Game: Battlefield 3 (Single Player part)
Reviewed: February 2015
I always quite enjoy reviewing first person shooters, especially ones by the companies that get all the big sales, like EA, as it means I can go all out mocking them, instead of holding back a little. Why? Well, they basically haven’t got any excuse, have they? Any flaws in a big-budget game with guaranteed sales are completely unacceptable, and so, at the very least, gamers who buy them should be a given a solid experience that works. Unfortunately, companies in this situation get greedy, and often don’t fix things, even months, or years, after release. Take Battlefield 3, the game I am reviewing today. I encountered two potentially game-breaking flaws in the Single Player portion of the game, which I am reviewing today, and fixes didn’t come from EA (the publisher) or DICE (the developer), but from the huge number of people who have had exactly the same problems. For nearly four years. Go figure….
It is therefore quite sad that people will still go out and buy games like this at ridiculous prices, even when games like Battlefield and Call of Duty have been less than spectacular for years. Happily, I managed to pick up this game for a paltry 75p from Amazon, so it was no big deal either way how it turned out, but I was still expecting to play this game without any fuss. Surely a game that is in its fourth year should be bug-free by now? I had heard of Battlefield 3 having problems on release, and even though I quite like Bad Company 2, I decided to avoid it unless it was super cheap, as I would like to think I am wise to what goes on these days, and, sadly, I was right. I loaded up Origin, and had my first encounter with stupidity; the launch button in Origin doesn’t load the game, it loads a webpage in your browser of choice…. and then once that page had loaded, you can then load the game, which then doesn’t bother to go full-screen. It seems like a silly system, but hey-ho, I can live with it. But then, my second problem – the game crashed during loading! Oh joy! I can’t say that it is unexpected. I went through all the obvious things, like making sure it’s not blocked in my firewall, and then check my browser settings – since I considered that launching it through a web browser would naturally introduce another layer of potential problems. I turned off my Java-script blocker, and Ad-Block, but those things didn’t help. I then messed around with compatibility modes, and running the game with Admin rights, but that made no difference either. Finally, via the internet, I discovered a forum thread which mentioned issues with syncing saves in Origin, and that deleting the Battlefield 3 folder created in My Documents would solve things. So I did just that, and made sure syncing was turned off, and voila, the game finally loads to the menu! That’s about five-hundred words, and I’ve not even got to review the actual game-play yet.
So then, what of the actual game? Well, the game-play is average, the story is average, the graphics are average, the voice-acting is average, and, I guess you could say the bugs are about average too. So there we have it, Battlefield 3 summed up in just two sentences. I suppose I better be a bit fairer than that though, and write a proper review. I at least like to make sure I complete things properly, unlike, oh, a certain developer I know [DICE].
The story takes place in the Middle East, and involves Americans battling with some revolutionaries that have been working with some Russians; so far, so predictable. This time, the action takes place in Iran (mostly) and missions are broken down into flashbacks from an American soldier being interviewed by two American agents – apparently he has done something bad in their eyes, and you don’t get to find out what until near the end. As he recalls what happened leading up to him being questioned, you get placed into the roles of a few people involved in the main events of the game, so you’ll play as both Americans and Russians. The game-play is pretty standard stuff these days, but admittedly, it is solid, and enjoyable enough for the several hours it took me to complete the game. Weapons feel decent enough, and you can constantly swap between the weapons of fallen foe, meaning you get to try quite a wide variety of weapons. You’ll also have to fight from cover quite a bit, and, from what I could tell, the enemies didn’t appear to be constantly re-spawning all the time unless you pushed forward, allowing me to sometimes flank enemies and pick them off from the sides. The main weakness is the lack of anything new, and using the same old formula tried and tested in both the Battlefield and Call of Duty series many times before. Things like having a section in a tank, being a gunner in a plane, picking out targets from above using thermal vision, oh, and that unforgettable stalwart of computer gaming, the 'Sewer Level'.
Again, none of those bits are done particularly badly, and some are quite enjoyable, but I have an incredible sense of déjà vu every time I see them, and it makes me wonder why people rush out to buy games like this every year; perhaps they have amnesia. All the developers ever do is put in the same ingredients and just mix it around slightly differently, hoping that people don’t notice. I bet if you looked at the plot details for all the recent Battlefield and Call of Duty games, they’d probably be virtually identical every time.
Anyway, back to this game, you’ll play along-side your fellow comrades, and you’ll be doing this for about 99% of the time, so you’ll never be on your own. Unfortunately, you never really feel that close to them, and while you’ll see the same names appearing on the uniforms (or hovering above their heads mostly), they are just that, names, and thus when they try and add a bit of humanity in the death scenes of some of those soldiers, they end up appearing just a bit melodramatic. I only really remembered a couple of names; one soldier was called Campo, which made me think of Compo in Last of the Summer Wine.
Moving on to graphics, they do seem to be decent enough for a game from 2011, and they were noticeably better than they were in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 that I played, and reviewed, a couple of years back. Textures were about average, but the lighting and shading seem to be the biggest improvement of the previous game, just helping to make things look that bit more real. Physics were used in some sections too, like pillars inside a building gradually being eroded away by the bullets of a fire-fight. Sound seems to be decent all round for the most part, with weapons and explosions sounding how they should do, and voice-acting was generally decent enough, although one section with some Russians in a car sounded more like the voices were recorded in a closet, with vehicle noises added after.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to come full circle in this review, and go back to bugs again, since the main game had another major flaw right at the very end too; I guess DICE like symmetry and wanted to bookend the game with some bugs to balance things out, but then again, anything purposeful like that would require intelligence. What happened? Well, I don’t want to spoil things, but I can say that when I was required to jump between two areas using a QTE key-press, it didn’t work as intended, and every time I would end up either falling to my death or getting shot. I decided to Google it after about half a dozen attempts, and found that it was a flaw that never got patched, and had many threads covering it over many years; nothing new there, then. Luckily, someone mentioned that if you rebind the jump key to something other than default, then you’ll have to press both the key popping up in the QTE message, as well as the key you use for jumping, at the same time, or a kind of mish-mash of the two. Along with that bug, a few seconds before I had killed an enemy in another QTE section, and his voice (groaning during death scene) was still playing over and over for the next couple of minutes. I did encounter some other bugs in-between the two major ones, like a marker point not disappearing, and then the next section didn’t action like it was supposed to; it took a couple of reloads to get through. There was also a section where I had to get into a helicopter, so I tried to go in through a side opening, but found that I fell through the bottom, and the game was still telling me to get on the helicopter. I then had to crouch down to get back out from under the helicopter, and get back in through an entrance to the rear instead.
It’s sad to say that over 50% of my review has been devoted to bugs in the game, in terms of word count, and in one sense, that’s probably a bit harsh, since the game is fine for about 95% of the time. It’s just that when things go wrong, they properly mess things up so that you can’t progress. The problem is, even without those issues, Battlefield 3 still isn’t as exciting or amazing as it should be for such a major game franchise; it is about as average for a first person shooter as you can get. People may have moaned a lot about Mass Effect 3 (another EA game), for example, for having an ending they didn’t like, but it was still a far superior game which had a whole lot more substance, and playing time. Battlefield 3’s flaws lie in its inability to change or move on, partly because it has successful sales, so there isn’t a need to change what works for them financially. For this reason, the ‘mindless masses’, as I call them, will still carry on supporting the Battlefield series, like Call of Duty, despite the game getting released in a shoddy state where it doesn’t even work straight out of the box. EA can release good games, but out of all the ‘3’s released in the past few years, they only seem to get the formula right 50% of the time, with games like Crysis 3 being pretty damn cool, but others like Dead Space 3 having all the charm of a corpse. Battlefield 3 is unfortunately one of the not-so-good ones, but regardless of that, for 75p, it was still a game worth playing, and taking a gamble with, and thus if you can get it for around that price too, I’d recommend it, since it still provides a few hours of ‘decent enough’ entertainment for you. Just make sure you know the risks and what you’re getting yourself into.
Verdict: Average just got a little bit more average. I shall give Battlefield 3 the following arbitrary final score for the Single Player portion:
Is this game more like Battlefield Earth in terms of quality? Let us know in the forum!