War, what is it good for?
Well, video games it would appear. Strategy games, action or adventure games, and of course the console favorite, first-person shooters. War may be an ugly thing, but it certainly makes for good video games.
Despite many attempts at the throne, the Call of Duty series have been the undoubted king of the war-based FPS game for a while now. For all of the trash talk from other publishers declaring that their games would claim that crown and topple the reign of CoD, no one has yet managed to do this. So, when now come to the latest contender to the throne, and perhaps the greatest risk, Battlefield 3 from EA.
Whilst it is likely that the majority of gamers will buy Battlefield 3 for the multilayer gaming, the single player campaign should not be overlooked. Throwing the player staight in the deep end, the player finds themselves to begin with on a high speed train that is seemingly being taken over by terrorists. From here on out, the action never stops.
The main character of the story is then being questioned in regards to a possible terrorist plot and the story plays out as a bunch of flashbacks into the past of both the main character and other supporting characters. It really is a thrill a minute, as the player finds themselves being bounced from one impressive set piece to another. The train scene, which acts as a testing ground for the various controls, and the earthquake scene both stand out as a couple of the more memorable parts of the game.
Players will not only be able to run around shooting enemies with a wide variety of weapons, but will also have the chance to use different hardware as well, such as turrets or even controlling the weapons in a jet fighter plane. The vast majority of the single player game will be spent fighting off a massive number of enemies, but the changes in the situation when they occasionally come are a welcome break.
The single player campaign is both cinematic and memorable. But the majority of players will only be interested in the multiplayer game. The multiplayer maps, which support 24 players on XBL, are absolutely massive and are littered with various different vehicles that the players can use. Whilst the ground vehicles are fairly straight forward to control, the airborn vehicles can take a little getting used to, but this is half the fun for those who perhaps don’t take the game too seriously (I have fond memories of watching my buddy in Battlefield 1943 try to fly a plane for the first time, straight into the side of a cliff – how we laughed).
The obvious downside of the massive maps is that the player can find themselves wandering around for a while before finding the frontline, especially considering the 24 player limit compared to the 64 player limit on the PC version. But that being said, the maps are well detailed and offer plenty of great vantage points to those willing to spend the time learning them. They are also very well detailed and offer ample variety even in one single map.
As always, the player can level up their online persona to unlock new weapons and such. There is much less emphasis on kill ratios in Battlefield 3 though, with experience and awards being offered for everything from reviving team mates to laying down suppressing fire while someone else makes the kill. For those of us who are not the best at shooters, this is welcome as it allows us to feel we are progressing even if we do spend most of our time respawning. The emphasis has also shifted more towards team work, with players being rewarded well for working with their team mates and less so for players who prefer to go it alone. This obviously presents some problems considering the large number of players on XBL who are only interested in bad mouthing and messing around, but there is very little that can be done about that.
Besides the highly enjoyable single player campaign and the full featured multiplayer modes, there are a selection of co-op missions to play through with friends. There are only six available right now, which is a shame, but they are a welcome addition to the game and hopefully more will be added via DLC in the future.
Visually, all modes of the game look incredibly impressive. This provided that the player installs the additional texture pack which requires 2GB of storage space. Those of you who have a small HDD or just a lack of space will have to make do with somewhat lesser graphics. Obviously the game does not look as impressive on the Xbox360 as it does on the PC, but that is to be expected. However, the game still manages to compete with the latest, most graphically impressive Xbox360 games out there and, although not looking the best, comes very close.
One thing that Dice have managed to portray very well in Battlefield 3 is the chaos of war. War is supposed to the chaotic and confusing, and this certainly comes across very well in the game. However, despite leaning more towards realism, I am not convinced that this level of chaos is a good thing in a video game. It is too easy to lose your way and have trouble working out where you are supposed to heading next, and it is occasionally difficult to identify enemy soldiers. Like I say, realism is welcome, but when things make a game unnecessarily difficult, they don’t need to be included.
One example of this was when I was standing in a carpark, mowing down what seemed to be an endless stream of enemies jumping over a wall. This went on for quite a while, until I realised I had to take out one specific soldier, a guy using an RPG. whilst the order to do that may have been barked at me, and game progression could not continue until I had done what I was ordered, amidst the chaos this order had completely escaped me. Another example was when I could continually hear a voice telling me to breach the hotel, but I had absolutely no idea where the hotel in question was. Other members of my squad had either disappeared or had been shot around me, leaving very few clues as to where to go. I found and breached the hotel in the end, but it was unnecessarily confusing.
With Modern Warfare 3 looming on the horizon, has Battlefield 3 done enough to secure its place as the most popular FPS? Well of course not, but this has nothing to do with the quality of the game. It is quite simply down to the fact that Call of Duty appealed to the masses of console gamers first, and as a result has a larger following. As a gamer who is more interested in the single player/co-op experience, I am incredibly impressed with Battlefield 3 and consider it to be one of the best games in this genre that I have played. But I have not played Modern Warfare 3 yet, so I cannot compare. For the majority of gamers though, it comes down to the multiplayer. As a friend put it just recently “I am passing on Battlefield 3 because most of my friends are getting Modern Warfare 3″, which leaves EA fighting an uphill battle against an already established community of millions.
The Xbox360 version of Battlefield 3 may pale in comparison to the PC version, both in its scope and graphical ability. But it still stands as one of the best shooters available on the console. I would recommend all Xbox360 owners pick up a copy. But times are hard and the obvious appeal of Modern Warfare 3 will leave many gamers having to make a choice. I can only say that Battlefield 3 is an incredible game that does everything it needs to very, very well. If you can only pick up one of the two big shooters this season and all of your friends are choosing Modern Warfare 3, maybe now is the time to make new friends.