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FraggedNation Battlefield 3 Review

Article Rating: 10 / 10

FraggedNation Battlefield 3 Review

The Battlefield series is known for it's intense, addicting multiplayer. Does Battlefield 3 deliver?

Posted by Craig 'CraigAAMember Rating: Honorable' Andersen on Tue, Nov 01 2011 at 04:21am

Games in the Battlefield series have always been highly regarded for their intense competitive multiplayer, and Battlefield 3 lives up to that reputation. The large-scale battles online are consistently exciting with sniper bullets flying right over your head, tanks and helicopters pushing through the front lines, and walls that once provided valuable cover being blown into rubble. Battlefield 3 gets it right where it counts and that is a good thing, as the strength of the multiplayer overshadows the shortcomings of the other modes on offer. While it is unfortunate that these shortcomings exist at all, making the game hard to recommend to anyone without an online connection, most can easily be ignored after playing just a single match against human opposition.

The story follows Sergeant Blackburn as he shares some his past exploits to a pair of C.I.A agents inside an interrogation room. It seems a madman by the name of Solomon is planning an attack on New York and only Blackburn knows anything about him or his agenda. As the sergeant recalls his past operations, you flashback to play out the events that he is unveiling, sending you to various locations around the world until you figure out how Blackburn became privy to information about this impeding disaster.

Battlefield 3 delivers a narrative that attempts to be engaging and get you emotionally invested in the situation, but largely fails at both. This is a story that has been told before, and told better. The sense of deja vu is evident throughout with familiar moments that have little to no impact, and most characters are given such little personality that it is unlikely you will care about any of their fates. Dialogue, whether being presented in-game or in the interrogation scenes that bookend each mission, lacks any type of spark and is full of action cliches. Nothing about the plot is outright bad, but without a sense of individuality, it is sure to lose your interest long before the credits roll.

While the story may not keep you hooked throughout the five to six hour campaign, actually playing through it provides some enjoyment. Even when playing alone, Battlefield 3 does an admirable job of making you feel like you are part of a grander conflict, typically having you fight alongside numerous friendly A.I. squad mates, although in reality your buddies act as little more than window dressing as you clear out the bad guys single-handedly with tight and responsive shooting controls. Numerous quick time events pop up from time to time that not only feel out of place here, but do not provide any sense of tension or excitement. To mix things up a bit, a few levels place you in the seat of a vehicle, specifically an on-rails sequence in a jet and an assault through a desert with a battalion of tanks. Each of these levels offers a welcome change of pace from the constant running and gunning, but both tend to drag on for a bit too long. The campaign also suffers from it share of bugs, such as solider banter getting stuck on an endless loop or A.I. phasing through a door, leaving you stranded on the other side. While there is some fun to be had, the single player portion of Battlefield 3 is largely forgettable and mainly succeeds at being a suitable way to get yourself acclimated to the controls for online play.

A cooperative mode is also available for those who want to blow away some A.I. opponents with a friend. Similar to the Special Ops mode introduced in Modern Warfare 2, the six missions on offer last around fifteen minutes and borrow assets from parts of the campaign. Each will have you and a buddy doing a variety of tasks, like providing sniper cover during a hostage rescue, attempting to defend a position from an onslaught of soldiers, or piloting a helicopter with one player at the controls and the other manning the weapons to provide air support to ground troops. These individual missions are certainly fun, providing thrills that even surpass those found in the single player, but there is little incentive to keep you coming back to them. The game attempts to encourage repeated plays with a small number of weapons that can only be unlocked by playing the cooperative stages over and over again, but aside from that, the mode acts as an enjoyable, but short-lived distraction.

Unsurprisingly, it is the online competitive multiplayer where the meat of the Battlefield 3 experience lies. The game ships with nine varied maps and a handful of games types that fans of the series are sure to be familiar with. While standard Team Deathmatch is available, Rush and Conquest are where you will spend most of your time. In Rush, one team attempts to arm objectives with explosives while the other team defends. If both targets are destroyed, the battle presses onward with a new portion of the map opening up revealing more objectives to eliminate. In Conquest, the mode that has largely defined the Battlefield series, teams fight for control of multiple flags around the map with captured flags acting as spawn points for whoever holds them. Whichever team runs out of tickets, which indicate how many spawns either side has left, loses. Each mode offers hectic large scale battles and while the console versions of Battlefield 3 only support up to twenty-four players as opposed to the sixty-four cap on the PC, you always feel like there is a lot going on.

Aside from the intense infantry combat, vehicles are available on most maps and play a major role in battle. Jeeps and APCs are great for getting some of your teammates back into the fight more quickly, while tanks provide major firepower allowing them to blow holes in just about anything they see. Helicopters and jets are also present to provide air support and, in the hands of a skilled pilot, can turn the tide of a battle, although controlling them takes quite a lot of practice, so do not be surprised if you end up crashing head first into a mountain your first few times at the controls. Aquatic vehicles are uncommon and feel under utilized. Few maps have them and those that do have very little use for them aside from getting troops to the front lines. If you are hoping to mount a major assault from the water, you are going to be disappointed.

There are four classes to choose from and each has their own uses. The Assault class acts as a basic infantry unit with the ability to drop health packs that heal those around him. Engineers are best for taking out vehicles as they come equipped with rockets and can also repair any friendly vehicle that gets damaged. The Support class is able to resupply teammates with valuable ammunition. Finally, the Recon class specializes in using snipers and can drop radio beacons that act as spawn points. You always feel like you are contributing to your team, even if you spend an entire round without firing a shot. It is just as satisfying to help out your team by providing valuable repairs or supplies, although these aspects can be ignored if you would rather just shoot the opposing forces. As you play as each class, they level up to acquire additional equipment. For example, the Assault class gains a defibrillator that can revive downed soldiers, and Engineers are given anti-tank mines.

A similar unlock system applies to weapons. Continually using and doing well with a specific firearm provides attachments for it like silencers, various sights for long and short-range encounters, grips to reduce recoil, and laser sights among others. Battlefield 3 gives out these rewards at a steady pace, driving you to play just a little bit more to unlock the next item on the list. Players who are dedicated to obtaining every last unlockable will certainly have a long road ahead of them.

Multiplayer consistently provides heart-pounding moments and is sure to eat up hours of your time, however the experience is not entirely smooth. Teams are split up into multiple four-man groups known as squads. Members of the same squad can spawn on one another, allowing you to jump right into the action. You and your friends can party up before searching for matches in an attempt to be part of the same group, although often the game will fail to accomplish this task. Friends will appear on the opposite team or fail to connect entirely, even if the match has slots available. In addition, occasional server issues will cause matches in progress to drop and using quick match to find a session can require multiple attempts. Most of these problems are merely annoying and can usually be overlooked as the experience of actually playing online against others feels great, but they happen often enough to become irritating at times.

While those with a beefy PC are sure to see the best Battlefield 3 has to offer in terms of presentation, that does not mean the console versions are slouches in this department. Battlefield 3 constantly impresses with detailed environments and gun models, great animation and gorgeous lighting. Whether you are fighting in the scorching desert sun or an overcast city, the visuals are certainly eye catching and small touches, like flashlights pointed in your direction effectively blinding you, are appreciated. Unfortunately, the quality of the visuals also makes the blemishes stand out more. During the campaign, enemy soldiers will pop into existence right before your eyes, dead bodies will instantly vanish or behave oddly based on the angle they are being observed from, and the game with occasionally hitch, which can throw dialogue out of sync. Since most of your time will be spent online, many of the issues found in the single player can be overlooked, but they do serve to take you out of the experience. That does not mean that online play is completely without issues, as body parts clip through objects in the environment regularly, especially when players are in the prone position. 

The Frostbite 2 Engine makes a return and allows for destruction on a sizable scale with walls of buildings crumbling, trees being shot down, and pieces of cover being blown apart. Not everything is destructible, with some walls being immune to anything you throw at them, buildings rarely completely crumbling to the ground, and a few seemingly indestructible sign posts, but the amount of destruction is still impressive overall. It should be noted that on the Xbox360 version of Battlefield 3, there is an optional 1.5 gigabyte installation for a high-resolution texture pack when booting up the game for the first time. The game can certainly be played without this install, but the quality of the visuals suffers greatly with jagged, blurry textures severely detracting from the experience. The difference truly is night and day so it is recommended you free up the space for the install if possible.

By far, the best aspect of the presentation in Battlefield 3 is the sound design. While voice acting is solid, mostly held back by the generic script, and the sparse music the game supplies is well done, it is all the ambient sounds and how they come together that truly shine here. Gunfire from each weapon packs a punch, deafening explosions let out a massive roar that can be heard from long distances, bullets are heard soaring just overhead, all as soldiers scream out orders and other information over all the chaos. All of this comes together to immerse you in a hectic environment that effectively keeps you on edge through just about every encounter.

Battlefield 3 delivers in the area fans were hoping for most; the multiplayer. The incredible sound design and objective based game types nail the feeling of being part of a massive conflict and the various class and weapon specific unlocks provide an enticing dangling carrot to keep players hooked for months to come. If you have no intention of enlisting in the online battleground, then there is little reason to pick the game up, as the campaign is short and lacking any real thrills. But if you are looking for an intense online experience that is sure to keep you coming back for more, Battlefield 3 has you covered.

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