It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, if this is true then I think right now Infinity Ward and Treyarch would be blushing. Having finally gotten my hands on Battlefield 3 after months of excitement and anticipation, I can’t quite get the bad taste out of my mouth.
I have just finished the single player campaign of BF3 and a couple of times I felt that I should check the box to make sure it definitely says Battlefield. The single player is very linear, extremely scripted and, shudder, has at least half a dozen instant death situation with “in game cut scene” where if you don’t do exactly what the game wants, you die. This is not to say it isn’t enjoyable, but if you have played the previous COD games, you have pretty much already played it. It even has an attempt to stir a controversy, much like MW2’s No Russian level, where you are a running through the streets of Paris, shooting cops that are in your way.
The best example of the single player is that at one point you are lead out onto the deck of an aircraft carrier and climb into a fighter jet. So you are thinking this is going to be awesome zooming around the skies, however you are just the co-pilot, and you job it to enjoy the view and point the reticule at the enemy fighter jet and fire. If that sounds cool to you, then the single player is your kind of game. However if you are disappointed by the lack of freedom and options from a developer renowned for their large multiplayer maps and use of vehicles (you get to use a tank “properly” for a bit), then you will have had your hopes dashed like me.
Ah the multiplayer, finally I get to the meat of it. Me and Hex had a good go at it last night. When we found a full server it is amazing, the game genuinely feels like an actual battle, rockets firing, buildings collapsing and the constant sound of gunfire. It is still remarkably well balanced too, some people have clearly hammered it and were much higher levels than us, but it never felt unfair. Though a word of warning, it does not reinvent the wheel. If you didn’t like Bad Company 2, chances are you won’t like Battlefield 3. They have, well I think it wouldn’t be unfair to say perfected, their multiplayer. It’s action pack, frantic, exciting and crucially you never feel you have no influence on the battle (unlike the single player). There are ample opportunities for last second revives, sneaky point captures and to get the drop on the enemy.
But (oh you so knew that was coming) it took a few attempts to find a server that wasn’t laggy as hell. However the game has not been out long and I can forgive that. What I can’t forgive is Battlelog (oh this is the PC version I am talking about, should I have mentioned that before?). Battlelog is EA’s stat tracking service, however on the PC it is so much more than this (not a good thing). Allow me to guide you through the process of getting into a multiplayer match. You click on the game in Origin (oh yeah you need Origin to play the game, really not sure why) and the game doesn’t load, the battlelog website loads. From here you can choose the single player, the co-op (more on that in a bit) or the multiplayer. You cannot play any part of the game without going through the website, if the thought “but that’s stupid” has just run through your mind, congratulations you are human.
So from there you can click quick match, though on the 2 times I have tried it the first it dumped me on a server all by myself and the second it dropped me into a server with 15 other people, so I would recommend the server browser. Find a server, click join and then the browser add on (you installed the add on already I take it) will load the game. It was at this point when I could add hex to my server, though there doesn’t appear to be anyway set up specific squads or even change sides. And if you want to change servers you have to exit the game, find a different server on the website and then re-launch the game. I am a man with a not inconsiderable amount of hate to go around, and at the moment a large chunk of it is pointed at Battlelog.
At best it is awkward, annoying and a pain to use, at worst there are features it doesn’t explain and just don’t work. I am guessing this is EA’s attempt to limit piracy, but once again the faithful gamers have to put up with shit, that the pirates can easily bypass. Gah I am seething just thinking about it. Ok deep breaths.
Were was I, oh yeah co-op. There are a serious of co-op missions, which seems fairly diverting but nothing that exciting. They are not dissimilar to the Spec Ops mode in Modern Warfare (which is, entirely coincidentally, coming back for MW3), however the are need to be either shorter or have some sort of checkpoint system as me and Mr stand in the open and get shot repeatedly , erm Hex, struggled to complete one.
Sigh I was excepting Battlefield 3 to be my game of the year, but that isn’t going to be the case. My hope is that the lag a lot of servers experience will be sorted by patches, and that they will figure out ways to improve the Battlelog. However they have built an amazing, if demanding, engine that looks fabulous and the destruction engine is capable of changing a battle from one second to the next (as I found out when I ducked behind an ineffectual wall when I saw a tank). The multiplayer is worth the effort, when you hit the sweet spot, erm server, and you are running at the flag with gun fire pinging all around you, you know that DICE are still superior to all their competitors.