"Giving a Whole New Meaning to Cyber Warfare"
Between its legacy of glorified multiplayer and heart-pumping campaigns, giving a game from the Battlefield series one overall review score is like calling a hydra a dragon. In my opinion, there are just way too many factors for one overall grade to encompass it all, and it is as if Battlefield 3 deserves separate scores for its multiplayer component and story mode. While the overall experience of BF3 is nothing short of breathtaking, when breaking it down into its components you start to see a couple chinks in the armor.
Before getting into gameplay, developer DICE deserves a standing ovation for its Frostbite 2 engine. DICE built this technology specifically for Battlefield 3, and it's glorious. The graphics and audio are a one-two combination that truly takes you off the couch and into the action. From the crumbling skyscrapers to dust collecting on your visor to the smooth character animations, this is as immersive as it gets when it comes to pure graphics. And this is based on my experiences on the Xbox 360, so multiply the accolades by 10 for you PC gamers out there.
DICE's new engine gave them the toolset and firepower to approach the sounds of war in ways I haven't really seen yet in video games. This is especially true when it comes to gunfire. Popping off a couple rounds feels scarily gratifying, and each bullet chasing after your character whistles and pops as it zips by. Seeing the technology of Battlefield 3 on a console makes me wonder if we'll ever even need better console hardware in the future.
If BF3 were a marine, its primary weapon would be the online multiplayer, while the campaign would be its sidearm. Both "weapons" pack a punch, but you really don't want to lean too heavily on the sidearm. Battlefield 3 offers virtually unlimited gaming playability via its online experience. Competitive modes include BF mainstays like Rush (team-based attack / defend), Conquest (capture and defend control points), and of course Team Deathmatch. Developer DICE also brought back squad-based modes for tight-knit teams to flex their muscles.
All of the aforementioned modes are valuable to the experience and compliment each other well. The maps all offer sprawling environments with their own identities. I've experienced very minimal lag, and my biggest pet peeve, bullets that don't actually hurt your target, seems to be a thing of the past in Battlefield 3. Upgrades are given out at a steady clip, and there are enough weapon attachments to keep you perfecting your character classes for months.
For those of you patient enough to learn the touchy controls, you can head to the hangar to pilot jets and choppers. Honestly, what more can you ask for in multiplayer? Sure, you'll bounce your aircraft off the ground a couple times before getting the hang of it, but isn't that a part of the fun?
Battlefield 3 also includes a short and sweet online co-op mode clad with blissful tandem missions and a story that parallels the main campaign's narrative. The co-op won't last long, but DICE gives hits all the sweet spots of a full-fledged game in bite-sized missions. You'll take to skies as the pilot / gunner of a chopper, creep through buildings on a covert retrieval and extraction mission, defend a convoy in what plays like Halo: Reach's Firefight mode, and much more. Initially, I was disappointed that BF3 didn't have full co-op for the main campaign, but DICE put together a gratifying co-op package that doesn't only have high replayability, you can unlock weapons for competitive multiplayer.
As is always the case with FPS games, finding the right balance between the main campaign and multiplayer components is important, but the vast majority of gamers interested in BF3 snub the story mode so they can jump into multiplayer lobbies. I am part of the small contingency that always boots up the campaign before joining the throngs of gamers for online multiplayer. Unfortunately, I found the story mode of Battlefield 3 to lack a certain spark I saw in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The maps seem to be really tight and a little too guided. But, even worse is the A.I. There seems to be way too much scripting. For example, I wasn't able to shoot some enemies perched in a building in the distance because they were part of a sequence that came up after I hit a certain checkpoint. Also, when I fell behind the scripted flow of a mission, I sat back to shoot some enemies only to find that they auto-spawned an enemy in the same exact spot (with the same exact animation) every three seconds. To be frank, I expect more from DICE at this point.
That being said, the narrative of the campaign is engaging and fresh. We relive the story told by main character Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn in a series of playable flashback segments as Blackburn recounts his mission to save a MIA squad. He's being debriefed by some pencil pushers showing a clear disgust and grudge with Blackburn. The gameplay is tight and there are some valuable set pieces, but at the end of the day Battlefield 3 sticks to what DICE does best: online multiplayer.
Are the shortcomings of the story mode in Battlefield 3 enough to keep you from spending your cash on the game? Absolutely not. But, even with the extra development time, DICE kept pretty close to its tried-and-true formula of a multiplayer-heavy experience, which in my opinion is a disappointment. Story mode could be considered either a glorified gameplay tutorial or as an engaging campaign with a unique narrative. But, in a couple weeks when the story mode is old news the focus will shift even more heavily on the multiplayer modes, and BF3 has the technical chops to keep me logging in for the foreseeable future. DICE has thrown all its weight into the multiplayer, and it truly covers all of your needs for online gaming.
GameDynamo's Score for Battlefield 3 (PS3)
John loves gaming and loves writing about games. He wants to become a known voice in the gaming community and a game designer one day.
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