Review by CLLi

"A year after release, still an awesome game."

Well, here's a review of the game a year after its release. If you are looking to dive into this game, it's not too late! There is still a good population playing and two DLCs left.

Campaign and Co-op - 4/10
For those unfamiliar with the Battlefield series, singleplayer is something that is recently introduced by the Bad Company (2008) series. The series story focuses on a squad named "Bad Company" that runs into the battlefield armed with guns, grit, and plenty of wit. Battlefield 3's campaign focuses on Staff Sergeant Blackburn and his actions associated with the terrorist, Soloman. The missions are important flashbacks of events experienced by Blackburn, Sergeant Miller, Lieutenant Hawkins, and a GRU operative, "Dima". Though these characters do not interact with one another, their experiences all connect and lead to the game's climax.

The character models and voices in the campaign are based on real life people, but that doesn't necessarily bring the story to life. The protagonist Blackburn seems apathetic towards his actions and the antagonist Soloman's motivations are farfetched. The best character development is in Dima. His journey and struggle in the story is captivating and realistic. The game even ends slightly on a cliffhanger involving Dima.

Onto the gameplay and graphics of the campaign. The graphics are no doubt very nice. They are actually much better than the multiplayer counterpart. To get the most out of the Frostbite 2 engine, you would need a good computer rig, but even on the Xbox, you can notice its beauty. The gameplay is however extremely scripted. The developers made every enemy spawn, every “tactical” movement, and every exploding car the same every single time. Your teammates are useless, the guns are limited, and there are user-input timed events. The vehicle missions are also extremely limited. In the tank, you only get to drive and fire in a very linear level. And in the a jet, you are responsible for firing the missiles. While the singleplayer does have some unique moments like using the JDAM and calling in A-10s, it's very brief and too easy.

The co-op features six levels where you and a friend can go through missions. These missions are about 8-10 minutes long and have three difficulty settings. Like the campaign, the firefights are extremely scripted and there isn't much room for creative play. There are a couple missions where teamwork is vital and if you do not work it out, you will be forced to restart the mission. The real reason to play co-op is to unlock guns that can be used in multiplayer.

Graphics- 10/10
One of the primary marketing points of this game is its graphics. The developers did a tremendous job with this aspect. The playable area of this game looks like the background of some other games. Along side of the beauty of the landscape, the game has to render character movements, vehicles, explosions, projectiles, and particles. This comes at a price. On the PC, you would need a very nice computer to fully experience the graphics, but then the performance drops, thus making competitive player more difficult. And since this is a multiplatform game, the developers had to design for the much less powerful consoles. You have an optional graphics package to install to the harddrive of the console (highly recommended) and even then the graphics only compare to the low settings on the PC. But to compare graphics on the PC to the console isn't fair; how does Battlefield on the console compare to other shooter games? I would say it does very well. It is quite a feat considering most maps are 5 times as large as other shooters.

There are some reasons why this category is a bit lacking, despite me giving it a perfect 10. Firstly, the game is multiplatform and the consoles are shafted in the graphics department. It is simply a hardware limitation reason. Second, there are sometimes rendering errors. With maps so large, it's difficult to get every rock and its collision box perfectly aligned. Every game has funky moments where graphical screw-ups can cause a laugh and Battlefield is no exception. Other than these few errors, the graphics of the game are superb.

Sound - 8/10
The sound design is completely amazing. Every action has a sound component: shooting a gun, reloading, driving, flying a jet, walking and even crouching. Simple things like the Doppler Effect makes the jet fly-by just 30 feet over your head a thrill. When someone fires a 7.62x51mm at you, you will hear it. I have played this game with absolutely no HUD and it is amazing how much information you can gather by just listening and not relying on the usual visual aids. And there is also the voice acting of the characters to consider: when you give orders, when an ally asks for ammo, when a grenade lands by you, when you're getting suppressed, and the ever comical, when you kill an enemy with defibrillators.

The reason for the 8/10 is because there are still sound bugs. The time I'm writing this review is after many patches and there are still moments when my sound cuts out. Such hard work for a great sound design and my game has no sound. Though this happens rarely and it is only for about 30 seconds, it still detracts from the game. It was much, much worse when the game was released.

Gameplay - 9/10
This is the bread and butter of any shooter. The Battlefield franchise has always been a multiplayer game and the focus for Battlefield 3 is no different. The game features up to 64 players on one server on the PC and up to 24 players on the consoles. Again, the hardware limitations hold the console ports of the game back. Game modes include the classic conquest mode, rush, and deathmatch. There are nine maps that range from the streets of Paris to a tall mountain peak in Iran. The downloadable content adds more weapons, maps and game modes.

Let's take a look at the weapons and vehicles in the game. The game comes standard with 60+ weapons and gadgets and 30 something unique vehicles. For each gun, there are unlockable attachments awarded by getting kills with it. For the vehicles, most major types have unlockable gadgets awarded by getting points with the vehicle. The attachment combinations for the guns offer personalization for each map and gametype, as do the vehicles. Dice has made each gun in Battlefield behave in a distinct manner. And how much they resemble their real world counterparts is surprising. Newer players may struggle in playing against veteran players who have already unlocked good attachments and gadgets for the weapons and vehicles. You can purchase a shortcut for unlocks, but that's just EA trying to reap in more money. The vehicles come with no instruction manuals and the singleplayer/co-op do a poor job of introducing them to you. For the first 2 hours in any vehicle, the experience will be the same; get excited to use it, get shot at by unknown adversary, die, or in the air vehicle experience, crash into something immediately and explode. The learning curve is steep, but once you learn how to use the vehicles, they become much more enjoyable and rewarding. I mean, they are a staple of Battlefield games. Since the game's release, many weapons and vehicles have been patched to balance the game. Even some core game mechanics have changed since the release. It is important to keep updated with these patch notes or else you might just be wondering why that Stinger missile hit your chopper. Kudos to Dice patching the game once in awhile, but the changes are drastic. Not to mention, sometimes the patches create new glitches in the game. This leaves casual players bewildered and disadvantaged next to the players who actively follow patches and server side fixes.

The maps! You have some infantry only maps, you have small maps, you have maps catered toward air warfare and you have maps that you tried once and never again. Maps are generally very large for Battlefield, but the area of play is different depending on whether you play on PC or console, or if it's Conquest or rush or deathmatch. Conquest let's you explore the entire map, capturing flags at critical points. Rush consists of a certain area of the map with objectives to destroy with new areas opening up after each completed objective. Deathmatch is just a small section of the entire map reserved for infantry combat. Many things on the battlefield are destructible, thanks to the Frostbite 2 engine. To name a few: trees, fences, walls, certain buildings, cars, and gas tanks can get destroyed. The destruction is not as sweeping as the Bad Company series, but I am not a complainer. Who wants to play in a big field with nothing but tree stumps and piles of rubble as cover? Everyone has their favorite maps and their hated maps.

Another big aspect of BF3 is teamwork. It is difficult to play as a one-man army and you are not rewarded for doing so. The team size may go up to large numbers, but they are divided into squads. You can work together as a squad to complete objectives you set for yourselves. Everything you do as a squad is worth more points than not doing it with a squad (e.g. resupplying squadmates is worth 20 points instead of 10). With multiple squads on each team capturing and defending objectives and working together, you can imagine the coordination required. On the PC, you can use 3rd party software to have VOIP or use the keyboard for communication and on the consoles, you can use the built-in VOIP. Despite these tools, it is difficult to join a random server and expect everyone to work together - it is their game after all, so people are entitled to play the game however they like. You are better off making friends and having a squad set up coming into the game if you are going to play more seriously. The beautiful thing about the point system is that everything is scored, not just kills. You get points for repairing, reviving, capturing flags, defusing bombs, being a driver in a transport vehicle, suppressing enemies, laser designating targets, and the list goes on. You could get a horrible kill/death ratio, but you could get an MVP award for being such a great team player.

Downloadable Content - 8/10
There are a total of five planned DLCs for Battlefield 3. Three have already been released and the other two will be out by March 2013. These DLCs offer new maps, weapons, vehicles and game modes. Along with each DLC is usually a patch to fix the bugs in the game. There is an option to get a “season pass” for the DLC, which Dice has called Battlefield Premium. Premium offers users to initially purchase all the DLC at once for a reduced price. Other perks offered with Premium include strategy guides, exclusive trailers, early access to DLC, server queue priority, weapon camos and a new knife. These things do not alter the gameplay in anyway. If you plan on getting all the DLC, Premium is definitely worth it. But if you want to decide on each DLC separately, you could do that as well.

Each DLC so far has been received with mixed reviews. Back to Karkand includes four maps from the previous Battlefields and 10 new weapons. Close Quarters features four small indoor maps, 10 new weapons, and three new game modes. Armored Kill features four giant maps, new vehicles, and one new game mode. The two remaining DLCs, Aftermath and End Game, will probably offer new maps and weapons/vehicles.

Now to discuss the compatibility between those with and those without DLC. If the player has that particular map, then they can join it. That's it. All the DLC weapons carry over, so even vanilla players can pick up a kit with a DLC weapon and use it. DLC vehicles and game modes are limited to maps that belong to their respective DLCs so there is no way vanilla players can access those. Dice has given vanilla players quite the generosity in this aspect. Most other games keep the original game and DLC content quite separate.

Conclusion – 8/10
Battlefield 3 is a beautiful game that offers tactical gameplay with weapons, vehicles and giant maps. Battlefield games are known for their grandiose maps and vehicle gameplay and their newest installment delivers. It is by no means a perfect game and it has its fair share of poor designs, exploitable bugs and rowdy online players. But it is just a game and offers many ways to have fun, whether that is running around with a shotgun, piloting a jet, gunning in a tank, shooting rockets at helicopters, C4'ing every building in sight, sniping from 500 meters, or just reviving downed teammates. Whatever you like in a shooter, I'm sure there is weapon, map and game mode combination to suit you.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/26/12

Game Release: Battlefield 3 (US, 10/25/11)

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