Ready for war
Boasting an explosive single player campaign, separate co-operative missions and a deep multiplayer component, Battlefield 3 has you waging all out war in heart-pounding land, sea and air-based missions set across diverse locations including Paris, Tehran and New York.
A first person shooter that takes aim at the genre leading Call of Duty series, it certainly ticks all the necessary feature boxes, although it's a bit of an unbalanced package. By trying so hard to be everything to all types of players, it inevitably excels in some areas and lags behind a bit in others.
The single player campaign sees you step into the boots of Marine Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn, who in for one hell of a day when routine operations against People Liberation and Resistance insurgents in Iraq elevate into a race to prevent two missing nukes from detonating in heavily populated urban centres.
The globe-trotting story provides plenty of room for varied combat scenarios. Youl defend Iraqi streets as earthquakes disrupt the battlefield, take part in an airstrike from the seat of an F-18 fighter jet, provide watch as a sniper from rooftops and stomp across desert locales in monstrous tanks. It all beautifully presented too, with the cutting-edge Frostbite 2 game engine delivering some jaw-dropping visuals, highly lifelike character animations and superb audio.
There no question Battlefield 3 is a technical showcase, but developer DICE has been less ambitious when it comes to the campaign minute to minute gameplay. The game holds your hand fairly tightly throughout by prioritising heavily scripted, action-movie theatricality over player choice, resulting in what can at times be a strangely disempowering experience.
This approach is most apparent in an early jet level featuring thrilling aerial dogfights. The problem is youe only there for the ride, charged with firing off a few missiles when directed rather than getting to fly the actual thing. Elsewhere, venture in a direction you're not supposed to and the game will fill the screen with static and order you back to your designated spot, or run off ahead of a colleague and youl be forced to wait for them to catch up to open a door only they can unlock.
It clear that these are deliberate design decisions made to make things easier and fun for more casual players, but it does little to advance the formula populated by the Call of Duty series, and veteran shooter fans will likely turn to Battlefield 3 excellent multiplayer experience to get their thrills.
If you're confident venturing online then Battlefield 3 proves to be a massively rewarding and varied multiplayer experience. Here youe given plenty of choice, with four distinct but customisable roles to choose from. Assault operatives can revive recently fallen comrades, Support troops can pepper the battlefield with claymore mines, Recon forces can launch aerial drones, while Engineer soldiers can use remote-controlled bots to repair damaged vehicles.
There are load of upgrades to unlock for both man and machine, such as bipods, reflex sights, tactical lights, foregrips, guided missiles and reactive armour. Whether youe a fan of being in the middle of the on-foot action, manning vehicles or sniping from afar, there something here for you, and working for your own advancement simultaneously contributes to your team's success no matter your chosen approach.
Offering a combination of well designed, often giant maps, every game feels different. Whether capturing flags in Conquest skirmishes, destroying enemy materiel in Rush matches, or racking up kills in Team or Squad Deathmatch modes, Battlefield 3 often thrilling multiplayer experience has all the tools to keep players busy for many months to come.
Elsewhere, the co-operative missions see you play as characters loosely connected to the campaign's overarching plot. There are six in total, including one which sees you sniping terrorists in Paris as your unit advances on a besieged embassy, and another in which you have to hold off SWAT teams wielding blinding flashlights as you search an office complex for secret documents. Theye more of an aside than a fully realised game mode, but theye nevertheless fun to blast through with a friend as you chase high scores.
Beyond the Call of Duty?
Battlefield 3 single player story is accessible, visually spectacular and perfectly well executed, which should make it a perfect fit for fans of the Call of Duty campaigns, but the lack of player freedom means it falls short of greatness. Similar criticism can be levelled at the co-operative missions, which are a fun distraction but never stray too far from their comfort zone.
As has generally been the case with Battlefield titles, the excellent multiplayer is the game strongest feature. At its best it an absolutely thrilling experience that provides Call of Duty with some much needed competition. Which series you prefer is ultimately a matter of personal taste, but as long as you're not averse to playing online, Battlefield 3 is a fantastic way to go to virtual war.
+ Fantastic multiplayer modes.
+ Excellent visuals and acoustics.
+ A great alternative to Call of Duty.
- Single player campaign plays it safe.
- Co-op gameplay could be more fleshed out.
- Less environmental destruction than in previous Battlefields.