Battlefield 3

Published on October 25th, 2011

Battlefield 3

There’s rarely been a campaign like it. No, sadly we’re not talking about ′s rather plodding and pedestrian single-player story, or its equally uninspiring coop. No, we’re talking about the relentless, all-encompassing marketing campaign that has forced DICE’s threequel down people’s throats for most of the year with a rumbling dub-step swell and a tsunami of teal and orange.

When you put that much into selling your game before it’s out, the final product better deliver. So, does Battlefield 3 live up to its promise as a COD killer? Well, yes and no.

After months of snippets and vertically sliced demos, Battlefield 3′s single-player is pretty disappointing. Well, it should be disappointing, but in truth, this particular reviewer never really held out much hope for DICE to nail a story-driven FPS campaign. What we’re given is a beautifully lit, sporadically pretty sub-COD linear blast, with seriously suspect enemy AI, perfunctory shooting, some dodgy QTEs and a few skilfully designed but cliched set pieces.

It’s fine and perfectly playable, even if the enemies are simultaneously too stupid and too accurate, but its middle-of-the-road nukes on the loose plot and meticulously interjected dramatic moments are just not as good as the competition’s. Call Of Duty isn’t exactly pushing boundaries, but this just comes off as a pale imitation.

It all starts reasonably, with a flashback story structure giving snippets of some rubbish about WMDs, while justifying your skirmish-hopping, character jumping selection of missions. The first proper level is a real showcase for Frostbite 2′s monstrous lighting capabilities, as you and your marine buds sneak through an Iraqi city. Fears that the 360 wouldn’t be able to handle the game’ demands are pretty much unfounded, too. Bar the odd shaky framerate drop and a couple of dodgy textures, it’s basically a slightly duller version of those amazing promo videos. Highly impressive. As long as you install the 1.5GB texture pack of course. Otherwise it looks like a PS2 game. It just never gets your blood pumping, though.

The coop campaign isn’t much better. Obviously these things are always more enjoyable when blasted through with a companion, but it’s still corridors, men and guns, and not exactly representative of what Battlefield actually is. It feels like a DICE that’s copying a formula it’s neither comfortable with or enamoured with, and it shows.

Thankfully, and predictably, all that big-budget scripted nonsense is actually pretty irrelevant. As long as you’re aware that this is a game about large-scale online warfare, bustling with vehicles, loaded with drama and boasting better balance than the guy from Man On Wire, then you’re in for a endlessly giving ride.

Battlefield 3′s thunderous multiplayer feels like the result of a decade’s hard work, research, refinement and, of course, raw talent. The Swedish gunsmiths have been head and shoulders above the competition since day one, but already it’s clear Battlefield 3 is their crowning achievement. It scales magnificently, whether you’re soaring through the skies in a jet (before ploughing it into a mountain) or mashing an enemy’s cover in a fiercely tense close-quarters firefight, there’s never a dull moment. If Call Of Duty is a McDonald’s quarter pounder meal, then Battlefield 3 is a succulent fillet steak. Both taste good, but you know what’s better for you.

Ostensibly, it’s 24-man war, played out with three squads of four soldiers battling each other for territory (Conquest mode) or the frontline (Rush). What makes it tick, though, is a simple but perfectly realised class system that brings together medic-pack hurling assault soldiers, vehicle-repairing engineers, baddie-spotting snipers and heavy-duty support staff. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Everyone can shoot, everyone can rack up kills, but only teams who utilise their specialist abilities will succeed in the long run.

In truth, though, the real beauty of Battlefield is in its moments. In only a short time on its packed servers, we’ve seen the type of unscripted madness unfold that Hollywood would pay millions for. Sprinting through corrigated iron huts as a tank tears through them with its shells, battling for ten straight minutes in one room in the Paris undergound, spinning a jet through between two buildings and soaring back into the sky… these are the types of things that happen in every single Battlefield match, and they’re never the same. If you’ve spent time in one of DICE’s theatres of war, then you have your own set of stories to tell. Battlefield 3 is just simply its broadest canvas yet.

So, how do you score a package that varies so wildly in quality? In this case, by focusing not on what the adverts and trailers have been yelling about, but on what this series has always been – the finest multiplayer shooter on the market, anywhere.

Battlefield 3 is a game that will keep on giving for months and even years, a constantly evolving game of digital soldiers played out in arenas crafted by the finest minds in the business. Ignore the me-too shenagigans of the campaign, forgive the misguided coop, and just enjoy what DICE’s overhyped juggernaut truly is – the real heart of the battle.

VERDICT: 90%

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