Pages Menu

Categories Menu

Posted on Dec 6, 2011 in Electronic Games

Battlefield 3 – PC Game Review

By Rod White

Battlefield 3. PC Game Review. Publisher: EA. Developer: DICE. $59.99

Passed Inspection: By far the best looking military shooter on the PC ever! A worthy sequel and an ideally defining game to relaunch the Battlefield franchise with on the PC. True 64-player online multiplayer military shooter gaming on the PC has never been better thanks to Battlefield 3.

Failed Basic: Single player campaign is for looks and only sets the stage, coop also seems like an after thought, not to mention that the jets and helicopters seem pointless in execution. Trying to turn the game interface into a Facebook-like interface with Battlelog was totally unnecessary.

{default}

The idea behind Battlefield 3 was to go back to basics with the Battlefield franchise and to create a true sequel to Battlefield 2. The end product is a game that looks as good as Crysis 2, with a single player campaign that plays out like a Michael Bay blockbuster feature film and has the multiplayer legs to compete with the likes of anything else out there at present on the PC. However it also has its share of issues too.

Battlefield has always been about a complete battlefield experience, which includes allowing players to utilize vehicles in appropriate and believable battlefield settings. In BF3 vehicles are a lot of fun, and in the largest maps in Conquest mode the tanks will play a vital role. I absolutely love the tanks. While a lot more fragile, the Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) are also quite addictive to jump in and control as well. The only downside to the maps that the vehicles dominate is … if you don’t have one or can’t get into one fast enough, you’ll be talking a long walk to where the battle is actually taking place more often than not. Few players seem to wait for anyone else to jump in, most just run off to the front lines, but this has always been the case in the Battlefield games: the quality of the experience improves when you bring several buddies along.

To me the most disappointing thing about Battlefield 3 also happens to be the feature that pre-launch I was most excited about. The aircraft in Battlefield 3 look great, and the videos floating around pre-launch made them appear like a fantastic asset for the battles. But sadly they’re not. Sure you can assist in the ground war by rocketing a tank or ground troops in a helicopter—that is if you can ever maneuver one well enough to even line a shot up. That’s also before a jet comes screaming in out of nowhere and shoots you down. And jet-on-jet combat is very disappointing. The guy who has unlocked heat-seeking missiles and stealth before you will almost always wipe you out of the sky before you can ever get a shot off. Players can also camp the spawn points where jets can take off with another jet. As soon as you’ve taken off and cut a turn tight enough to point the jet in the other direction you’re out of map. Now granted I didn’t expect jets to handle as well as a true flight simulation, but I seem to recall flying the planes in previous Battlefield games was a lot more fun, and it felt more like flying in Battlefield Vietnam than it does in Battlefield 3 too.

Thankfully Battlefield 3 really is more of a ground game anyway. On the ground Scout players can drop a radio and form a portal if you will, which creates a spawn point into the map allowing team players to enter the fray in more of a tactical fashion. There’s also all of the whiz bang unlocks, complete with a virtual smorgasbord of accessories and must-have bits and bobs to customize your soldier with. It’s all broken down into different categories. For instance as I mentioned earlier the jets have a heat-seeker missile unlock, the tactical shotgun can obtain a larger magazine to hold more ammo, other unlocks include new weapons, scopes and various capabilities or gadgets for the vehicles even.

There are four different classes to choose from, each of which with their standard load-outs and gear, which can be upgraded and customized as you go. Assault, Recon, Support, and Engineer are the classes to take into combat. The Engineer can repair vehicles, which is pretty slick, and that same tool can also damage enemy vehicles. A number of times I was in a tank as a gunner, and the driver pulled us out of the combat and parked behind cover, then jumped out and pulled his little blow torch out and repaired the damage the tank took, then drove us right back to the front lines. Very cool stuff.

The Assault class players double as the medics and are all around most versatile role. However Recon is the class I have the most fun with since it employs sniper rifles and the means to reach out and touch someone at a distance. Lastly the Support class players utilize the heavy weapons. What an amazing assortment of goodies to utilize when it comes to weapons in this game too. Chances are if it’s a weapon that’s currently deployed, or even in development you’ll probably find it modeled in Battlefield 3. There’s also a ton of awards and achievement-like accolades to chase down as you make your way through the ranks as one might expect from a military shooter of this magnitude.

In addition to a standard single-player game, there’s also a Coop Multiplayer mode which gives you six different maps to play out cooperatively online with others vs the AI goons, and honestly it has the potential to be more fun than the single player campaign. The objectives can also change, so there’s some replay value to them. The only problem is the 2nd mission is a helicopter mission, which forces you and another player into the role of pilot and gunner. Finding someone who can effectively fly that chopper is tough, and if you don’t complete it you can’t gain access to the later missions. Therefore many players will probably never see the third mission and beyond.

Of course at the heart Battlefield has always been about competitive 64-player multiplayer online gaming, and this is where it really shines. Online multiplayer is also where the new Frostbite 2 game engine shows off what it can do. The destructible environments from the Bad Company series are here in Battlefield 3 only that much better now. You will have a lot of moments where you feel that you are safe hiding behind some cover shooting at the enemy, and seconds later a player blasts away what cover was once there with an RPG, or a tank, leaving you standing there shocked and looking like a deer caught in the glare of oncoming headlights.

In one match I was lying prone on a roof sniping enemies from a distance. The next thing I know I hear a massive explosion, and instead of it killing me the entire roof I was on was gone, and I’m found myself standing inside the building interior with no roof overhead! The next shot from the tank killed me, because I stood there too long looking around at how cool the damage to the building was rendered. Even small arms fire chips away at cement columns and barricades as you attempt to hide behind them.

All of the environments are quite impressive. There are claustrophobic maps where there are no vehicles at all, like the blown up metro train station. These mapsmake for some amazing close quarters battles. There are also a number of maps large enough to really utilize 64-player Conquest and Rush modes and all of the ground vehicles you can cram in them. Best of all they all look the part, with loads of detail crammed into each and every one. So much detail can be found that sometimes it can be a little tough distinguishing the movement of a player in the distance, from leaves or debris being blown across the screen.

Visually speaking military shooters on the PC never looked better thanks to Battlefield 3. If I had to compare Battlefield 3 to anything else is would be Crysis 2 with the optional hi-res textures pack and DirectX 11 update. One of the most tactical visual bells and whistles included is gun barrel flashlights. These totally blind you when flashed in your face by a foe. Some of the lens flare effects have the same effect as you emerge from indoors and reach an outdoor environment. I also like the animations of jumping over obstacles. Instead of a simple awkward looking hop straight up and down, you see your legs move ahead of you as you should. Very little has been overlooked visually in this game.

Battlefield 3 is one of those games that totally justifies having built a new PC, or to have spent a few hundred bucks on a new DirectX 11 video card. I’ve been running BF3 on an i5 2500K/8GIG/dual GeForce 460 1GIG SLI video cards rig on Ultra settings, and on a first generation Phenom Quad-Core/8GIG machine with a single GeForce 430 video card on Medium with some High details settings enabled at 1440×900 with great results on both.

When I enable both video GeForce 460 cards in SLI-mode my frame rates skyrocket to about 50-80+fps depending on what’s going on in-game. But make no mistake about it for Ultra detail mode and high fps you will need a solid SLI or Crossfire setup, or one of the top of the line single card solutions from Nvidia or ATI. Thankfully it looks so good even on Medium and High detail settings that at times I believe Ultra detail settings is overkill. It’s definitely quite scalable.

The only other problem I have with Battlefield 3 on the PC is Battlelog and Origin. If you want to play Battlefield 3 online you need to setup an Origin account, which is effectively EA’s answer to Steam. Once that’s done you are sent to a Web-page-based interface with options for Multiplayer, Coop and Campaign at the top of the screen. Instead of just launching the game and choosing these options within the game, you’re forced to do it through this Battlelog Web-page interface.

The server browser has some decent search features to find a game with, and you can engage in matchmaking, adding friends and set up voice chat through Battlelog, but why? Oddly you can’t change video options or do any key-mapping through the interface; that’s still done in-game. So it’s not even a complete interface.

I just don’t understand why this was needed at all, because it’s another layer of programming to take up resources in the background while I’m playing the game. On my main machine, and even on my secondary PC it hasn’t caused any problems that I’m aware of performance-wise, but I have to wonder how many more FPS difference Battlelog may have on a machine that’s closer to the minimum requirements, since it is after all another program that has to run alongside Battlefield 3 itself just to play it. It has to be taking up some PC resources to run.

Conclusion

The PC version of Battlefield 3 is far superior to the 360 and PS3 version graphically speaking, because I’ve seen in it in action on all three platforms, and it looks washed out and not nearly as good as even the console version of Crysis 2 on either console at 1080 on a nice HDTV. On the PC I’ve never seen a better looking game aside from Crysis 2, and even then, in some places Battlefield 3 looks as good or better than it.

One thing I did notice as well is that the week Battlefield 3 launched it seems EA had a hard time keeping the 360 and PS3 servers up and running, while all along I had no problem logging into the game with my PC version. Battlefield 3 may very well help to revive PC gaming, because technologically speaking it’s that good, and it shows what potential the PC really has as a gaming platform again.

Overall I’d have to discount the campaign and coop features as bonus content, because the real meat and potatoes here is the online multiplayer game. While I haven’t seen Modern Warfare 3 yet first-hand, I do know that it has its work cut out for it to beat the true 64-player (360/PS3 version is limited to 24 players) online battlefield experience that only Battlefield 3 can provide. The Battlefield franchise comes full circle, because it’s back and better than ever before on the PC where it all began in the first place. Nuff Said!

Armchair General Rating: 89%

About the Author

Rod White is a veteran writer with almost two decades’ experience covering games, hardware, military aviation and combat simulations for the PC, as well as diecast collectibles and various tabletop miniatures war games. Formerly co-founder and owner of PC Multimedia & Entertainment Magazine, one of the Internet’s first true online gaming publications to cover PC games, simulations and hardware, he also hosted the ground-breaking RealVideo/RealAudio show called CombatReporterLive! for the AllGamesNetwork/Pseudo, Inc.

3 Comments

  1. I have to disagree about the helicopters. Use a stick and they handle great!

  2. Thanks for this, I’ve been debating whether I want to get this for the xbox or PC for a while…might need to upgrade my RAM and video card though.

  3. I agree with Tex. Helicopters can dominate the game with a good pilot and gunner who are working together. TV missiles and IR spotting make them deadly to things on the ground. Flares make them hard to shoot down so long as they don’t go too close to an AA gun. The stationary AA guns at the bases make it suicide to try and base rape with aircraft (they have to be manned–I got a dozen kills on one map in a game where the other team kept trying to raid our base with helicopters and jets–I kept thinking that they’d learn and quit trying but they didn’t–worse, they kept trying to rocket me in the AA which is nearly impervious).

    Jets aren’t that useful–they’re more annoying than anything–but I don’t mind. I’ve always thought they were silly in a game of this scale. I hate that they’re (like helicopters) given infinite ammo. Meanwhile, us grunts on the ground actually run out of ammo rather quickly. I’d love it if they were more deadly but had to return to base to reload after firing their rockets. It would actually make raiding the enemy base worthwhile.

    The maps still need some tweaking and the biggest ommission is built in squad based VOIP. Command and control is really far behind what it was in BF2. For me that makes what should easily have been a five star game a soft four.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 – PC Game Review » Armchair General - [...] what is happening around you, even if the game does have to do some hand-holding to get you there.…

Leave a Reply to Texroadkill Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *