Modern first-person shooters have started to resemble Hollywood blockbusters, a trend that has received both praise and criticism from gaming audiences. Being shuttled from one explosive set-piece moment to another can be thrilling, but when this formula is overused it feels like you're on an on-rails Disneyland ride.
While "Battlefield 3" isn't devoid of this feeling, its multiplayer offers a much more natural (and rewarding) sense of large-scale action. With dozens of players battling across nine massive maps in tanks, jeeps, helicopters, jets or on foot, multiplayer matches feel like a genuine war.
This is the best shooter campaign since "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare." Whether you're playing through the tense campaign or spending countless hours in multiplayer, "Battlefield 3" greatly benefits from the stunning Frostbite 2 engine. If your gaming computer is capable of supporting the highest settings, you're in for an aesthetic treat that tops everything else in the genre. Character animations look smooth and realistic, explosions have significant weight to them, and environments get torn apart in showers of concrete and debris. The stellar audio design features realistic sound effects, Hollywood-caliber voice acting and a great soundtrack that complements the action.
As with "Bad Company 2," players can choose from among four classes, but the assault and medic classes are now merged. The ability to throw medkits and revive teammates while utilizing assault weaponry feels ideal. In a move that should please snipers (and potentially annoy sniping victims), the ability to go prone returns. It's as annoying as ever to get picked off by camping recon players, but the kill cam and scope glint should tip observant players off about their location.
Rush, Team Deathmatch and the squad variants are solid modes, but with the return of 64-player matches, Conquest is once again the star of the multiplayer show. In my time on the game's pre-release servers, I never encountered lag -- even in massive battles featuring dozens of players and vehicles competing over a single flag.
During a match on the Operation Firestorm map, I was taking out enemy tanks by performing sweeping runs with my jet. After the opposing team lost a couple of vehicles, they sent their own fighter into the sky to hunt me down. Once my plane took too much punishment, I ejected and parachuted down to a nearby rooftop. As my teammates battled for flag control a couple of stories below me, I pulled out a stinger, locked onto my airborne attacker, and took the plane down with a homing rocket. I watched it crash about 100 feet in front of me, then hopped down to join the battle for the flag. These types of moments make the experience.
All nine maps that ship with "Battlefield 3" are fantastic regardless of mode, and unlike "Bad Company 2," you can play each in any mode right out of the gate.
"Battlefield" fans spend most of their time in multiplayer, but this entry also delivers the series' most ambitious single-player campaign to date.
- 4 out of four stars
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Platform: PC
- Price: $60
- Rating: Mature