Battlefield 3Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
2 MB to save game
Online Multiplayer: 2-24 Players
Cooperative: 2 Players
Battlefield 3 has arrived and has plenty to prove as the most hyped shooter in years. With a 6-year gap between Battlefield 2 and this latest installment, fans of the series have been anxiously waiting for the next full battlefield experience. With all of the hype surrounding Battlefield 3, it is clear that DICE and EA are going after that other big modern warfare franchise.
Featuring massive maps, a variety of game modes, the ability to pilot tanks or attack helicopters, and even fighter jets, it is clear that Battlefield 3 is designed to please the online FPS enthusiasts. You don’t have to jump into the multiplayer to figure this out. This is also very evident with the lack of originality of the single player experience. It feels like the majority of development was done with multiplayer in mind and the single player experience was added as an afterthought. While the campaign does have its moments, overall it is the same old generic shooter experience. You play as multiple soldiers throughout the campaign and everything is tied together through an interrogation. Sound familiar? Unlike the Bad Company series, Battlefield 3 takes a very serious tone with terrorist organizations, missing WMDs, and Russian spies. The level design has you funneling through hallways and triggering quick time events where you need to press the button shown on screen in order to advance. While we have seen this sort of things before in other first person shooters, it seems like there are too many of these events in the early stages of the game. For example, early on you find yourself trying to escape an area filled with enemy soldiers after a substantial earthquake. As you crawl through the rubble you come across a rat that triggers one of these sequences, forcing you to press buttons in order to kill the rat silently and remain undetected.
In addition to some unnecessary animated moments during the campaign, the enemy AI seems slightly off. When you enter an area you usually find a bunch of enemies running down the hall trying to get to cover. If you are quick on the trigger you can usually take them out before they get behind any sort of protection. Sometimes they will just be hanging out in the middle of a parking lot making easy targets. It also seems like the enemies don’t really care about your squad members only aim just for you. This can get a little frustrating during a large gunfight with multiple enemies. I found that the normal difficulty setting is actually a bit tougher than other first person shooters. There were times that I got extremely frustrated with how accurate the enemies were and how little damage I could take before death became of me. Although it seems to take ages to reload back in the game when you do die, the game has a solid checkpoint system.
The campaign experience goes beyond just battling it out on the streets. During one of the early missions you walk up on deck of an aircraft carrier, commence pre-flight checks, and take to the skies in a fighter jet. While you don’t actually control the jet you do get an amazing sense of immersion and realism while you lock onto enemy MIGS during intense dogfight sequences. Another mission begins with you rolling through the wilderness in a group of tanks heading to engage a fleet of enemy armor. Missions like these make the single player worth playing and bring different and fresh experiences throughout the usually bland campaign.
Although the vehicle controls do require some getting used to, the game controls in general are well done and nicely tuned. Tanks feel like tanks, and jets feel like jets. Each vehicle has a unique feel to it and this translates well, adding to the realistic feel Battlefield 3 strives for. Additionally, regular infantry combat controls will be familiar to anyone who regularly plays the first person shooter genre. If you like things a little different than normal, the game does allow you to change up some options as well as sensitivity settings.
For the best battlefield experience you need to team up with some friends and join the multiplayer madness where up to 24 players battle it out for objectives on massive maps. Battlefield 3 brings back the classic modes like conquest and rush, while adding for the first time ever in a battlefield game a team deathmatch mode. The maps vary from large-scale environments full of jets and helicopters to tight hallways in an underground subway system. Like previous Battlefield games, you have the option to play different classes including Assault, Support, Engineer, or Recon. Each class has their own set of unlockable weapons and gadgets. This time around DICE has given the Assault class med-kits and reviving capability that keeps plenty of action on the front lines. The support class is now responsible for laying down suppressive fire and handing out the ammo while the Engineers are there to take out enemy vehicles with a range of different rocket launchers. The Recon class is designed for long range sniping and can also be outfitted with some interesting gadgets like motion sensors. In order for a team to be successful in Battlefield 3 it requires a balance of classes helping each other out. The game is very team focused and players can earn experience points simply by handing out ammo and health, or repairing a friendly tank that has been disabled.
What Battlefield 3 does best is allow the players to play how they want. It doesn’t take much time to unlock weapons and attachments suited for a specific style of play. Enjoy high-speed dog fighting in jets? Well spend a few hours in the sky above the battlefield and before you know it your jet can be outfitted with heat seeking air-to-air missiles, stealth, and defensive flares to avoid enemy fire. Would you rather hang back and deliver suppressive fire to help your team advance? Keep at it and soon you will be able to rain mortar shells down on the opposing team. Whatever your play style, Battlefield 3 will reward you with unlocks and experience points. This variety in gameplay makes for a deep and rewarding online experience.
I should note that due to the incredibly large number of class, weapon, and vehicle specific unlocks, starting out can be a little tricky. The weapons you start with require you to get kills with them in order to unlock attachments like a front grip or reflex site. This puts new players at a disadvantage when fighting against others who have unlocked the better weapons and attachments. Likewise, all of the jets are simply equipped with a machine gun until players get points with it to unlock heat seeking missiles and other defensive or offensive options. One might think that as soon as he gets in the cockpit of an A-10 Warthog he will be swimming in XP. This is not the case as there are mobile AA guns on the ground, as well as Engineers with surface to air rocket launchers that can lock on and dish out major damage.
My one major complaint about the multiplayer is the map design. Some are just too large for the number of players. While the PC version of the game allows for up to 64 players, console gamers are limited to 24. On the majority of the maps this is ok, and there is enough action to keep everyone satisfied; however, the problem occurs while playing conquest on some of the larger maps like Caspian Border. I believe that DICE moved the spawns and capture locations closer together for the console versions, but this does not really help. You can end up playing for long periods of time without seeing anyone, making the game slow and somewhat boring. I believe this is why the rush mode is so popular on the consoles. Although you need to get your hands on a vehicle to get to the action, at least you know where it is.
In addition to the standard multiplayer modes, Battlefield 3 includes six co-op missions. These missions cover a wide variety of scenarios including providing cover for teammates with an attack helicopter, sneaking through an enemy warehouse undetected, and providing sniper fire to rescue hostages. Completing these co-op missions can be done with a friend or through a quick match feature that will pair you up with another person hoping to play the same mission. Playing through these missions will also allow you to unlock specific weapons for multiplayer.
I should also mention EA’s free Battlelog service, a social networking type website that allows you to quickly view and compare all of your stats. The site also allows you and your friends to set up platoons where all of the member statistics are tracked and compiled together. Although this service is more useful for PC players, allowing them to launch games right from their browser it is still a great feature for the console gamer who likes to see detailed information on their gameplay. In addition to just viewing kills and deaths, you can see what weapon unlocks are coming up, and how many points are needed to obtain them. It will also display all of the ribbons and awards players have received. The service ties into the main menu of the game, updating a feed showing the accomplishments of everyone that is on your battlelog friend list.
Battlefield 3 is one of the best-looking first person shooters I have experienced to date. Xbox 360 owners with 1.5G of available HDD space can install a recommended “Texture Pack” which enhances detail in DICE’s new Frostbite 2 engine. The graphics really do add a level of immersion not experienced in other shooters. The lighting effects are extremely well done, and with the texture pack installed the environments are rich with detail. Weapons can be outfitted with flashlights or laser pointers and it looks incredible. If someone directs their flashlight or laser at your eyes what you see on screen represents how it would look in real life. One of my favorite effects is down in the subway tunnels of the Operation Metro map. When shooting a rocket through the tunnel, the light from the rocket lights up the tunnel, traveling at breakneck speeds until it explodes. Given how the lighting effects work in the game, I also like to use the sunlight to my advantage while flying over the battlefield. When looking directly at the sun players are blinded and unable to see any enemy jets or attack choppers above.
Although not all of the environments are fully destructible in Battlefield 3, almost everything has elements that can be destroyed. When fighting on the streets of Paris, you will see entire portions of apartment buildings falling down to the street below. If a pilot crashes into a hydro pole or a building you will witness the aircraft break into pieces and scatter all over the battlefield. The tank explosions look very realistic too and the smoke effects look much better than previous battlefield games. All in all things look pretty darn good.
While Frostbite 2 is a step in the right direction, it is not perfect. There are times when players can be seen through walls. I even had one experience during the single player game where an enemy actually walked out of a wall killed me. I have also seen soldiers floating in the air after being killed. Also noticeable is that it takes awhile for the full visual detail to load at time. This usually occurs at the start of a level or when first starting a multiplayer match. Overall however, I feel as though the good heavily outweighs the bad when it comes to the graphical performance of Battlefield 3 on the Xbox 360.
Adding to the graphical presentation, the sound is also very well done. Everything from firing an assault rifle to engaging your jets afterburner just adds that extra layer of realism and immerses you deeper into the battlefield experience. Each weapon has a unique sound and everything down your soldier’s footsteps walking through the subway is spot on. During the campaign I thought the voice acting was well done, making the characters and story believable. Your friendly soldiers don’t say too much or too little. Usually if they are yelling at you it’s because something bad is about to happen. I honestly can’t think of anything negative to say about how the game sounds. Battlefield has always been known for great audio and this time around is no different.
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