The 360 has no shortage of first person shooters, so for one to really stand out from the rest it needs to really shine. Battlefield 3 came out around a year ago now and was the latest in the series from DICE and they have brought a very tidy package to the table that has plenty of high points to talk about. I’ve decided to take it off the shelf and give it a review to see how well it stacks up.
The first thing you will notice when you open up your copy of the game is that there are two discs – the first is the multiplayer disc and the ‘HD Content’, while the second is just the single player campaign. Now being more a single player gamer I figured I would start with the campaign, and here’s the list of things I had to go through to be able to play the game – first, download a 167MB update, then because I got the limited edition had it download the back to Karkand map pack (another 2GB), and then let it install the HD content from disc one to the HDD (which it prompts you about in-game) – which is a whole lot of stuff to get through, so be prepared the first time you fire the game up!
Putting it bluntly – the single player campaign in this game is ordinary. The story revolves around a plot for a terrorist to detonate a couple of nukes and kill a whole lot of people, but it is pretty hard to follow, you keep swapping characters and coming back to one main guy for cut-scenes that give a loose narrative that is supposed to hold it all together. As you get towards the end a few of the dots start to connect up and make a bit more sense, but then you get hit with a fairly lacklustre ending, and all that after well under 10 hours of gameplay. This is not a game you want to buy if you are only interested in playing single player.
Single player bashing aside though, this game more than makes up for it with what it brings to the table in the multi-player side of things. It doesn’t take long-playing online to pick up on the fact that this is a very well thought out game has had a lot of effort poured in to it. The maps are very well thought out, the character classes (solider, engineer, assault and recon) provide plenty of different strategy options that all play out well, and the whole experience is exactly what you would expect for this type of game. There are a few different game types (rush being my favourite) to pick from as well, and with up to 24 players in each map there is a steady flow of chaos and fun to be had by all.
One thing that does become immediately apparent to you when you begin playing this game though is that it looks nice – very, very nice. The Frostbite-2 engine that DICE have put together to run the game on is nothing short of outstanding. The environments all look incredible and are just great fun to run around. The lighting effects were especially well done, but every element of the game visually just feels very polished.
The audio work the game has also had an immense amount of attention to detail put in to it. The voice acting throughout the single player campaign is nicely done, you’ll usually hear plenty of your team mates talking throughout the battles, giving little bits of feedback to you as well as the general yelling and shouting you will expect during combat. Then when you get yourself into a tight spot you will hear ever bullet fly past you, every explosion will blow your ear drums out, and as you hide behind that concrete pillar you’ll hear every part of that concrete hit the ground as the guys trying to kill you keep shooting at it and it falls apart.
All in all the game brings a lot of impressive features to the table. After hanging out playing online for a little while though I did find myself looking for some people who were a little more casual to play with, which from what I could see didn’t exist. Searching through the server browser I literally couldn’t find a single unranked server for any type of game, which left me on the very competitive servers with guys that were either in their own party chats and playing as a squad, or other people who didn’t have headsets or just didn’t want to turn them on. Being the more social gamer that I am I did struggle with that a little, but that didn’t stop me from seeing just was a treat this game is for that audience who want to be the best of the best in first person shooters.
And for the gamer who wants to be the best of the best, what better way to stay on top of that than with statistics. battlefield 3 has a website called BattleLog which allows you to log on and track all sorts of stats and figures from each of your games. The site uses your login to Origin (if you’re new to Origin or the old EA servers, just make sure you sign up with the email address that is associated with your gamer tag) and will pick up the soldiers your play with and you can view the individual stats from there (for me I actually saw both my Xbox account and my PS3 account from where I was playing at a mates house over Christmas). All these stats aren’t for show either – it tracks all sorts of ways to unlock new weapons, accessories and other upgrades for your characters as well so there is plenty of stuff to unlock.
The visuals, the balance of the maps and game modes, the sounds and overall feel of the game do make it one of the best options for that serious multiplayer experience – just be sure that’s what you are after when you pick this one up otherwise you might not get the most out of this one.