It’s very easy to big up the rivalry between EA’s Battlefield 3 and Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 by comparing enormous sales figures and reflecting on the failure of earlier Battlefield titles and EA’s recent Medal of Honor to match the global popularity of the CoD franchise. The truth is that both series deservedly have their legions of fans and with Battlefield 3 EA has made herculean attempts to keep voracious FPS aficionados from becoming too jaded.
However, any glance at gaming discussion groups will reveal the least popular aspect of the new shooter is EA’s insistence that all PC versions of the game have to be accessed initially via Origin (a revamp of the old EA Download Manager) and then via the new Battlelog website, which acts as the gateway to the solo campaign, co-op and multiplayer options as well as the means of adding your friends to the action.
While Origin fulfils the same sort of role as Steam and is therefore bearable, the time waiting for Battlelog to matchmake online combats sometimes stretches for several minutes and adding friends only happens after you’ve first done a search for them on Origin. Add to that the occasional bugs that throw you out of multiplayer games and you’ve got an ongoing frustration that soon becomes irritating.
Once you finally get there, on the other hand, you can start to appreciate what DICE have managed to achieve with their new Frostbite 2 graphics engine. Not only is the detail exceptional but everything around you is destructible so there’s literally no safe haven.
Ultimate realism is the keynote here and that is visible in the amazing flying sequences, the urban grittiness of battle-scarred city centres and the entirely humourless interrogation that forms the framework of the single-player campaign. The sound effects, too, are nothing short of superb and if you have a surround sound system, then crank it to the max.
Sometimes that realism also creates additional challenges for the gameplay, as you’re frequently confronted with clouds of dust, blinding street lights and helmet sun-flare when you’re trying to identify a distant enemy. The campaign certainly packs enough variety with the opportunity to drive tanks, fly helicopters, laser-target hostile installations as well as solo and squad-based ground missions but the presence of so many QTE moments does have the effect of choking the adrenaline rush.
While you can indulge in co-op with a pal, you’re still working the same maps as the single-player mode and you have no choice over the order in which you do missions. As ever, the shining star in Battlefield 3′s universe is multiplayer, which enables you to fight as assault, engineer, support or recon. The maps are huge and intricate, whether rumbling along in a tank convoy outside Tehran or fighting through the Paris Metro and whether you buddy-up in a tank, fly solo with a helicopter or use melee stealth to knife and capture dog-tags, there are infinite ways to decisively change the course of a (up to 64-player) mission, whether Rush, Conquest or Death Match.
By December you’ll also have access to the Back to Karkand expansion which will allow you to re-experience the four maps from Battlefield 2 with the Frostbite 2 makeover. In other words, grab your linen and stop your grinning, soldier…
- The new Frostbite 2 game engine.
- Slow access via the Battlelog website.
Despite the launching niggles, the restrictive co-op play and some underwhelming sections of the solo campaign, it's impossible not to recommend Battlefield 3 for its stunning new Frostbite 2 destructible graphics, exhilarating sound and pulsating multiplayer.