in Review

Battlefield 3

I was definitely on board with the Battlefield franchise as soon as I saw the first game, 1942. It was the first time I ever played a conquest-style game like that before and it really impressed me. I’ve tried to stick with the series over the years, but I was hesitant to get involved in Battlefield 2, as it seemed like a departure from what I originally liked about the series. The Bad Company series kept the franchise relevant, but it had changed and adapted to the post-Modern Warfare world. I thought classic Battlefield was gone. And yet, Battlefield 3 is here, despite there being so many more games in the series than three.

On Xbox 360, Battlefield 3 ships on two discs. Disc One is the multiplayer, so you can tell that’s where this game’s loyalties lie. But I rented it, and the game requires an online pass, so I guess everything but the campaign is technically auxiliary to the experience. That’s not true, we all know it’s not true. However, since I wasn’t going to pay extra, it’s only the singeplayer you’re going to hear about. And it’s not really good. At all.

Campaigns are pretty new to the Battlefield franchise. I enjoyed the Bad Company stories because they were campy and fun, which sadly is not the direction Battlefield 3 took. What we have here is a clear attempt to riff on the Call of Duty formula, specifically last year’s Black Ops. Like that game, this story is framed around the interrogation of Sgt. Blackburn, a marine who has been everywhere and done everything, but is stupidly being treated as a traitor. As he recounts his story, you play mainly through his exploits, although a couple missions will put you in the shoes of ancillary characters through a slim globetrotting adventure. The characters and the story aren’t that interesting and it all feels like a knock off.

Also like Call of Duty, Battlefield 3 is a linear game. Extremely linear. Like the developers don’t really trust you to play the game linear. You walk down narrow paths, shooting the guys along the way. That’s if you’re lucky. It seems like half the time, they stick you on turrets and so all you can do it point and shoot while the game works itself out. This is a game that has playable jets, ones you can freely fly and fight in, in the multiplayer. In the campaign’s one flying mission, you’re forced to sit in the backseat and watch as the AI drives the fighter. Sure, you get to fire missiles, but it basically turns what could be a thrilling experience into a glorified quicktime event.

All that said, at least that air combat segment is thrilling, at first. This is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen. Technically speaking, that is. On the Xbox 360, you have to actually install the textures to your hard drive, I think an unprecedented move, but end result is a gorgeous game. When I walked up onto the deck of that aircraft carrier and took off, my pulse was pounding. If you saw that lengthy trailer of the game’s first mission, you know it looks great, even on consoles. I’m sure it would look better on PC.

It sounds great too. So often in games, your guns don’t sound as terrifying as they really are. Here they do. Remember that seen in Heat, the gunfight after the failed heist? The guns sound that good. And of course there are plenty of explosions to keep you busy as well. The set pieces just don’t live up to the game’s great sound and looks. Playing it isn’t as fun as you would think watching someone else play it.

But what’s most off about the game is that it doesn’t feel like Battlefield. These games are supposed to be crazy. Jets flying into tanks, walls exploding everywhere, unmitigated chaos, that’s what I’m looking for. So I’ll probably buy this game on the PC, head online and never look back.