After a year of hype and shots fired at Activision’s Call of Duty series, Battlefield 3 finally hit consoles and the platform where the series made its start – the PC. Does the shooter live up to the lofty expectations of its fans? I take a look at the PC version of DICE’s latest.
If it weren’t for the dead seriousness of Battlefield 3’s single-player campaign, I would almost think that DICE was attempting to parody the Modern Warfare games and Black Ops. We’ve got bad guy Russians, turmoil in the Middle East, and a penchant for bouncing around different characters. If it weren’t for the fact that Black Ops just used the interrogation of the main character as the primary plot device, the Battlefield 3 single-player might have had more of an impact. Instead, I felt an eerie strangeness going down this road again. That, however, is not the biggest problem when you decide to play the game by yourself.
Too often, the campaign felt like it was setting up epic moments only to get mired in something we’ve already seen in other games. For example, my squad is sneaking through the streets of Tehran when a tank appeared on the streets. We dash for a building and make it in the door just as the tank opens fire. There’s a moment where we sneak through the torn up streets to avoid the tank, where I think this could be an epic Saving Private Ryan moment. Instead, we dash out into an open plaza where a conveniently placed anti-tank missile launcher resides. Some standard firing at oncoming tanks later, and it was over.
Similarly, the start to the jet mission created anticipation for something that never developed. Instead of using this mission to create a ‘Battlefield’ experience in the single-player, it turns into an on-rails experience dispensing flares at command and painting targets. There are other problems with the single-player too, including a dependence on quick time events (QTEs) during dramatic moments. This includes an extended finale with nothing but QTEs.
Multi-player Organized Mayhem
If you pick up Battlefield 3 though, you likely won’t do so for the single-player campaign. The multiplayer is the bread and butter of the Battlefield series and the latest is as fun and challenging as it comes; only when it works though.
Battlefield 3 found itself in a perfect storm of issues at launch thanks to a new game engine, the introduction of Origin, high demand, and possibly a rushed release. Logging into servers was hit and miss, getting dropped was not uncommon, and I frequently encountered an issue where the score screen overlaid the deploy screen and got stuck. I was unable to continue in the match and was forced to quit. Outside of these stability issues, there is also a problem with spawning right in front of enemies. I can understand spawning on squad mates and dying instantly as there should be some risk there. However, spawning at a captured base right next to an enemy where I am instantly knifed is far from ideal.
But damn, if running across the massive maps of Battlefield 3 with 63 other players on foot and in ground and air vehicles isn’t a blast. The best part is that I don’t have to be a hardcore killing machine to get a high score in match. Capturing objectives and being a good teammate by healing, providing ammo, providing suppressing fire or just spotting enemies can result in a top 5 score even if your kill/death ratio is borderline embarrassing.
Other games have tried, but nothing can match the scale of the battles and the level of immersion thanks to the next-gen level graphics and sound in DICE’s shooter. It does require a different frame of mind from just about all other first-person shooters though. Trying to run and gun is a quick recipe for death.
Battlelog may be a sore point for some, but I’m still ambivalent about its use to serve as the central catch-all for stats, social networking and launch center for the different modes of play on PC. I am disappointed about the lack of voice chat at the squad level without forming parties through the service. How this is not included in a multiplayer game in 2011 is baffling to me. The consoles versions don’t suffer from that problem thanks to baked-in voice chat but it’s a strange omission for the PC version. The Commo Rose helps but with the commander role removed for Battlefield 3, voice chat — at squad level at least — would be beneficial.
There are also issue with Battlelog’s ease of use as seemingly simple tasks like adding friends to a party is not intuitive or well explained inside the service itself. It also prevents players from being able to go into the game options without firing up a multiplayer to make changes to video settings or key bindings. That’s really not the best time to go messing about with those things.
Surprisingly, the lack of voice chat extends to the two-player co-op missions as well, when not in a party. There are six of these missions in all and I actually enjoyed these much more than the single-player campaign. The missions tie together in a vague separate storyline that doesn’t seem as important as completing objectives that include helping to rescue hostages on a bus and actually flying an attack helicopter in an air support role for an assault on a compound. Like the single-player though, the finale turns into a bit of a downer thanks to a QTE that both co-op players must perform. I also experienced a number of glitches including not being able to open the final door for nearly two minutes after clearing out the room, and the “boss” or “High Value Target” not being visible at all during the final take down.
The co-op missions are one area I hope that DICE explores more of in future DLC, and possibly includes jet and tank missions.
As a gaming product, Battlefield 3 feels rushed, incomplete, and lacking a level of polish that would truly set itself above and beyond other games in the first-person shooter genre. The multiplayer on PC is without peer to be sure. And I know that DICE will eventually fix the server issues and all the various glitches in the game. However, Battlefield 3 suffers from many of same foibles of its targeted competition due to the rush of getting it out first.
Free Thought Finale
On top of the other issues I’ve listed so far, there needs to be more server filter options in Battlelog to include things like maximum ping or choosing a server with a user-selected number of players. The Operation Metro map is just an absolute cluster around the ticket office flag when playing 64-player conquest with the Russian side always winning (at least in the six matches I played on that map). There should be a private/local game option so that players can practice with the helicopter and jet instead of killing themselves within seconds and costing their team an asset and tickets. I’d also like to see the enemy AI in the co-op and single-player spruced up. It’s mostly of the “charge stupidly at the guys with the guns” with no flanking and a noticeably poor ability to take cover.
That said, Battlefield 3 on the PC is the new benchmark if you are looking for a great multiplayer game that looks as spectacular as it plays. Don’t expect much out of the single-player, have fun with the co-op, and look forward to what DICE can do to improve on the game with upcoming patches and DLC.
- Release Date: October 25th 2011
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Platform: PC
- Developer: DICE
- Publisher: EA
- ESRB Rating: M
Our Score: 4/5
Review Statement: A PC version of Battlefield 3 was provided to VGW for review. We will also have a separate review of the console version in the next days.