The long anticipated release of Battlefield 3 has finally arrived. If you are like us and have been a fan since Battlefield 2, 2142 or even Bad Company 2 then boy do we have a treat for you. The gameplay here is as rich as it has ever been, and even more intense than you are probably imagining it could be. The single player game is a mixed bag. There, I said it. It is a highly scripted series of cut scenes and shooting gallery styled events where you either fight off a wave, or die. Action sequences are a good dose of adrenaline but nothing particularly new. You are spoon fed the path you are supposed to take right down to the particular targets you should be aiming at. I have been playing through on hard difficulty, because I figure the only other time I will play the single player campaign is the next time I upgrade my video card, or to show off sequences to people. I might as well get as much of a challenge out of it as I can.
To give you an idea of how scripted things are, the variability in the position of enemies is almost not even noticeable. Enemies will take cover if you fire upon them, but will always initially appear in the same places, running in the same directions. Your team will continuously move into position based on the script they were programmed to run. If you happen to be standing in the way, you will be moved very violently to a different location. Too bad for your cover if you were trying to use it. The variability of your approach is even a non issue, but don’t let any of this talk discourage you. The single player game is basically a tilt of the hat to show what DICE can actually do with the frostbite engine, and they do it wonderfully.
So on to the meat and potatoes: Multiplayer
For lack of a better word, the multiplayer is phenomenal. This is the Battlefield that we have all been waiting for. This is the reason to purchase the game and invest in a new video card. There hasn’t been anything quite as promising of an experience to come along since the Half-life 2/CSS/Team Fortress bundle. I am consistently impressed with the amount of depth that has gone into it’s development. Maps are incredibly lush and varied so much that it almost feels like an entirely different game depending on the availability of vehicles or the nature of the terrain around points that are being contested. Front lines form and are broken, entire defensive positions are flanked and retaken. The heat of combat is a glorious blood cry. You can get so lost in the constant battle you might forget there is an entirely different element to the game.
Vehicles are deadly, but highly susceptible to a skilled engineer or stationary AT weapon. I was driving around in a tank obliterating everything that moved when a single stationary AT round opened me up like a can of sardines. Other tanks seem to have a good chance to duel each other, but an AT round to the rear seems to be just enough to do you dirty. The unlocking of new gadgets and gear becomes quite addictive fairly early into the multiplayer experience, and although we have heard that leveling is going to take a little bit longer now that final release is here, we have seen no reason to believe that. Unlocks seem to roll in quickly, and after just a few hours of multiplayer rank 10 is already looming up. Each individual weapon, class, and vehicle has its own series of unlocks to reward persistent usage. Even pistols, of which there are plenty to choose from, have a series of rewards.
Infantry maps are an absolute blast, and any of the four class types, Assault (medic), Support, Engineer and Recon, will find a necessary role to play in which they can excel. During the beta I found great pleasure playing as assault or support, but the Operation Metro map seemed to favor flanking style maneuvers. That didn’t limit people from playing the all of the kits to great effectiveness however, and they did a great job employing their own playstyles to their advantage. Normally I tend to play situationally, and choose my kit depending on the likelihood of the enemy team to formulate a specific strategy, however I find myself easily capitalizing on the strengths of all classes in any circumstance.
The larger 64 player maps have several smaller enclosed areas where vehicles and snipers alike will have a hard time penetrating the cover of forest concealment to find targets. The Frostbite engine really pushes my machine to the limit and I am running on High settings, but intend to upgrade soon in order to immerse my senses in the sheer beauty of Ultra settings. Do I see an EVGA Geforce GTX 590 in my future? One can hope. Till then, enjoy every minute of this well polished gem. If you were somewhere on the edge and trying to decide if you should take the leap ignore anything that was holding you back. The lack of Steam support is infuriating, but you will have to live with it on this one. Missing out is simply not an option.
Pros: Greatest combat engine to date sporting the most impressive visuals of all time some of the most visceral competitive FPS gameplay that has ever been coded. Most intense full immersion audio effects.
Cons: Battlelog blows, launching the Origin client to launch a web browser to choose a server and launch an executable game makes me a sad panda.
Verdict: Buy it you sloth! Haven’t you been listening?