Battlefield 3 Review: Great Mutiplayer, Lackluster (and Derivative) Storyline

Battlefield 3 Review: Great Mutiplayer, Lackluster (and Derivative) Storyline
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This season’s most hyped video game matchup has easily been the showdown between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. Both are modern military shooter franchises with storied multiplayer modes, both have legions of die-hard fans, and both want your money this holiday season.

Battlefield’s marketing campaign seems to have been aimed squarely at besting Call of Duty at their own game. Dice’s franchise has only recently added a single-player component to their famed multiplayer series, and Battlefield 3 features the most fully-realized campaign so far.

Battlefield 3 is a stellar multiplayer game that just happens to have a single-player component that may feel a bit familiar to fans of one of gaming’s other top shooter franchises.

Single Player Campaign (3 out of 5)

Battlefield 3 Assault Rifle

Here’s the set up for the single-player campaign: An American soldier is being interrogated by a member of an American intelligence agency regarding a large operation. The soldier tells his story to the agent and the player is treated to a series of flashback missions. The game’s story unfolds this way until a profound secret/truth is revealed, and then he heads off to track down those responsible.

No, I’m not summarizing the story of Call of Duty: Black Ops, but the structure of the campaign in Battlefield 3 is so similar I can see how you would be confused.

I find it interesting that those in charge of marketing at EA/Dice chose to attack the Call of Duty franchise so directly when they were about to launch a game that essentially ripped it’s structure from their last release.

Granted, BF3 was well into development when Black Ops was released, but you’d think they would have found a way to subtly alter the context of the main story so gamers didn’t experience such a strong sense of deja vu.

The story isn’t the only thing in BF3’s campaign that will remind you of another big shooter franchise. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of moments in the game that seemed ripped directly from the Modern Warfare games.

I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

This is not to say that the single player campaign is bad. It’s not, it will just seem a bit…familiar.

Multiplayer (5 out of 5)

Support Your Squadmates

Multiplayer, however, is 100% Battlefield. Anyone who has spent time playing previous games in the series will feel right at home here. Conquest, Rush, and Squad Rush modes have returned from Bad Company 2, and Team Deathmatch has been added to the mix, as well.

There are a ton of weapon and kit upgrades to unlock, as well as countless ribbons and medals awarded for completing certain tasks on the battlefield. Collectors will find plenty to love in BF3.

Multiplayer in Battlefield 3 is probably the most dynamic and unpredictable of any online game currently available. While Call of Duty focuses on tight maps and killstreaks, Battlefield gives its players a ton of cool toys to play with and some loosely-defined objectives. It’s up to them how they put the two together, which can lead to some truly amazing gameplay moments. It’s entirely possible to be strafing enemy troops in a jet one minute, only to find yourself bailing out and landing on a tall building to set up a squad spawn point and take potshots at attackers with your sniper rifle the next.

See an enemy vehicle? Take it. Want to try strapping a bunch of C4 onto your jeep and driving it into an enemy tank? It’ll work. You could even drop ammo and health kits onto that same jeep and drive around dishing out healing and supplies like Santa Claus.

Creativity is rewarded almost as much as teamwork in BF3. Lone wolves can do okay in the game, but you’ll need a well-tuned squad to do maximum damage, which is one aspect that I think sets BF3 apart from it’s biggest competitor: Modern Warfare 3.

Graphics (5 out of 5)

Support Class Soldier

Installing the optional graphics pack makes the game look gorgeous, even on consoles. Whether you’re crawling through the bush or watching the ground zoom by at mach 3, the visuals in BF3 are impressive.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the marketing campaign for the game was the “Is it real?” ads which (almost) seamlessly interspersed gameplay footage with live-action shots. The game looks that good.

Sound (5 out of 5)

Nobody does weapon sounds quite like Dice. There’s something very cool about knowing how close a passing bullet is to your head based on the sound it makes. Distant shots and explosions sound great, as does the roar of a jet passing by close overhead.

This is a game that practically begs to be played with a sophisticated surround sound system or gaming headset.

Controls (5 out of 5)

If you’ve played a first-person shooter before, the infantry controls will feel quite comfortable to you. If you’ve ever played a flight simulator, you should have little trouble with the jet controls. If you learned to fly a helicopter in Bad Company 2, you’re going to have to make a few adjustments.

Controls, for the most part, are responsive and intuitive. There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to flying jets and helicopters, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It should be at least a little difficult to strafe enemy troops from above when doing so gives you such a clear advantage, and the level of difficulty seems just right here.

The Verdict (5 out of 5)

Considered solely on it’s multiplayer component, Battlefield 3 is a resounding success. Looking exclusively at its single-player campaign, the game is a solid, albeit derivative, modern military shooter. Taken as a whole, there’s a lot to enjoy about BF3.

With hours and hours of multiplayer enjoyment in a single package, it’s easy to forget the somewhat disappointing nature of the single-player campaign. Throw co-op mode into the mix, and one can almost dismiss it as an adequate appetizer for a delicious main course of multiplayer mayhem.

The bottom line: if you love Battlefield, you’ll love Battlefield 3. If you love great multiplayer experiences, you’ll love Battlefield 3. Any online shooter fan is going to be very, very happy with this game.


  • All references and images from Battlefield 3.