Well, well. Call Of Battle and Duty field, here we are again; two identical games, resting on their laurels, keeping the more blinkered among us devoted with years of £40 games we tirelessly pay for. Which came first? If you care about that kind of detail, leave.
For us normal games fans, Battlefield 3, like its more famous counterpart, the Call Of Duty series, is just a first-person shooter set in modern times. You play ‘a soldier’ and you shoot the bad guys until you reach your objectives.
There will be no bush beating here, directly or indirectly. Battlefield 3’s single player campaign is boring, especially in comparison to the untethered soap opera of Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3. Only a really bad thing when you consider Battlefield 3 is trying to compete with Modern Warfare 3.
These are top-of-the-line video games, costing millions to develop and made by the two biggest companies in gaming and each have their loyal, angry army of fanboys (see comments below) ready to defend the good name of their title. Think of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 like religions with the fans as the Inquisition, or off on crusades. Except they wear head-guards and aren’t allowed to hold anything pointy.
Only, I don’t suffer from this faith, I’m more of a science guy. So, bring on the heresy! Both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 suffer from a case of the repetitions. In Battlefield 3, the single-player mode is still stuck in a ’run-forward and shoot’ structure, occasionally throwing in building-toppling set-pieces, button pressing and tenuous character interaction. Were Deus Ex and Bioshock for nothing? The co-op mode, by contrast, is a glorious alternative alienating the single-player mode entirely.
Sure, Battlefield 3 is a damn site prettier than its predecessor Battlefield Bad Company 2 and that’s probably got something to do with the new tools Dice, the developers, used to build the game. Big whoop. I’m a gamer, not a software technician.
Dice, my friends, you can harp on about how great your game engine is when it does something the previous game didn’t. Buildings blew up in Bad Company 2 just like they do in Battlefield 3. Still, deep breaths here, move on. One thing Battlefield has always excelled in is online multiplayer. Again, it’s brilliant fun.
The huge maps, the slew of tanks, planes and trucks, the various weapons, the realistic sniping, they all make a return for Battlefield 3 and it is good. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of game modes and too few incentives for team-work making the console version stink like a rotten, half-baked version of its PC sibling. Dice has failed to innovate here, again, just cutting and pasting multiplayer from its last effort.
Bad Company 2 was also brilliant fun to play online and it too suffered from all the same post-game issues and accessibility problems Battlefield 3 does.
You can quit or join a game whenever you like, with absolutely no penalties. There’s no encouragement to stick around other than the love of the game or maybe you’re trying to unlock a few more items as you level up. This results in bizarrely uneven matches; a force of 12 who are up against two blokes and a dog one minute are suddenly down 10 men and heavily outnumbered the next.
You can’t quit out to the main menu after a game is over, on the pathetically constructed, bizarrely long, post-match stats screens. These clumsy displays give you a fraction of the info you’d like to see while you are able to do NOTHING but wait for the 40 seconds to count down. You can’t fiddle with your classification, choose a new gun; nothing.
But the lack of decent stats available on these screens is staggering. While you can happily hand over your email address to EA to receive the ‘Battlefeed’ to get extra stats and friend updates, you shouldn’t have to.
Halo, for example, also has an online stats thing, but it also bombards you with post-match info in the game too. Dice, really, this should have been sorted since Bad Company 2. It’s embarrassing to herald Battlefield 3 as any kind of evolution in the shooter genre when it’s still being out-performed by a 10-year-old franchise about space soldiers.
Dice has failed to deliver a decent online console experience. It’s marred by regular team errors, splitting squad mates across different teams and random lost connections. Problems other developers would have fixed by now.
Then there’s the downloadable content (DLC), all the extra bits you can buy along the way to add to the game. So far, the first set of new maps was free (if you bought a specific version of Battlefield 3 - EA is looking at you, second-hand game buyers!). New updates, well, they’ll surely cost money, just as later updates for Battlefield Bad Company 2 did. For a distraction, here’s a nice article explaining how you can tell how much a game-maker respects its customers by the way it rolls out its DLC.
It’s a clumsy title, one I’ll continue to play through gritted teeth (and with a good book to hand) as playing multiplayer and co-op with friends can make Battlefield 3 feel like gaming perfection.
Gameplay-wise, Battlefield is the superior online war game for consoles. When you consider the online gaming environment is the perfect place for grown men, or angry boys, to pretend to be soldiers and act like co-ordinated teams with objectives and strategy in beautiful surroundings, Battlefield 3 is ready for that kind of fun.
It only fails in every other respect.
EDITED ON: 10/01/12. 17:12