Battlefield 3 is one of the top titles of 2011 and a serious opponent to Activision’s Call of Duty series. Where the CoD series started back in the days with frantic singleplayer added with great multiplay, the Battlefield series has traditionally focused on multiplay. Now that DICE’s shooter has added singleplayer and co-op the battle against Activision’s shooter is full-on. Let’s see what DICE have cooked up.
If you’ve only looked at the score and are starting to shoot me down already because there isn’t a big +90% score, beware that we tend to judge a product as a whole, and not on parts.
The singleplayer campaign starts off with you jumping on a train, going from one quick-time event to the next until you suddenly find yourself in a room, being interrogated by a couple of operatives who clearly don’t have the idea you’re a good guy. Through means of flashbacks you go from one action scene to the next, all nicely scripted and with AI partners that tell you exactly what to do. And that’s where things really fail when it comes to singleplayer.
The campaign is actually boring. While Battlefield’s multiplayer has traditionally been very open, you’re constantly confined to doing what you’re told and there’s hardly any freedom available. The third mission, Going Hunting, illustrates this very well. You’re put in a plane as co-pilot and get to press the right buttons at the right time, with some aiming here and there as the supposed icing on the cake. It’s all very cinematic, but on-rails shooting has never really been interesting and it still isn’t.
All in all, the singleplayer campaign bores very rapidly and leaves you with a feeling that it’s little more than an enhanced tutorial which is best used to set your controls.
Co-op contains six missions specifically made for this purpose but although they can be fun, they suffer from the very same overly scripted feel as the singleplayer. Enemies pop up at the same places and times and if you and your partner remember things well, it shouldn’t be much of an issue to progress. I would see it as a snack before you get to the real work: the multiplayer.
This is where Battlefield 3 truly shines and it’s hard to figure out where to begin. So let’s start with the different modes. Of course you’ve got the standard Deathmatch modes which need little explanation, but the more interesting ones are Rush and Conquest. The first has your team destroying or defending objectives, while the latter is all about capturing and holding on “flags” which are also spawn points. Needless to say: Conquest is my personal favorite.
Both teams get in a map and have to conquer positions and while you might succeed on getting one, the opposition might do the same with a flag you conquered not so long ago. This makes the battle evolve constantly and keeps things interesting at all times.
The maps are huge and provide a lot of freedom. Also the balance is quite good with everyone being able to find a role they like. It’s all about team work and providing assistance to the rest of your squad. Even if you’re a noob, you can still make a difference and get rewarded for it: while perfect marksmen make one-shot kills, you can provide suppressive fire and get credit for that. A nice touch that will make sure new players join the fun and keep growing their skills as well.
And growing you do. The new Battelog keeps track of all your actions and as you play map after map, you’ll earn points, increase your rank and unlock new weapons and gear, giving you more and more options to customize your character for each role you want to play. It truly is a magnificent piece of work that will get you addicted and make you keep playing over and over again. And that with up to 64 players without ever giving you a feeling that things are too crowded.
However. As always, things aren’t perfect, not even in the multiplayer portion. The Operation Metro map in Conquest for instance rarely ever evolves beyond a stand-off whereby both teams just pin each other down and keep shooting until time runs out. Quite a disappointment if you compare with most other maps which are open and give plenty of possibilities to circumvent the enemy.
There’s also some minor bugs that we encountered still. Players sometimes get removed from a server for no apparent reason, we at one time even got to see an entire army of opponents suddenly disappear. Also the in-game objectives sometimes have glitches. It’s great that you constantly get to see where flags are and how much distance they’re away from you, but if all of them suddenly end up being positioned right on top of you, you can imagine it’s hard to find out where you’re needed most. Luckily these are only minor glitches that don’t happen all too frequently.
Finally, let’s have a quick word on BattleLog and Origin. Battlefield 3 is the number one game EA is using to get their newly launched online service off the ground but things aren’t as great as they could have been.
First off you install Origin, then you install Battlefield 3, and you have to run both at the same time. And then you also have your browser running in order to have a view on Battlelog. It sounds more complicated than it is in reality, but things could definitely have been simpler.
Why do you still need to become friends in Battlelog with people you’ve befriended in Origin? If you want to integrate, make it fully integrated so there’s no need for duplicate registrations and actions. The same goes for chatting: you can chat on Origin, and you can chat in Battlelog. With the same people at the same time. I know it’s a minor issue and most people won’t be bothered by it, but if your service is so integrated, you can avoid such duplications.
Also, you need to make sure the browser plugin for Battlelog is up to date at all times, as otherwise the game just won’t run. Doesn’t sound very user-friendly and it isn’t. Just like the fact that once Origin fails to log you in automatically, it suddenly forget your login details, eventhough you marked the “remember me” option.
Battlefield 3 is without a doubt the best open multiplayer game of the moment. The huge maps, the vehicles, the vast customization and almost perfect balance in every map are proof that DICE know how to create an experience that has no equal. If only they hadn’t focused so much on trying to blow Modern Warfare away and implemented an underwhelming singleplayer campaign and co-op, then Battlefield 3 would have easily scored a 10.