Mediocre Campaign Meets World Class Multiplayer
The Battlefield franchise has always had a different approach to the standard first person shooter. This holiday Electronic Arts and DICE have brought the franchise back for it’s third proper installment in Battlefield 3. Battlefield 3 is an interesting game in that, it feels like a blend of three of DICE’s previous games, Medal of Honor (The multiplayer portion anyway), Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 2.
Now I say Battlefield 2 with a bit of resignation simply because it’s not a whole like the PC classic, it simply carries on the name, and keeps some of the weapons and vehicles. Battlefield 3 in all actuality is a blend of about 75 percent Bad Company 2 and about 15% Medal of Honor. The guns feel almost identical to those found in the Bad Company series, yet the maps feel small and compact like those found in Medal of Honor. Since I am playing Battlefield 3 on the Xbox 360, this review applies only to that version, as the PC version is quite different.
The first thing the player will notice when they open their copy of Battlefield 3 is that the Multi-player and Co-op (Yes there is Co-op we’ll get to that in a bit) are on Disc 1 of 2. There is something to be said that the main focus of the product is in fact, the Multiplayer. The campaign comes on the second disc almost as if it was an afterthought. Since Multiplayer is on Disc 1 we’ll cover it first.
The Multiplayer in Battlefield 3 is as solid as ever. If that’s what you’ve come to hear please go and buy the game, it’s excellent. The game ships with three modes. Rush, where “defenders” defend M-Com stations while “attackers” well… attack M-com stations. Conquest is the second mode, where two teams attempt to capture a set of points spread evenly throughout the map and the team which holds the most flags will most often win. Team Deathmatch is the final mode in which two teams kill each other, with the first team to reach 100 kills winning the match. Rush and Conquest have been in previous Battlefield games, and both are still quite a bit of fun to play. Team Deathmatch is not what Battlefield is designed for, and feels like it was just thrown in to make Call of Duty converts happy. The maps come in different sizes, and some are better in Rush while others are better in Conquest. Operation: Metro for instance is not very fun to play in Rush simply because it is too linear. However Metro makes a great conquest map as it’s a massive map, and conquest showcases the bright points of the maps, rather than having the player get stranded in the subway tunnels attempting to attack and objective. Damavand Peak in Conquest is quite boring and small, however in rush mode the map involves the attacking team base-jumping to reach the next objective. Every map feels unique and each has its own interesting segments and requires unique strategies to approach.
Shooting in Battlefield 3 is as fun as ever with the guns each having its own feel, sounds, and weight. The game’s four classes; Assault, Support, Engineer, and Recon all serve specific purposes, and are all enjoyable to play. Each class contains its own leveling system allowing the player to unlock new guns and attachments as they progress through the multiplayer. Battlefield 3 has more unlocks than any game in the franchise prior with new unlocks happening frequently. Every kit has the includes a gun with up to three attachments, a sidearm, two different items mapped to the directional pad, and finally a perk that can change to introduce a variety of different play styles. Vehicles have always been a key element in the Battlefield franchise, and to a certain extent they are rather diminished in Battlefield 3 in exchange for more infantry heavy maps. The vehicles that are included however are still a ton of fun to drive (or fly) and add quite a bit of variety to how the game is played. In addition to the standard “Quick Match” option the game also includes a server browser to pick a particular game on a particular server.
The final component of the multi-player suite is the “Battlelog” which is where the player can find all of their stats, unlock progress, and see what their friends are playing along with a host of other neat features. It may not be as fully featured as something like Call of Duty Elite, or Bungie.net but it definitely is a neat feature that can be accessed on a mobile device, internet browser, or within the game at any time. All together it is easy to say that Battlefield 3 has the most robust multiplayer of any game to date in the franchise. What it lacks in maps (It ships with nine maps) it makes up for with amazing gunplay, incredibly fun vehicles, and loads of unlocks.
The rest of the first disc is dedicated to the game’s Co-op missions in which two players can work together to finish what really feels like an afterthought. The missions are strangely difficult and are not fun to play at all compared to the multi-player. The co-op mode feels DICE just had a checklist of basic requirement to put in the game. It’s unoriginal, and rather boring. Moving on.
Finally we get to the second disc of the game, and there’s a reason that the campaign was shoved onto the second disc and just thrown into the box. The campaign, while well produced, is uninteresting, and rather confusing for the opening half of the campaign (Which is about five or six hours total depending on your play style) and I felt that it missed a huge opportunity towards the end of the campaign, which could have added a neat twist to the story. The campaign has you in the boots of four different soldiers, a Russian Spec ops agent, and American Soldier, an American Tank gunner, and an American fighter pilot. The jet mission sandwiched in the middle of the campaign, while incredible to look at makes no sense at all in context of the story. Each mission is bookended by cutscenes in the present day (Much of the story is played through flashbacks) in which Sergeant Blackburn is imprisoned and is being interrogated for the crime he committed in order to learn about where the Russian nuclear weapons are. The story takes the player around the world from New York, to Paris to Iran. It picks up steam towards the end with a very neat sequence in a mountainside villa which could have led to a great twist but was never realized. The story is filled with set pieces, and is incredibly scripted which is unfortunate for what could have been a neat addition to the series turns out rather dull. I would go out on a ledge and say that I preferred the story of the Bad Company series more.
DICE made a smart decision to put the multiplayer on the first disc because in all honestly the campaign and co-op aren’t even worth the price of admission. The multiplayer saves Battlefield 3 from feeling like a generic shooter, and it proves that DICE knows what it’s doing when it comes to squad based military shooters. It’s a shame that the campaign didn’t hit the high notes that it could have, but that’s not what Battlefield is famous for. Battlefield is famous for world class multiplayer, and for that Battlefield 3 delivers.