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Gaming Review

'Battlefield 3' review (PS3)

By
Released on Friday, Oct 28 2011

Battlefield 3 screenshot

© EA


Also available on: PC, Xbox 360
Developer: Digital Illusions CE (DICE)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: First-person shooter

Battlefield 3 has been feverishly hyped as the Call of Duty killer (not least by EA itself), but in a sense it is a very different beast. Despite EA insisting that Battlefield 3's campaign would be a shining light in military first-person shooters, the reality is that it churns out all the familiar Call of Duty clichés in a linear parade, albeit one that looks stunning and is fun to play through.

Thankfully, though, Battlefield 3 comes with a seriously world-class and totally distinct multiplayer game that fits with the series tradition of epic warfare on a massive scale, and provides a challenge matched by few other shooters. In addition, a suite of co-operative modes are engaging and support fresh tactics, although it would be better if there were more of them. This game may not be the slayer of Call of Duty, but that's probably missing the point anyway - instead, Battlefield 3 is a hugely worthy game that any online shooter fan should pick up.

Battlefield 3's multiplayer excels by taking a more open, almost sandbox approach to online warfare that majors on player-led tactics and exploration. Whether it's ruling the skies in jets, raining down fire in an attack chopper, or stomping the ground as a grunt; the game always makes the heat of the battle challenging and enjoyable. Battles unfurl on huge maps in a variety of rural, urban and military locations that are beautifully recreated and designed.

The console game has been slimmed down slightly from the PC, including the cap of 24-player matches and modified maps (the PC game also has better visuals, of course). But the console version is still incredible engaging, competitive and expansive; recreating virtual warfare on a scale that few other online shooters are able to match. There are also some great new ideas, such as an in-game server browser for console matchmaking, which enables players to easily locate the exact type of game that they want to play (particularly useful as EA was having problems with the Quick Match at the time of writing).

Vehicles are the biggest differentiating factor about the Battlefield series and they are just as crucial in Battlefield 3, whether it's assaulting a target or simply moving around the huge maps. The rewards and progression incentives are spot on in Battlefield 3, making it consistently rewarding to put in the hours and always feel like you are moving forward.

All the core classes - Soldier, Engineer, Assault, and Recon - have different skills and unlockable advantages that are essential for the fight, meaning the process of levelling them all up is a must. And just like a kid in a candy shop, the next reward or unlock is dangled like a delicious treat, well worth earning your pocket money to afford. But for all the individualism, Battlefield 3 is all about being part of a fighting force waging large-scale operations against the enemy.

From the Battlefield staple Rush mode to the new addition of Team Deathmatch, the game encourages people to help out their teammates not only by racking up the most kills, but also by assisting in others areas. Heal a teammate, get a damaged tank back into the fight or resupply a sniper team, and you are rewarded appropriately. This means you can top the scoreboards simply by being the best team player, regardless of how times you have perished in action.

The game has various features to encourage team play, such as multi-passenger vehicles, squad support and target spotting. This all adds up to a genuine feeling of being in a war with many others, ready to help out and change your tactics towards the greater good. The fact that the game is individually rewarding a the same time is a testament to developer DICE.

The expansive, open and highly customisable fighting in Battlefield 3's multiplayer is in stark contrast to the single-player campaign, which treads a familiar path of linear scripted action and clichéd storytelling.


Think of all the most tired and obvious military stereotypes and they are all here - nuclear warheads, international terrorists, Middle Eastern conflict zones, murky Russian involvement and a crisis that threatens the very future of the world as we know it. Sergeant Henry Blackburn is at least a vaguely interesting and multi-dimensional character, but he inhabits a world portioned out with the cookie cutter. Just how many more times are games like these going to use the interrogation-flashback structure to tell their story? Is this really the best we can expect?

You know the formula - the game unravels in stages as you are interrogated about some mystery incident. It was an innovative approach at first, but that was a long time ago and Battlefield 3 stumbles blindly into overly familiar territory. The vehicle sequences are well constructed and fun, but there are not enough of them and the lack of free control feels like a let down. Battlefield is so intrinsically linked to vehicle-based warfare, but only a sequence driving a tank through the desert features full control and other missions, such as in a fighter jet, relegate you to the gunner seat.

There are way too many quicktime events and they all lack any real punch. The button prompts feel imprecise, making these moments unnecessary breaks from the action. One particular section stands out the most, but it is difficult to discuss this without giving away the story.

But despite these criticisms, there are a few positives to cling onto. The campaign admirably attempts to introduce some sense of moral quandary and reflect the many grey areas involved with international military operations, particularly against trans-national terrorist groups. There is a stronger sense of realism and threat to the story, making this feel more true to the subject matter than Call of Duty.

Battlefield 3 is also a stunning looking game thanks to the Frostbite 2 engine. The character animations are fantastic, while the lighting and shadow effects add extra dimensions, from the shafts of light spearing through broken windows in the back streets of Iran, to the billowing spray kicked up around an aircraft carrier. There are a few bugs, such as characters popping through walls and various screen tears, but not enough to completely ruin the experience.

Alongside the single-player and multiplayer modes, there is also a co-operative game that adds an extra dimension. The co-op is based on the main campaign story, but takes its lead from the engaging gameplay approach of the multiplayer. These six missions again focus on teamwork, but this time on a much smaller scale than the multiplayer. Working with a teammate throws up a range of great tactical options, such as one person flanking while the other draws fire.

One mission puts you in control of an attack helicopter, the only time outside the multiplayer where you can practice your skills in a chopper. Unfortunately, a few of the unsatisfying quicktime events from the main campaign bleed through to the co-op game, which can lead to a few frustrating deaths. It's also a shame that the co-op is disappointingly brief, adding only around three or four hours to the six to seven hours that it takes to beat the main campaign.

Overall, Battlefield 3 is an excellent shooter that makes up for the shortcomings in its single-player campaign with exceptional multiplayer modes and a solid co-op game. The campaign falls down by trotting out the usual clichéd events and action sequences - military shooters in future simply must do something different with single-player, because the end-of-the-world international terrorism scenario is getting remarkably tired.

But the lack of sparkle in Battlefield 3's campaign is offset by engaging and addictive large-scale multiplayer battles that have few equals, along with a co-op game that is thoroughly enjoyable while it lasts. Comparisons to Modern Warfare 3 are going to be inevitable, but it is impossible at this stage to know if Battlefield 3 is a better and more successful game. It seems clear, though, that the game's online multiplayer will give Activision's 1,000-pound gorilla a serious run for its money this year.



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