It’s Time To Squad Up or Shut Up

Remember those days when you were a kid where you were counting the days until that one particular video game hit store shelves? Where you couldn’t wait for the school bells to ring so you could jet over to the game store and cash in all your lunch money for that new shiny game? As we grow older (and admittedly more cynical) those peak moments of anticipation grow fewer and farther between. Well, after playing the game at E3 and wasting way too much time playing the beta this past september, I found that Battlefield 3 was that game that would bring me back to my childhood-like days of impatience.  I raced out to my game store of choice after work and picked it up, gathered some friends around the TV (after eating some delicious steak sandwiches) and fired up the game. Too bad the online servers didn’t work – at all.

Ok, so EA and DICE eventually got the servers back up, and I was able to get a couple multiplayer sessions in that night, but my shining moment I had waited so long for was totally and completely shattered. Having finally vented that frustration, I think I can get started on the actual review for BF3. Here we go.

Longtime fans of Battlefield will hate this game at first (I did, too), Call of Duty converts won’t get the game’s appeal right away either. The first thing I can tell you is simple: give this game time; it is well worth it. Especially for those having come right off playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2, there’s a lot to get used to. BF3 is fast. The amount of life you have has been drastically reduced from that of its predecessor. It’s arguably a marginal amount of health more than CoD, though it’s still a far cry from what you had in BF:BC2. What does this translate to in terms of gameplay? You cannot afford to run and gun and expect to survive, because you won’t. You’ll get sniped by someone on the third story window across a courtyard, you’ll get mauled by the assault of an oncoming enemy tank, you’ll get a healthy dose of shotgun to the face – the list goes on and on. This game holds true to what makes Battlefield so great: every action must be thought out; every advancement must be made as a team in order to survive.

The second thing I’ll tell you is that holy shit, Frostbite 2, the game’s brand new engine, looks, sounds, and feels incredible. The lighting effects alone will simply dazzle you. You’ll have to adjust to the harsh glares of the desert after coming out of a nearly pitch black warehouse, you’ll see rays of light shine through pillaring smoke, and you’ll catch the waves of water glimmering with sunlight as you and your squad race by in an attack boat. Not to mention, the ‘visor’ your character wears will catch dirt which will blot in intense sunlight, and you’ll even watch drops of rain fall down your face in a downpour. The sound you hear as a sniper’s .50 caliber bullet whizzes past your head will scare the shit out of you time and time again, and the destructible environments will make you feel like you’re never safe. Cover will fall apart with gunfire and entire buildings will be leveled on top of you. This engine is so demanding that it’s often being compared to the original Crysis as a title that will test every ounce of power in your PC, and even requires a high-res texture installation pack on Xbox360 to perform comparably. Don’t have a hard drive on your Xbox? Well, fucking get with the times and get one already, otherwise you’ll be playing this game in “standard-def,” according to DICE.

You'll crash the first time you pilot one of these, I promise you.

Teamwork is what really separates BF3 from the rest of the pack. There are four classes in the game’s multiplayer: Assault, Engineer, Recon, and the brand new Support class. Each class has its own specialties and it’s own weapon tree, and the most successful squads usually fair best when they have one of each class. Veterans will immediately notice the Medic class – previously specializing in healing and reviving fallen comrades – has been combined with the Assault class. This allows you to fight at the front lines and be able to assist your team where they need you the most. The Engineer class retains most of the same attributes from the game’s predecessor, specializing in rockets and explosives to take down the tanks, helicopters, jets, and everything else you’ll be thrown up against, and the ability to repair your own.  Recons are still the snipers and the campers of the bunch, though they’ve had the devastating mortar strike taken away from them, which now rests in the hands of the support class. Support specializes in heavy machinery, sporting bi-pods for their LMGs that can be mounted on windowsills and floors (when prone) for added stability, and access to the heavy explosives, including C4’s and claymores and the like. Mix that all together and you have the perfect recipe for a fresh take on online multiplayer gaming altogether that you’ll have to struggle to put down.

BF3 sports a multitude of different game types and a nice variety of maps, both in size and style. You’ll dart across Paris, sprawl through canyons, and convoy in helicopters flying over open seas, it’s insane. The flagship Rush mode is back, pitting an attacking team of up to 12 players to infiltrate the defending team’s territory and blow up 2 M-COM stations. Once that’s done, the defending team must fall back to the next base, where the attackers will start the rush again and push forward. Sounds simple, right? Not when tanks are rolling into your base, helicopters are dropping off troops, and even jets are screaming by taking out everything in can while swooping past the warzone. You think you might be safe on that rooftop sniping… that is until your camera starts to act funny, and you realize an enemy player is lifting your character’s head back so he can slice your throat. The last thing you’ll see is that player’s face before you’re back at the respawn screen. Yes, completely insane.

Weapon upgrades like the tactical light can be used to blind your foes in close quarters, and is surprisingly effective.

For the more traditional, there’s always the typical deathmatch (12-vs-12) and squad deathmatch (4-vs-4-vs-4-vs-4), where you won’t see as many vehicles, since the maps are scaled depending on the game type. Deathmatch games might be only a portion of what would be a rush map, even though it’s the same level, to allow faster, player-on-player firefights. Every mode plays entirely different, which definitely keeps things fresh as you’re playing night after night trying to level up your classes.

As far as unlocks go, there are a TON of upgrades to strive for. Every 10 kills with a gun and you’ll get a new scope or gadget, like the blinding tactical light or a suppressor to help you keep off your enemies’ radar. Every class has it’s own specific gear to unlock, AND all your vehicles can be leveled as well, providing beefier tanks, defensive flares for aircrafts, and much, much more.

As far as the single player campaign goes, there’s a reason why the campaign is on the second disc (for Xbox 360). It’s hardly the spectacle that multiplayer is, and though it has its moments, it really feels like a generic, run of the mill shooter that rips it’s narrative style off Call of Duty: Black Ops, just without the obnoxious, muffled investigator. The premise is simple: two military officials are questioning the involvement of Lt. Blackburn in a terrorist plot to blow up New York and Paris, and you recall each event one at a time by “reliving them.” I really did enjoy the campaigns in both entries in the Bad Company series, with their memorable casts and sometimes overdone sense of humor. BF3’s story just felt too serious and too faceless-tough-guy-soldier for my tastes, and that’s often what keeps me away from other modern shooters. It’s not terrible, it’s just nothing to write home about, and you’ll find yourself getting a little bored and itching to hop back online. Speaking of, it’s time for me to do the same.

Moments like these in the campaign would be much better if the game didn't hold your hand so much.

In conclusion, Battlefield 3 is simply the elite multiplayer game of the year. Though its campaign can’t match the bar set by the online multiplayer, there are still some great moments to be had in the short 5-6 hours of story. Multiplayer will keep you plenty busy, however, as there are plenty of unlocks to strive for to keep you coming back match after match, and the variety in gameplay between the different maps and modes always keep things fresh. On top of that, there’s also a string of co-op missions to go through with a buddy, though a lack of any kind of split screen option for either co-op or multiplayer is definitely a let down. So if you’re sick of getting n00b-t00b’d every night, pick up DICE’s offering in Battlefield 3, you may not look back.

It’s also worth mentioning that, assuming you bought the Limited Edition of the game, you can look forward to a free batch of maps in the Back to Karkand expansion due out this December.



About Ivan Torres More Metal Than Colossus.

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