"The most refined and complete war experience the videogames industry can provide."
Release Date: Oct 25, 2011 (US), Oct 28, 2011 (EU).
Platform(s): PS3, 360, PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Military shooters are extremely common nowadays and have kind of obtained some bad fame in the gaming community. It doesn’t mean there can’t be good military shooters, only that the market is flooded with them, many of them nothing but generic. Battlefield 3 happens to be a military shooter. The question is, does it do enough to stand out? The answer is yes.
The game is divided into 3 core modes: Campaign, Co-op and Multiplayer. The campaign has you following the steps of Sgt. Blackburn as he relives missions he’s been a part of while answering to government agents that are interrogating him. The story itself is pretty weak and has more than a few plot holes, but the campaign itself is enjoyable. Missions are fun and so is the shooting. A few minor glitches here and there might show up, and sometimes quick time events get in the way of the fun, but nothing major. Overall, the 6 or so hours of the campaign are enjoyable, though forgettable.
Co-op is slightly different. You take on 6 different missions with a friend, all of them somewhat based on the campaign missions. Those missions are slightly more arcade-like, with scores to beat and multiple difficulties to ramp up replay. Beating those missions earns you points that unlock new weapons to be used in multiplayer.
It might not be the best, but BF3's campaign still has its awesome moments.
Multiplayer is where the game shines, so much that the other modes are basically nothing more than training for it. And you’ll need that training.
There are four basic kits: assault, engineer, support and recon. Each one of them is implicitly assigned a task, and all classes are co-dependent on each other. Teamwork is key in Battlefield. Assaults have medkits that can heal allies and defibrillators that can bring them back; engineers are proficient in both taking down and repairing vehicles; supports have ammo packs and can provide great suppressing fire with their light machine guns, and recons can work efficiently at long range, spotting, killing, and providing mobile spawn points and enhanced radars.
And then there are the vehicles. There are many of them: tanks, jeeps, boats, transport helicopters, combat helicopters, and even jet fighters. Those vehicles are key to the success of a team, and the skill of a team in vehicular warfare (both in using them and countering them) can make or break a game. The problem is in the training of those vehicles. Land vehicles are relatively easy and you get to learn how to drive a tank in the campaign. Boats play similar. Helicopters and jets, however, require a whole new set of skills to be used. There is one Co-op mission where you and your friend take the pilot and gunner seat of a helicopter, but there’s no way to train to use jets without jumping in a multiplayer map. And considering jets start very underpowered and are hard to pilot by nature, many people will have trouble with them and just give up.
Flying a jet fighter on Multiplayer takes skill, but it's worth it.
Multiplayer is played in one of the nine vastly different maps (some are more infantry focused, some are focused on vehicles, some stand in between), and there are 6 basic modes (though 3 of them are smaller versions of the 3 primary modes). Team DeathMatch is self explanatory: two teams pitched against each other to see who reaches the set amount of kills first. Rush is a little more tactical: one team must defend communication centers (MCOMs), two centers at a time, from the other team, which has to plant bombs in them and secure their explosions before they run out of spawn tickets. And my personal favorite is Conquest, the traditional Battlefield game mode. On Conquest, the teams must capture bases to deplete the other team’s supply tickets, and the first team to run out of tickets loses. Depending on how things go, matches can get quite hectic, and ally that with the back and forth nature of the mode and the multiple tactical approaches, and you have a deep experience.
Multiplayer also has a vast unlock system. Each kit and vehicle evolves individually, and each weapon can unlock various different accessories for it, all separate from your general rank. Experience is earned both in the traditional ways of shooters (killing enemies, headshots, taking down vehicles, etc) and in more different ways, such as healing and reviving, repairing, spotting, saving a teammate from an enemy player, kill assists, suppressive fire, obeying the orders your squad leader issues you, etc. all those bonuses further enhance the cooperative nature of multiplayer, rewarding players that work with their teams over players that are worried about their kill/death ratio. In fact, it’s quite common for the best players in the match to not have a good K/DR, because they helped in other ways.
The game's graphics are simply gorgeous.
On the technical aspect, battlefield 3 oozes quality. The graphics are gorgeous, quite possibly the best graphics ever made into a game at the time of writing. Frostbite 2 does an excellent job with its destruction. Walls and even entire buildings you’ve been hiding behind or inside might not (and probably won’t) last until the end of the match, as grenades, cannon rounds, RPGs and environmental explosives (such as gas containers and cars) explode. Frostbite 2 also excels on the animation department. Movements are fluid and feel just right, creating a great sense of immersion. But immersion wouldn’t be complete without great sound design, and Battlefield 3 just nails it. The sound from the guns, explosions and vehicles, both from up close and from a distance, the screams and orders being shouted by the soldiers, everything contributes to give the perfect sense of being in a war zone. Mix all of that with the enormous maps and teams of up to 32 players on each side (to a total of 64 players in the same match) and you have one of the best war experiences videogames can offer.
Overall Battlefield 3 is amazing. The single player might not be much and the co-op might be a little short, but everyone buying this game knows (or should know) that the multiplayer is the star of the show. And the multiplayer delivers. More than deliver, it excels and raises the bar on multiplayer shooters yet again. At the time of writing, there were a few minor issues with one or two maps, but developer DICE has already promised multiple patches to fix and balance the game. Battlefield 3 shows that military shooters are not the problem, they just have to be done right. And boy does Battlefield 3 know how to do it right.