It’s a bit challenging to review a game that suffers from such the dichotomy that Battlefield 3 suffers. Set in the near-future of 2014, the campaign plot is terribly cliché, involving the repeated formula of Russians, terrorism, impossibly bad-ass protagonists, and somehow always being the center of the action in a widespread conflict. The multiplayer, however, is one of the deepest, most satisfyingly exhilarating outings I’ve ever played.
As I said before, the single player is rather stereotypical, taking major cues from the Call of Duty franchise, and stepping away (disappointingly) from the Bad Company 2 formula. By this, I mean that instead of wandering vast set-pieces, dispatching enemies to your liking and utilizing player choice, Battlefield 3 does what the Call of Duty series is known for: scripted, marginalized action. Quick-time events, choke points, and lack of exploration all plague the Battlefield formula I grew to love with Battlefield: Modern Combat 2 and the Bad Company series. These games set before you objectives in a massive area (usually), and let you accomplish your goals in whatever manner you see fit. With Battlefield 3, however, choice is a thing of the past: almost every single level is very linear. Now it may sound like I’m making the campaign out to be something utterly wretched, but this is not the case. While it isn’t up-to-par with Bad Company 2’s great campaign, it is well above average, and starts to wrap things up and become interesting toward the end. You start out like a standard marine, and nothing seems too special or different from most modern war shooters, and indeed not much is. Reluctantly, this problem persists for the first half of the game, but soon (after an outstanding chase mission) the plot hooks you, and you actually start to care about what’s happening, rather than shooting at masses of dumb AI. Speaking of which, the AI isn’t very intelligent at all. They use cover, but miraculously that never seems to cover their heads, and they all die with the same amount of shots. Essentially, they’re the same thing, dressed up in different outfits and sporting different weapons. This tends to make the campaign less immersive, especially when you can clearly see how artificial and uncreative these AI really are. Going forward, the graphics, sound, and controls are all incredibly stellar throughout the entire package. The graphics really shine in the campaign though, giving some of the best textures I’ve ever seen in a videogame (supposing you have the HD content installed if playing on the Xbox 360). You’re setting up a mortar at the beginning of one level, and on your way down a hill, there are randomly assorted rocks. In sheer curiosity, I went to it to judge the textures, and these rocks (yes, I know, they’re just rocks) had the best textures on anything I’ve ever seen in a videogame. They were absolutely photo-realistic from any angle and magnification. The ending leaves a little to be desired, but is very exciting, delighting the player with intense scenes and a thrilling finale. It certainly makes up for (at least partially) the mediocre first half. Minor complaints: some dialogue is meant only to set up certain levels, an unnecessarily breathy protagonist, occasional cheap deaths, and some rare frame rate hiccups.
The multiplayer in Battlefield 3 is almost masterful. Just to get some annoyances out-of-the-way, the sound cuts out shortly occasionally, and lag is present on the servers now and then. Beyond that, though, it’s almost perfect. I love how open-ended it is, differing vastly from the single player, with dozens and dozens of unlocks to acquire, a long, long journey to the level cap of 100, and a massive amount of vehicles and options to approach any situation, this multiplayer is something that you actually want to play. I’ve always criticized Call of Duty: Black Ops by saying that if it weren’t for the currency and the rewards, the game would bore because the gameplay isn’t anything special, and it’s been done time and time again. Battlefield 3, on the other hand, says to you “Go, my gamer, and taketh the enemy’s head with any and every tool imaginable!” And so heads are taken. There’s also another great aspect of the multiplayer, and it is how the game rewards you for experimenting and doing essentially anything. Rather than scores being dictated by kills like the Halo and CoDs of the world, you are rewarded for myriad reasons, ranging from repairing allied vehicles, healing allies, laying down suppressive fire, and even to having teammates spawn on you. It’s very rewarding, on top of having incredible gameplay and being very balanced, thus adding up to be one of the best multiplayer games I’ve ever played. On Rush Mode, though, I feel as if certain maps heavily favor equipping a Recon Kit if you want to get kills, and of course you’re going to have douche bag teammates that don’t care about winning or losing, but only value their ever-so-precious K/D Ratio, so they sit back, camp, and rarely ever aid the team’s efforts at capturing M-COM Stations, or taking out vehicles. The community will develop, though, and gamers will become more skilled and effective at the tasks handed before them in time. Overall, the multiplayer is my favorite of the year, and second-favorite of all-time.
There is also a Co-operative mode, where you and a buddy can team up and execute a select few missions inspired by the campaign. These missions aren’t nearly as addictive as the Multiplayer, but they are a very nice way to play with a friend, chat a bit, and kill some mindless AI in entertaining scenarios. Also, I should add that it is a bit more fun than the single player overall, but there are just too few levels to keep me long enough, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to replay them too many times.
An above-average single player that ends up being thrilling and rather good, one of the best multiplayer offerings ever made, and a surprisingly good Co-op mode with too few levels. You’ll blaze through the 6-8 hour campaign, frolic through the Co-op levels, but set up a permanent residence in the amazing multiplayer. I really do wish DICE would have taken more influence from their own formula, rather than take such heavy impressions from the Call of Duty series for their single player, and I do wish there were slightly more Co-op maps, but given that including the phenomenal multiplayer, this is a very, very solid package well worth the money, and is full of content (hell, it’s so much that it had to be put on two discs!). There is simply nothing on the market like this (aside from distant relations to Bad Company 1 & 2), and if you’re looking for a new type of shooter that isn’t all about twitch-reflexes, or jumping 20 feet in the air repeatedly, then this tactical, team-oriented shooter is the game for you.