Gaming Reviews

Battlefield 3 Review

Battlefield 3

Greetings, my dear readers! Today GND has something special for you all – a Battlefield 3 review. We look exclusively at the PC version. GND does game reviews like no other site; we are extremely detailed and the review will be full of depth, and we’re also quite critical. How will the most hyped game 2011 score? It’s time to find out!

First Impressions

For this review, I will be looking at the Limited Edition (disk model). The PC used for the review includes the following hardware.

  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit w/ SP1
  • EVGA P55 FTW Motherboard
  • Intel Core i5 760 @ 4.2 GHz
  • G.SKILL ECO Series 2 x 2GB DDR3 1600 @ 7-8-7-24 2T
  • EVGA GTX 480 @ 800/1600/1000
  • OCZ Vertex 3 60GB (OS boot drive)
  • Western Digital Caviar 320GB (storage, BF3 is installed here as well as Origin)
  • Dell ST2310 Monitor (HDMI mode, 1920 x 1080 @ 60 Hz)
  • Cooler Master Storm Sirus 5.1 Headphones

Battlefield 3 will be set to Ultra settings at 1920 x 1080 for the entire review, including all images. Drivers used are 285.62 WHQL for most images.

Battlefield 3 Limited Edition comes shipped in a normal game case, and there is no real complete manual. Inside you’ll find two disks and the papers needed to get the game started plus CD key activiation. In order to play Battlefield 3, you must install EA’s Origin and the Battlelog web plugin. PunkBuster is used for anti-cheat, unfortunately.

First you pop in disk one, and after the installation reads 50%-60% in Origin, you have to pop in disk 2. However, for some odd reason, the installation period is somewhere around 40 minutes to 1 hour after reading comments on various forums. For me, it was one hour. This is absurd really, and I don’t know why this occurs.

After it finally installs, you’ll see that your BF3 folder is 11.1GB which is quite large for an FPS game. Origin is really plain and has almost no features. It’s a bare program that EA forces you to run. Feature wise, you can add friends and it should auto download patches. Moreover, Origin is very buggy and problematic. The ridiculous installation period might be caused by it, but Origin also had game activation issues lately, not allowing people to launch Battlefield 3 at all. This seems to have been fixed, but if they are going to force a third party program on us, they should at least make it a decent one.

Battlelog is a website that can be found here. You must install the web plugin to play the game. It’s a complete server browser, with tons of filters for ping, game mode, map, hardcore or regular, friendly fire, number of free slots, and region. You can also add servers to favorites, view ping, check server history, and all BF3 stats are listed there.

It boggles my mind why it was moved outside of the game. An in game server browser is far more convenient, so you can just pause the game and check all of these things. Windows doesn’t always like alt tabbing out of intense programs and it’s just not convenient, and quite often, you get just a black screen after connecting to a server and launching the game.

When you launch the game you’ll see typical menus with good options settings. Graphics options are as follows.

Unfortunately, you cannot adjust contrast in game. However, a console is present (which shocks me) so you might be able to do it there. You can adjust all key bindings, as well as your FOV, iron sights toggle or hold, crouch toggle or hold (this is in the key bindings), mouse sensitivity, and more. Audio selections include anything from Hi-Fi to Stereo, “war tapes”, Headphones, and Home Cinema. The Home Cinema setting works best with my 5.1 headphones surprisingly.

The HUD looks nice, but unfortunately you can’t remove crosshairs. Hardcore mode in multiplayer minimizes the HUD. It would be nice for the flag status symbols in Conquest to be moved to the top center of the screen, rather than where it is now (center or close to center). Also, pings are not shown on the scoreboard.

I think I’ll also mention gameplay bugs in this section. The climb feature doesn’t work well at all, and it is possible to glitch friendly AI in the campaign, making them not move when they’re supposed to. I’ve had three CTDs so far (crash to desktops), and there’s a glitch in the multiplayer menu in which your mouse just doesn’t work.

Overall, the menus look great, but problems with Origin and the ridiculous installation period for disk users puts a sour taste in my mouth. Once the game is up and running, you shouldn’t run into any serious issues.

Single Player Campaign

Now we take a look at the campaign offered by Battlefield 3. The storyline revolves around a fictional conflict between the United States military and a terrorist organization known as PLR who operates out of Iran. You play as a U.S. Marine, Staff Sergeant Blackburn (aka Black).

Battlefield 3 immediately throws you right into the action. You won’t know what is going on – you’re just on a train loaded with explosives and chasing some terrorists. It is fast paced, close quarters combat and doesn’t bore you right off the bat.

When this part is over, you’re put into a cutscene (which isn’t rendered realtime by the way) in which you see your character, Blackburn, be interrogated by CIA agents. This reminded me immediately of Call of Duty: Black Ops but without the torture, or perhaps Black but without the style. Blackburn tells his story, which happen to be the missions you’ll be taking part of throughout the campaign.

Cutscenes continue throughout the game. Aside from the above campaigns, the others are done in first person.

As a squad member, you have no command which simplifies the gameplay. It’s linear, since soldiers can’t wander off on their own. Attempt to do so will result in your death.

Briefing is done in the usual manner.

Throughout the campaign, you can replenish your ammo at ammo crates.

As expected, there is no real depth to the characters since it’s just an FPS game. The storyline unfolds throughout the campaign, so you’re not just playing a war game. There are some shocks throughout the campaign but after playing for a little while, you’ll find that it feels a lot like Call of Duty campaigns.

Battlefield 3 has some variety in the campaign. While it is mostly straight up firefights, there are some sneaking sections as well. You start off in the middle east on foot, but you also play as two other characters who operate in vehicles. First, you play as a soldier who operates the weapons in a jet. No flying here, that’s for multiplayer.

You get to use various weaponry throughout this mission, and also drop flares so you don’t get shot down by SAMs.

Mounted guns are usable in other parts of the campaign.

Later on you’ll play as a tank operator. You can drive the tank and operate the main cannon at the same time – something dumbed down considerably compared to Red Orchestra 2 for example. You’ll also use a coaxial machine gun inside the tank.

The tank section is the only area in which you can operate the vehicle. Otherwise you’re limited to using the weapons on the vehicle, like the jet mission, or just riding along.

You see action in the middle east, but eventually you’re brought to other cool places as well for a change of scenery.

The campaign lasts less than five hours on normal mode, so it is not long at all. It’s not great, but enjoyable nonetheless. There are no secrets or anything else that might bring you back for a second run-through. It reminds me of Call of Duty campaigns, but with much better visuals and sound, and better gameplay fundamentals. And this brings us to the next section… gameplay.

Gameplay

Battlefield 3 is not a unique FPS so the gameplay won’t feel like anything new to people who have played a variety of shooters. Fundamentals are good – prone is now added, crouch, but no leaning unfortunately. Grenade throws are quick and you don’t have to manually equip them. You can do so however, and you can also manually equip the knife if you desire (otherwise press F for a quick slash).

Battlefield 3’s weapon list is larger than most other games, and includes many popular weapons as well as those that actually belong in the game. As an added bonus, it includes three of my favorite weapons – the M60E4/MK43 Mod 0 (I prefer the Mod 1 slightly but whatever) which is my overall favorite, and also two of my favorite assault rifles; the FN F2000 and AS Val. Anyway lets look at the weapon functionality of the game.

The two pictures above show that you can deploy the bi-pod. It’s lovely to see this in games. Doing this stabilizes the gun and reduces recoil to some extent. Bi-pods can be attached to most guns with a rail system on the bottom of it. In addition to this, there are many different optics in the game such as holosights, reflex sights, and various magnification scopes.

DICE surprised me with one thing – weapon handling was improved since the beta. The ballistic system regarding bullet drop and accuracy is still very nice, but recoil levels are also plausible all around. Suppression effects are present – when being fired upon, your vision gets blurry and distorted which is nice to see.

Weapon reloads are also generally done correctly. Not all iron sight pictures are correct, nor the ACOG scope reticle, but that won’t hurt the score. Those are just nitpicks.

There are many weapon attachments although you cannot use as many as you should be able to fit. For example, you can’t use a laser sight and a flashlight, or either of those plus a sound suppressor. It’s not the best weapon customization I’ve seen, but better than most other games. However, some of the weapon attachments are ridiculous. The flashlight’s blinding effect is overdone and unrealistic, despite the beam not being bright at all. Laser sight blinding is also extremely overdone and unrealistic, while the heavy barrel attachment makes no sense at all. Sniper scope glare is another thing that is exaggerated. These have not been fixed since the beta. There is also no weapon sway, with the exception of sniper rifles and DMRs.

The player can also use mortars in multiplayer if you’re a squad leader. Vehicle gameplay is simplified but works out well. Most players will have a hard time flying choppers and jets, so sometimes it might be wise to use a Jeep and improvise.

The player maintains a swimming ability although you cannot submerge yourself. Attention to detail is good in some ways – for example a gas mask for example clouds your vision.

More multiplayer-specific gameplay will be covered later in the review, but looking at the fundamentals, Battlefield 3 is looking very good. For those wondering, yes you can still use a parachute from smaller heights to break the fall. It should be noted that the AI’s aim seems a bit too good (near perfect in fact) during single player, and the weapon attachments might need some revising, but I’m liking most of what I see here.

Multiplayer

Let’s face it – Battlefield 3 is most appealing for its multiplayer. People love BF2 for its huge maps and good vehicle/team gameplay, and they saw these things in previous Battlefield 3 videos. People also like smaller scale, intense battles like those in Call of Duty, so Battlefield 3 includes those as well.

Fundamentals haven’t changed for Battlefield. Each team has squads and you can spawn on your squad members if they’re alive. The ranking system has only improved – leveling up doesn’t take too long or too short, and the gadgets/”perks” you unlock are implemented well as with previous Battlefield games. Customization is quite nice, aside from the weapon attachment gripes listed above.

The main Assault class doubles as a medic class. You can carry an assault rifle or shotgun as a primary, and equip medkits (or a grenade launcher) and a defibriliator. The Engineer class gets submachine guns and compact assault rifles, or once again shotguns, with the addition of rocket launchers, AT mines, and the repair tool. The Support class gets to use light machine guns, shotguns, or compact assault rifles plus ammo boxes and C4. The Recon class includes sniper rifles as the primary weapon, plus mobile spawn points and target marking features.

Nine maps are included with Battlefield 3 and they’re available in all of the game modes, but they don’t appear the same in all of them. The game modes included in Battlefield 3 are as follows.

  • Conquest Large: This is a well known game mode for Battlefield. I believe this is the only game mode that supports 64 players. There are two teams and the goal is to capture and hold marked points. The maps are huge and there are several of these territories you must hold. Each team also has tickets – one is lost for every respawn but one is gained for every revive (this applies to most if not all other game modes). If one team holds over half of the territories, then the other team starts “bleeding” tickets. The game ends when one team falls down to zero tickets.
  • Conquest: It’s the same as above, but less flags.
  • Rush: This is another game mode most of you are familiar with. One team defends M-COM stations while the other team must destroy them. The attacking team has tickets, and if these reach zero, the game is over.
  • Squad Rush: A smaller scale Rush.
  • Squad Deathmatch: This one is not new either. Four squads of four people face off to reach a set kill limit. Whoever reaches the kill limit first wins the game.
  • Team Deathmatch: Two teams face off in a classic battle to the death. This game mode can end in several different ways – reaching the kill limit, reducing the opposing team’s tickets to zero, or allowing time to expire. The spawn system is terrible in this game mode! It is common to spawn right next to enemies.
  • Co-op: Two players team up with AI to face enemies (who are also AI) in a campaign separate from the single player campaign.

Unfortunately, LAN is absent. Despite the emphasis on team work, Battlefield 3 does not have VOIP support. Ouch! You have to type in your messages, or in Co-op, you can’t communicate at all. I believe they want the communicating to be done via Origin or Battlelog. Either way, this VOIP omission only hurts the game.

The level design of Battlefield 3 is great. It has great variety – huge maps like the ones in Conquest Large with smaller ones for other game modes. It works out well and it should please hardcore Battlefield fans, hardcore Call of Duty fans, and anyone in between who likes FPS games.

There are some flaws in multiplayer, although the biggest one being hit detection issues which is just a bug. It’s not as serious as say Call of Duty, but hit detection can use some improving. As long as you keep updating PunkBuster you shouldn’t run into any silly issues. Weapon attachment unlocks are a bit too quick – every 10 kills gets you a new attachment. They might want to increase that number, otherwise you’ll find that you’ve unlocked everything for your gun too quickly.

There’s also the issue of having unlimited mortars, which means you can just shell a position non-stop. You’re also given too many missiles which makes TDM matches a battle fought by rocket launchers. Spawns in this game mode need to be improved as well.

Bullet count is high in normal mode, but much lower in hardcore mode (I’d say 3-5 shots to the torso in hardcore from most guns, excluding sniper rifles). They seem to have hit a perfect balance with frag grenades, but unfortunately, 40mm grenade launchers are not very effective at all. What they should do is increase the effectiveness to around the same levels as frag grenades (regarding blast radius and splash damage), but reduce ammo count and make it so that ammo drops don’t replenish your 40mm grenades.

For some odd reason, some of the best weapons in the game are unlocked too early. This includes the high powered SCAR-H, fast and low recoil AEK-971, the FN F2000, and FN M240B. I also don’t see why the M240B is unlocked before the M60E4. The M60E4 has the same damage but a lower ROF, and in real life, the M240B replaced the M60E4.

Co-op is not very expansive. You play with only one other person, but you also have a team of AI and you face enemy AI. There are six playable missions (starting with two) – in the first you have to hold off enemy forces at various positions.

In the second mission, you and your partner will be in a helicopter supporting an allied attack.

I hope co-op gets expanded on more, preferably with more than one other player and longer missions. I think that pretty much wraps of this section of the review though. Battlefield 3 brings a very enjoyable multiplayer experience with it.

Visuals and Sound

Battlefield 3 is DICE and EA’s largest game. It has a reworked engine called Frostbite 2 which supports DirectX 11. People were in awe over the graphics and I was expecting the next best thing. Unfortunately, I was expecting too much.

Playing on Ultra settings at 1920 x 1080, I get 50-60 FPS in single player and 40-60 FPS in multiplayer. The lighting system, particle effects, ambient occlusion (HBAO), shadows, and character models are all some of the best out there. View distance is also very good.

Fire effects are also impressive.

Water doesn’t look bad. Not the best I’ve seen either, especially if you consider fluid physics. They exist to some extent, unlike the beta, but I’ve only seen it react to bullets in an unrealistic way.

Water does look bad however when poured down by sprinklers.

On the other hand, Battlefield 3 looks bland and mediocre up close. It could really use a texture mod. The only really good textures I’ve seen are on characters and weapons. Why is BF3 11.1GB with textures like this?

Textures aren’t the only problem either. I thought tessellation was supported? I don’t see it.

Even the mountain ranges don’t look impressive as you approach them. Parallax occlusion mapping (POM) is also absent, making any areas full of rocks, rubble, and other things that should not be flat look extremely dull and unconvincing. No excuses.

Lack of POM also makes things like bricks and tiles completely flat.

Clouds are 2D. You notice this during the skydiving mission or when you’re in a jet flying high.

DICE also brags about the destruction, although I don’t see why. It’s not as impressive as procedural destruction I’ve seen in PhysX enhanced games, and it is totally overdone. A few bullets to concrete blows it away. Lets not forget slicing through fences with a single knife slash.

Those huge holes in the wall are caused by 2-3 bullets.

Attention to detail people… this is what made CryEngine 2 so impressive. It focused on such a wide array of things. Frostbite 2 and Battlefield 3 only seem to focus on making a very nice first impression with the lighting effects, ambient occlusion, shadows, and particle effects (combined with scripted events). I haven’t seen any depth of field at all, and motion blur isn’t really implemented much. There’s also no realtime weather cycle or time of day cycle. I must say I’m actually disappointed at Battlefield 3’s graphics quality.

It’s a different story when it comes to sound however. The sound effects in Battlefield 3 coupled with all of the audio options make for the best sound effects I’ve ever heard in a shooter. Gunshots are authentic for weapons of every caliber, echos are emulated very well, footsteps are loud (in first person at least), explosions are awesome. Voice acting is also very good but there’s no soundtrack at all. Nevertheless, sound is very impressive but the visuals sadly are not.

Conclusion

There is one question that many people ask about Battlefield 3, “Does it live up to the hype?” The answer is no, it doesn’t deserve the attention it received. Not much effort was put into it, some of the older PC exclusive Battlefield games are better in just about every way. The “streamlining” or casualizing/consolizing is all too obvious with Battlefield 3.

EA did their part in ruining the game, Origin made it a disaster at launch. Battlelog is even worse, though we’re not sure who to blame for that one. Either way, the end result of Battlefield 3 is yet another casual PvP shooter with no teamwork emphasis, no tactical/strategic elements, and poor hit detection. Battlefield has clearly gone down the Call of Duty route: Battlefield 3 puts a stamp on it and marks the end of the franchise. Some of us hoped that Bad Company would remain the console franchise, and maybe Battlefield would actually evolve compared to BF1942/BF2/BF2142 (like Red Orchestra 2 did), but instead it has moved backwards. Do yourself a favor and don’t bother with this game, get Rising Storm (2013) instead.

  • Presentation: Installation time is ridiculous for disk users, Origin is buggy and lacks features, no VOIP, and Battlelog has bugs that prevent you from joining servers occasionally. Game bugs exist – there’s a menu glitch that prevents you from scrolling through the menu with your mouse, occasional AI bugs, TDM spawns not working (since it is only meant for 24 players), the climbing feature hardly works, and hit detection issues are present. In the end, BF3 scores a 10/20 in this section.
  • Storyline: The storyline is typical for an FPS game, with no real depth especially for the characters. It’s the equivalent of Michael Bay movies. 08/20
  • Gameplay: SSDD (google it). Battlefield 3 is a casualized, consolized Battlefield, several steps below Battlefield 2, Battlefield 1942, and Battlefield 2142. Weapon handling is good although unlimited mortars and too many missiles and mortars in multiplayer hurts the game, plus you unlock some of the good guns too early. The entire multiplayer ranking system is done well overall. However, I’ll take off points for the weapon attachments being ridiculous, as well as the terrible TDM spawn system and AI having near perfect aim. Let’s not forget the lack of a Commander role and smaller squads. 13/20
  • Visuals/Sound: Battlefield 3 gives us a very good first impression, but disappoints us if you look a little bit more closely. The textures are a mixed bag of good and terrible (and not much in between), lack of POM makes a lot of areas look flat and dull, 2D clouds hurt the game, and it can use some more polishing. Very disappointing for such a huge budget, DX11 game released near the end of 2011. It doesn’t really make use of DX11, at least in terms of graphics features. Sound effects however are excellent, voice acting is pretty good. 18/20
  • Lasting Appeal: Measly 4 hour campaign, incomplete co-op, an overall lack of content. Only nine maps, no mod potential, casual repetitive PvP gameplay with little variety. Not much to see here. 13/20
  • Overall: 62/100 (Poor, Very Little Attempt)

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