimbot mode at Normal. The AI in BF3 is still pretty shit and ruthless in it but.. the few hours it lasted were spent wondefully well. It's like my replays of Quake 1 or MW1, it's over in a snap if you look at it from outside, but for me as I play it - it's hours and hours and hours and freaking hours of great pleasure and a healthy challenge. BF3 is a part of that, so if it wasn't for the scripting, the AI, the outrageous amount of QTEs, the SP would be a full 5/5 in my book.
 
And I defend MW2s SP - it was a great experience and is worth playing over >:(
 
 
Keep up the good work Dafve!

Posted by Chuck_

Awesome review Dave. Thanks :D

Posted by MasturbatingestBear

@Chadster said:

Did Jeff have to hand the review off to Dave because he's gone this week? Sure would like to see just what the hell went wrong that made it one of Jeff's "bottom five review experiences".

What do you mean? He talked about all the crap. The fact that it was nigh impossible to get a review copy and such.

Also glad Dave reviewed this. Not because I care about the score because I don't play battlefield. But this should shut up the people that thought Jeff would review it low for some reason because people don't get how reviews work.

Posted by Guided_By_Tigers

Surprised Jeff didn't do the review.

Posted by LordXavierBritish

Truth report.

Posted by RedRoach

@Wraxend: If I remember correctly the first game Dave reviewed on GB was Dragon Age: Origins (amazing review, and he even did a video review) So they made his avatar a fantasy character.

Posted by Draxyle

I love single player games as much as everyone, but I really wish that they didn't bother with single player. Playing "me too" with Call of Duty is just so typical of EA. You can definitely tell when a company is run by marketing, when features are shoved in just to tick boxes, not because it will actually add to the game.

At least the multiplayer looks crazy awesome as you'd expect, which is really what this game is all about. I definitely want to buy this game but.. ugh, Origin. That spyware automatically ticks a couple stars off of any review for me.

Posted by Demoskinos

HOW DO WE KNOW IT WASN'T A DRAGON THAT WROTE THIS?   

Posted by Dany

@Unknown_Pleasures said:

Surprised Jeff didn't do the review.

Jeff mentioned on the bombcast on how they had expected to have a review copy of the game early. He is off to an event this week but the disc did not come in time.They were sent a disc for 360 and a code for PC that unlocked as soon as reviews goes up. He listed it as one of most jarring and 'bottom five review experience' ever for how EA handed out reviews to whom and which version

Posted by bybeach

I have no emotional investment in this game. They should have just said screw it to the SP if they could not honestly do a good one. The co-op, that I understand even less, because that is butting up next to the wonderful MP experience I just saw on TNT. Understand, it's not Dave I am questioning.

Thank You Dave for a good review from what I see written supporting the numerical, and without saying why, this is an interesting submission for a review concerning a few other counts I have read of.

Very good...

Posted by Slaker117

I don't know Dave, those QTEs seemed pretty great to me.   

Posted by rcath

@Video_Game_King: Protip: STFU.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@rcath:

Pro tip: no, you shut up!

Advanced pro tip: I wasn't exactly being aggressive about it.

Posted by Vitor

@Moonshadow101 said:

FOUR STARS? That's exactly equivalent to an 8, which (as we've established) is a objectively wrong score to give. I haven't played the game yet, but you should probably be fired.

REVIEW INVALID. DISAGREES WITH 99% OF METACRITIC. OCCUPY GIANTBOMB.

@axlrose15 said:

Weren't there whole topics in the forum from fanboys about how Jeff was going to give this a bad score cos' he's reviewing the wrong part of the game and he is jaded blah blah? Makes them look kind of silly now, great review Dave, ignore the G-tard complaining about image placement (most people don't care yo').

I kinda agree about the image placement. It just doesn't look great. Fantastic review though. Formatting is hardly a big deal, but the dude has a point.

Posted by Microshock

Does little to get in the way..except remove a star.

Posted by MikkaQ

Aha I like reading Dave's reviews, they're a treat.

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