Let’s not waste any time screwing around here. Battlefield 3 is one of the most anticipated games of the year and at the same time one of the most hyped up. Building a reputation early on in it’s development for having incredible graphics and following up on the highly successful Bad Company 2, DICE and EA certainly had a lot of expectations to live up to.
Let’s not pretend what you’re here for…Battlefield 3 is all about the multiplayer. There’s no doubting that, and that is without a doubt where most players will spend most if not outright all of their time. However, the game does boast a full single player campaign and I would be remiss to not discuss it. The story is told in a series of flashbacks with the main character you play as for the majority of the game being interrogated. Something big is going on, and you were a large part of it.
This actually serves as a nice framing device and lets the action jump around as needed without having to worry about explaining why you were just in France but are now in America. I won’t go into too much detail on what the story actually entails but let’s just say it’s not going to be surprising you a whole lot. Terrorists are in action, you’re going to stop them, crazy stuff happens and lots of dudes get shot. It’s all told in a pretty decent matter though it is very straight forward.
The story is decent, though nothing to write home about, but that’s OK because it does a wonderful job of serving its true purpose which is to get you from one set piece to the next. If you’ve been following the game through development you already know that these scenarios are all huge and awe-inspiring, with the first level culminating in a freaking building falling around your character during an earthquake. Go big or go home is the motto here.
If there’s one thing the core Battlefield games have a reputation for, it’s a smooth mix of vehicular and infantry combat, and that returns in full spades even in the single player campaign though with mixed results. The first vehicle you’ll fly during the campaign is a jet, and while this sounds incredibly awesome it was honestly a little bit of a let down. Things start off awesomely enough and while the stellar presentation is persistent, the gameplay during this segment is a little bit of a letdown since it’s basically a shooting gallery. You just play the role of the gunner, which leaves you just pointing and clicking A from time to time.
One of the things I feel the campaign handled very well was the situation of respawning enemies. They’re used fairly sparingly, and only in points where it would make sense for reinforcements to arrive. While you’re defending the front of a bank, the streets will constantly swarm with enemies as you wait and survive the required amount of time. But clearing out an office building, after you kill everyone there that’s it.
This is a tricky thing to handle and a lot of games seem to have trouble finding the right balance between endless respawns triggered and stopped by invisible tripwires and a set number, but I think Battlefield 3 did a very admirable job of this.
The game also features a co-op mode which is less of a campaign and more of a set of different stand-alone missions available for you and a partner to tackle. All of the same strengths and weaknesses of the single player campaign are present in this mode and while it works wonderfully well in its own right and is a great addition, there’s not a whole lot to talk about.
One particular level has earned itself a decent reputation as “that level” in the game already, which involves piloting a helicopter. Well, it does for one of you: the other will be manning the guns. You’d better hope your pilot was paying attention, or else you’re going to be staring at that loading screen a lot. Lets just say that owning a mic is pretty much a requirement for a successful co-op experience.
Lets not kid ourselves though…while Battlefield 3 made an admirable effort at a single player campaign that’s full of huge epic moments, intense firefights and a story that while not the most original thing ever is told in an interesting manner and well put together, that’s not what everybody is here for. No…Battlefield 3 is very much about the multiplayer, and every shortcoming the game has in its single player outing is made up for in spades online.
Things start out familiar enough if you’ve played any first person shooter in the past couple of years with customize-able load-outs, though they’re limited to different classes so you only get four different choices at any given time. Thankfully you can tweak and edit these at any time during the game, so if you decide that at one point of a map you want to use your Mortar but then find yourself spending all your time inside, you can change that for the Claymore at any given time. Don’t like that new scope you just unlocked? Take it off the next time you die. A small thing but a wonderfully welcome change that could stand to be used more often.
The biggest difference from Battlefield 3 to any other shooter on the market right now will become apparent the moment you first take a step on a map and realize just how huge they all are.
The amount of choice present online is going to be overwhelming at first to everybody but the most experienced of Battlefield veterans. I have to admit when I first played the beta I just stood there staring around for a second. A jeep, a tank, and a helicopter all sitting there, with the nearest objective 500m out and the furthest what seems to be a full days walk away? Things will be shaky at first, but once you start getting into the groove you won’t be able to turn the game off.