The time for debate is over. The battle to determine what modern shooter is king this fall has finally come to fruition, with the first opponent entering the ring early ready to unload a fistful of bullets into its competition. Battlefield 3 has arrived, exactly two weeks before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is set upon the eager gamers waiting to get their sweaty hands on the highly anticipated juggernaut.
In the past, any game that has tried to go head to head with a Call of Duty title was considered suicide for overall sales. The result was such a negative one that all other developers were scared off of making a similarly foolish decision. Well, the folks over at DICE are tired of playing second-fiddle to Call of Duty, especially after the terrific reception Battlefield: Bad Company 2 received from gamers and critics alike.
By focusing on bleeding-edge technology for graphics and the tried and tested formula for multiplayer that it’s known for, Battlefield 3 has generated enough hype to be the first game that is capable of pulling off the upset against Modern Warfare 3. Going into pre-launch, the beta alone had almost converted any sceptic that pegged the game as just another pretty face. Now Battlefield 3 is officially upon us, so the question in mind is simple: is the game good enough to surpass Call of Duty as the new military mastermind?
The answer is relatively easy to answer. Yes and no. While the game does deliver multiplayer that is even better than previous entries, it flounders in providing anything else that’s as equally entertaining. However, anyone buying Battlefield 3 knows that the series is basically an online affair with anything extra to be ignored. As irrelevant as this factor may be to some, Battlefield 3 isn’t the overall package for first-person shooter fans out there. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have enough content on the disc though.
Early on during its gameplay teasers, footage of the single-player campaign looked snazzy. A snippet of a level broken down and divided into various videos was the style of marketing that started the hype train for Battlefield 3 in the first place. Everyone knew what was in store on the multiplayer front. The real intriguing aspect was if this was a military shooter that finally had its sights set on delivering an authentic perspective for anyone too used to the Michael Bay-style mayhem found in recent Call of Duty titles. Unfortunately, Battlefield 3 falls victim to the use of improper advertising.
The cool bits from the trailers are present, but they appear just as forced and scripted as the rest of the campaign does. Not to mention the heavy abuse of annoying quick-time events that disturb the flow of action that a single-player game like this should be all about. The impact is missing, thanks to a story and linear gameplay design that doesn’t belong in the Battlefield series.
The Bad Company games featured a narrative that was never meant to be taken seriously, and with its destructibility playing a major factor, the shootouts required improvisation to find cover when outnumbered. Battlefield 3 is so serious it loses any ounce of bravado it strives for. Everything you find in badly written thrillers involving stolen nukes, Russians, or boring debriefings is instantly recognizable material here.
In between the recycled cutscenes are levels that you’ve played a hundred times over; urban landscapes and long corridors aren’t that fun to shoot terrorists in anymore. The same goes for the gigantic set pieces. While some can be so over the top that the action is exciting, most of the time it just revolves around unloading a heap of bullets into oncoming enemies.
The single-player campaign doesn’t offer nearly as much destructibility as Bad Company 2 either, which would’ve helped Battlefield 3 define itself as more of a visceral experience given how good the graphics are. Top-notch lighting aside, blasting a wall with a bazooka only to have a smoking black spot appear afterwards doesn’t do the advanced technology any favours.
The co-op mode is a complete afterthought too, giving you a handful of varied missions to complete with a partner online. While each one is different, nothing is terribly unique or as enthralling as Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops missions. The murderously cheap A.I. is less annoying when you have an actual human being covering you (not to mention the ability to revive as well) and flanking becomes a necessary tactic for victory. Still, just like the campaign, co-op signifies how Battlefield 3 can’t compete with a series like Call of Duty when it comes to supplying content outside of multiplayer that’s worth the time to play.
Now this is where the review does a complete 180% turn towards the positive side of things: multiplayer. The Battlefield series knows how to make online skirmishes portrayed like an actual war that you openly can participate in. Gigantic levels, sniping from miles away, jets streaming above tanks and infantry; this is what multiplayer is all about.
Balanced classes and an upgrade system to die for, the online play here is staggering in terms of replayabiliyt. The maps included are also fantastic, each featuring a distinctive look and feel to them that will take months of practice to memorize the hidden spots for getting headshots or the shortcuts to reach an objective before an enemy camps there.
Team Deathmatch is now included to make shooter fans happy but veterans of the series are probably more inclined to jump headfirst back into the Rush and Conquest modes. Rush in particular is even more involving than it was before. Each map progresses in size once two objectives are taken over and by the end of a round you’ll feel like you fought through four separate levels, each designed with offence and defence in mind.
The shooting mechanics have evolved to be more realistic and less forgiving when taking down opponents. Recoil is very prominent and killing an enemy requires tapping the trigger more often then just emptying a clip point blank at them. The gun arsenal is vast in size and with each kill you gain using a different weapon, new unlocks become available for use. Be it scopes, suppressors, tactical lights, or grips, getting all options for each gun is an addictive and rewarding task. The same goes for the different classes of characters to choose from and the abilities that come with them.
The multiplayer here is dynamic and benefits from giving the player freedom of choice. The battlegrounds are expansive and creativity is actually encouraged for once as opposed to the other military shooters out there. Compared to its competitors, Battlefield 3 feels reinvigorating once you have finished your first online match. It’s an incredibly energetic shooter that never becomes monotonous due to its format of shooting other people over and over again. The action here never really gets boring and it’s primarily why Battlefield 3 was so anticipated to begin with.
The graphics are another reason too. This game looks absolutely stunning at all times. A vivid sense of clarity is always present, making the draw distance a thing of beauty. Environments are huge yet details are everywhere, from the trees swaying under the weight of a circling copter or the light of a flashlight giving away the position of an enemy. The muted colour tone gives the game a gritty appearance at times while locations in dark enclosed areas offer a stark contrast that’s clean and easy to distinguish.
It’s the rare game where everything looks phenomenal even when viewed at different levels. The difference between playing on a PC or a console works exactly how you think it would, as usual. On full settings the PC version is the sharpest and best way to experience all the visual beauty Battlefield 3 comes strapped with (as does the higher player count in multiplayer). The 360 and PS3 iterations have uglier textures with less detail up close, but that’s something console owners have to deal with as an alternative to shelling out a ton of cash for a state of the art computer.
Audio deserves its own separate shout-out too, since it’s such an effective way of adding to the wonderful chaos of bullets and explosions. Each shot fired can be heard separately if you pay enough attention and the sounds of each weapon is expertly crafted. Battlefield 3 is like gun porn, and listening to all of them is a gift of awe due to the lengths the developers at DICE took to insure that no gun sounds alike. The feeling of suppression when getting riddled from all sides, while cowering behind a barrier, is an impression of terrifying force that effectively keeps you from acting like a hero and dying shortly thereafter. The sounds and sights of Battlefield 3 are what make it a top-tier performer at showcasing the power of its engine. It’s hard going back to play any other FPS after you’ve experienced this game.
After such a long wait, Battlefield 3 was more than worth the time of obsessing over its released screenshots. It’s a two-sided game however. A great demonstration of what to do in multiplayer and what not to do in an offline campaign, it’s a shooter that tried to experiment with its own blueprints. No matter how much of a missed opportunity its single-player and co-op modes are, there’s no denying how incredible the online matches are. For that reason alone this game can’t be missed by anyone who enjoys action or the act of firing a gun off loudly. Modern Warfare 3 can take the award for best story, but it’s going to have one hell of a time topping Battlefield 3 for multiplayer accomplishments.