It is very rare that I am ever given a chance to review a triple A title for free, let alone to have a modern first person shooter on my PC. In this case it was bought for me as a wedding gift, and man is my wife upset about that because it’s not a game she would play. I thought that I would give it a chance (it’s got jets!) and take one for the team with this title. It is known how I feel about the “Call of Duties” and the other “major title” shooters out there. So, under my very cynical eye and magnifying glass, how does Battlefield 3 stand up?

Well, you know you want to click continue reading, knowing my disdain for these games.

The question is, what do I look at first with a game like this? Do I start by talking about the graphics and sound, or do I go into the gameplay and my personal thoughts? Do I give you the background for my hatred of these style games? Man, so many questions and choices to make for this review.

I have a digital copy of the game for PC, because I wanted to make the most out of the gameplay and graphics. After a 13.5 GB download, installation of Origin (which I don’t agree with the Terms of Service but need to install to play the game), and then another 30 to 40 minutes of updating many different bits like drivers and other software, I was ready to play. And it’s here that you find my BIGGEST issue with the game.

In Origin, just like you would in steam, you click on the game and then click on the giant play button to play it. The game loads up and then your web browser comes up. Wait, what? My web browser? I now need to install a plug in for my web browser to launch the game? So after that I am ready to play the game, using a web interface to launch it.

Battlelog

The web page you are brought to is your own person Battlelog, where you have to import your friends from Origin in order to play with them. Yeah, you have to import people from your origin friends list into your battlelog friends list just to play with them. They took the simple, oh look my friend is playing this game on this server lets join them, and turned it into oh they are playing battlefield, okay, lets log into battlelog just to see where they are playing, and then FINALLY click on them to hopefuly be able to join the server they are playing on.

Launching Campaign as well?!?!?

I decided to cut out the middle man as well. I thought that since Battlelog is a website I could just log in and launch the game from there. No, you can’t do that either.  When you click on launch game it brings up Origin and forces you to log into that first. Then you actually have to close Battlelog and then relog into it to play the game.  I’m sorry but this is NOT intuitive and yes, it is my biggest gripe.

I don’t like having to launch the game from a website! This should all be handled within the game, and you should be able to go from multiplayer, to co op, to single player without having to exit the game, but this isn’t the case. The mode you want to play has to be chosen and booted from the website. It’s counter intuitive, and annoying. The only saving grace is that, when you are loading the game and connecting to a server, the game loads in the background allowing you to continue doing what you want to. It doesn’t start until the game is finished loading, and you are about to jump into the action. Alt Tabbing the game also works really well.

Despite those headaches, and the headache that is Origin, which don’t get me started on how if you leave it running it eats up every last ounce of your bandwidth for no reason (there is a reason and that is for a separate article), Battlefield 3 is an awesome experience. In fact I had one of the best first person shooter experiences I have ever had online.

The first thing that you notice is how beautiful the game is. I don’t have a top of the line PC, but I have decent build and the game still looks beautiful. I’m not running on the ultra graphics settings, but I am running in between medium on some of the more GPU intensive settings, to high on others.

The environments are detailed, vibrant and they don’t suffer from realistic “brown” syndrome. There are many other colors on the palate to be found, from the lush green of a small forest nestled into a hill valley with a stream running next to it, to the stark contrast of red and blue shipping containers in a shipping yard. There are plenty of different environments to be in.

The visual effects in the game are second to none either. I honestly think the folks at Dice were paying attention to the other shooters that were released this year, specifically Breach by Atomic Games. The screen blurs, messing up your vision for many reasons like you would expect to happen in real life situations. I mentioned Breach because Battlefield has a similar suppression mechanic that keeps you from being the run and gun war hero. Other interesting effects include the blurring of the screen, whenever something happens to you or near you. If a tank fires a shell into a building that you are hiding in the concussion effect is unreal, even if you were far away or behind something large enough to keep you safe.

To make things even more immersive the developers really paid attention to the sound effects within the game. The first round out we decided to play one of the Co op maps, and I found myself tucked away in a corner taking cover, getting ready to ambush a group of enemy soldiers whilst my partner ran off to draw their attention elsewhere. I peeked out to see how many were out there, and to get an idea of where they all were. I heard the whizzing of bullets past my head; I was freaked out, and didn’t want to stick my head back out there at all. The game is very immersive and impressive.

Most of my play time has been multiplayer and co op. I know that many of our fans here, that are looking at this review, are more curious about the multiplayer aspects. In fact, most people who buy a title like this are more looking forward to the multiplayer game play than anything else.

Why am I following my friend through there?

I don’t quite understand why they add a leveling up system to most of these multiplayer games, but at least this leveling up system has a slew of things to unlock. Not only do you level up in a general sense but you also can level up each of the classes, the guns and the vehicles.. Your class level ups unlock more guns and gadgets specific to that class, and are based on how much you earn as the class. Gun level ups are based on the number of kills you get with the gun, and they unlock different accessories for that gun like scopes, lights, under rails etc.  Vehicle level ups unlock different secondary weapons, and power ups for each of the different vehicle types.

 

Speaking of vehicles, anything that drives on the ground is very easy to control and really fun. You can also have friends, squad mates, or team mates pile into the vehicle to control the other weapons in there. The air vehicles are a completely different story though.  Helicopters are difficult to fly, in my opinion, and I seem to rely on who ever is in the vehicle with me to kill people. The sad part is you don’t get points for just flying the vehicle. The jets are nearly impossible to fly it seems, as there is a 3 part video series on youtube on how to fly them, and despite the fact it was meant for 360 owners it did wonders for me.

Do I blame the controls for the hard to control flying vehicles, no. I blame mostly user error, because I’ve seen some awesome dog fights in the skies. I have also been the victim of a few helicopter attacks that leveled buildings.  Though it is worth mentioning that figuring out how to fly them might be difficult for some people. One of my friends that plays with me “swears” that people that fly the jets so well are using joysticks.

In conquest mode your teams task it to capture and hold several points on the map. Some of the maps are huge, but the capture points are really close together. This makes it annoying when you spawn at the deployment point and there are no vehicles to take, as you have to run for a long time just to get to any of the points. People playing as recon also seem to be horrible at setting the radio beacon out, which would allow you to spawn closer to points if you don’t feel like taking a vehicle.

There are a couple of maps that make conquest mode just plain epic. The two maps that are set in Paris, France also seem to lead to epic shoot outs in places you wouldn’t expect. Similarly the Grand Bazaar map set in Baghdad’s narrow alleys and streets is just unreal.  I will say, if you have a good squad of friends playing, you will dominate the narrow passages of these maps. If you are the run and gun type, you might want to stay away because tactics and map awareness are key.

Rush, is a game mode in which there are two points on the map that one side needs to attack while the other defends. The attackers are limited in the number of “respawns” their team has. After they eliminate the first two points on the map two more will respawn in random spots, until a total of 8 have been destroyed.

I am not the biggest fan of this mode because a few of the maps feel broken when playing it. For example the first two spawn points on a couple of the maps give the defenders an unfair advantage, and when you are attacking and can’t get anywhere near the points the game just isn’t fun at all.

Another thing I noticed while playing is how uneven team balancing is. I would think in a game like this it wouldn’t just look at things like too many people being on one side of the other. It should look into player skill, number of players on each side, how well each player is doing, and balance it out from there but most of the time it doesn’t feel like that.  There have been matches that I feel like all the newer players to the genre end up on, with all the people that seem to play the game 24/7 put on the other team.  This also ends up ruining the fun on that map.

So when I get tired of constantly being on the losing side I try to get a buddy to play co op. Co op mode also offers a varied amount of playing with just your close friend. It’s you and your friend versus the computer on these maps, but there seems to be a small story line linking all of the maps. They are fun quick hits, and I ended up burning through 5 of them (though we only completed 4) in about an hours time.  You can also unlock guns for multiplayer mode in co op, which is kind of cool and gives you incentive to play it often. I just wish it was more than just you and one other friend.

Overall, I am very happy with this game and I don’t feel that the price of admission is too high.  It also does something that other triple A titles don’t do, and that is have developer support after the game is released.  I do hope they add a few more maps to the game, as well as some more co op missions, as I really enjoyed playing them.

Battlefield 3 is far from perfect, but it’s well on its way to being considered one of the best shooters of all time.  I personally had some really awesome experiences playing the game that I never thought I would get from this genre. I DO recommend that you get it for PC despite all the crap that Origin comes with.  If you are swayed by what I have had to say and end up getting the game, then feel free to add me on battlelog.