I check out the latest from EA and DICE for PC, Battlefield 3. This war game shooter has lots to offer, from different game modes, vehicular combat and a good dose of Eye Candy. But is it enough to keep my attention and make me happy that I bought it?
It's actually been quite a while since I wrote a review on a game. Not that I've not been playing games, far from it. Assassin's Creed series, DiRT 3, Frozen Synapse, Starcraft II, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, Left 4 Dead 2 … I've played them and plenty more. I've even played a little Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The reason why I say 'even' as though it's surprising is because it is surprising for me, as I don't particularly like war games. I like photon torpedoes, light sabers, the roar of a car engine, zombies, whacking great swords and crossbows and wizards, and pretty much anything that's not realistic. I always lean towards more fantasy gaming than anything that's closer to reality. But I did enjoy playing taxi pilot in Battlefield 2142, and I have tried other games before many times.
In the case of Battlefield Bad Company 2, it had a single player part which despite it's linear game play I liked, at least enough to play it through once … actually twice, as an update to the game ruined my save during the last levels. But the main reason I bought Battlefield Bad Company 2 is because all my gaming friends bought it. I enjoyed playing online with them, and I did even go off on my own to servers to see if I could get a few unlocks. But it never really 'grabbed me' like other games have, and as it did many of my friends.
All this in turn serves to create a rather large introduction to my thoughts on Battlefield 3. Whilst I'm not the sort to play on console's, I don't mind playing console port types of games (as my short list above should indicate). I also mentioned I don't like war games, which is why I find it quite surprising that I'm really enjoying playing Battlefield 3, in all 3 modes.
Battlefield 3 runs on the new Frostbite 2 engine, and I have to say it appears to be a really good engine. I was having a discussion with a friend about my initial thoughts on Battlefield 3 and in particular the sort of hardware required to have a good graphic experience with the game. I started the conversation by suggesting some moderately higher end graphics cards and CPU's but the more we looked into it, the more my thoughts changed. Battlefield 3 on the Frostbite 2 engine appears to scale very well with current hardware, which makes sense since it has to look good on the Xbox 360 as well as PS3 and of course high end PC's. What got my attention the most in this respect is that even at lowest settings, Battlefield 3 is a good looking game. Dialing up the graphic features only improves on this, with enhanced shadows, clearer textures and some fantastic lighting effects that make the overall image quality some of the best seen on a PC.
It's hard to say that DICE have done something monumental or evolutionary with the Frostbite 2 engine, because they haven’t. What they have done though is take features that the PC gamer community expects to see in a modern game and implemented them excellently. It's subtle and silly little details that all add up to a visually impressive and highly destructive environment. Little dust motes can be seen in the lens flare, when you climb a hill you can be blinded by the sunlight, both fire and water move realistically and reflections, especially at night are really good (night time rain, neon signs reflected in the puddles, and the rain makes it ripple, looks really good). I do have to say that at times, the effects can be a little OTT; in some scene's, I am thinking “Hey DICE, J. J. Abrams called, he'd like his lens flare back for the next Star Trek film”, but for the most part it's done very well.
Sound is great too, and again it's not just the core sounds, but the little details; the crow of a cockerel in the distance in the middle of city, the voices of non combatants behind closed doors, rain that you hear (and see) all around until you get under cover, the solid click of a gun as you reload it.
The Campaign mode storyline revolves mostly around Sergeant Blackburn, although you do get the opportunity to play levels of the game as other characters, including the gunner/driver of a tank, part of a Russian hit squad (even sitting in the car as a passenger was cool – watching the driver turn the wheel with the palm of his hand, hearing the squeak of leather from the seats, seeing the momentum of the car as it travels different inclines and around corners, all the while there is an entire conversation in Russian going on), and you get to be in the second seat of a jet fighter bomber (not so cool, I wanted to be the pilot). All of the levels serve to play out the storyline which is done quite nicely. With the somewhat mediocre plots and stories we've got from Hollywood in the past few years, the storyline in Battlefield 3 would probably stand above many of them, even if it is dripping with cliché dialogue and body language.
The story is a retelling of Blackburn's last few missions, as told as part of a CIA interrogation of Blackburn, who is being accused of … well, I won't spoil it, as that's something you discover as part of the story. Interestingly, the start of the Campaign story begins almost at the end, as many TV Show episodes are want to do these days followed with the obligatory, "12 hours earlier" that takes you to the beginning and the interrogation room. Between each of the missions, you watch a cut scene during the interrogation, with the explanations to questions being asked played out by you the player.
The story driven Single Player portion of the game is quite fun, but most certainly not the main reason to buy Battlefield 3. It's an interesting diversion, perhaps even a nice way to set the game controls up to your liking without having to do it mid game during multiplayer. But if like me you like to play the odd linear single player shooter now and then, and are not opposed to some console style play, then Battlefield 3's Campaign mode will keep you occupied for between 5-9 hours. It's not overly difficult, so don't expect a major challenge, but the story is quite good and you get to shoot things in a great looking game.