Battlefield 3: New Year catchup review

EA have hyped Battlefield 3 up as the Call of Duty killer that will topple Activision from the top of the FPS tree. Early gameplay videos showed the game as something truly special, with astonishingly realistic graphics and impressive destructible environments. However, this footage was taken from PC gameplay, with nothing being seen of the console version of the game. So does the game live up to the early hype or does the hype work against it?

The graphics are very realistic, even on the ageing consoles.

DICE are well known for their superb multiplayer games but haven’t managed to translate this into the single player campaign, with Battlefield Bad Company 2 having a pretty bland single player experience. Battlefield 3’s Campaign takes the tried and tested Call of Duty single player template, which contains a plot involving terrorists, Russians and stolen nuclear warheads. The game sees the protagonist Sergeant Blackburn being interrogated by the CIA, who want to find out why he shot his CO in a mission to capture one of the head PLR terrorists. The story unravels in flashback form, as Blackburn tells his interrogators what happened, with each mission playing out as one of Blackburn’s memories. The campaign features levels set in Iran, Paris and New York as you attempt to stop the PLR blowing up nuclear warheads in Paris and New York. Sadly the campaign lacks the bombastic set pieces the Call of Duty series is known for, and the player is herded from one setting to the next rather than being let loose in the battlefield to achieve the objectives however they see fit. We can’t help but feel that DICE missed a trick in not using the multiplayer game as a basis for the campaign, with larger maps, and more open-ended missions.

Battlefield 3 also contains a co-op mode, with six seperate scenarios to take on with a friend. Unfortunately it is limited to two players and there is no split screen option, which is disappointing. These co-op levels are good fun with a friend, but are a bit of a missed opportunity. With only six missions, we felt the Spec Ops mode in the last two Modern Warfares offered a lot more, and we can’t imagine players spending a lot of time on them.

Hopefully he's wearing his parachute!

Now everyone knows that the Battlefield games are all about the multiplayer, and Battlefield 3 ups the ante considerably from Bad Company 2. The nine levels you initially get with the game are all packed full of destuctible scenery, which the new Frostbite 2 engine does a great job at rendering. The graphics are obviously stunning on a top spec PC, but the PS3 does an admirable job of rendering them on six year old hardware. Scenery can be chipped away with your guns, or blasted to pieces with a tank or RPG. In the Paris levels you can blow huge holes in the sides of buildings, which then throw debris onto the unsuspecting enemies below. The maps are mostly fantastic with Operation Metro being perhaps the weakest addition with a tight linear level, which panders a bit too much to the Call of Duty crowd. The addition of fighter jets adds another dimension to the gameplay, although getting kills with them can be a tough task at first. Again there are lots of weapons, gizmos and perks to unlock for the four classes in the game (Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon), which will keep players occupied for months.

The game has the staple Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch, where you need to reach a set number of kills before the other team. Rush and Squad Rush are returning favourites, where you need to attack or defend M-COM stations. Also returning is Conquest, where key flags need capturing to deplete enemy tickets. These modes require teamwork, which is crucial to achieve victory, and communication is vital. This is where the game hits some problems on the PS3. The voice communication is very patchy at the moment, and sometimes it sounds like your teammates are gargling with Listerine. It can get quite frustrating when for instance, you try to let your squad know about a sniper on the building above, but it all comes over as a garbled mess and your team mates end up being picked off. However DICE are aware of the problem, and are working around the clock to fix it, so hopefully by the time you read this review it will have been fixed. There is also a problem with input lag, on the PS3 at least, which makes aiming a bit imprecise at the moment, but again DICE are apparently working on a fix.

Some of the maps are absolutely massive, and a vehicle is a must if you want to get back quickly into the fray.

There are some new features in Battlefield 3. Battlelog is to Battlefield what Autolog was to Need for Speed, and lets you know what your friends have achieved. Although it is quite limited on console at the moment. If it gave more incentive to beat your friends score then it could be a crucial feature. The ability to go prone is welcome and opens up new tactical options, and suppressive fire can be used to blur an enemy player’s vision and stop their health regenerating, so a team mate can make the kill. This is a good way of racking up extra points. The best thing about the game is that even modest players can reach the top of the leaderboard, with teamplay being encouraged and rewarded. You don’t have to be a Rambo one-man-army to rack up points, and just capturing objectives or dishing out medi packs or ammo, or repairing vehicles can take you to the top of the leaderboard.

Battlefield 3 is game of two halves, the single player is a disappointing diversion, but the multiplayer is quite possibly the best we’ve played. It’s a polished tour-de-force that will keep you entertained for months, if not years, with every game being unique and packed full of the hilarious and ridiculous ‘Battlefield Moments’ that the series is renowned for. Surely that’s worth the admission price alone?


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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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