I wont beat around the bush, it's been a very long, uneven path for EA trying to find that property which could rival Activision's mega-blockbuster video game franchise; Call of Duty, perhaps more specifically the "modern" instalments of that particular franchise. Last year's Medal of Honor (a sequel to which is teased in the inserts included with Battlefield 3, by the way) wasn't quite the game everyone wanted, with a buggy, lacklustre multiplayer component just about making up for the game's plain and rather boring single player campaign. Personally, I care not for the petty rivalry between Battlefield fans and the Call of Duty fans and I'll be trying to keep the comparisons between CoD and Battlefield 3 to a minimum, mostly because they are two very distinct games angling for two different sections of the First-Person-Shooter genre. I'll also, shock-horror, be including the game's multiplayer component in this review which is a first for this site, I can tell you.
So to the campaign then, it's interesting. You start the game pretty much near the end of the story itself and the bulk of the game is carried out through jumbled-up, out-of-sequence flashbacks to events which the main protagonist of the story, Sargent Harry Blackburn, helps the American Department of Defence evaluate the validity of a terrorist threat against the United States. It's a fairly predictable tale but not one which you'll walk away from feeling hard done-by. You'll sometimes find yourself joining other soldiers as the game varies gameplay, putting you in the cockpit of a jet or in the gunner's seat of a tank, but the bulk of the game will be of the typical First Person variety. You also have your staple First-Person segments including the obligatory sniper mission which also doubles as the sneaking mission, the chase mission where you're after a VIP and many others. There is moments of ingenious and frankly brilliant ideas interwoven into the generic mission types, however. This might spoil something of the game for you, so just skip past this paragraph if you don't want to hear it: You still here? Good, well, there's a moment in the campaign where a jet flies overhead, spots you and makes a U-Turn to start shooting you up. The way the scene builds up and the panic that follows it is amazing and was one of the stand-out moments of the game. Also, character deaths, regardless of how much we knew of that character are lamented on in such a fantastic style.
Either way, the campaign is very nice and doesn't feel repetitive while giving you the basics for how the game plays and delivering you a few good solid hours worth of gametime for your troubles. Is it enough to sell the game on it's own right? Probably not. The fact EA has bunged the Single Player component onto the second disc on the Xbox 360 version is a heavy indicator how they feel about it. But it's not bad in any way, it's your typical modern FPS story mode with your typical modern FPS storyline. If it makes anyone feel better about it, it's a damn sight better than Medal of Honor, that's for sure. The main story also consists of a few big plot-holes and "why did he do that?" moments, but nothing too major.
What I find infuriating about a lot of FPS games is that while they normally tout an expansive multiplayer component with lots of gametypes, customisability of these gametypes when using public servers is often lacking. So I for one love how Battlefield 3 offers you not only the normal settings for each gametype but also a "Hardcore" and "Infantry" gametype. Hardcore, as the name implies, makes everything more hard around the core. Your HUD doesn't show you ammo or life remaining, friendly fire is on and generally anything which makes the game just that bit harder for the sadomasochists out there. Infantry removes vehicles from the game. The core gametypes consist of Rush; a game mode where Attackers push forwards towards defined "capture points" in which you need to demolish, once both capture points are destroyed you move onto the next set of objectives further down the map for two more rounds. Defenders must hold off the enemy, defuse any planted charges on the objectives and run down the enemy team's "tickets" down to 0. Tickets are used when players are forced to spawn or are revived on the battlefield.
Battlefield 3 is also one of the few console multiplayer games keeping the ol' Server Browser alive-and-kickin' and anyone who plays online multiplayer bit more than casually will really appreciate this feature. Of course, the classic matchmaking hold-your-hand style is still present in the form of "Quick Match". The server browser is very good for jumping into matches on maps which are to your liking, however there's the down-side that often when you jump into a match (regardless of if it's a Quick Match or not) the chances of you entering a game at the very start of the match are very, very slim. Matches in Battlefield 3, since they're not time-constrained can go on for a long time if the teams are evenly matched. Most decent matches last around 15 minutes.
When you join the game and between each spawn, you can select one of four classes: Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. Each class has its own unique abilities, weapons and gadgets which can be customised from a wide array of unlockables. For instance, Engineers can repair vehicles, Assault has heavy machine guns as well as healing and reviving items, Support carries light machine guns and can use C4 to destroy heavy artillery and blow holes in walls through destructible environments and Recon uses long-range weaponry and has the ability to throw down mobile deployment areas. As you unlock new weapons and gadgets, these items will automatically be added to weapons so you don't need to fiddle around in the menus to sort out your loadout while your team continues to battle, however you can use the rather awkward between-spawn menus to alter your loadout on the fly if needs be. From the spawn menu, you can also spawn on vehicles. Only just be careful when spawning on jets or helicopters... Those things are difficult to fly if you have no idea what you're doing.
From a visual point of view, Battlefield 3 is gorgeous even on consoles... With the 1.5GB HD texture pack installed, that is. There can be a few shaky moments of the game, like when you're prone on the ground with long grass, you just get a face full of blurry green blocks. Otherwise, the game looks great. There's no texture-popping like a lot of modern games suffer from, the smoke effects in the game are amazing as well as the lighting in the game. Character movements are so fluid, with a lot of the base ideas taken from earlier DICE games like Mirror's Edge, most evident when you try to vault obstacles (you can see your legs as you shuffle over, for example). It's doubtful that games will get prettier than Battlefield 3. It's the little touches like the subtle "dirty" look of the camera and how it becomes apparent when light hits you at certain angles. All these little things add up in the end. Only thing that seems unnatural and out-of-place are the characters themselves, the pre-rendered campaign mid-mission story scenes look particularly bad, so it's not so much of an in-game issue you need to concern yourself with.
Simply put, Battlefield 3 multiplayer is, without a doubt, technically best in class. There's a few bugs that need to be ironed out and they most likely will with subsequent patches, but the game doesn't feel rushed or like the game's cut many corners to make it's release ahead of that other franchise's upcoming title in November. The single player needs quite a bit more work, though. The enemy AI is pretty dim, you can easily flank the enemy without them really caring, most seem to be on a set path and will not deviate. Saying that, however, your friendly AI isn't much better. I've had occasions where your team will stop firing, leading you to believe all the enemies in the area are dead and we can move on, but no objective change, no voice cue to signal we're moving on, no waypoint change... Turns out, there's one enemy left alive and the AI either can't take out the last guy to trigger the next event or these occurrences were just glitches and the friendly AI didn't realise an enemy was still around. Either way, this is annoying on Hard difficulty as sometimes they can be in-between friendly AI just waiting to shoot at you, rather than other AI. A very strange bug. There's also the occasional frame-stutter in the campaign, very noticeable but not off-putting at all. Would perhaps like having that fixed, though.
Overall then, Battlefield 3 is an amazing game. Technical issues are pretty few and far between considering all the amazing stuff DICE has been able to pack into the game. It's a unique experience which doesn't push the boat out too far in the modern FPS genre, but does offer some new and interesting features which other developers and publishers will have to take heed of for their next iteration of their respected FPS games. If you're after a rewarding, team-based multiplayer experience full of difficult-to-drive vehicles and lots of objective-based gameplay, Battlefield 3 is your game. If you're after a more arcade-style run-and-gun experience, Battlefield 3 will do nothing but frustrate you. If you're after a single player experience, this game's primary focus is and always will be the multiplayer, so perhaps wait for a price drop before investing in the title. If you're fine with the campaign being the orderve to the three-course multiplayer, you'll love Battlefield 3.
The campaign story isn't bad, just a little generic with dialogue which feels like a definite after-thought.
Amazing, perhaps one of the finest FPS games I've ever played.
It's no surprise that Battlefield 3 is a pretty game and while not quite as pretty as it is on PC, it's still very, very good on consoles.
Hearing is believing, it's brilliant.
Uhh...Not quite sure how much time I put into this game. All I know is that a couple of long nights and evenings in were spent... So far.