Battlefield 3

EA’s latest blockbuster is two distinct games -- excellent, complex multiplayer and simple, short but fun single player

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EA Games Battlefield 3
  • EA Games Battlefield 3
  • EA Games Battlefield 3
  • EA Games Battlefield 3

Pros

  • Some of the best team-based multiplayer we've seen
  • Excellent graphics, a solid game engine
  • Hours of replay value

Cons

  • Simple singleplayer storyline
  • Some bugs, especially in Origin
  • Some multi-player features missing from the last game

Bottom Line

Battlefield 3 is two distinctly different games -- chaotic, complex, world-class multiplayer with enormous replay value versus a pulp fiction singleplayer story that sometimes plays like a pop-up shooting gallery. The game's tacked-on co-op missions sit uneasily between MP and SP in terms of enjoyment. If you're an online gamer you're well catered for -- Battlefield 3 is undoubtedly one of the best multiplayer games we've spent time with in a long time, and although some features are missing from previous Battlefield games we're still happy. If you're an offline gamer -- well, you're out of luck thanks to EA's somewhat Draconian backend software.

Would you buy this?

Battlefield 3 is the latest game from Swedish game developer DICE, building on a franchise started in 2002 with the seminal Battlefield 1942. Since the first Battlefield over a dozen games have been released, each with minor improvements from the last iteration. Battlefield 3 is the pinnacle of this continual evolution — it has almost all the multiplayer features of the older games, and a fleshed-out singleplayer story a la Battlefield: Bad Company 2. It’s definitely not perfect, but overall it’s a solid gaming experience that has massive long-term playability.

Battlefield 3: Single player

The Battlefield franchise didn’t start with any kind of single-player storyline — for years it was strictly an AI-only version of the multiplayer game, for gamers with shoddy Internet connections and no willing family member for a lift to the nearest LAN party. The Bad Company spin-off changed this, giving traditionally multiplayer-hungry players a chance to settle down with some semblance of a plot and character development.

Battlefield 3, in its efforts to emulate and overtake its Call of Duty competition, has a fully-fledged single player campaign component. To say the storyline is like something out of a book you’d buy to read in an airport isn’t entirely inaccurate — think US soldiers in the Middle East, stolen suitcase nukes, Russian special forces, rogue spies, lots of angry bad guys — but that’s not to say it isn’t fun. It should come as no surprise that Andy McNab was a technical advisor for the game’s storyline; he’s also written a novel to accompany the storyline and build back-story for one of the playable characters.

Battlefield 3’s single player storyline plays like a McNab or Matthew Reilly novel, chopping and changing between characters, flashbacks, settings and assorted ‘intrigue’ (we use inverted commas because it’s really not that intriguing, to be honest). The fast pace of the storyline does mean the game comes off as slightly schizophrenic — although there’s ostensibly a main character in Sargeant Henry ‘Black’ Blackburn, you’ll spend half the story playing the three supporting characters. What’s most frustrating is that the majority of the story is built in pre-rendered flashback cutscenes, in thirty-second lumps — the missions you undertake in the game are tied together loosely under the guise of recalling the past few days’ events.

The single player campaign is formulaic and, to a cynic, largely indistinguishable from its Call of Duty and Medal of Honor counterparts. The missions are generally fun, but there are moments where you’re snapped out of the run-and-gun of fighting enemies — who do seem to pop up out of cover for you to attack, like a shooting gallery at a carnival — to partake in slightly frustrating mini-games: think ‘press SPACE repeatedly to climb up the side of this speeding train carriage’. It’s a console gaming convenience hangover that detracts from the immersiveness of the story.

Battlefield 3’s single player component is very short, too — we clocked it in just under seven hours on Normal difficulty, and this time includes retrying sequences where we didn’t mash the appropriate button fast enough (falling off the side of the aforementioned train a couple of times, for example). As an addendum to the multiplayer component it works well, but we definitely wouldn’t buy Battlefield 3 solely on the appeal of its single player mode.

Next page: Multiplayer

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