This is not Battlefield 2. No matter how hard you want it to be, it will never be its predecessor. But for those of us who are perfectly willing to enjoy a solid new entry in the series, you’re in for a treat, because Battlefield 3 is fucking awesome!
As far as I’m concerned, Battlefield is a multiplayer PC franchise. As such, I don’t give two shits about how bad the single player campaign may or may not be, or how the game’s console servers are down all the time; I’m playing the way it was meant to be played. And for that reason, this is a review entirely focused on the PC version’s multiplayer.
Grab a gun and go, go, go
The first thing you’ll notice when you click the launch button is that no fucking game launches! Yes, Battlefield simply opens up a web page, known as “Battlelog” in your browser of choice. It’s weird, it’s different, it’s the most perplexing choice that they made... and it’s fucking amazing.
Battlefield games have never had the best server browsers before, and this one does its job beautifully, especially since the server list populates instantly. You can see if your favorite servers are populated before deciding to launch the game, and you can do stuff like surf Top Tier Tactics while Battlefield 3 loads the level in the background. Sure there’s a few down sides: you have to be in a game or in the campaign to edit your video options, and there’s no way to edit your loadout without joining a server. And the thing desperately needs a waitlist function for full servers. But regardless, it’s shiny and it gets the job done well.
And then when you get into the game, and you get to use the guns. Those beautiful guns. I don’t know if any of you played Bad Company 2, but in that game there was something about the guns that just felt… off. You could never really feel like you were actually fake-shooting a not-real person. But that’s not the case here. The response of the virtual trigger is as crisp and satisfying as the real-life feedback received when landing the killing blow of a club to a baby seal’s adorable little skull. In other words, the guns in BF3 just feel right.
Playing nice with others
Gameplay is focused more or less on two game modes, Rush and Conquest. Rush is exactly like you remember it from BFBC2. Conquest maps, however are modified from previous games. The mechanics are the same, but the scale is significantly different. It ends up being bigger than Bad Company 2, but not as big as Battlefield 2. Personally, I would have liked to see some larger maps rather than the five control point maximum we have now. Hopefully, when the Karakand expansion comes out, DICE will retain the scale of those old maps instead of giving us the 32-player version, which gets very crowded with 64 combatants.
My favorite part about the Battlefield series is that it’s never been focused on getting the most kills. Yeah, killing dudes is important and ultimately the dudes that kill more dudes are usually the winning dudes, but there’s so much more to it. See a group of enemies? Be a lazy bastard and spot them for your teammates. Laser-lock targets for javelin missiles from your friends. Respond to requests for close air support in that chopper or jet you’re flying. Revive downed teammates during infantry pushes.* Repair friendly vehicles. Disable enemy vehicles at key moments. Suppressing fire! All of these things net you points without having to worry about the mythical KDR.
Waiter, there’s some RPG in my FPS
But every game has its downsides, and Battlefield 3 is no exception. In the developers’ quest to fuck shit up and be like Call of Duty, they just had to put in progression. I’m not entirely opposed to unlocking things as you go along, but there’s a way you need to do it. See, if you’re playing Call of Duty, the guns you unlock are, for the most part, not better than what you already have. They’re just different. In Assassin’s Creed, you get more powerful as you rank up, but the game makes an attempt to pair you with people of your own skill level.
Neither of these is true in Battlefield 3. As much as it pains me to say this, Call of Duty did it better this time around. The matchmaking for progression or dedicated servers where the admins control what’s unlocked makes much more sense. If every gun is just a direct upgrade over the last, just give everyone the most powerful or least powerful of the guns and let us fucking play the game.
Even that though, isn’t the worst of it. What really bugged me was the fact that vehicle progression exists as well. And I’m not talking about minor perks. No, you actually have to unlock the basic equipment that comes standard on every fucking vehicle. I can just imagine my soldier being so ‘inexperienced’ that while climbing into a jet he thinks to himself “Herp derp let me just take off these flares and air to air missiles. I’m not experienced enough to use these yet.” It leads to a game that is completely unbalanced, because if you don’t have the time to commit to unlocking everything, you are gimped. That is not the way you design a game, and Battlefield 3 loses a lot of its appeal behind the wheel because of it.
The part where I recommend the game anyway
All in all, however, I wholeheartedly recommend Battlefield 3. Despite its flaws, it still has all of the appeal of previous Battlefield titles, and thus stands as a worthy successor to the series’ namesake. You’ll still be working with your squads (albeit with limited voice chat). You’ll still be focusing on objectives rather than the mystical KDR. And you still get those epic battlefield moments. I’m having a blast playing this game, and you will, too.
* Protip: Replace the frag rounds in your M203 with smoke rounds. It will make your life way easier as a medic. This is most effective in hardcore or if you haven’t been taking part in the main engagement since being spotted makes the smoke pretty much useless.