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GAME REVIEW: Battlefield 3 (PC)

Spoiler alert: This review may be biased. I can't in good faith pretend like I am going to judge this game solely on its quantifiable aspects in a cool and reasonable fashion. IT'S FUCKING BATTLEFIELD 3!!! That means a great deal to me, as I still consider BF2 one of my all time top 10 (maybe even 5) games. I've waited a LONG time for a Battlefield sequel, * and the anticipation has been unrealistically sky high. It's been a bumpy road leading to this review, (from 2142 to BFBC2) but my blinding love of the TRUE Battlefield games has kept me ever vigilant and positive that Battlefield 3 would be the second coming of Christ. Now, here it is! Yet, with great power comes great don't break MURDERNATOR's heart or he will ruthlessly dump on you in his blog and convince his adoring public to never play you again. So let's see if BF3 can live up to my self-induced hype.

*To make this easier when I reference other Battlefield games in this review, know that I am NOT talking about any of the Bad Company games.

Not sure what the glowing stuff is on all the BF3 art... Looks like a Tinactin ad.

As a true sequel to BF2, I felt there was absolutely no need for a single player campaign in BF3. To that end, I have not put one single minute into the campaign. Luckily, Abortion Fist, ever the SP afficianado, has beaten the game and kindly lent me his impressions. Now is usually the part where I go over the story of the game, but to me the story is "find a server, play BF3, watch Almasy crash a jet, fin". So I will turn the narration over to Fist's impressions. NOW in bullet point format:

-Boring story about Rogue Russian terrorists manipulating Iranians to move Nukes and destroy the west. Unknown motive. (sound familiar?)

-Major problem with story is no memorable characters. Probably because all the characters are white guys with jarhead haircuts. No handlebar mustaches or mohawks or skull balaclavas.

-Lots of boring levels, but all are tech demos of some sort. Jet flying mission is cliche example of "boring but looks awesome". Paris level is awesome and is like Heat. Having a gunfight in a parking garage with the fire sprinklers spraying, cars blowing up and whaling the security alarms is a sensory treat. The missions that are awesome are really awesome. But most aren't.

-Quicktime events are really stupid and way too frequent.

-Doesn't end with a cliffhanger, thankfully.

-Sensory overload is second to none. No SP looks this good (technically), or sounds this good. SFX are amazing.

-Soundtrack is cool too. Very distinct, 80's synthesized sound like Terminator 1. Fits surprisingly well and is refreshing compared to the over the top Hollywood scores with guitar solos and glory trumpets.

-Overall I think people bashed the SP way more than they should've. It's not on MW or Uncharted's level but its better than Black Ops (IMO) and most other SP shooter campaigns.

"OK boys, it's your classic 'get the brown people' op. Any questions?"

Thank you A. Fist! I will eventually play the single player. BF3 runs fine on my current PC, but I have lowered some of the settings for performance. If I'm going to play a linear single player campaign it may as well look amazing, and to do that I need to invest about 5-600 dollars into my PC. That's fair right?

The biggest appeal to Battlefield games is, not surprisingly, THE BATTLEFIELD (Great job on the title, DICE). If you've never played a 64 player BF game, words and even videos cannot really express the experience. You have miles of virtual terrain to inhabit, and yet somehow, no matter where you are you will NEVER feel safe. EVER. It's like virtual Detroit. Just imagine 32 people are trying to kill you at all times, and that they have many, MANY ways to accomplish their goal. It's a frantic experience and one that can turn even the most tolerant of players into a rage-quitting monstrosity. Any extended amount of time with this game will increase your blood pressure, elevate your testosterone, and more than likely cause some post traumatic stress syndrome. But this is nothing new to Battlefield games. So what does BF3 do different?

The biggest game changer this go around is the destructable environments. I know it sounds cliche. I was one of the people who always thought of terrain deformation as just a gimmick to put on the back of a box, or a side note during a tech talk. Not so in Battlefield 3. The way a map is played is modified on the fly as cover errodes, and eventually collapses. I have played maps where I couldn't even tell where the capture point was because the area was decimated into an unrecognizable rubble pile. Other times, the wooded area was utterly leveled to erase hiding spots for potential campers. Not everything is destructable, but more often than not, hiding from a tank behind a sandbag, or wall is only going to get you so far. Dead far.

That used to be a Quiznos.

Another big change (for the PC crowd) is Battlelog. Basically it's but maintained by EA and integral to the launching of the game. At first I thought this was a terrible idea, and there are definitely some negatives to running an extra web browser while running the game for players with older PCs. However, the more I played, the more I saw how DICE really wanted to turn this into a social game, and cater to our ADD generation. You can browse games, check your stats, and form and voice-chat with a party all while facebook stalking, or reading you favorite forum. One of the most painful parts of BF2 was the wait to get into a server: Sitting through an eternity of a load screen, only to find that when you finally did get in, you and your buddy couldn't get onto the same team. Frustrating indeed. Battlelog loads BF3 in the background and only drops you into game when the level has loaded and the game has started. For the most part it works really well, and DICE seems devoted to patching and adding to Battlelog to make it more useful and streamlined. Origin is a topic for another day.

Sadly, for the advancements Battlelog has made into streamlining the BF3 experience, once you get in game you are greeted by some less that optimal settings. For starters, even if you only have 4 people (the maximum amount allowed in a squad in BF3) in a Battlelog party, once you all join the server together, you may not be in the same squad. Trying to get into a squad is a lesson in frustration, as you cannot create a squad and most of the preassigned squads will not have 4 empty slots. It would have been much better to just create as many squads as the team decides, instead of limiting it to predesignated squads. This is something that could be fixed later in a patch, but for now it's a pain. Speaking of squads, I am not really sure how a squad leader is designated, and I really do miss the commander role that played so prominently in BF2.

Amazing, until you realize you unmapped "deploy parachute".

As with most games these days, BF3 has streamlined its classes into 4 roles: Assault/Medic, Support, Engineer/Anti-Tank, and Sniper/Spec-Ops. These changes are mostly for the best, and people will be able to find something they like out of the four. With the merging of classes, the controls have gotten pretty damn insane. At any given time you could be carrying a knife, grenades, a pistol, rocket launcher, welding tool and a primary weapon with multiple toggle-able attachments. Even with the massive amount of keys on a keyboard, getting all the controls memorized can be daunting. Luckily, you can customize everything to your liking. So after a couple of hours experimenting, you can find something that doesn't cripple your hand. Once you get the controls hammered out, BF3 handles like you would expect a BF game to. It's not as nimble or responsive as say a COD, but instead rewards well placed shots, controlled bursts, and vehicle mastery.

There are dozens of weapons to unlock and upgrade, and each does a good job of feeling like it's own beast; not just a re-skin of another weapon. Personally I hate the Soviet bloc weapons, and do my darndest to use anything other than the AK-whatever. Players who have put the hours in will end up with more firearm selection, and arguably some better gear, but any noob with a stock M4 can do just as good. BF3 is a game about options and starting weapons are sometimes just as viable as later unlocks. BF2 pioneered the persistent player progression with weapon unlocks, ribbons, and medals. All that is back in BF3 but cranked to 11. The game will always give you experience points, and killing is not always the name of the game. Heal teammates - Points. Resupply ammo - Points. Spot enemies - Points. Get points - Points.

Best. Episode. Ever.

One last thing to say about Battlefield 3's gameplay is that to a newcomer, it may be the most uphill battle of any game short of Counter-Strike. Upon seeing your first 32 man team roll-out, most rookies will be utterly lost as colored UI and tracer fire and explosions cause a sensory overload. If you've played Battlefield games before you will be right at home, but the new guys are going to have to log some hours just to figure out what everything does and means. Example: Almasy went an entire round as Assault not knowing how to defrib, or even knowing that he had them. The co-op missions seem like a way to ease you into the chaos of a full 64 player conquest map, but there is a lot to teach, and most of it you will learn the hard way.
"C'mon guys hop in the suicide chopper! I just figured out how to turn!"

Graphically BF3 is a showstopper. It scales well and looks good on my PC with an older card. Audio design is excellent and the sound of bullets whizzing by or cracking off nearby walls will be in your dreams long after the game has been turned off. My main gripe is the excessive bloom the sun gives off. BF3's jaw-dropping sunset battles force you to run headlong into the blinding sun, leading to cheap deaths from obscured helos or soldiers. A set of sunglasses would be one of the most OP unlocks in BF3. Apart from that, prepare yourself for a visual treat that also happens to have great gameplay and massive scope. It's the whole package.

Graphics? Yeah we got graphics.

Battlefield 3 has been a LONG time coming, but DICE really have outdone themselves and made the game they always wanted to. If you love Battlefield games you will be right at home in BF3. The flip side is, of course, BF3 is not going to get long term detractors from making the jump. It is a refinement of the franchise, that mostly improves on every aspect and does it with such blistering graphic fidelity that you really start to wonder "Where the hell can Battlefield go from here?". Luckily, if you're enjoying Battlefield 3, you won't be going anywhere for a good long while.

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