- Addictive, well-designed multiplayer
- Audio and visuals are stunning
- Tons of unlocks to keep you playing
- Buggy and so broken that single player and co-op come to a halt
- Origin/multiplayer platform Battlelog are poorly designed
- Some deviations from Battlefield formula aren't great
Battlefield 3 would have been an excellent game if it worked properly. As of now, it doesn't. Should it be patched with its major fixed in the near future, this could be a stellar, enjoyable experience.
When I previewed EA’s Battlefield 3 earlier this year after I got to spend some time with it at E3, I raved about it. I thought it had the potential to be one of the year’s best games. Now that I’ve been able to spend some time with it, I can say that it really could have been.
I understand that not everybody who plays the game is going to run into the same problems that I have and as such, this review is going to seem contrary to just about every other review out there. But for me — and many others, judging by what I’ve been reading in numerous forums — the game is basically broken and in order to be “fair and balanced,” I need to review it as such.
It’s plagued by bugs that actively impede my ability to play certain parts of the game, and even the parts that I can play are still glitchy at times. But that’s a shame, because when the game does work, it’s fantastic. It looks and sounds unbelievable, the multiplayer is addicting, and there are some excellent design choices and subtle changes that have been implemented to the Battlefield formula that are sure to please both new and old players.
Whether or not you actually get to experience it all is another matter entirely.
Battlefield 3, developed by Digital Illusions CE (DICE), runs on the Frostbite 2 engine, which, in my humble opinion, defines next-generation graphics. It is most definitely a little underrated — what with bigger names like Unreal, Crytek, and Source generally getting more attention — but after what I’ve seen it do in Battlefield, I think it deserves all the credit in the world.
Realism is the name of the game with these visuals, but specific elements like smoke, textures, explosions, and character movement are simply outstanding. EA implemented a special technology called the ANT engine to create and emulate realistic human movements; it’s actually the same technology they use in EA Sports games like FIFA. It looks great, whether people are running, taking cover, or going from a standing position to prone, it all looks very natural and realistic.
And perhaps the best part about the Frostbite 2 engine is how well it scales, even for lower-end systems. The computer that I’m using for gaming right now is almost three years old (Dual core AMD 2.8 GHz processor, ATI Radeon 4860 with 1 GB 256-bit GDDR5, 4 GB of RAM, etc.) which is positively ancient in technology years. As such, I run everything on medium settings and it still looks incredible. Granted, the framerate isn’t the highest in the world (it tends to float somewhere around the low 30s) and I sometimes run the game in window mode to help smooth things out a little bit, but the textures still look great, as do the character models and animations.
The audio in Battlefield 3 is a key part of the immersive nature of its gameplay. Not only does the chatter of gunfire sound scarily realistic, the explosions and crumbling environments will rattle you and keep you on your toes as you play. I actually find myself constantly twitching or ducking slightly as bullets pop and whiz by my head and blurting out the occasional expletive as a grenade explodes nearby and I narrowly avoid death.
The voiceover work is solid too — even if it is heavily laden with F-bombs that appear to be there for no reason other than to be gratuitous — as your fellow soldiers and squadmates yell out warnings or, in the case of single player, directives. On that note, the voiceovers in the cutscenes of the single player campaign are exceptional too, adding to their cinematic quality and eerie realism (seriously, they look so good it’s a little frightening).