Battlefield 3 (PC) Review

When you think Battlefield 3,
you probably think of good guys with big
guns and futuristic vehicles chasing terrorists through intriguing
global hotspots. What you might not realize is that Battlefield
perhaps the most MMO-like military FPS ever made. With a robust
multiplayer progression, a substantial co-op campaign, an impressive
community toolset, and - oh yea, an epic (if brief) single player
campaign, Battlefield 3
aspires to take on the segment leader,
Activision Blizzard's Call of
series, head-on. Does EA's
contender climb to the top of the Military FPS leaderboard? Find out as
Ten Ton Hammer reviews Battlefield

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Paris is picturesque, running gunfights and nuclear threat aside.


Cussing aplenty and several rough cutscenes involving scenes like a PLR
soldier slowly dispatched with a K-Bar, but no copious blood, gore, or
player-initiated civilian massacres to mention.

Gameplay - 87 / 100

The depth of multiplayer unlocks, mods, upgrades, and achievements in
Battlefield 3
helped me make peace with the 8-9 hour single-player
campaign. It's tempting to call Battlefield
's campaign - like most
military FPS campaigns nowadays - a throwaway, but  I rather
pacing through the exploits of USMC SSgt. Blackburn and GRU operative
Dima Mayakovsky as they attempt to track down a passel of briefcase
nukes through Iran, some nameless Baltic nation on the Caspian Sea, and
through the streets of Tehran, New York City, and Paris.

One thing
still definitively has on Battlefield is the ability to
quicksave anywhere. Fortunately, BF3's
checkpoint saves occur often
enough that you'll seldom lose much progress when you die. Death is
common enough even on normal difficulty, but on the whole the
difficulty seemed about right. Though enemies fold under gunfire like
they were made of wet cardboard, they made up in number what they
lacked in initiative.

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The campaign follows the
experiences of suspected traitor SSgt.

Story aside, my primary gripe with the campaign is that it prepares you
not a whit for the multiplayer game. It's a given that human opponents
will be tactically superior than AI opponents, but there's a steep
transition from the "cover, aim, and shoot" of campaign mode to the
harried, barely coordinated Chinese Fire Drill nature of multiplayer
mode for the casual player.  Since the lasting appeal of the
game is
entirely in the chaotic multiplayer domain, some concessions seem to be
in order. Some points toward  an unlock, a better starting
weapon than
the ironsight trash, or some indication that the workday-equivalent
amount of time you spent in Campaign was worthwhile would have been

One thing Battlefield has always had in its column is an extreme
variety of weapons. In the campaign game, you almost have too much
weapons variety and have far too little weapons info. The
ability to
build your own kit prior to each infantry mission would have been
welcome, if for no other reason than to familiarize myself with the
weapons and mods. Instead you're stuck with rather weak kits and are
occasionally introduced to new weapons under heavy fire - i.e. boy oh
boy, there's a tank blowing our cover to hell, maybe you should crawl
over to the javelin and figure out how to use it... oh, heh, the thing
requires a three second lock. Maybe if you'd found secondary
cover  you
could have stayed alive long enough to fire it.

The occasional heavy weapons is one thing, but a player's primary kit
is another. Though the scores of enemies you face in the campaign will
drop a bonanza of different weapons, even if you can tell what type the
gun is by name, reputation, or silhouette, I usually had no clue
whether it was better or worse than my current gun. The game lacked
even a rudimentary damage / accuracy / rate of fire / ammo capacity
comparison a la Rage
or the Crysis

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Nothing like fighting through
a Russian paratroop battalion.

Battlefield 3
gets the core FPS gameplay mostly right.  Mouse
keyboard control of vehicles in multiplayer is still highly
problematic. Seasoned BF
players are accustomed to switching back and
forth from something with an analog stick, which is no comfort if you
get stuck piloting an attack helicopter without a stick in the second
Co-Op mission as I did, pissing off my co-pilot until I hastily dusted
off an X360 controller .  

Story-wise, you'll find the occasional campaign-side confusion over
what you're supposed to do or where to go when. Some of the mission
objectives fall on the ridiculous side of heroic, such as taking out a
speeding car with your lowly M16 in the 1.5 seconds said vehicle is in
your field of fire. Fortunately the game makes allowances; in this
instance, firing somewhere in the general vicinity of the car causes it
to fishtail into a violent wreck.

Yet,  for delivering gritty realism in such modern warfare
as manning fire control on a Super Hornet, being strafed by a Russian
Su-25 "Frogfoot" armored assault aircraft, or driving a lone tank on a
one-way mission through the streets of Tehran, Battlefield
the experience more convincingly than its contemporaries. And you won't
even have to massacre your way through a Russian airport.

Graphics - 87 / 100

It's hard to find too much fault with the "Is it real?" ads
heralding Battlefield 3's
release.  Not only does the game
look great, the environments are destructible to the point that I never
really trusted even a concrete pillar to protect me for long. It simply
chunked away down to twisted rebar under withering fire, and I learned
quickly that the only way to stay safe for any period of time is to get
aggressive and eliminate the threat. That feeling of constant
engagement is something I've more often experienced in a stealth FPS,
and it's nice to really experience it in a military shooter like BF3.

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M1A1 Abrams on Thunder Run.

The detail of the game is fairly intense, right down to the weave
pattern on USMC, the scrolling advertsements on the Paris bus stop
shelters, and the Tehran rooftop signage that had a funny habit of
coming loose when shot at. DICE could have cut corners on
modeling  environments like the inside of an M1 Abrams or a
F/A 18F Super Hornet, but you'll climb into cupolas and cockpits just
like a real tank gunner or pilot would. Better yet, the game runs
smoothly on my increasingly middle-of-the-road Radeon HD 5700 system -
score one for PCs versus consoles and their finnicky BF3

While the level of detail is impressive, it's about time a game got
suppression effects right. Being pinned down by rapid fire or nearby
explosions results in vision blur, slower movement, and sluggish,
inaccurate firing. The effect lasts just long enough to add challenge
and realism to the game without becoming an impediment to core gameplay.

I was mostly pleased with the interface, or lack thereof. The grenade
indicator - a pulsing orange dot - is smaller than in other military
shooters, and does a generally poor job of informing you whether a
grenade is a real threat or an overgrown firecracker exploding on the
other side of a barrier. Another annoyance was the severe amount of
lens scratch and dust that seemed to constantly muddle the left half of
my vision, but I'm willing to chalk this one up to the reality of
fighting in desert environment.

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Lens scratches are a little

Like CoD,
forgoes any kind of enemy-revealing minimap or radar, but
unlike CoD,
interactive cutscenes  are incredibly
unintuitive. More often than I'd like, the game prompts the player to
hit [E] or [Space] when confronted with a knife-wielding
enemy  or when, say, making a difficult jump between subway
cars. The problem is, doing anything besides hitting the correct key -
or pressing it once when the prompt is frantically dancing around
telling you, as it turns out, to rapidly twitch it, results in a
mission fail and a trip back to the last checkpoint.

On the multiplayer front, while every multiplayer FPS has had its
exploits - from fast-scoping to nuclear shotguns - it seems BF3's
contribution to the cheap-shot pantheon is the flashlight slung under
the barrels of select weapons. Even in broad daylight, players use
these to blind other players - and this tactic is enormously effective
at short range. Skilled players will switch them on and off to avoid
becoming a target to far flung enemies. Equally eye-ablating is getting
laser-sighted by an enemy, even if the enemy is targeting your chest
rather than, say, your inner retina. Either of these vision
screwer-uppers could add a layer of fun realism if the effect were just
turned down a notch or thirty.

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Blinded by the flashlight.

Sound - 95 / 100

Every time I think the sound direction in these games can't get better,
it  does. The ping of bullets around you, throaty background
explosions, and the telltale zip-chunk  of a round hitting
you; it all
adds to BF3's
already heady brew of realism. The soundtrack was
forgettable to the point of me having to look up whether there's
actually a soundtrack (mandatory apolocalypse-inspired Johnny Cash
notwithstanding) and the ambient radio chatter is perhaps a bit
overdone at times, but on the whole BF3's
sound lives up to its
top-tier status.

Multiplayer - 100 / 100

Fans of Battlefield 2142
and its large-scale multiplayer mode, rejoice.
At its most inclusive ("Conquest Large"), Battlefield
pits 64 players against each other (32 per team), which means even the
noobest of nublets can get happily lost in the milieu. That's
fortunate, because the starting kits for the assault class and recon
class (in particular) suck in the extreme and aren't likely to improve
much in your first few hours of multiplayer.  It's good to
blend into the background as you tier up, and thanks to the large scale
multiplayer, you can.

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Multiplayer is at least as
chaotic as this looks.

It might come as a surprise that all three Battlefield
game modes are
launched from your browser. Firing up the game will take you to EA's
fully integrated social network experience, complete with platoon
associations (similar to guilds), a friends list, a Battle feed that
tracks your accomplishments and allows you to "Hooah!" (or "Like") your
friends' achievements.

Finding out I dropped $60 on a browser-based game was something of a
disappointment until I found out how extensive the BF3
site is.
Everything is tracked, and almost everything is rewarded. Individual
weapons  and vehicles progress as you do - sights,
suppressors, vehicle upgrades, and better ammo being rewards for
reaching different kill milestones from 10 kills all the way up to 270
kills. BF3's
70+  exquisitely detailed weapons are unlocked by
ranking up either in each class or by progressing through the
game's  evening sized co-op campaign - a tree of six missions
playable on easy, medium, or hard difficulty. Interestingly, different
players in co-op can play in the same match on different difficulty

Not all was roses and kills. The smaller, indoor-centric multiplayer
maps featured easily defensible chokepoints, which seemed to lead to
few point changes once flags were initially captured. Even though the
game featured a
League of Legends: Dominion
style countdown to loss
format, I have yet to see a team pull out a win from almost certain

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A beautiful night for an op in

The game's built-in matchmaking system was the low point; I'm
apparently such an awesome player (or such a terrible one) that no
match could be found for me. The alternative was to seek out a server
with a low ping, which inevitably pitted me against players way above
my pay grade, skill level, and equipment tier.  Which brought
death, early and often.

Value - 70 / 100

I remain a proponent of having separate SKUs for campaign and
multiplayer in games like Battlefield
- not only are Campaign and
Multiplayer essentially separate games, I think they're separate
audiences as well.  If you have no interest in multiplayer,
it's impossible for me to recommend that you drop even half
the current price point on this game.   

Lasting Appeal - 87 / 100

On the other hand, the multiplayer depth goes well beyond anything
we've seen before  in the military FPS genre. The social
network-inspired approach is impressive - I wish all MMOGs exposed half
the stats and offered half the skill-based unlockables - that
Battlefield 3
does.  If you're the type of player to wring a
game out of ranks, unlockables, and achievements for all it's worth and
have a high tolerance for online FPS shenanigans (the
more-than-occasional headshot from the blue, a solitary teammate taking
off with a four person vehicle), then BF3
will be a sixty-spot well

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The F18F Super Hornet is one
of the 32 vehicles you can control.

Pros and Cons


  • Incredible level of
    graphical detail and rich sound direction.
  • Deep multiplayer progression
    that could keep a dedicated online shootist busy for weeks, if not


  • Graphical gotchas -
    scratched up goggles, blinding flashlights, and retina-seeking laser
    dots go beyond realistic and enter the realm of the exploitative.
  • Little done to
    address Battlefield's
    constant gameplay thorns, the
    impossibility of piloting aircraft with a mouse and keyboard, a solo
    teammate zooming off with a multi-person vehicle, fast scoping, etc.


Boasting a robust multiplayer experience (including a satisfying amount
of co-op), Battlefield 3
is a solid continuation  of a
franchise which (to this reviewer) never deserved its underdog status.
With the inevitable duel with Call
of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
a week away, BF3
seems primed to take the multiplayer FPS throne, even
though the campaign mode was fairly forgettable.

Overall 90/100 - Great


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