*Usually I end reviews with this note, but I figured Battlefield 3 is a special case. I know this is primarily a multiplayer-focused title, but I couldn’t access the online mode for multiple reasons. For one, I rented it and couldn’t get access to an online pass. Secondly, unless I bring my system to someone else’s house, I can’t actually play any game online. I reviewed the single player and single player only, so remember that is that only aspect I am judging. My fellow editor Kevin has played the multiplayer extensively, and you can find his review here. Thanks! And now, as I was saying…
In all the games that I play, I try my hardest to stroll in with hopes that good times will lay ahead… wait, shoot, I already used that intro. Regardless, the thought still stands. I had a similar cautious feeling when sliding in the latest modern combat game, Battlefield 3, into my console. Maybe Modern Warfare 3 finally turned me on to this type of game? After all, my disposition for MW3 was quickly thrashed due to how much fun I was having. Well, as they say, “One step forward, two steps back.” Actually, for Battlefield 3‘s campaign, two steps back is being generous.
Out of all my time with Battlefield 3‘s story mode, I didn’t walk away with many concrete details or a grand sense of what was going on. You are placed within the body of Blackburn (or as I called him, Blackturd) in some sort of interrogation room, Black Ops style, and are forced to recollect what happened (hence giving you something to play) for remembering some nukes or something. It starts out mediocre at best, with the facial animation and voice acting definitely being highlights, but it completely drags quickly after. “Drags” isn’t being used lightly either. I literally could not tell what I was trying to do and often felt like I was being trotted from point to point for no damn reason.
Oh wait, nukes. That’s what they kept coming back to… I think. It’s a total frazzled snoozefest until the very end, with some interesting plot threads being given some light, but it was too late to save the story as whole. DICE doesn’t usually make single player affairs (except for the Bad Company series, which each had fun campaigns), and it definitely shows.
While the story would have benefited from not being shit, having some actually interesting things to do would have made past fouls forgivable. On multiple occasions in this reasonably brief campaign, I felt like I was in the fifth hour of a seven hour U.S. History class. Other games do a good job of masking “Hey, go shoot a bunch of terrorists,” but Battlefield 3 doesn’t. Go here, shoot dudes, maybe blow up a tank, and repeat. I’m not the biggest fan of the shooting (although it is far above average), but the constant lulls in the action just made me that much more disinterested.
Even though I said I wasn’t too keen on the actual shooting (again, it’s not bad), but there are a lot of surrounding issues within the combat. After an hour, I had to knock it down to Easy, but I was still experiencing frustrating problems. One-hit kills should be banished from all shooters and Battlefield 3 has brought more than its fair share to the party. RPGs from nowhere, if an enemy gets close enough to insta-kill you (which isn’t all that close), failing the stupid quick-time events, and (my favorite) glitchy objectives that can kill you for no reason. There was a part near the end where I kept dying over and over in an obviously-scripted sequence and was given no feedback on what I was doing wrong. Glitches also would also lead me to restart a few sections due to bugs in the scripting, like waiting for a door to to open (which happens constantly) or waiting for your AI partners to advance. Errors like these are offensive in their own right, but given the less-than-ideal checkpoints, it can be downright insulting.
At least they weren’t vehicle sections. Oh, the vehicle sections. While not as maddening as infantry combat, I literally played some of them with my phone in one hand and the controller in the other. The jet section is a glorified on-rails mission with minimal explosions or action, just begging for half of your attention. Tanks didn’t win me over either, with that part being played in a bland, deserted desert. I can’t believe they took these moments and completely fumbled them.
The pretty visuals do at least give the player something good to look at. While it’s devoid of an interesting art style or color palette (I nearly made a mess in my trousers when I saw the color lime green for the first [and only] time), the technical aspects do enough to make up for it. Lighting and reflections are stunning and even caused me to stop and stare a few times, especially when I saw the neon signs being reflected in the rain puddles. Effects like dust are well done and little touches everywhere (like the dirtiness on your screen) do a lot to make this game look better than average.
It’s not really surprising, but Battlefield 3 has some pretty spectacular audio design that does a great deal for player immersion. I was wearing some good headphones in my play sessions, and was constantly impressed with the quality of the sound. Bullets are always whizzing by and I would hear where the shrapnel was flying just by how it was coming through my headphones. I was also finding enemies a little faster just by where I could hear their footsteps or gunfire, which is an added plus. Speaking of gunfire, every gun has a satisfying crack noise, with no gun feeling left behind. Sound also dynamically changes given whether you are inside or outside and it’s definitely something I wish every game had. Extra props also go to the mansion mission where the rap music was being muffled realistically through the stereo. Voice acting was good at times, but given how high the bar is everything audio in this game, it fell a bit by the wayside.
Battlefield 3 seemed to take the bold choice and push realism more than its counterparts. This is completely fine, but when it is done so sporadically and poorly, it makes the decision almost irrelevant. A monotonous story, humdrum objectives, one-hit kills, and other niggling affairs don’t bode well for anyone planning to play the campaign part in this latest installment. From strictly a campaign perspective, modern combat games can definitely coexist, but with a single player alternative like this, maybe they can’t.
+Exceptional graphics from a technical perspective
+Phenomenal sound design
+Facial animation is convincing and detailed
-Instant, lazy fail states and one-hit kills get in the way too often
-Confusing, nonsensical, and ridiculously cliché storyline
-Offensively boring objectives
-Poor checkpoints coupled with sometimes glitchy moments
-Quick-time events are out of place
Final Score: 5/10
Platform Differences: The PS3 version is on one disc, while the Xbox 360 version is on two DVDs.