The video game world’s been gun crazy for who knows how long. Shooters have taken the industry by storm and heavyweights like Battlefield 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) prove there’s no stopping the genre’s stranglehold on the market. The Battlefield line’s been known to break barriers with every release so the latest in the series has some tough acts to follow.
BF3 campaign features three playable characters: Sgt. Henry Blackburn, Sgt. Jonathan Miller, and Dima Mayakovsky. Blackburn recalls his, his squad’s and the others’ efforts under an CIA investigation to stop Solomon, a maniacal terrorist bent on obtaining and setting off nukes throughout the world. Set pieces litter the story and you’ll wield multiple vehicles and weapons. At the same time its extremely linear, has odd quick time events and never gets better than “alright.” The thrill’s gone after its roughly 6 hour trek and the co-op missions, while mildly entertaining, don’t add much value.
Now let’s get to what Battlefield built it’s name on: multiplayer. BF 3 isn’t an all-about-you kill streak fest a la Call of Duty: making it essentially different and not universally “better.” Battlefield games always encouraged strong team play over individual triumph. Rush, Conquest and their smaller variants return from previous games along with Team Deathmatch: a first for the series. TDM’s an underwhelming “new” addition since BF3’s older siblings introduced more creative gametypes. Eh, it’s there if you want it.
Anyway, BF3’s main modes prioritize scoring and capping objectives over your K/D ratio. You have multiple ways to accrue a huge score by resupplying, healing as well as reviving teammates, repairing vehicles and bucking folks among other duties. The game’s quite flexible in letting you contribute as best you can. For instance, I can’t shoot to save my life but I’m good at facilitating things for my teammates as a Jason Kidd in arms. Also it’s in your best interest to play with your friends. The game’s sharp learning curve makes going solo, especially as a BF rookie, not recommended. Such rings quite true in the PC version’s beginning stages as it lacks voice chat outside of created parties. However, as soon as you get some pals together, you’ll improve quicker and maintain constant communication with your crew. Playing in a good squad makes a world of difference for the better and being a part of a game changing unit pays dividends in close, hectic matches. Such “Battlefield moments” on top of blowing up tanks, parachuting out of helicopters and dog fights with jets really sell the game and put it in top class when everything’s working.
Oh, speaking of the PC version, my experience with Battlefield 3 online has been as smooth as Aubrey in a Cosby sweater. DICE have a long history of botched launches with the franchise and BF 3 is no different. A recent patch meant to cut down on crashes and disconnects but they still occur. Also the battlelog site, EA and DICE’s new social networking portal tied to the game, is quite temperamental. It features the best server browser BF has seen yet but it’s overkill to have to use a web browser on top of Origin to play a resource heavy game. The web approach is different but isn’t necessarily better than having all the options and information appear in the game. Plus, unlike the console versions, you can’t edit your loadout until the game loads from battlelog: making item management needlessly annoying.
You’ll also find that, if you’re interested in the PC version, the product’s a sheer work horse. For instance, and excuse the neckbeard speak for a second, I’m on a first gen core-i7 with 4 gigs of RAM and a ATI Radeon HD 4 series GPU. The game runs pretty well on med-high in 720p but takes forever to load. The game’s war torn locales looks great and are definitely a cut above the competition with large, descriptive environments with destructible buildings. Yet it’ll definitely make you reconsider upgrading your comp just to make it run that much smoother.
Silly oversights across all platforms somewhat bring things down. You party will oftentimes get split up when you join new servers. The Frostbite 2.0 engine lets you topple massive structures with explosives yet you can’t put a dent in, say, an empty train car. The larger 64 player maps occasionally feel claustrophobic and tactical flashlights, at least for now, can still blind you in the daytime. The aforementioned patch weakened a few guns for the better but IRNV scopes and tactical flashlights are still overpowered and annoying respectively. Also, BF3 employs a tired leveling system. You have to trudge through the ranks to get your desired gear instead of simply using XP towards specific items. The default weapons aren’t all that powerful and, unless you’re adept at shooters, you’ll be at a disadvantage as many of your foes will have better equipment.
Battlefield 3 has many hurdles just to get to the good stuff. It’s also not as groundbreaking as its predecessors despite rocking impressive visual. Still, throughout all of the nonsense, I’m having great fun playing it online. I wouldn’t call myself a glutton for punishment as any other game with similar flaws would get the axe. But its intense gun battles and vehicular combat make it really worth playing if you’re interested in team-oriented shooters. Now notice how I said play rather than must buy. I can’t recommend copping BF 3 for PC at full price yet since it’s still relatively rough. The console version reportedly touts a smoother experience with more convenient weapon customization even though reports of disconnects have sprung up. Try to rent it if you can on those systems or play it at a friends house, then cop it later after EA and DICE smooth things out in the coming months, as usual.