Nov 7, 2011

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Review: Battlefield 3

Review: Battlefield 3

Believe it or not, the Battlefield franchise has been around longer than that of its biggest rival, Call of Duty.  However, these franchises have been able to co-exist because their respective gameplay is so different.  While many feared that DICE would alter the way Battlefield 3 played to lure some of the Call of Duty fan base away, it turns out that this was not the case.  Battlefield 3 is the definitive shooter on the market right now.

While the multiplayer experience is where Battlefield 3 truly shines, its campaign will provide enough variety to make at least one play-through worth it.  Spanning 11 missions, the campaign will last approximately six hours on “Hard,” which is a fairly standard length now.  Players control four different characters throughout the single-player: Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn, Sergeant Jonathan Miller, Lieutenant Jennifer Hawkins, and Dimitri Mayakovsky.  The game focuses on Blackburn being questioned by the CIA in New York City.  While the actual story is fairly standard, the missions that comprise the story and the way it is told make it enjoyable.  Players will observe the CIA’s questioning of Blackburn, with each mission acting as a flashback.

There is an impressive amount of variety in the campaign, and players will be tasked with operating tanks, causing mayhem in a F/A-18 Hornet, getting caught in open-field battles, running through alleyways, surviving shootouts with the police, and providing sniper support for the soldiers on the ground.  DICE served up a lot in the single-player campaign, and it would be unfortunate for someone to miss out, even on the easiest difficulty.

Still, chances are people are playing Battlefield 3 for the multiplayer experience and to see the Frostbite 2 engine on full display.  Almost half of the fun in the campaign comes from the visuals.  The desert has never looked as beautiful as it does when Sergeant Miller is rolling through it in an Abrams tank.  The PC version of this game is simply remarkable, and its console counterpart is also impressive for consoles.  Battlefield 3′s environments can get shredded to pieces in both the campaign and online, and it is easily the best destruction in any video game to date.  It is important to note that DICE has removed “Destruction 2.0,” yet failed to replace it with a 3.0; still, online it’s entirely possible to make a building collapse on an enemy or your teammates.  The deserts, cities, ambient backgrounds, rooms all look amazing.

The multiplayer component is far and away the most compelling component of Battlefield 3.  Out of the box, the game has nine multiplayer maps that can be played in five different game modes.  Returning modes include Rush, Conquest, Squad Rush, and Squad Deathmatch.  The new addition to the series is Team Deathmatch, which is an obvious appeal to new fans who generally only play Team Deathmatch-style modes.  From my time in the multiplayer experience, however, the addition of a TDM game mode has in no way hampered the number of players in Battlefield‘s classic Rush and Conquest modes.  There is a lot of fun to be had in all of the modes, but Rush and Squad Deathmatch still taste the sweetest.  Nothing is as satisfying as blowing up seven of the eight total M-COM stations or winning a four-way Deathmatch between squads.

Gamers are sure to find something that pleases their palate, as Battlefield 3 offers a great variety in terms of maps.  While there will be plenty of time to catch some sun in the desert, the multiplayer experience also offers close-quarters combat, such as Operation Metro.  For no other reason than the cliff diving required to advance in a Rush match, Damavand Peak is sure to be a fan favorite.  Kharg Island and Caspian Border are sure to please a lot of people who enjoy solid tank battles and dogfights, but still have a lot to offer the ground troops as well.  The other maps are Tehran Highway, Seine Crossing, Noshrar Crossing, Grand Bazaar, and Operation Firestorm.  In December, those people buying the “Limited Edition” of the game will also have access to the four classic maps Strike at Karkand, Gulf of Oman, Sharqi Peninsula, and Wake Island from Battlefield 2.