Release Date: 10/25/2011
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The Good: Amazing new graphics engine, battle ambiance is very realistic sounding, story is decent, campaign nails atmosphere, lots of guns to use, multiplayer is a blast with the new deathmatch mode, maps are designed superbly
The Bad: Campaign doesn’t have many intense scripted moments, campaign can be very hard most of the time, requires a completely new rig to run on ultra settings
So the military shooters march on and seem to bring with them new multiplayer ideas, updated graphics, and at least trying to make more realistic and tenser single player campaigns. Battlefield 3 drops the Bad Company name and picks up off the original name. It has nothing to do with BF2 or that line in the series, but keeps the Bad Company multiplayer, so it mixes it up a bit. BF3’s single player mode gives you a taste of the new graphics engine, Frostbite 2, as well as a chance to test out some guns. The story is actually interesting with a couple of plot twists but nothing sophisticated. You jump around different people trying to find a portable nuke that was stolen. You go from the Middle East to Russia, to a few other parts of the world, and BF3 tries throwing a few new things out there.
The characters are good and the voice acting is great, but you won’t get much out of a military single player campaign. The campaign nails the atmosphere with lots of explosions, the excellent Battlefield ambiance is back and sounds more realistic than ever thanks to the new engine. The campaign does lack the scripted cinematic set pieces we grow to enjoy in these types of games. There are a few such as the earthquake in Iraq, the beginning train scene, and the jet scene in the middle of the game, but the rest is just running a gunning through open terrain and buildings. The pacing is good, but I wanted more action and some more scripted sets to make the campaign feel more punchy. BF3 does add some detail that other military shooters haven’t done such as great animations. One scene has a Russian jet shooting your squad down. Running from cover to cover and ducking shows your character sliding into cover and falling down like you actually would if you died. Getting up is just as great to look at because you stumble out of being prone so it feels so real and awesome.
The graphics are probably some of the best ever seen so far. Being on the PC the game is DirectX11 only so you get just some amazing lighting, excellent looking textures, and the most realistic water I have ever seen. The lights and coronas off the sun and flashlights blind you, everything reflects like it would in real life. Plus the sound is amazing and is actually useful in multiplayer because distance makes a difference in sound here. Gun fire sounds different at different ranges rather than just quieter. Bullets whip and whizz past you with realistic sounds, gun fire sounds incredible and the explosions look too real. The game does require a seriously (like within the last year) powerful rig to run because there’s no DirectX9 option here.
While the graphics are really the only major thing going for the campaign it is nice to play and has some replay value just to look at everything alone. The difficulty is all over the place and some spots are just extremely tough and you can die very quickly in this game. This isn’t a run and gun arcade shooter like Modern Warfare or other military shooters. My only other complaint is that the game doesn’t recognize gamepads very well even the Xbox 360 controller which most games have a built-in standard. I did notice the mouse and keyboard felt better because it seems the game was built around these controls.
The multiplayer is where the money’s at and BF3 delivers with new modes and some great maps. Using EA’s Origin client you get a browser-based experience with filters and all the greatness of using a PC. The new mode is deathmatch which is greatly welcomed and back are Rush and Conquest. This time you get to play on large maps which can hold 64 players and it really does feel like a battlefield. The new maps are great and deathmatch is addictive, but DICE refined the unlock system. You don’t get perks, but you do get to add things to your loadout like an infinite sprint, defibrillators, med packs etc. It does take a long time to start unlocking good stuff and you’re stuck with crappy load outs. Weapons have no scopes (except the sniper rifle), plus you only get one main weapon per class to start with. Be patient and wait to unlock scopes for rifles, stick to close range combat and just tough it out.
Using vehicles is back, and standard, on Rush and Conquest, and while these remain the same, they never get old. The new engine helps make the online fights feel bigger and badder with the sound coming into play, plus shooting down boats and helicopters with 4 guys in a tank never gets old. I didn’t find any stability issues and EA is constantly updating Origin and the browser experience for online play so just stick with it and enjoy them. Battlefield 3 may not deliver a riveting single player, but the new engine and excellent multiplayer will keep you hooked. You can also jump in for a co-op campaign ride, but you will come back for the multiplayer thanks to the slow, yet steady unlocks which make you feel like you truly earned them.