It only seems like yesterday that EA and Dice released that now infamous series of trailers that showed the world what their new “Frostbite 2” engine could do in the soon to be released “Battlefield 3. The massive scope of the city, epic destructible environments, incredible sound, and uncanny animation put the gaming community on alert. This game was going to be big, really big. That was just a short trailer, and months later we finally got to see if it lived up to all the hype.
The game opens strong, throwing players instantly into action on top of a speeding New York City subway train. From there on out the game spans across the globe, from Paris to Iran, the scope of the game play and levels is immense. Unfortunately, quickly into the game, a sense of “been there, done that” takes hold. The story follows a very generic fictional military novel involving your typical Russian villain, Middle Eastern Hench men, and a lone Marine who is wrongfully accused of war crimes (we all know how these stories end). Thankfully, the gameplay is far from generic, and makes up for any lack of originality in the single players story line. Taking all this into consideration though and it becomes irrelevant when you factor in the games true life blood: the multiplayer.
EA has always been known for producing massive team based battles with the Battlefield series, and Battlefield 3 is no exception. With maps that span for literally miles, and the ability to have completely destructible environments thanks to the Frostbite 2 game engine, multiplayer is an intense experience. Couple that in with multiple vehicle types, weapon classes, and Battlefields tried and true squad based spawn system, the player is never to far removed from the action.
Multiplayer has new game modes this time around. With the inclusion of game types such as “Team Death Match”, players are forced into tighter combat situations. This game type is further sped along thanks to the developers blockading specific areas in the maps to limit their massive size. Not only does this keep certain game modes entertaining and fast paced, but also opens the player up for exploration when playing game modes such as “Rush” that utilize the whole map. The scale of the maps are something that needs to be seen in person to truly appreciate; EA and Dice take “Sandbox” level design and raise the bar considerably. You can truly go anywhere, and destroy pretty much anything in this game.
One concern is multiplayer balance.. A game that is primarily based on gun-on-gun action can seriously get out of hand once you start throwing humvees, tanks, helicopters, and jets into the mix. Luckily everything seems in check, players need to earn the ability to operate vehicles, limiting the use of them greatly. They also offer weapons that can disable an enemy target given the player has the skill to do so. Weapon balance is also crucial; having one gun that completely outshines every other gun in the game creates a very bland experience. Anyone that remembers how over powered grenade launchers were in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” can surly understand this. If you played the Battlefield 3 BETA, you remember how ridiculously over powered the pistols were. That is no longer the case, as all guns now seem to take on the typical first person shooter roles. What seems most impressive is the reward system this game has to offer. There always seems to be light at the end of the tunnel that drags you back for more when earning achievements and perks to help you and your team out. From simple camouflage upgrades, to unlocking every attachment for each individual weapon, this game will keep its players coming back for more months from now.
So how does this game actually look, feel, and sound? In a nutshell, fantastic on all accounts, but it’s not perfect. On the Xbox 360, this is one of the best, if not best looking game available for the system. Although it fails to deliver the epic look and smoothness of the trailers (for those that don’t know that is PC gameplay) it still is an impressive game to look at. Even though the game runs at a mere 30fps it is consistent. With the amount of action, detail, and sheer scale of everything, it’s hardly noticeable. You may find yourself just wandering around the levels gazing at the scenery, it’s that beautiful. Just wait for the night time game play and lighting effects, they are stunning. If the graphics are considered amazing, than the sound is perfection. For anyone on the fence about purchasing a gaming headset now is the time. Do it. Every shot taken, mortar fired, and bullet skimming by your head makes you wonder just how many rounds of ammunition the developers had to fire to get sounds effects this close to perfection. Guns sound and feel like they have actual weight to them when fired, a truly impressive feat. Adding icing on the cake, the voice acting, script, and environmental effects all are up to par and would be at home in a summer block buster movie, let alone a video game. The cinematic presence and feel this game conjures up is unbelievable. From the interrogation scenes, to the air to air combat sequence, you get a true sense of war time tension.
Now about the fact that it’s not “perfect.” Some things feel incredibly rushed. We all know Activision is releasing “Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 3” on November 8th, and this is not the first time EA has rushed a game to beat a “Call of Duty” game to the market (Medal of Honor, anyone?) and it seems, they may have fell victim to time constraints yet again. The problems are few, and don’t take you completely out of the game, but they do leave you with the sense that an extra week or two of development time could have done wonders. Problems ranging from the sound of your tank disappearing for half the mission (all you hear is your teammates conversing), to AI controlled team mates pushing you out of cover because that is where they were programmed to sit, are all a bit frustrating, and leaves the gamer holding their hands in the air in disbelief. Oh, and those quick time action scenes got old…quick. There are also bottle neck sections in some of the multiplayer maps that seem to favor one team more than the other. It’s not a huge issue once players learn how to work around it, but an issue non-the-less. Last but most certainly not least, let’s hope EA can figure out servers that can handle the traffic this game is going to see. When EA released “Battlefield: Bad Company 2” two years ago, multiplayer was pretty much unplayable for the first two weeks due to server issues, and recent server tests with the Battlefield 3 BETA may suggest that EA hasn’t gotten all the bugs out of the system just yet.
Does this game live up to the hype? Is it really “Above the Call” as EA has been promoting it? As of right now, undoubtedly yes. It takes graphics, use of sound, and game design to a new level in this genre. The multiplayer is incredibly addictive and deep, gameplay seamlessly caters to both Battlefield veterans, as well as new comers to the series. Yes, the game has some issues, but most of those can and hopefully will be fixed via patches from EA. The story line is a bit generic, but is still cinematic enough to put a Michael Bay film to shame. Any and every first person shooter fan should have this title on there “must own list”. It is a remarkable game on every level.