Review

Battlefield 3 review: Pure multiplayer beauty

Battlefield 3. A lot is riding on the release of this one game this year, and whether it will really be a true opponent to the long running Call of Duty series. I’ve played a lot of Call of Duty, and I’ve played a lot of Battlefield as well, so I was really excited to get my hands on the game and see just how good, or bad, Battlefield 3 really is. Will it be better than Modern Warfare 2, or even 3?

Now for future reference I played this game on Xbox 360, as my PC is simply not powerful enough to run the game with reasonable graphics. That said, I was astounded by the graphical quality of Battlefield 3 after I installed the high-resolution texture package, even on a relatively old console like the Xbox 360.

The lighting used in this game is simply beautiful. Objects, scenery, people; everything simply pops and shines with the fantastic lighting engine used in the game. Shadows are really good, dark scenes look fantastic, bright desert environments are highly detailed and even faces and guns look outstanding. The textures and fidelity of the scenery helps as well, but I truly believe the lighting engine is out of this world.

Of course, this is all thanks to the brand new engine used in Battlefield 3: Frostbite 2. I loved the destructibility that was present in Bad Company 2, and to a degree this is back in Battlefield 3. While it’s not as destructible in singleplayer, I think this is made up for by stunning visuals that match, and then outstep what I regarded as the best looking game of this year: Crysis 2. You definitely won’t be disappointed in the graphics department with what DICE have concocted in BF3.

On to the actual gameplay, and first off I tried the single-player campaign. There is some story going on here that I don’t really want to rehash, but it’s not particularly good as you would expect from a multi-player focused game. It’s not bad, and I am glad there is a story, but it’s pretty clichéd with the whole “terrorist/WMD threat” type scenario.

Despite this, on the whole I found the campaign to be enjoyable. When I say it’s enjoyable, that’s due to both the fantastic gunplay and the variety of tasks you have to complete. There is a wide variety of guns to play around with, all that act and feel different to one another which give you a sense that you are actually using different weapons. They sound great too, which is always a bonus.

It’s the difference in tasks, however, that I enjoyed more out of the two great components. In one seen you might be defeating a sniper on foot and through buildings, the next you might be driving tanks in an open environment, followed by a stealth scenario. It keeps the campaign flowing and you on your toes as you progress, along with preventing boredom from repetitive tasks. You have to try it out to see what I mean.

I played through on hard, which is hard, and it took around 8 ½ hours to complete with numerous scene failures of mine; I reckon it’s easily doable in 7, however, as long as you play on an easier difficulty level. It’s too short, damn it. I wanted more when I got to the end, which was the same feeling after I finished Modern Warfare 2. The campaign was intense, just too damn short. Please, first-person shooter developers, make your campaigns at least 10 hours.

Unfortunately there is one other area I have to complain about, and that’s the bugs. I downloaded a whopping 167 MB day-one patch as soon as I put in the disc, but even that didn’t fix everything. At first I couldn’t even play the campaign and I spent a frustrating hour trying to work it out. One I achieved success I still found occasional out-of-sync audio in the campaign, weird collision things like NPCs walking through walls and even flying bodies. Oh, and there was also some noticeable framerate issues at specific points in the game, no doubt due to the amazing graphics engine taking its toll.

A final mention before I move on to multiplayer has to be to the sound. I have a surround-sound setup, and I was immersed in warfare as quickly as the first scene. I heard bullets flying from one speaker to the next, earthquakes that rock the subwoofer, people shouting from all directions and a dramatic orchestral score where appropriate. Needless to say I thought the sound was very, very good in Battlefield 3.

The singleplayer I generally found to be good, but the multiplayer is where Battlefield 3 really shines. You start off with basic weapons (depending on your team) in four classes. As you use each different class for different uses (eg. the engineer class has a rocket launcher; medics can revive people) they level up, rewarding you with new guns and equipment.

The levelling up doesn’t stop there. You also level up your main level to gain new ranks and dog tags to show off your rank; you level up weapons and equipment to gain new attachments and modifications to the weapons. It seems like every match you are unlocking something new, like a holographic sight for your SCAR-H or a silenced pistol. How far you level up weapons depends on how much you use them, which is a great system.

Having so much levelling can get confusing, especially as you start with different weapons per team, but when you unlock weapons you can use them on both teams. It’s also initially unclear what exactly you need to do to get weapon mods, but again you eventually figure it out. As you don’t get a manual in the box and most people won’t read the online version, I think DICE should have incorporated basic in-game instructions for newcomers to multiplayer.

What I found particularly awesome about Battlefield 3’s multiplayer is that you can switch classes, change guns in your class and even add modifications to your guns while playing a match. When you die you are presented with the option to do this, and depending on the match type you can choose where you spawn: again, an addition over Call of Duty that I really like. Oddly you can’t modify classes or exit the game between matches, but this isn’t a killer.

When it comes to match types, they are as follows. Team Deathmatch is your basic team play, with teams of 12 pitching against eachother for the most kills. Inside these teams are squads of 4, which can consist of your friends or random players, and are highlighted on the map. Conquest makes use of these squads as you attempt to capture various locations on the map. In this mode, you can spawn directly to your squad-mates and you really need to use tactics to avoid campers and things like that.

Rush is a bomb-type game where one side attempts to destroy the others control panels, while advancing up the map; there is also a Squad Rush where instead of 12 v 12 you play 4 v 4 in intense and shorter battles. Finally, there is Squad Deathmatch which pitches four teams of four against eachother and is perhaps my favourite game-type.

Unlike the Call of Duty series where there are some terrible gametypes like Sabotage, I found all of the Battlefield 3 types to be fun once you get the hang of how they work. I thought initially I might be disappointed by the small selection of game modes but the opposite ended up being the case.

As I kept playing Battlefield 3’s multiplayer and kept getting addicted, the one thing that struck me as being the major attraction are the huge, destructible maps. Where Call of Duty feels like you’re playing in confined scenarios, Battlefield 3 has you playing in expansive war zones that give you the sense you are in a real battle rather than a small replication.

What’s even better is that if a player is annoying you, continually sniping from a building or something along those lines, simply fire a rocket launcher into the building and watch the walls crumble, revealing your enemy. This is really more like what a war would be: you can’t expect to hide behind a wall or in a tower without the chance of it getting blown up. Bad Company 2 used destruction to great effect and Battlefield 3 again makes fantastic use of a great engine to provide dynamic, gigantic maps.

Along with multiplayer you do get a co-op “campaign” of sorts, which uses some environments from multiplayer maps and the campaign to deliver short missions you can play with a friend. It’s not a fully-fledged storyline, but it does deliver some satisfaction and if you play it enough you unlock some guns to use in the standard multiplayer.

If someone asked “would you like to play Call of Duty: Black Ops or Battlefield 3?” I would hands down choose the latter. As it stands right now, Battlefield 3 is so much better than Call of Duty. It feels more like a war should feel like and the levelling dynamics are just top-notch. Singleplayer is good, if not a bit short; co-op is included if you like; but again it’s the multiplayer that will keep you coming back for more.

Modern Warfare 3 has yet to come out, and in all honesty I don’t think it will be better than Battlefield 3, so as it stands right now this game is the multiplayer experience everyone should be having.

Thanks to BF3blog for the images. These are real, in-game screenshots that I couldn't take because I don't have a capture card. I'm working on getting one for the future though.

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Chrono951 said,
I spent all weekend with this game and I can proudly say that the campaign is probably one of the worst I've ever played. The story is boring, the game is so scripted that you randomly die if you try to deviate, and there's bugs everywhere. It was just awful.

However, the multiplayer is much better, but it too still suffers from bugs and annoyances. Overall, BF 3 is superbly fun when its not breaking and I'll be playing multiplayer for a while to come.

Never had one single bug in the campaign, although yeah it is scripted, but I see it as an extended tutorial, the real fun is online, but due to my inexperience I feel I'll get slaughtered without some practice

burnsflipper said,
Never had one single bug in the campaign, although yeah it is scripted, but I see it as an extended tutorial, the real fun is online, but due to my inexperience I feel I'll get slaughtered without some practice

One of the biggest problems is that the campaign does nothing to actually prep you for multi. Online is all about freedom, teamwork, and improv. You learn nothing about that from campaign. You can't use most of the vehicles, you can't have a class or even most of the items (med packs, etc), you can't work with your squad (they just leave you behind), and you just charge down the linear path.

As far as scripted, probably a good 75% of my deaths were random. At one point you are taking cover from an enemy jet and I died 3 times while taking cover right next to my allies. No red screen, no hits to my body, nothing. Just death. Another time I was on a roof being shot by a sniper. If you don't do exactly what the game tells you, at exactly the time it wants you to, you will die. I died 2 times because my allies pushed me out of cover. Another 2 times because I moved up too early. Another 2 times because I didn't move up fast enough.

Lets not forget the checkpoint I got where an enemy would spawn right behind me and riddle me with bullets as soon as I spawned. The game entered an infinite loop of spawn - die - load - spawn for 10 minutes. Finally the enemy glitched and I was able to move on.

I can go on and on with examples of the problems I had during the campaign. Just look at any review and you'll see they encountered many of the same issues. It just a mess.

Chrono951 said,

One of the biggest problems is that the campaign does nothing to actually prep you for multi. Online is all about freedom, teamwork, and improv. You learn nothing about that from campaign. You can't use most of the vehicles, you can't have a class or even most of the items (med packs, etc), you can't work with your squad (they just leave you behind), and you just charge down the linear path.

As far as scripted, probably a good 75% of my deaths were random. At one point you are taking cover from an enemy jet and I died 3 times while taking cover right next to my allies. No red screen, no hits to my body, nothing. Just death. Another time I was on a roof being shot by a sniper. If you don't do exactly what the game tells you, at exactly the time it wants you to, you will die. I died 2 times because my allies pushed me out of cover. Another 2 times because I moved up too early. Another 2 times because I didn't move up fast enough.

Lets not forget the checkpoint I got where an enemy would spawn right behind me and riddle me with bullets as soon as I spawned. The game entered an infinite loop of spawn - die - load - spawn for 10 minutes. Finally the enemy glitched and I was able to move on.

I can go on and on with examples of the problems I had during the campaign. Just look at any review and you'll see they encountered many of the same issues. It just a mess.

Sounds to me like you're just rubbish at FPS games I never had half the issues you're complaining about And I AM rubbish at them! hah (I'm kidding about your skill level ... I have no idea obviously).

Chrono951 said,

...

The bug that annoyed me the most was on the level where you are the sniper covering the marines going after a guy in a building. there is a part where you have to switch buildings, in the process you end up in a hallway and are suppose to sneak up and knife a guy. if you get to close to a wall, you instantly die. No idea why, maybe a mob on the other side?

Also had a few times where the game freezes while saving.

LaP said,
BF3 >>>>>>>>>> COD MW3

Just stop it. I'm tired of people trying to compare these games. Battlefield is about teamwork and working with your squad to achieve an objective. COD is about just running and gunning. Yes, they have similar overlap in a lot of areas, but they are a completely different experience. If you have a good group of buddies, grab Battlefield and play together. If you just want to shoot some guys alone, grab Call of Duty. I'll be grabbing them both.

If you want to just shoot some guys, you can play all the other CoDs for that matter. Nothing about MW3 looks impressive to me, in fact some of the gameplay videos I saw looked rather poor with the guy jumping around like as if the game was a joke... That's just weak!

dead.cell said,
If you want to just shoot some guys, you can play all the other CoDs for that matter. Nothing about MW3 looks impressive to me, in fact some of the gameplay videos I saw looked rather poor with the guy jumping around like as if the game was a joke... That's just weak!

single player campaign its still crap in battlefield compared to modern warfare... multiplayer the game as whole its a camping paradise its even worse than halo and CS

eilegz said,
single player campaign its still crap in battlefield compared to modern warfare... multiplayer the game as whole its a camping paradise its even worse than halo and CS

If you can't find your way around campers, you're doing it wrong. And I don't speak for just Battlefield, but FPS games in general.

What makes it so much fun for me is the scale. It actually feels like I'm in a war with vehicles zooming by and people firing rocket launchers to shoot down helicopters or jets. The lighting really adds to the realism. Some of the maps that take place during the night are simply breathtaking. I can't wait for the Back to Karkand expansion pack. I've been dreaming of what Gulf of Oman would look like in the Frostbite engine since the release of Bad Company 1.

Anaron said,
What makes it so much fun for me is the scale. It actually feels like I'm in a war with vehicles zooming by and people firing rocket launchers to shoot down helicopters or jets. The lighting really adds to the realism. Some of the maps that take place during the night are simply breathtaking. I can't wait for the Back to Karkand expansion pack. I've been dreaming of what Gulf of Oman would look like in the Frostbite engine since the release of Bad Company 1.

The Back to Karkand Map Pack is out, it's included in the Limited Edition.

neo158 said,

The Back to Karkand Map Pack is out, it's included in the Limited Edition.
Pretty sure its not. It's just a code you enter on the PS3 version which will automatically unlock once the DLC is released.

neo158 said,

The Back to Karkand Map Pack is out, it's included in the Limited Edition.

It isn't out yet because the maps in it are new as well as separate from the launch maps. Owners of the limited edition are entitled to it for free and others will have to pay $10 when it's out in December.

I played Caspian Border for the first time last night... and WOW. I literally spent 2 mins looking up at the sky and watching fighter jets take each other out. So far, I am very impressed with BF3! I had some lag issues, but my internet setup is not ideal right now (basement on WiFi).

And knife kills are awesome

They had some trouble at launch (what online game doesn't anyway) but since friday, it's all good. They were so many people playing yesterday on the PC version that i coudn't even join a game with my friend in a Party because all the server where full or only had 1 spot left. I ended up playing against him LOL!

One question. Anyone else kinda dismayed that Hardcore Mode isn't selectable in Quick Match like it was in BC2 ? And the fact I went into it with my brother and he could see kill cams and I could for the first three deaths, but not after ... !!!

Wiked game, best game I've played since the BF 1942 etc games. They've hit their roots with BF3 all while engaging new ideas, love it!

camperfield, pronefield, searchfield, whatever you call it... keep on failing so hard in single player campaign and the multiplayer just get better graphics.... want to beat COD? not this year neither maybe medal of honor 2 next year....

DerpDerp said,
You reviewed the 360 version? And Neowin put it on the main page? Pathetic. Grow up.

I'm with you here, having played it on my Mac, this is somewhere where my 360 can't travel to.
The graphics are insane and you feel how it was coded FOR the PC platform and then ported to the consoles.

It's butter with special effects!

How can you leave that by side and review the 360 version?
Then again, better this than nothing, so I guess big thanks anyways, cause apart from the graphics the general feel should be similar.

GS:mac

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