Welcome to the first installment of a new journal-style series that will ultimately build up into a full-fledged review of Battlefield 3. Unlike most game outlets, I don’t have a deadline to get my review up on Metacritic the day of launch, and so I can actually take my time with a game, and play it the way it was meant to be played, over time.
Battlefield is uncharted territory for me. I’ve never once played another installment in the series, and therefore come in with a blank slate when it comes to expectations. This new game has a large amount of hype due to its rather insane graphics and the fact that it is positioning itself as a direct competitor to the Call of Duty behemoth, a series that has really never had a worthy adversary in the last few years.
I have been an avid Call of Duty player for a few years now, with MW1, MW2 and Black Ops under my belt. But even I must admit that by this point, the games are getting to be a pretty repetitive, with only minor tweaks thrown in to justify a new chapter that’s now being released like a yearly Madden installment. I was hoping that Battlefield 3 was going to be an entirely different experience in some ways, using strategy over the Rambo-style play that dominates COD, and hey, you get to play around in vehicles too! Things are looking up.
So coming into this series as a complete noob, I’ll describe a little bit of my learning curve with the game so far, and perhaps there are some of you out there like me who are undergoing a similar experience.
I must start with the Single Player campaign, as though it’s not admittedly the focus of the title, is an important element. The Call of Duty series may be multiplayer focused as well, but its single player campaigns have all produced memorable jaw dropping moments whether it’s sniping a neverending horde of enemies in Chernobyl, watching your character slowly die from radiation poisoning after a nuke detonates, or gunning down innocent civilians in an airport terminal undercover in a terrorist cell.
Simply put, there are no such moments in Battlefield 3’s campaign. Though it’s similar in length to COD stories, and has a similar plot structure (Middle Eastern bad guy works with Russian bad guy to destroy the world with WMDs), it lacks any sort of punch.
Instead, it plays in part like a tutorial for multiplayer, there are tank levels, shotgun levels, jet levels, sniper levels and so on, and partially like a visual tech demo, meant to show off the extraordinary graphical capabilities of the game. And they are worth showing off.
This is without a doubt one of, or perhaps the best looking game I’ve played on Xbox, which I’m told still looks like crap when compared to the PC version. With a 1.5 gig install of texture packs (goodbye Borderlands DLC), it had better look damn good, and the final product delivers. It blows Black Ops out of the water, although that game was significantly less pretty than Modern Warfare 2. Battlefield definitely bests all entries in that regard, and I think we have finally reached the absolute max of what this console generation is capable of graphically.
Prettiness will only take you so far however, and the content must be present to back it up. Single player doesn’t have the magic, simply put, and even if that was expected for the series, it’s still a disappointment. (spoilers ahoy if you seriously care about the intricacies of this inane plot). If you’re going to detonate a nuke in Paris, you had better damn well show the Eiffel Tower crumbling in front of a mushroom cloud, not just cut to black. If you’re going to make me turn on my superior officer and kill him, you better give me a damn good reason. and not set up a scene that makes no sense which I auto-die in the first time through because I have no idea what the hell is going on. Battlefield makes stabs at these poignant or epic moments, but it has NO idea how to tell a story through gameplay, and comes off like a cheap imitation.
Enough of that however, even if we’re docking a singular point for the campaign being supbar when compared to COD, the meat of the game is the multiplayer, and that’s what the majority of this journal, and all those after it, will cover.
I really do need to do a few segments of this, because trying to play this game on launch day was a goddamn nightmare, and I was too busy screaming at error messages that kept booting me out of games every five minutes. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t connect, often times my game would actually tell me it was loading and then straight up freeze, forcing me to restart my console. The king of all f*ck ups was during one game where my HUD suddenly disappeared. Like, everything disappeared. No sight, no radar, no enemy or friendly indicators, not even a class change screen or pause menu. It was all very cinematic, but it was impossible to play as I was shooting at my own team 90% of the time with no way to tell they were on my side. It was one of the weirder glitches I’ve encountered in any game, and one I hope I won’t see again.
But I’m a patient man, I can forgive EA dropping the ball during peak hours on launch day. Outside of those times, I’ve managed to level up ALL the way to rank 3 (yeah, I’m a pro like that), and have been able to craft more informed judgment.
At first, I wasn’t so sure about it all. After being told that “Deathmatch” wasn’t the main mode in this game like COD, I tried out “Conquest” which was supposed to be the signature staple. It’s a capture the flag game, but it’s more like Territories combined with Deathmatch. You capture objectives which makes your opponents score go down, and also when you kill them, it goes down. Whoever hits zero first loses.