Battlefield 3's graphics engine is incredible, its multiplayer addictive
Electronic Arts have made it abundantly clear they're going after Activision and Modern Warfare; the prize fighter in their corner being DICE's Battlefield 3. With a massive marketing budget and over-the-top production values, Battlefield 3 will attempt to usurp the FPS throne from Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare with promises of a ‘real-as-hell' single player experience, a tremendously powerful graphics engine (Frostbite 2) and multiplayer the likes of which have never been seen before. But has it succeeded in the said usurpation? Well, the single player is largely a “been there, done that” experience sprinkled with occasional brilliance and the co-op isn't particularly exciting, but the Frostbite 2 graphics engine (which makes real-life look dull in comparison) and brilliant multiplayer come to the game's rescue.
Massive, detailed maps, an arsenal of real-world weapons, vehicles that range from jeeps to fighter jets and up to 64 players in a single game — these are just some of the things that await you online in Battlefield 3's multiplayer. A lot of your success in the game's various multiplayer modes hinges on teamwork, a fair bit of luck and effective use of the squad system. Play solo and you will end up on the wrong half of the scoreboard. The focus isn't entirely on gunning down enemies (it doesn't hurt, though), with equal importance given to capturing points, healing squad mates, repairing vehicles and laying down suppressive fire. Do all of that and you'll rack up enough experience points to unlock the next weapon, attachment or perk. The levelling-up system feels very logical and the game manages to keep things interesting throughout, with just enough incentive for the next big unlock. However, in the heat of battle, you're left dodging bullets (or playing the part of cannon fodder) rather than thinking about how much fun you will have with the ACOG scope that you're two kills away from unlocking. The game is at its best in the ‘Rush' and ‘Conquest' (a Battlefield staple) modes, but modes such as squad and team deathmatch are available to play as well, offering competent alternatives to the likes of Modern Warfare. The game's online service/matchmaking system is a mixed bag. Play on a console and you can jump directly into matches in-game. Play on the PC, however, and you will need to use Battlelog, a browser-based social networking and statistics service from which you can search for and filter servers before joining them. Battlelog itself is sort of like Facebook for Battlefield, which means that you can access it even if you don't have the game installed on your computer. It works great most of the time and the wealth of information and features on offer here are amazing, but it doesn't feel entirely stable at the moment. A browser-based interface on top of Electronic Arts' own content delivery system Origin makes it feel redundant and frankly, unnecessary. It would have been great if EA integrated essential functionality within Origin itself with the optional install of a browser-plugin for extended features. When Battlelog is on top of its game, however, it's brilliant, offering an incredible amount of information and features that Activision promises with its subscription based Call of Duty: Elite service, but for free. Overall, the multiplayer is so good that you'll want to go back to playing match after match even if you're at the bottom of the scoreboard with one kill and a hundred deaths — dying in a videogame has never been so cruel and so much fun at the same time.
Battlefield 3's incredible visual fidelity, addictive multiplayer and social networking/stats tracking service ‘Battlelog' more than make up for its unspectacular single player campaign, lacklustre co-operative mode and other minor annoyances. The game is available on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.