|Summary:||Great multiplayer and great visuals, but the campaign is sloppy.|
|Games Info:||Developer: DICE; Publisher: EA|
|Platform:||PC, Xbox 360, PS3|
The battle is on for Christmas sales and Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 are facing each other on the frontlines, fighting it out for supremacy. We suspect that Battlefield might manage to win the multiplayer crowd over, but for gamers who like to go it alone? Not so much.
Let's get one thing straight - Battlefield 3 has one of the best online multiplayer components out there. Even if you're not great at getting kills, you can be great at Battlefield 3 by contributing healing, flag-capturing or other skills to your team: playing smarter rather than harder. That's what makes Battlefield 3 so great for all kinds of gamers - those who want to gets loads of kills can do that, and those who prefer to play support can play the game their way too. In fact, the game works best when your team has a good mix of classes and play styles.
Those who've played previous Battlefield games will be familiar with the game types and the objectives of each - there's a classic team deathmatch, but the main two modes are Conquest and Rush. In Conquest, you have to capture and defend as many bases as you can for as long as you can, and in Rush, you destroy the enemy's M-COM stations. Interestingly, in the beta I noted that the Operation Metro map gameplay was skewed toward the defending team, although I thought it was because of the narrow corridors in the middle of the map. However, even on maps without the narrow bit in the middle, it's still fairly difficult to win Rush if you're on the offensive.
Aside from the regular selection of ground-based vehicles, fighter jets are a new addition to Battlefield multiplayer. You can spawn directly into them at the beginning of a match or when the jet respawns after being destroyed. The jets are cool but difficult to control, and I was particularly bad at flying them. I had to bail out of the plane almost every time without getting any kills. (Sorry, teammates.) Personally, I'll be sticking to tanks and jeeps.
The multiplayer is definitely the highlight of Battlefield 3, and the part of the game you'll spend the most time on by far. It isn't a whole lot different to the previous Battlefield installment, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, when it comes to multiplayer. There are a few new weapons, vehicles and maps, and that's okay. If it ain't broke...
If you're just a single-player gamer, however, you're probably going to be unhappy with Battlefield 3. The franchise's strength has always been in multiplayer, so much so that some of the games haven't included a campaign component at all.
The campaign in Battlefield 3 is messy, and plays as though developer DICE came up with a bunch of cool ideas for levels, then strung them together into some semblance of a plot later on. This gives it a disjointed and at times almost incoherent feel. You play primarily as Sergeant Blackburn, who, in cutscenes, is explaining to some very serious men how he learned of a terrorist plot. In between the cutscenes, you play through his explanation of events leading up to, and following, the discovery of nukes in a bank vault. But the story jumps between different characters and there's no chance to get to know any of them. Perhaps if the story had stuck to one person's point of view, it might have seemed more cohesive and the characters more sympathetic. As it stands, the different levels seem completely divorced from each other.
Having said that, you get to do some cool things - take out enemy tanks as you drive across a desert in your own, commandeer the skies in a fighter jet. But when you do them, you discover that the combat is... well, boring. I nearly got chills as my jet took off at the beginning of a level, but once I was in the sky it took what seemed like an age before I was able to actually fire a weapon. Instead I spent a lot of time looking around, and it became obvious that looking is exactly what DICE wants you to do - if you're distracted by visuals, you won't notice how dull the gameplay is. It's style over substance.
That said, the graphics are pretty incredible, and in some places look true-to-life, even on the PlayStation 3 with all its limitations. Even if you're a wee bit bored, there's always something to look at. We've seen the graphics on PC, too, and they're phenomenal, but the graphics on the PS3 are nothing to sneeze at when you compare Battlefield to other games on the platform.
So can a game like Battlefield rest on great graphics and multiplayer alone? Well, frankly, yes. Most people who buy the game aren't picking it up for the campaign mode - they're looking for some team-based competition. That legion of fans won't be disappointed. The hours upon hours of multiplayer they'll play will make the game worth every cent. Single-player gamers: give this one a miss. There are too many great campaign experiences releasing at this time of year to play an average one.