Reviewed: November 6, 2011
Released: October 25, 2011
Battlefield 3 comes across almost as three separate games, and only one of them is going to keep your attention for long. Even though the campaign is linear and follows too closely in the footsteps of other modern shooters, and even though the cooperative play is very short, Battlefield 3's multiplayer is the best you can find on the market. So good, in fact, that I'm about to take a break from writing this review to sneak a match in.|
Whoo, that's good stuff.
The core of Battlefield 3's multiplayer is its four classes, slightly reworked from Bad Company 2. The assault carries medkits and defibrillators, the engineer specializes in repairing and destroying vehicles, the support brings a heavy machine gun and ammo boxes, while the recon sports a sniper rifle and the ability to set down beacons for new spawn points. While each of the classes is fun to play and differentiated from each other, it would have been nice to see a list on respawn of how many of each were currently on your team.
Each class also comes with a series of upgrades, whether it's the engineer's explosive-clearing drones, or the support's claymores. Playing each class unlocks new gadgets for them, using each class's primary weapons will add new attachments and parts to tinker with gun specifics, and playing at all will level you up as a player, leading to an array of features usable as any of your classes. The only part of this system that's counter-intuitive is that the American and Russian sides use different weapons, making it so that your weapon upgrades as one faction don't carry over to the other.
The game is split between Team Deathmatch, back for the first time since Battlefield 1942, Conquest, which mirrors pretty much every territory control mode ever, and Rush, where the attacking team is trying to push through a number of ever-more-defensible positions while the defenders try to hold them back. While all the modes are good, Rush has some of the most iconic and memorable set pieces in multiplayer, including a section where the attackers need to launch an attack from an air base set on the side of a mountain to an installation below. And, of course, this being Battlefield, leaping off of the side of the mountain and parachuting into the middle of the enemy base is an option.
Of course, vehicles are still an integral part of Battlefield. With tanks and military automobiles to attack and assault helicopters, amphibious troop transports, and landing rafts, each varying between the American and Russian factions. Gone are the days of chasing after a jeep as someone speeds off alone, since you can now spawn in any vehicle currently being driven. You still need to worry about someone flying you into the ground or driving into an ambush, but at least you'll be a passenger instead of an observer when it happens.
If there's any fault in the multiplayer, it's that there's no boot camp or tutorial to get you used to how things work. Whether it's learning how to fly a plane, let alone be battle-effective in it, or figuring out that the anti-air rocket launchers won't fire at ground target seconds before you bounce off the hood of an enemy HMMV, there's hardly any lead-in for the game. While the single-player does handle this with short side-levels where you pilot vehicles, it doesn't go far enough, and it would have been more worthwhile to have those pulled out of the campaign and treated as proper tutorials.
The cooperative game mode is solid, if short, but the proper campaign is so derivative, and so far from the rest of the game, that it seems almost like it was accidentally included from another game. A Frankenstein's Monster of a story, featuring militant Russians, a nuclear threat from the middle east, and a story framed by a soldier being interrogated, it feels like they just decided to put a few Call of Duty games in a narrative blender and call it a day. The writing and acting is good enough, but the lack of originality, combined with the extreme linearity, and some bizarre gameplay decisions (I'm no enemy of quicktime events, but having to button mash to take out a guy in melee doesn't belong in the same game as a multiplayer mode where you can pull the kinds of stunts Battlefield's popularity is built on) left me cold.
Battlefield 3 deserves to carry on the name of its franchise, and it wouldn't suprise me to see it still being played in years to come as Activision keeps churning out its annual Calls of Duty. It's great to see games being designed for the PC in this day and age, and the pace, atmosphere, and level design is neigh-perfect. When a multiplayer game's only downfalls are slight inaccessibility and a mediocre single player campaign, there's something terrific happening.