Over the last few years, Digital Illusions CE, commonly known as DICE, have continued to deliver gamers quality products with the Battlefield title aimed towards the console market. Named the Bad Company series, these games were massive critical and commercial successes, but gamers of all platforms still called for the big one; a direct sequel to one of the most acclaimed online FPS games of all time, DICE’s Battlefield 2. 6 years on and it’s finally here, Battlefield 3. But with a constantly changing shooter market and some massive competition in the field, can DICE still recreate the magic they were once known the industry over for? Read on to find out.
Battlefield 3 aims its metaphorical guns in two directions; both single players and multiplayer. Whereas the series has always simply been known for its work in the online department, DICE wanted to deliver an experience that managed to appeal to both markets and still uphold its strict quality standard. Cue in a bold move and Battlefield 3 features a single player campaign which in an attempt to stand out, actually channels the series main competitor; the Call of Duty franchise.
For essentially the duration of the campaign, the game features scripted set-piece after scripted set-piece, which becomes quite tedious after you realize there isn’t going to be much more substance but a whole lot of out-of-date style, the likes of which we see in more than a fist full of FPS games every year. Some of the story characters do actually have fleshed out personalities which are a breath of fresh air in this day and age, but for the majority, the story is a cliché filled war drama of unrealistic proportions. With a terrorist threat from the Middle East, and the standard inclusion of Russia in the mix, you will be hard pressed to remember the campaign for any real emotion.
But while I don’t have many good words to speak of the single-player segment of the game, I found it almost impossible to fault the famed Battlefield multiplayer, which has translated the classic feel and scale of original Battlefield games – which was toned down on a few levels for Bad Company – to console wonderfully. With a large selection of well balanced weaponry, what appears to be the perfect amount of personalisation for character and load outs and some ‘instant classic’ multiplayer levels, the true Battlefield experience is still very much in tact and just as strong as ever before.
While the console versions of the game only feature a 24 player limit per match as opposed to the PC versions 64 players don’t let that frighten you away – the maps are redesigned to accommodate the smaller player count and with the general play style and community that comes with consoles, are just as enjoyable as its larger-scale big bother. So don’t pay attention when getting schooled about not getting the ‘real’ Battlefield if you play on PS3 or Xbox because the general experience offered is just as the game is intended to be played and caters wonderfully to the console communities needs and desires.
The main attraction of the multiplayer and what makes it a truly enjoyable experience in my opinion, is the scale of things. With such huge maps to play on, and the great contrast of infantry and vehicular support, online battles can be very intense and extremely satisfying if you play as a team. Gameplay is designed to work best when teammates help one another, provide support with the unique abilities of each class and generally talk and communicate with their squad and team to assure victory. Battlefield games have always a strong sense of community within their ranks, and the big number 3 is no different.
My only complaint here though is not really a gameplay flaw, but rather a shortage of multiplayer maps compared to what fans would have like to see after the great range that was available for Battlefield 2 all those years ago even at launch.
A large portion of the hype surrounding the lead up to Battlefield 3’s release was its claim to graphical superiority of the competition. The clips we were shown backed up these claims, but upon the games release, its evident those that were sceptical of the DICE’s lack of console footage had suspicions well placed. Sadly, even with the game and subsequent HD Texture Pack installed, Battlefield 3’s graphical prowess doesn’t particularly impress me. I’ve seen and played the game on a high-end PC and to say the very least, it’s beautiful, but such a big gap in the quality of console and PC is disappointing and not really fair. We’ve seen what these 5 year old machines are still today capable of with recent titles such as Rage and even yesteryears Halo Reach, and Battlefield 3’s console versions fails to match them in terms of visual quality. That’s not to say its ugly, it’s still a great looking title and with the help of the extremely powerful Frostbite 2 engine, a pleasure to play, but it doesn’t stand up the promises we heard about the all-round quality we would be seeing.
Ask any long time fan and they’ll tell you; Battlefield games have always had the best sound in the FPS market. Know that that isn’t an exaggeration. As much as I would like to simply put it out of my mind, the game still does have a single player mode, and as such, I should touch on it here. It lives up to the quality in the sound department, with decent voice actors and effects, but it’s hard to understand why the series has such a reputation here without hearing a full-fledged online battlefield in real time. There isn’t quite anything like it. You can hear distanced fire fights and explosions in believable fashion, and things like jets flying overhead as the sounds that propel from their powerful engines build up, come and go again ads to the feeling of one man in a true war around him, which is really what the experience delivers. All up, the scale of the battles in this game works hand in hand with the audio to make the overall package. Top it off with a good sound system and you will forever have unmatchable standards for what you want to hear in a shooting game.
As you may have noticed, I didn’t have much to say that could glorify the single-player effort DICE has given us (which I may add clocks in at around 5 hours), while I had not an ill word to speak about the multiplayer. Truth be told, that’s the way it should be though. Battlefields real value has always been within its online component, and Battlefield 3 continues this trend. With hundreds of hours of playtime before you have actually managed to unlock all the extra goodies for your character and gun, as well as the quality to match up the sheer quantity the price tag pretty much pays for itself in value-for-money as long as you’re not after another shameless FPS to join the legions of others plaguing consoles around the world. It has so much more than other online shooter offers, and one of the only genuinely unique and unforgettable experiences you can have over Xbox LIVE.
It’s taken an awful long time, but DICE have finally delivered Battlefield 3, the true follow up for the famous franchise that we’ve been waiting for. Suffice to say, it has managed to exceed all doubt about the direction of the game and delivered the Battlefield experience that only a true Battlefield game can. There is so much content in the multiplayer side of things, and it’s all given out at such a high quality that any FPS fan will never tire of the online. While it was disappointing that the campaign turned out to be just another lump of mediocrity for the market, its failure pales in comparison to the success of the multiplayer. Not worth a dime if you are an offline gamer, sorry to say, but I would advise changing your mentality if you aren’t thinking of giving this one a shot.
AAG SCORE: 9/10
+ The Battlefield experience
+ Terrific audio
+ No shortage of content
– Terribly disappointing single-player
– Slight shortage of maps
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott