It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since DICE completely reset the bar for online shooters. When Battlefield 1942 came out, you were no longer running around like a lone gunman in confined areas, blowing people up left, right and center in traditional deathmatch variants. Instead, Battlefield opened up the playing fields significantly and cemented itself as teamwork oriented shooter with classes, vehicles and vast, open landscapes to wage war on. The ground breaking concept of contributing to your teams effort – of being a small part of a bigger war, made Battlefield 1942 one of the most immersive and influential multiplayer experiences around and that reputation still holds very true even a decade later.
Battlefield 3 is the biggest, broadest and most gorgeous iteration in the series yet, boasting taut cooperative gameplay, endlessly rewarding and immensely satisfying online competition, and some of the best sound design and visuals yet seen in a shooter. It’s too bad that the single-player campaign straddles nearly half a decade worth of military clichés and with some unfortunate presentation quirks, Battlefield 3 isn’t quite the series’ magnum opus, but it sure is one of the best shooters of the year.
Battlefield 3 offers three modes of play, but it’s the competitive multiplayer that will engulf you and get your money’s worth — there’s a great selection of modes and maps with old favorites like Conquest and Rush making a return, along with the appreciated addition of a Team Deathmatch mode. Everything that you’ve known and loved up until now about Battlefield remains intact, and with few changes; vehicles –including jets— are drivable, four distinct classes help define your combat role, and playing to the strengths of your class and supporting your team is still the central focus. Furthermore; the destructibility, varied maps, customization options and the endless amount of latitude you’re given during any given match is truly what helps make Battlefield 3 a mesmerizing and compelling online experience and one that feels distinctly different from its peers.
There’s also a huge catalog of unlockable weapons and class items, and the outstanding sound design and terrific weapon models make the gunplay in Battlefield 3 both gratifying and authentic. If you’re a seasoned Battlefield player, then you’ll appreciate just how closely Battlefield 3 sticks to what’s familiar, and yet still be surprised by the dense leveling-meta game, and attention paid to map design and overall intensity. If you fancy military warfare on an incredible scale, then you can’t do much better than this.
Battlefield’s first foray into cooperative play has also been successful. Here, there are six stand-alone missions that you and a friend can tackle together and these snippets provide some incredibly unique and challenging thrills. Everything from disarming dirty-bombs in decayed subways, to providing sniper support from an elevated position to taking out military encampments from a gunner or pilot seat in a helicopter, these missions are a blast to play and facilitate teamwork on a smaller and instantly gratifying scale. There’s an irksome lack of split-screen support though, and there were also quite a few glitches and scripting errors throughout, which can be particularly frustrating since these bite-sized missions are completely devoid of any checkpoints.
Last up is the single-player campaign, which while still solid, feels all too predictable and routine in this day and age. Cheap design tricks, such as quick time events and scripted sequences in where you’re more of an observant rather than a participant, makes the campaign feel flat in certain spots. There are still some very enjoyable moments and set-pieces that help pick up the slack, including a gargantuan tank assault mission, a night-time trek through city squares with a lot of sniping involved and some genuinely realistic combat scenarios.
Throughout most of the campaign, you take the role as marine Sergeant Henry Blackburn, a soldier being held in captivity by the CIA and interrogated after being lead to believe that the PLR (People’s Liberation Army) are planning to blow up key, major cities in both the United States and Europe. The game jumps between different dates, characters and gameplay moments and though the story actually gets semi-interesting towards the end, it feels like overly familiar ground and at around six hours, the campaign is certainly not worth the price of admission alone.
Battlefield 3 is a superb presentation package. On consoles, Battlefield 3 is an incredibly impressive looking game; with some of the best lighting effects you’ll see this side of shooters. The animations are silky smooth, the destructibility is very lifelike an whether you’re sprinting on the ground, flying an attack helicopter or engaged in frantic, close quarters combat, Battlefield 3 never ceases to impress. There are a few visual oddities, including bugs, crashes and sudden frame rate drops. On the flipside, Battlefield 3 is hands-down one of the best sounding videogames ever created. The voice-acting, multiple layers of sounds and effects, and music that helps set the tone during heated moments make Battlefield 3 a feast for the ears. There are still a few quirks in need of a patch, but overall, this is as good as sound design comes and goes in games.
As previously stated, Battlefield 3’s campaign is far too short and derivative to justify a purchase, but the multiplayer has all the hooks and incentives to keep any Battlefield fan engaged for a long, long time. There are literally thousands of unlocks on offer, endless amount of strategies and opportunities for teamwork and coordination, and with a terrific cooperative mode of play, Battlefield 3 is the ultimate military experience.
Not everything about Battlefield 3 will align with your expectations, but as long as you’re going into it expecting a superb multiplayer experience, then you’ll be absolutely astonished at how much care and effort has been put into making Battlefield 3 the game that it is. The visuals and sound design reign supreme, and the destructibility and reliance on guerilla-style warfare and tactics plus the huge variety of vehicles and unlockables will almost seem mind blowing. Toss in a terrific co-op suite and Battlefield 3’s use of stagnating story and gameplay elements in the campaign will seem minor. All in all, Battlefield 3 is one of the best multiplayer experiences around.