Battlefield 3: PC Review

Battlefield 3
Modern Warfare

I’ve been playing the Battlefield series since Battlefield 1942. BF:1942 was the game that really got me into multiplayer gaming. Unlike the Quakes and Unreal Tourneys, you could actually get to the top of the score table without firing a shot thanks to the use of a bit of stealth in conquest mode. This extra bit of depth, along with all those lovely vehicles to play with, served to elevate the series above id and Epic’s multiplayer offerings.

Battlefield 2 took things further, with Battlefield developer, DICE, further refining the gameplay (and increasing the accuracy of the weapons) into a modern combat experience that was, at the time, without peer. Even though I’m sci-fi nut, Battlefield 2042 with its futuristic setting took things a bit too far, if you ask me. I just didn’t get on with it.

You’ll have to forgive me, console fans (of which I’m one as well), but I firmly believe that Battlefield is a primarily a PC franchise. This was the main reason I never bothered with Battlefield: Bad Company until a fair bit after release (and even then it was only because folks kept telling me to give it a go). Once I got over my snobbery, I did have a great time with Battlefield:BC and BC2!


And so Battlefield 3 marks the franchises return to the PC as the lead platform (on console port here) and boy is it something. Yep, there are the usual glitches and teething problems associated with most fresh PC releases. Sure, the use of your internet browser to start the game is a bit of an odd design choice. But the PC version is where it’s at, people.

If you are playing a console version of the game, you are not really playing Battlefield 3, you really are playing the cut down version. Only with 64 combatants, a MASSIVE battleground and crisp, almost photorealistic, graphics can you experience the real Battlefield 3. Harsh, but true.

OK, maybe I was being a bit harsh about playing Battlefield 3 on console. Whilst I do consider the PC to be the home of Battlefield, Bad Company and Bad Company 2(especially the Vietnam expansion) can still hold their own on an Xbox 360. So to qualify my position on the console version of  the game (having played the Xbox 360 beta, as well), you are going to still have a lot of fun playing on the 360 and PS3, but not as much as you would playing on the PC. But saying that, at least the console version won’t do anything ‘interesting’ when you change you graphics drivers.

The walls come tumbling down

And with that , it’s time to get serious and end this PC and Battlefield love-in. The PC version or the game has issues, issues that console owners needn’t worry about (and perhaps this is why the game has all those glowing reviews: the reviewers must have played the console version).

The first problem is EA Games insistence on forgoing Value’s Steam virtual storefront system and using their own ropy Origin system. Like EA’s awful download manager, Origin is horrible. It takes ages to start-up and looks shit. If EA think that they are going to beat Steam, which is now pretty much the industry standard when it comes to game download stores, they’ve got another thing coming. EA’s attitude towards Value, as well their rather public spat with Activision over Call of Duty, has shown us a bit of the EA arrogance of old, the same arrogance that made them the most reviled publisher in the gaming industry (until Activision took their crown). Oh how I wish I could have Battlefield 3 on Steam with all my other PC  games.

Battlelog...thumbs down.

The next WTF is the odd way in which Battlefield 3 uses my internet browser to start the game. On launching, up comes a Firefox window displaying EA’s Battlelog web portal with all your soldier stats and everything. There are also three buttons in the browser window, one for multiplayer, one for co-op and another for the campaign. Pressing any one of them starts Battlefield 3. At the end of each session this is the page you are returned to. Get disconnected or simply want to change multiplayer severs, back to Battlelog you go; from where you will have to wait, once more, for the game to load. And when it comes to loading times, BF3 is no spring chicken!

If you own one of NVIDIA’s snazzy DX11 graphics cards then the new set of 285.62 drivers especially released for BF3 will optimise your gaming experience. If you own a DX10 card the new drivers will mess your shadows up, putting flickering black triangles everywhere (apparently DICE and NVIDIA are working on this). Not cool.

Now I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the campaign is broken, but I does have some issues. I’m not sure if some of these are due a ham-fisted implementation of the Xbox 360 controller (which I like to use for controlling vehicles). The first game killing glitch I encountered was when being told to cut a red wire, no prompt to press ‘E’ to cut the wire came up, forcing me to start the level again. Another problem seemed to occur if I start a game without the 360 controller switched on which results in my soldier opening fire and continuing to do so until the ammo is out. Hello beta testers?

I’ll admit to initially questioning the need for a campaign in Battlefield 3. The ‘proper’ Battlefield games, Battlefield 1942 and BF2, never had a campaign. It’s possible that it’s a sign of the times or the need to compete with Call of Duty’s traditional single player provision. Having played a fair bit of the campaign, my initial scepticism has been dispersed. Whilst it’s not the essential part of the package that COD’s single player campaign is, the BF3 campaign serves to set the scene for all those multiplayer games; answering, for instance, why the fuck you are engaging in a firefight in the middle of Paris.

Real war without the real death!

Graphically the campaign is no slouch; presenting a brutally realistic portrayal of what happens when there’s a major earthquake in your combat zone. Pretty awesome stuff. Talking of brutal, the single player is also pretty gruesome, portraying the enemy as such despicable scum I almost wanted to rush out and sign up myself.

The Bf3 campaign gameplay flicks between a merciless combat simulator and an interactive cut-scene, that is sure to please nobody (especially the impressive-looking, but minimally interactive jet-fighter sequence). Well, nobody except me, who quite enjoys a bit of plot with my game. I prefer to be given a good reason to do so before slaughting folk.

Battlefield was traditionally all about the multiplayer, and that is still the case for BF3. As awesome fun as playing a 64 playing BF3 multiplayer game is, you’d better be sitting on top of the server, otherwise it is going to be a trip to lag city for you. I don’t know what it is about DICE’s netcode, but I found the Xbox 360 version of Medal of Honor (which DICE also had a hand in) to also be rather unforgiving when it comes to pings. I never had this trouble with Call of Duty (PC or console)!

As is always the case with PC multiplayer games, your gaming experience relies on finding a good server to play on. Pick the wrong one and you will experience game-killing lag and/or get booted back to the (shity) browser screen. Find the right server and you are straight to Battlefield 3 multiplayer heaven. It’s a good idea to mark that serve as a favorite so that you can get back into the game quicker next time.

At I mentioned above, when it comes to Battlefield I’m a conquest fan and  BF3 certainly delivers; the huge maps can easily accommodate large quantities of players, but allowing just enough space for me to sneak around capturing flags! Whilst it’s still early days, the maps are detailed enough to over up enough hiding places to get around with being spotted. The same bits of cover also provide for some tense cat and mouse moments when your infantryman is spotted by a tank!

fast mover
Fast mover!

On the subject of vehicles, veterans of the BF: Bad Companies may already know what to expect with the playable tanks, jeeps, and helicopters, but none of those will prepare you for piloting a fast mover! BF3 sees the return of jet aircraft to the series. You’ll see it and want to fly it; but nine times out of ten, until you’ve got used to it, it’ll end in tears (and embarrassment).

The PC version of Battlefield 3 offers the most definitive modern combat multiplayer experience I’ve ever played. There are some technical issue that need to be ironed out, but nothing that I’ll kill the game for you. Be patient; whilst I know we shouldn’t have to, games should be finished before they are shipped and all that, but believe me when I say that the Battlefield 3 experience is only going to get better.

And what about the inevitable comparison between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3? Two different games; it’ll be like comparing apples with oranges.  Away, enough of this, I need to get back in the game. You can join me if you like, be sure to check out my Battlelog page and add me as a friend!

Need any further proof of BF3’s awesomeness? Check out the “Fault Line” trailer below!