Let’s get something clear; I like DICE. DICE has made games that I will return to time and again. Despite my frustrations, I still play Mirror’s Edge on a quasi-regular basis. DICE has a wonderful habit of making games that are good. So with Battlefield 3 in my PS3 (after trying to make it work on my PC – more on that in a moment), let’s get right into it.
The “PC Master Race” (as they call themselves) faces a quandary: Battlefield 3 is not available on Steam, but through Electronic Arts’ Origin. When I tried to play multiplayer, I would find servers to join that said ‘full ‘ when no one was actually inside playing. I couldn’t ‘add’ my friends, and whatever games I could join dropped me. Part of the problem is that this digital distribution method is brand spanking new. Another problem is that the game engine DICE used is also brand new to them (Frostbite 2, specifically). There is only so much beta testing people can do. It takes a live stress test to really figure out the kinks in the system, and regrettably, that had to happen on a marquee game.
So I picked up the PS3 version, and dealt with EA about the PC version later. Now that I have a stable game, I can get a better look at this.
The game ships with nine maps. These maps are ENORMOUS, which gives room to have all sorts of missions. Servers can hold up to 64 players simultaneously – that’s a feat right there. That gives a lot of room to jump in and start playing soldier. On full maps, you may as well start playing run-and-gun, because you’ll have plenty of moving targets. Some maps do this better than others; Seine Crossing is not so great at capacity, while Operation Firestorm jumps to life with a full complement of gamers.
The Frostbite 2 engine is powerful. It gives room to tweak everything…it is difficult from my end to explain how a game engine matters when reviewing a retail-ready piece of game, but it merits addressing.
Frostbite 2 improves physics, but also the way in which art can be added. The end result is that the fog of war is more realistic. Dust and light flares (not just lens flares) improve the overall experience compared to Battlefield 2: Bad Company from last year.
Combat is much improved, especially with vehicles. It’s possible when disabling a vehicle that the crew, including the engineer, is still alive. The engineer can bring a vehicle back online – this rewards persistence and aggression. This plays on both ends, as it pays off to continue pummeling rounds into a vehicle until you see explosions, ensuring your enemy won’t get back online. There are also counter strategies that players must take into account. If your enemy is specializing in tanks, you must counter with a different strategy. A lot of effort was put into vehicle combat for this game.
Multiplayer is really where this game shines, as single player is rather dull. The overall short opinion of this game is that it’s complicated and has a high learning curve. Once you get over that, it’s clear sailing.
I will mark the game for bad in-game voice chat. Battlefield 2 had this done perfectly, where squads had their own channel and leaders had a devoted channel to talk to commanders. I am amazed that so many years after the first integration of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), that there has been almost zero advancement. Battlefield 3’s team speak is shoddy.
I would try this game before you buy it outright. Those of you with Gamefly memberships will want to take advantage of this.
Battlefield 3 is available for Xbox 360, PC (sort of) and PS3. It is rated M for Mature (17+) by the ESRB.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Video Game Revue by Geoffrey Beebe