EA Redefines PC Gaming Forever
When Battlefield 2 hit the shelves, I thought it was a little odd that it had a “2” in the title. Sure, BF2 was meant to be a sequel to Battlefield 1942, but aside from the spacious maps and vehicle-based play, the two had very little in common; certainly not enough to justify official sequel status. However, Battlefield 3 is the type of proper sequel that its predecessor deserves and, more importantly, it’s been built primarily for the PC.
Now, I’ll admit that I prefer my first-person shooters with a side of keyboard/mouse, but I was genuinely interested to see how Battlefield 3 would fair on the PS3; I assumed that consoles would get the PC version’s table scraps. But when EA finally let players get their hands on the beta, the roles were reversed; on the PC side, textures were broken or missing, clipping was a problem, and EA’s Battlelog was glitchy and often impossible to operate. On the console side, connecting was relatively easy, and the graphics were about as good as we all expected.
However, now that Battlefield 3 has finally been shrink-wrapped for the public, the roles have been reversed again; the PC is the platform of choice for BF3, and everything else is a distant second.
The first thing that you need to know about BF3—and this should come as no surprise—is that it looks amazing. It feels like EA has ushered us all into a new era of graphical capability. All of the screenshots and teaser trailers that have been creeping onto the internet over the last year don’t even do justice to what you’ll see when you actually sit down and play it.
However, even given the power of Battlefield 3’s Frostbite 2 engine, it would be a fierce exaggeration to call the game “photorealistic.” It’s not uncommon, on both the PS3 and PC, for sprites (especially sand bags, for some reason) to be seen floating several feet above the ground. I also noticed a few broken textures, and some pretty intense clipping from time to time. However, it’s almost unfair to expect BF3 to be free from these types of problems. They’ve plagued every single developer since the beginning of time, and they’re obviously not going away any time soon. In fact, on any other game, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed, but BF3 is so damn pretty that normal problems seem somehow accentuated. Like a Victoria’s Secret model who desperately needs a breath mint.
And, unfortunately for console gamers, the engine is severely encumbered by the PS3’s hardware. The graphics on the PS3 are perfectly acceptable by current standards—they obviously rank up there with Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2—but when you compare the graphics with a semi-powerful computer, it becomes painfully obvious that this generation of consoles is nearing the end of its life cycle. BF3 really shows off what the next generation of consoles graphics might look like while simultaneously becoming the benchmark for any/all future graphics. For those who truly value impressive visuals, it’s obvious that the PC is currently the only real option.
Battlefield 3’s single-player campaign could use a little work though. After screwing around in a few multiplayer games, I dove into the campaign and, I must admit, it was a little disorienting. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it feels like a completely different game. Instead of the fast-paced, wide open vehicle-based maps, players are treated to a slow-moving, cramped, often tedious campaign. Sure, you get tossed into a vehicle from time to time, and those moments are brilliant, but it doesn’t make up for the overly clichéd storyline. (Suitcase nukes? Again?)
Actually, if I’m being honest, the campaign plays more like a Call of Duty sequel than a Battlefield title, and that’s a bad thing. It even uses the flashback-while-being-interrogated storytelling that we all saw in Black Ops. It’s obvious that DICE has taken a few of its cues from Infinity Ward and Treyarch regarding campaign creation, but in the process, they may have created a Xerox that’s dull and washed out.
The campaign will probably take you about 7-10 hours to complete, depending on the mode that you choose and the number of pizza rolls that you consume while playing. This might seem like it’s a little short for you solo-mode aficionados, but it’s probably better to think of the campaign as an extra special bonus to Battlefield 3’s brilliant multiplayer than an individual selling point.
The truth is that anyone who buys BF3 for the campaign deserves to be disappointed. Aside from the Bad Company titles, the Battlefield games haven’t typically included a campaign mode. So, if you’re familiar with the franchise, you might not even launch the single-player—and we probably wouldn’t blame you. The online multiplayer mode is Battlefield 3’s wheelhouse, and this game single-handedly raises the bar for the entire FPS genre.
The immensity of these maps is immediately apparent. When you log on for the first time, it’s natural for you to wonder how they’re going to fit 64 players onto the same map. But the first time you load Caspian Border or Kharg Island, the scale soon becomes perfectly clear; these maps are gigantic. It will take several rounds before you’re even slightly familiar with any given map’s layout.
And this, in and of itself, should be impressive. We’re talking about a game that processes more graphical information than any game in history, and DICE has managed to expand the server capacity while keeping the gameplay silky smooth (Seriously. Silky smooth).
BF3 has also taken a few cues from many of the other RPG-influenced FPS titles that have been making their way onto the market by implementing an incredibly deep reward system. I’ve been playing Battlefield 3 for roughly 24 hours straight and I’ve barely scratched the surface of my rewards, but eventually I’ll be able to unlock upgraded ammo for my jets, anti-aircraft guns, sniper rifle modifications, etc., etc., etc. Earlier this year, EA promised that “Battlefield 3 [would] have more than 10 times the hardware unlocks spread over weapons, weapons attachments, gadgets, and a huge unlock tree for vehicles alone” when compared to previous Battlefield titles. And I tend to believe them.
The only thing that is frustrating about BF3’s multiplayer mode is EA’s new Battlelog service. Battlelog is a browser-based interface that forces PC players to exit their game and reconnect if they want to change game modes. All in all, the function seems tacked-on and cumbersome. However, PS3 players don’t need to worry about that.
Battlefield 3 is kind of an enigma in the gaming industry right now. It’s a big-budget shooter that was designed specifically for the PC. And while the console versions are competent, Battlefield 3 can really only be experienced on a functional PC. DICE and EA have managed to raise the bar significantly when it comes to graphical capabilities, but they’ve done it in a way that only a fraction of players will be able to truly appreciate. Hopefully their gamble will pay off.
Also, I want to mention one more thing as a side note: I know I may have made several comparisons to Activision’s Modern Warfare titles, and that’s partially because EA forced my hand with its copycat single-player campaign. But I think it’s important to note that these two games are attempting to accomplish two very different things. Modern Warfare 3 is a console-based FPS that relies heavily on vertical gameplay, close quarters, and perks, whereas Battlefield 3 is a PC-based, open map, vehicle-centric shooter that focuses heavily on team play and strategy. Just because they’re both big-budget shooters set in the modern era doesn’t mean that they’re meant to cater to the same type of gamers. If you like both, play both. Otherwise just stick to the one that matches your interest.
Also, can we all just agree that there are enough storylines concerning suitcase nukes in the FPS genre? I think we’ve explored every facet of the suitcase nuke storyline. It’s time to move on.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.7 Graphics
Amazing, immersive graphics. 4.5 Control
Smooth and intuitive. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Several audio glitches in the PS3 version. 4.5 Play Value
Near perfect multiplayer makes up for the average single-player. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best