Battlefield 3 Review | I like the campaign and you should too

Many have appeared to be unimpressed with the game’s singleplayer campaign.  Some think it could’ve been completely left out.  But let’s be honest, there are still – even in this day and age – people who do not play online.  While this review does focus on all three components of Battlefield 3 – singleplayer, co-op and multiplayer – I am keen to cover the singleplayer for those wanting to go it alone.  I promise I will try not to compare it to that (those) other game(s) about war… too much.

Developer: DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
For fans of: Guns.  Bombs.  Tanks.  Planes.
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: PS3 & PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8.5 out of 10.

What I liked

  • The package delivers something for everyone.
  • Looks great.
  • Animations are brilliant.
  • Sound is immersive.

Not so much

  • No story about modern warfare is ever original.
  • Can feel a little direction-less due to lack of objective markers.
  • Interrogation scenes are a little cheesy.

In short

This is Battlefield 3 – a First Person Shooter set in the present day that is not a sequel to the Battlefield: Bad Company spin-offs.  It utilises the Frostbite 2 engine which is a joy to behold over all the available modes that come in the box. 

Singleplayer Campaign (8/10)

It’s important that I start this part of the review with an oft clichéd comparison with the other war games based in the first person…

Battlefield: Bad Company 1 and 2.  Battlefield 3 is not meant to be a sequel to those two games.  As loveable as the rogues in Bad Company are, this is actually the first Battlefield (sans sub-title) to feature a singleplayer campaign.  Now, DICE could stand accused of ignoring the humour and character types from Bad Company, but they could equally have been accused of simply copying their own games.  Instead, many have accused them of copying other games (and movies) in a frequently clichéd and bloated genre.  In the end, there really isn’t much originality left, so it’s what you do with it all that really counts.

And DICE do very well with it thank-you-very-much.  They appeared to want to make an action game that dropped the one-liners and brought a gritty, real world threat to the fore – and I enjoy my action war thriller laced with drama as much as the next person.  Yes, the real world scenario with drama has been seen recently in every other game that isn’t a post-apocalyptic shooter, but where this excelled for me was in the settings.

As Sergeant Blackburn – a US Marine – you are in a spot of bother.  Some spooks by the name of Whistler and Gordon need answers from you – and they don’t ask nicely.  Due to a discovery in Tehran – and following a slightly overly convoluted plot – it turns out that the core of the game is about stopping bad guys from doing bad things.  The bad guys include the People’s Liberation and Resistance (in Iran/Iraq), Russians, an arms dealer and some police officers… well they unfortunately just get in your way.  You also get to play the game out from a number of other perspectives other than the Sergeant’s which include an Airforce pilot, a tank commander and a Russian spec ops operative called Dimitri “Dima” Mayakovsky.  In a fashion that clearly grates the two spooks ‘Dima’ actually is a Russian keen on preventing third world war and is on the same mission as you – the traditional ‘good guy’ – to stop the ‘bad guys’.

Phew.  So far so utterly clichéd.  But as I mentioned, it’s the way it happens – and the way it all looks and sounds while doing so – that makes it worth enjoying.  The first thing that struck me was the pacing of some missions.  There was a clear mixture of action and stealth.  At times I was even reminded of that other FPS… Rainbow Six.  The more action orientated missions never felt like you were constantly facing overwhelming odds, but common sense and flanking seemed to work where the opportunity arose.  Maybe I’m not as hard as Serious Sam, but I would’ve loved a cover system in the game to give it an even more realistic feel.  Or save me from my own moments of Rambo-ness.

In the end, most singleplayer campaigns are meant to be escapist – nothing like your day-to-day drudge – and Battlefield 3 does that in spades.  You are not likely to have a year in your life flip between the (frankly) horrific idea of being shot at, flying a jet fighter, driving a tank or HALO jumping into an objective, so you should be grateful for the opportunity to do so over the more than average campaign.  In fact, the campaign is much better at providing the escapism and thrill ride we need to get up for work the next morning than that other FPS could… erm, what’s it called again?

Oh yes, Medal of Honor.

Co-Op (8/10)

The co-op is a surprisingly robust element to the whole package.  Maybe not the best of the ‘survive-waves-of enemies-with-a-friend’ modes out there, but not completely as one-dimensional either.  It offers objective based missions you need to complete to unlock the next one, but there is a fair amount of variety and the desire to beat your (or your friend’s) previous highest score is always a fantastic motivator.

Multiplayer (9/10)

There’s no denying that this is the jewel in the crown.  While the game has had some server issues with the launch, it is still a beautifully paced multiplayer experience that rewards teamwork.  Set up a squad and prepare to lose hours on some of the best looking and designed multiplayer maps seen in a FPS multiplayer for a long while.  While it is not perfect (I hate that damn flashlight), it is a game that will be supported for some time to come – both by the players and the developers.  For many, the multiplayer will be the only reason to buy the game – and there’s no reason to disagree with that.  And then there’s always the Battlelog – where “playing with your friends has never been this easy”…

Graphics, sound and gameplay

If you have an HDD for your Xbox 360, I really do recommend you install the HD pack.  While it is workable in ‘SD’, it really looks great in ‘HD’ – admittedly the PC version looks spectacular at its best settings, but when you have a ‘serviceable’ PC at best, the HD console version looks breathtaking.  The animations deserve a special mention, as all the movements are fluid and realistic.  I can spend hours climbing over obstacles, as it is the first noticeably realistic ‘vault’ in first person I have seen.  The cutscenes – especially the times of interrogation – are not quite up to the in-game graphics, with some of the facial animations lacking emotion, but overall, the graphics are top class.

The sound in the game is absolutely brilliant – the directional cues and ambient sound is truly immersive.  If I was to pick on the sound, I’d be doing it a complete disservice.  So I’ll stop right there.

The gameplay is pretty much what you expect it to be – a First Person Shooter affair… with some vehicle driving.  It’s still pretty damn awesome – but many know I can either be easily impressed or the grumpiest of sorts.  Today is a good day.

Final thoughts

Get the game for any of the modes you prefer, but get it.

Phew.  Made it through the review without mentioning Call of Duty…

Zombiegamer rating:

About Zombie Dredd

Wannabe gaming journalist. Wannabe zombie. And sometimes clan leader of OAP. Clint O'Shea when in his human disguise.