Article first published as Xbox 360 Review: Battlefield 3 on Blogcritics.
Battlefield 3 was released on October 25, 2011 to much pomp and circumstance. The game is a first-person shooter and direct sequel to Battlefield 2. It is the 11th game in the Battlefield franchise, which has its beginnings on the PC.
The developer, EA Digital Illusions CE, called DICE, used the new Frostbite 2 game engine. Visit the game’s official site for more information about the game engine. It features a single player campaign, co-op, and online multiplayer. This review covers the single player campaign.
You play as several different characters throughout the campaign. Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn is the main playable character. The vast majority of missions are played with Blackburn. You also take a turn as Russian agent Dmitri “Dima” Mayakovsky for two missions.
For the vehicle missions, you play as Jonathan “Anvil” Miller and Lieutenant Jennifer “Wedge” Hawkins. Miller is a Marine assigned to the 1st Marine Tank Battalion. Hawkins is the first female playable character in the Battlefield series of games and the weapons specialists officer during the Tehran airport mission and engaging the People’s Liberation and Resistance fighters.
The single player campaign begins with the interrogation of Blackburn in New York City concerning some missing Russian tactical nuclear bombs, commonly known as “suitcase nukes.” You play as Blackburn as he recounts his missions in Iraq hunting down high ranking members of the PLR, which he claimed led to his team’s discovery of a bunker containing one tactical nuclear device controlled by the leader of the PLR. Subsequent missions with Blackburn and his unit deal with the investigation in the location of two missing nukes that were not in the bunker.
The entire single player campaign can take about 6-8 hours, depending on the difficulty level. Though the campaign is not long, it is not short on action and variety. The missions range from piloting a tank in a desert operation against PLR forces, to a dogfight in over Iraq against PLR fighters, to sniper support of a Marine squad as it hunts down a high value target. The missions were varied enough to keep me interested throughout the entire game.
One issue with the gameplay is that it does not give you the opportunity to explore, and there are no rewards for exploring buildings or locations. There were times when I ventured into an empty room or in dark corners hoping to find some special weapon or cache of grenades or maybe some intel that would be important to the story, but no such luck. The action moves you forward constantly. However, the game’s strengths are its presentation and design.
The graphics in the game are spectacular. There are times during the air and tank missions where the game looked extremely realistic. The sound design and music added to the depth and feel of the game. The character models at times could be glitchy, and sometimes the characters’ skin would not resolve properly. Also, occasionally the vocals and character model’s lips would not be in sync, which is disappointing because the voice acting was solid. The lack of expression on the faces of the character models when they were emoting could be unnerving at times.
Combat was also designed well. NPCs were not just distraction and cannon fodder for the enemy A.I. You weren’t left to lead the charge all the time or take out every enemy on your own. The enemy A.I. was smart enough to try and outflank you or charge and melee you if you got close enough.
The controls were okay. The only time I had an issue with the controls was during the Tank missions. I do not imagine that piloting a tank would be the easiest thing in the world; however, my frustrations with steering caused me to toss my controller several times. Sometimes the tank would not respond and other times turning was just sluggish beyond tolerance.
The designers took enough time to make each weapon sound and feel different. From my experience with first-person shooters, shotguns are powerful but useless in fast-pace action games such as this, but the shotguns in this game were excellent, even at range.
Overall, the game is beautiful to look at and the single player campaign is fun to play. There are times when you just want to take a moment and admire the craftsmanship taken in the design. Even though the campaign takes 6-8 hours, it’s well worth it.
It’s easy to tell that the single player campaign was not the focus of this release considering it is on the second disc and the first disc has the multiplayer features and games. To me, the appeal of playing the single player campaign is being involved in multiple aspects of an overall battle, and seeing how all the parts of the battle are connected. I think that has always been the appeal of the campaign in previous games and is continued in this one.
If it’s a great, immersive, and dynamic single-player campaign you seek, don’t spend your money on this game.