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Review: Battlefield 3
by Joseph Christ on Nov. 7, 2011

They say you should always follow your heart. That we can do no greater service than being true to ourselves no matter the odds, and no matter the affinity we may have for another. The premise is quite simple. No amount of replication, even when attention is paid to the most minute details, can ever mimic an original to perfection. The process is doomed from the start, and it wouldn't be long until the realization is made that we'll never make as good of a 'someone else' as we can make of ourselves. Fakers are spotted right away, of course. Upon first pronouncement they may seem to stand on a firm foundation, but the roadways of that Uncanny Valley stretch far and wide. Mimics always fall apart, and do so fast. And as that veneer slides off like so much of a melting mask, that inkling of true mastery usually begins to shine through from underneath.

Battlefield 3 (Xbox 360)
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: October 25, 2011 (NA)

This, of course, brings us first to the single player campaign of Battlefeld 3 which is a prime example of how imitation through pressure has caused a franchise to be what it is not, and lose its way in the process. I can only guess that the perceived 'battle' between the Modern Warfare series and Battlefield reached dizzying heights at the DICE offices who felt an overwhelming pressure to hit their nemesis head on. Unfortunately as far as the single player goes, instead of doing what DICE does well, developing open worlds created specifically for combined arms combat, DICE decided to try to do the opposite; creating a completely linear, squad-based, combat story that is as open as an 80's year old Nun's vagina. And much like that vagina, it turns out to be dry, ugly, empty, and lifeless.

The problems with the single player range from small bugs to sweeping design faults that serve to rip the player out of the experience with an almost obscene force. Enemies appearing out of thing air, dead bodies disappearing, AI partners running through walls, are all found in bounty, wrapped in a narrative as cohesive as a badly made burrito. The main plot revolves around an interrogation scene acting as a catalyst for flashbacks which hold the gameplay (haven't we seen this before), but without the spice of visiting grandiose passages of time a'la Call of Duty and Quantum Leap. Instead we go back a few months at the most, get pieces of the convoluted story, and get thrown back to the interrogation scene. One never really feels like they are playing a part in a grand arc, no matter how obtuse it may be. There is one part of the story which, I suppose, is supposed to be especially dramatic. However, the narrative is so poorly put together that one never really get's a sense of any enormity to the event. It simply slides past, another signpost in the darkness within a story you can hardly see.

Even a shoddily cobbled narrative can be excused if the gameplay is solid, right? You don't watch Commando for the well-crafted dialogue (quite the opposite actually, and therein lies the charm), and I would think that even most devoted COD fans would be hard pressed to give you that story in intricate detail. Unfortunately, DICE has stumbled here as well. Instead of doing what they do best, and creating an open world for the story to unfold, they have instead created a completely linear corridor-shooter slog with area after area to shoot the bad guys, move forward, and shoot the bad guys some more. It is completely foreign to what DICE is known for and it shows. Even the much touted jet section is little more than an uninspired turret sequence.

Then there are the bugs mentioned above which appear full tilt. Enemies drop into the world from nothingness, or continue to flow out of a door continuously until you reach some secret checkpoint in the level. Things which probably also appear in COD games, but are much better hidden by a developer who has mastered the tricks used to obfuscate them. DICE, however, is like an amateur magician who can't stop dropping the cards out of his sleeves.

The world itself is one of the main offenders. Even places that look open constrict you to areas directly around your battle, greeting you with a blazing “YOU ARE LEAVING THE BATTLFIELD” and threatening you to a death within 5 or so seconds if you don't return. If you were pinning your hopes on shooting holes in a building and going the long way to flank an enemy in single player, then think again. There are even times when this invisible wall is literally 5 feet around you as the game decides that you simply cannot miss the dialogue amongst your squad mates. Not that you'll actually remember who any of your squad mates are. Unlike Bad Company 2, which had a plethora of funny, memorable characters, the characters in Battlefield 3 are lifeless, bland and completely forgettable. There is not one moment that you ever feel like you are part of a cohesive team, and not even a flickering of emotion is able to be conjured during the duration of the story. It's quite amazing, especially since one of the main plot lines revolves around the supposed relationship between you and your squad.

Something must also be said of the graphics, which DICE has used as a main selling point for Battlefield 3. My word of caution is this, if you are playing on a console be prepared to be disappointed. Cramming the intricacies of the Frostbite 2 engine onto a console surely had to take a bite out of something, and the graphics are probably the main contributor to the sacrifice having to be made. The main problem is simply the lighting engine which ended up on the consoles. Though much of the color palette in the game is the same, depending on the area, the superior lighting engine on the PC helped to make objects stand out. However, on the console the similar pallets, combined with much lower resolution, only serve to make all the graphics mud into each other. Finding enemies hiding in the rubble becomes extremely difficult, and you'll find yourself oftentimes guessing at what you're shooting at all.

Even the death process is bugged. Instead of asking if you want to continue after death, like many games do, the game simply reloads ad nauseam. Meaning that if you die, and were thinking of using the restroom in the interlude, your character will be caught in his own personal hell. A hell where he is killed and reborn again and again for all of eternity. And as you sit there on the toilet, you'll be the sole audience to the feast of his suffering.

Ultimately, the single player campaign is a pustule; an insignificance who's only worth is to teach us all that to be ourselves is the best we can ever be. DICE, forgetting their own value and success, tried to mimic what they perceived success to be, and in the process hobbled themselves by forcing on shoes that simply do not fit. The only conceivable positive is the merciful ending credits which will appear no more than 7 hours after you started.

It's telling that the single player campaign is on Disk 2 instead of Disk 1. I only wish that it was on Disk 3, and not included at all.

At least we still have the multiplayer.

It's almost as if the single player campaign and the multiplayer were created by two different developers. The multiplayer shines with all that is good within DICE's repertoire, with even more refinement and more meat to it. It is combined-arms combat at its very best, and stands as a glorious reprieve from the smaller tactics based gameplay in the Call of Duty games.

DICE has learned a lot since Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 2, and in many ways Battlefield 3 is an amalgamation of all those lessons mixed into one beautiful meal. Destruction is back and better than ever thanks to the Forstbite 2 engine, and though you won't necessarily be felling skyscrapers, you'll be destroying big parts of them. But it isn't really the big destruction which is as impressive as the small destruction. Walls no longer crumble in big, predefined pieces, but now can be chipped away by small-arms fire adding an ultra-realistic sense to the battlefield atmosphere and even tactics.

Levels are back, of course, but this time DICE has done a much better job at rewarding the player with gadgets and weapons over the long term. Previously, in Bad Company 2, you would be done maxing out your soldier in the mid-20 levels. Now DICE has promised to divvy out the weapons, attachments and gadgets throughout your entire career, and those additions seldom feel like filler. From flashlights that blind your enemy, scopes, mortars, anti-vehicle weapons, a host of assault rifles, pistols, and different camouflage, you'll be playing your own version of soldier-barbie with a vast assortment of accessories to create with.

Jet's also make a return, and this time in a much better state than they were in Battlefield 2. The flying feels appropriately heavy yet good, they have their own series of gadgets, and, thankfully, the maps for the air-vehicles is much larger than it is for ground troops. Meaning that even though you will still have to circle around, you'll have to do it much less than you used to. The same, however, can't really be said for the helicopters. Possibly to lessen the circle strafing found in Bad Company 2, helicopters are a much more delicate endeavor to fly this time around with an ultra sensitive dual-stick approach needed to fly them correctly. It still never feels bad, though. I can't imagine flying a real helicopter to be an easy feat, and part of me looks forward to mastering the process DICE has set forth.

Battlefield 3 will probably be known as both a great stumble and a great innovation. It actually pains me to think of how good the multiplayer might have been have they simply didn't create a single player at all and, instead, put those working hours into furthering the online experience. Instead, on one hand they created one of the best multiplayer combat games there is and, at the same time, one of the most shallow and dull single player ones we've been forced to endure. Maybe, DICE should have realized that the best competition they could have provided was to do what they do best, and show people why they are the best at what they do.

Score: 70%


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Comments

  • republictiger 3 years, 9 months ago

    Before I finish reading, because I saw no mention of this... again, am I the only one aware that Danger Close was also involved in the single-player? >_> Now, I will proceed reading the rest.

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  • JTC545 3 years, 9 months ago

    Great review Joseph. The SP was probably one of the worst i have had to experience in awhile while the MP shined in some aspects and declined in others to me. Still, BF3 felt like a disappointment to me.

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  • Dangerlocker 3 years, 9 months ago

    JTC dont know shit Sp was meh but the MP WAS AND IS GOLDEN, AMAZING, and PURE BF

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  • republictiger 3 years, 9 months ago

    I recall a comment in another site regarding how said commenter treated the SP, he treated it as a tutorial of sorts, that attempts to teach you basic uses for weapons... yet you see dudes running around with sniper rifles at close range sometimes. It lets you know you should stick to your team, though there are those who don't. So really, you make of it what you want it to be. Compromised side dish is the only way to describe SP campaigns in these games (except Medal of Honor).

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  • Setho 3 years, 9 months ago

    The first mission and the jet mission were the only missions that amazed me in the singleplayer... the rest was just an unnecessary amount of shooting. The multiplayer, on the other hand, is where its at. It's Battlefield after all.

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  • Hegs94 3 years, 9 months ago

    I agree that the SP wasn't amazing, but I didn't mind it. I definitely think a 70 is a bit too low, but to each his own I suppose.

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  • AdjacentKitten 3 years, 9 months ago

    Couldn't have said it any better myself.. oh wait. I probably can, but don't let that detract from the importance of your review. I think if one had to grade this game as a whole, this review is extremely fair.. the single-player is, after all, a mind-numbing excuse for campaign. However, I didn't see much of your insight on the actual multiplayer.. kind of off-putting, seeing as that's the reason people buy Battlefield games in the first place.

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    • AdjacentKitten 3 years, 9 months ago

      In fact, now that I look back upon it, there isn't even any mention of the co-op.

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      • republictiger 3 years, 9 months ago

        That is were he left the other 30%, though it'd probably be 20% more :V

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  • Rhineville 3 years, 9 months ago

    IMO, the singleplayer shouldn't even be graded. It's such a tack-on to such an otherwise great experience it's like grading Halo on a single game mode in multiplayer. I only played part of the singleplayer when the servers were out on the first day, and I'll never play it again. I'd like to hear more opinions on the real heart of the game, I think everyone at this point knows not to expect anything from the singleplayer, and those that do are playing the wrong game. I do feel however that there was a very big lost opportunity with the singleplayer: In the first halo, the freedom of movement you had in the larger areas meant that you could approach taking out the ai aliens any way you wanted. Imagine that sort of situation in battlefield singleplayer, where you can choose where to deploy, what vehicles to take and what approach to use; hitting the enemy base head-on with the tanks; falling from the sky in a heli, blowing the front doors open with C4 to let the tanks (now NPC controlled) roll in; speeding around the back in a jeep and going through the base stealthily with suppressors. How cool would that be, to have the singleplayer emulate the great multiplayer? Planning out your attack and equipping yourself appropriately, deciding whether this mission is full of stealth or action, or both!

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    • redbliss 3 years, 9 months ago

      I have seen a lot of people say this, and honestly that is the worst idea I have ever heard. Of course a great MP can make up for a bad SP, but the SP should always be considered when reviewing a game. That's like saying you shouldnt consider the story in an action movie because all that matters is the action. It makes absolutely no sense to just completely ignore a part of the game that the developers put time and money into creating, and that the publishers charged the consumers for. Also, not to be so harsh, but do you proofread your reviews Joseph? I just notice so many grammatical errors that are really distracting, and it happens in every one of your reviews. And I know that it is your style or whatever, but the introductory paragraph is always so bland. Your introductory paragraphs add nothing of substance to your review. Maybe you should try to be more informative, like talk about the hype that surrounded the game and the maybe how the game didnt live up to the hype in terms of SP but it did with the MP. These are just suggestions, and hopefully you dont take them the wrong way.

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      • Joseph Christ 3 years, 9 months ago

        I'm sorry you don't like my introductory paragraph, but I feel that rehashing the hype surrounding the release of the game would be monotonous at best. Instead, the introductory paragraph sets the stage for what I feel is a foundational problem with BF3. I find that beginning with this provides much more insight into the review as a whole.

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        • redbliss 3 years, 9 months ago

          There is no need to apologize, I was just trying to give some advice I thought might be useful to consider. The point of your intro is to express that an imitation is often times not as good as the original, but you took a whole paragraph to express what could have been said in a sentence. You could have paired that thought with how you felt about the originality of the past games or whatever. The hype thing was just one of many different ways you could have taken the intro. Obviously your way is fine, I was just saying it isnt as efficient, but if you like that more stylistic approach stick with it.

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        • The Wedge 3 years, 9 months ago

          I loved the nun's twat comparison.

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  • Calam1tous 3 years, 9 months ago

    Although I agree the single-player is bad, I think you put too much weight on it for this type of game. The Battlefield series (not to be mistaken with the Bad Company series) has always been about the multi-player experience. I mean, it would be cool if BF3 actually had a memorable campaign mode, but that's probably not the prime motivation for why most people bought the game. I'm not trying to sound like fan-boy making excuses, but no one has ever really cared about the BF single-player in any previous titles (hell it didn't even exist in BF2). For a game like this, I just consider it a bonus, really. So yeah, the campaign probably should have just been left out, and the reason for its existence is probably an unfinished effort cut short by EA's deadlines, but I don't think its a real downer on the game overall. Just my opinion, though. Well written review!

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  • FPDragoon 3 years, 9 months ago

    Always enjoy reading a post by Joseph. Can't really say much on the actual game in review, though, besides the fact that the points made are pretty much what I expected to hear. (Embarrassing single player with well-done multiplayer) I've been done with any "serious" FPS since the GC/PS2/XBox era.

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  • Paul Kelly 3 years, 9 months ago

    I think you are being more than a little harsh. I have played both SP and MP - the SP is nowhere near as bad as you make out - and the mulitplayer makes up for any shortcomings on that part. Are you going to be as harsh on MW3 I wonder - seeing as the SP is shorter and probably as linear? 70% is an average game and IMO BF3 is far from average.

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    • Ben Alford 3 years, 9 months ago

      On our scoring scale, 50 is the middle ground, if that is what you mean by "average".

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      • Mutehero 3 years, 9 months ago

        And that's how it should be. It annoys the hell out of me how every AAA game that's reviewed under 80 these days is seen as a 'bad' game.

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  • Fratersh 3 years, 9 months ago

    "Even the death process is bugged. Instead of asking if you want to continue after death, like many games do, the game simply reloads ad nauseam. Meaning that if you die, and were thinking of using the restroom in the interlude, your character will be caught in his own personal hell. A hell where he is killed and reborn again and again for all of eternity, and as you sit there on the toilet you’ll be a sole audience to the feast of his suffering." What a great paragraph, groundhogs Day....in hell.

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  • roughplague 3 years, 9 months ago

    I have to agree with Joseph on all points here, though I didn't finish the campaign (mainly because it was so bad) I could tell it wasn't gonna get better, so I stopped right after the jet turret sequence part, and moved over to multiplayer, as it was why I bought the game. then after about 20 or so rounds, I realized I was just not a multiplayer guy anymore, though it was much MUCH more enjoyable than the Singleplayer, I'm just a different person now than back when I played the hell out of battlefield 2, and with all the improvements they've made, I could tell by even just a round on one of the bigger maps, that it still is a battlefield multiplayer in almost every way shape and form, and it's just not for me; so taking account that unfortunately the game has absolutely nothing to offer me (same goes for it's nemesis) I traded it in with gears of war 3 to get Uncharted 3.

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  • necronomicon121 3 years, 9 months ago

    The single player seems like it was only there so they could justify having a online pass.

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  • TheCineaste 3 years, 9 months ago

    Great review Joseph. I completely agree with you on all points, especially on the singleplayer, which was pretty lack luster. >_>

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  • Comradebearjew 3 years, 9 months ago

    I was looking forward to the single player campaign, oh well.

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  • lemith 3 years, 9 months ago

    I agree with this review.

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  • Kyera 3 years, 9 months ago

    I enjoyed the single-player. I might be the only person that did. Though I had gripes with it (mostly with the AI's predisposition to shoot for you first and never shoot at your invincible AI allies), I really enjoyed all but one of the missions (well, two if you include the finale, which seemed too short). Multiplayer is pure money, and the only faults I have with it are maps that are clearly designed for smaller player sizes being thrown in 64-player server rotations. Metro and Seine Crossing are horrid in those counts, but fantastic with 32-or-less. ofc maybe the console version is a steaming pile of crap -- I wouldn't know, I play my shooters on the machine of choice of the gaming Master Race. ;)

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  • Seppo Taalasmaa 3 years, 7 months ago

    LOL

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  • robertt756 3 years, 2 months ago

    the multiplayer in this game is bug filled. Plus, the maps that they designed for PC were too small for 64 player matches. PC should have gotten 7-9 flag maps like in bf2 and consoles should have gotten 5 flags max.

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