[Editor's Note: For the PC version of Battlefield 3's multiplayer component, follow through to the end!]
The Battlefield series has always been on the forefront of PC first-person shooters. Since 2002, DICE has continued to build upon their legacy with more depth and more detail. In the beginning, these games were solely multiplayer releases. When Battlefield: Bad Company hit consoles, it brought with it a very open campaign that stepped outside of the normal FPS formula of “run down this corridor, shoot a bunch of guys, continue on path”.
With Battlefield 3, let’s first address the much-overlooked fact that this is not Battlefield: Bad Company 3. The story is its own, and while the multiplayer builds on what the Bad Company series brought to the table, this game has no relation to the Bad Company side-series.
That said, let’s get down to business. DICE has added a full suite of game modes to the Battlefield series, including a campaign, a co-op mode and of course, the multiplayer portion. The co-op mode takes you and a partner on a series of six missions with varying objectives. Whether it is fending off a few waves of enemies, or sneaking around in the dark in a very stealthy manner, these missions offer players to play with a friend in a tag-team manner, instead of at each others throats in competitive play.
While they are nothing spectacular, and don’t offer much replay value (unless you want to improve your score, or get a few mission-based trophies/achievements), they are fun the first few times. I especially liked the night mission, where me and Kyle Baron (an Editor here at Vagary.tv) snuck up on people and placed our shots at the same time to take out both enemies at once. During these missions, your score is combined, and adds to your co-op progression, which then unlocks different guns to use during co-op play. Again, while I find this mode a fun addition, it is not going to be the focus of my gameplay, and besides mopping up trophies, I didn’t enjoy this THAT much to distract me from the meat of the game.
The single player campaign is a little tricky. DICE tried to make an epic, cinematic experience, but failed to grab me from the beginning. The plot revolves around a team of Marines who have to save the day. I don’t do plot reveals, so you’ll have to trust me to leave it at that. The characters are bland, and having no personality, it’s hard to get drawn into what is going on. The only thing I enjoyed about the single player campaign is the graphics. DICE does a damn good job showing off the Frostbite 2.0 engine.
Somehow, the design choice to include quick-time events made it past the drawing board and into Battlefield 3. To add to the cinematic feel of the single player, it’s understandable why as you do hand-to-hand combat and rappel down buildings. However, the inconsistent implementation just feels flat sloppy. One mission, you press X (or O, I forget) to rappel down a building on a rope, but a few hours later, you are greeted with the same type of scenario in the form of a simple cutscene. And when you get to the hand-to-hand combat scenes, the button prompts in no way match the actions going on screen, which makes the whole scene feel loose and of no value.
All-in-all, I understand the inclusion of a single player campaign, and while I think it was thrown together just to add the bullet point on the back of the case, it in no way interferes with why this game was developed. When it comes to these small handful of big-name shooters, gamers spend 8-12 hours in the campaign (if they even choose to play it), and hundreds in the multiplayer. Battlefield 3 is one of those games.
I shouldn’t need to touch on everything, because there was an open beta recently. I will go ahead and clear the air. A LOT of things have been fixed, and the game runs smooth for the most part. There is some lag here and there, and I know it’s not just me at that time. And the mics actually work for me now, but the quality is so broken at times it makes it hard to enjoy. The squad system on PS3 is also finicky. You can invite a friend to your squad before you launch a game, try to hop into a game, and nine times out of ten, one of us will end up in separate squads (if not the opposite team, or not even in the same game!).
While these issues are serious, there is also a lot of promise (and a lot of those will probably be fixed, but I’m not figuring that into the scoring process) and a lot of great things. The maps, in typical DICE fashion, are fantastic. The small maps are usually bigger than most big maps in multiplayer FPS’, with tons of room to cover. I don’t know how else to describe it than they just have that DICE feel. And nearly every map I have played in a Battlefield game has been a good map.
None of the major changes (the class switch, prone, weapon progression) affect the balance or flow of the game. The weapon progression is a promising feature, and probably one of the things I am most excited about, and it also makes up for the smaller selection of weapons. But out of all the things different and new in Battlefield 3, suppression fire is probably one of the most game changing.
The LMG has gone from a close-quarters, room-clearing, non-reloading nightmare to a devastating weapon at any range with a whole new skillset on the field. All weapons take advantage of this though, which is a marvelous thing. I will fire a chamber full of shotgun shells at a distance after marking a foe just to make them hide while I get to a better vantage point. It gives tactical players a new layer to play with, and I love it.
I could go on and on about the changes and how I love the multiplayer, but the fact remains that as of this writing, the multiplayer still isn’t fixed as it should be on PS3. I can live with a pretty-but-blah campaign, as I spent $60 on the multiplayer, a portion of the game I will spend hours playing. But if you are looking for a deep co-op experience (six missions is anything but deep), or an amazing single player effort, this game is probably not something worth your time. But if you want epic battles, a great class/weapon system, and the kind of teamwork and tactical choices Battlefield players have come to expect, you can’t go wrong here.
Pros: Rush game mode, Squad Deathmatch mode (my personal favorite), great multiplayer, amazing visuals, new weapon progression system
Cons: not many co-op missions, tacked on single player, less stats than BC2 stat screen, broken squad system (PS3), mic quality breaks up from time to time