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Review: Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is one of the two blockbuster military first-person shooters this season. (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the other – due out Nov. 8.)

So, how is it?

Of course, the meat and potatoes of any good FPS is the multiplayer action and the Battlefield series has been at the forefront of online gaming. Battlefield 3 is no different.

Focusing on squad combat, players can  form or join squads in game, like past Battlefield games. Being a member of a squad allows that players to spawn at another squad member’s location anywhere on the map. Players can also spawn at the team’s home base – a wise choice sometimes when vehicles are available at the base (jeeps, tanks, helicopters, etc.).

When you join a good squad (using complementary soldier classes, generous cooperation), the game flows. With a player healing and reviving teammates, another repairing vehicles, and still another distributing ammo, a squad can be well night unbeatable.

Working as an efficient machine – win or lose – makes Battlefield 3 the pinnacle of gameplay enjoyment within the squad scenario.

On the other hand, joining a game with a squad focused on personal achievements – all snipers or players who only join to fly the jets or helicopters – makes gameplay grind to a halt. Playing without a squad is nearly as bad, as spawnpoints are only at flags or team base, leaving a whole lot of legwork to join the fray.

In those cases, the game strains to even be playable, unless you’re one of the aforementioned snipers who prefer to play alone and don’t see the need to contribute to the team game.

The game also retains the soldier classes from past games – Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon. Each has unique weapons and gadgets, with all accessible pre-game or while waiting to respawn. Playing a class builds points toward new weapons, accessories and gadgets. Players also unlock dogtags – the first dogtag displays the player’s rank, while the second dogtag can be one of hundreds that are unlocked during gameplay.

Multiplayer modes will all be familiar to Battlefield fans: Conquest, Rush, Squad Deathmatch and Squad Rush, with Team Deathmatch returning to the Battlefield fold.

Conquest focuses on the capture of several flags scattered around a map. The longer one team holds the majority of the flags, the faster the total ticket count drops on the opposing team.

In Rush, one side attacks while the other defends two M-COM stations. When an attacking team successfully destroys the stations, the match moves to another section of the map, with the same goals.

Co-op action is also available, with games alongside a friend or public games played on sections of the single-player mode that have been completed.

Finishing a match rewards the player with medals and ribbons. Achievements are passed on to a new feature of Battlefield games – the Battlelog. This web-based addition allows access to all your soldier’s work, but it’s not without controversy. Implementation of the Battlelog requires that the player be always connected to the internet, even if playing the single-player game. This has caused much consternation amongst Battlefield enthusiasts, especially those who play on a PC.

Every new iteration of Battlefield or the Call of Duty games always seem to add something new to take something away that seems to be only to irritate the player.

For instance, Battlefield removed the ability to go prone (flat on your stomach) during gameplay in previous Bad Company games. (By the way, they returned that ability in Battlefield 3.)

I think the frontrunner for most annoying feature in this game has to be the “tactical light.” This weapon attachment serves to blind your attacker when aimed. Unfortunately, it also blinds your teammates and seems to be awfully powerful in game and just seems to be a joke the developers decided to play on fans.

Now, as far as single player, what I played was very good. Told through the eyes of an American soldier being interrogated as a possible spy, the game unfolds through many eyes as a hunt for some suitcase nuclear weapons that may be used.

Unfortunately, after several hours of playing, the game save on my 360 corrupted, with the only option available to restart from the beginning. That was not going to happen. I played enough of the mode to get the gist of the gameplay.

On a related side note – why do some game companies insist on limiting players to one and only one save, occurring automatically? If players were allowed to have user-initiated saves, this problem could be eased somewhat. (See The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim).

Some of the set pieces in the mode – riding shotgun on a jet fighter, piloting a tank across the Iranian desert – are beautiful to look at and a blast to play. The gritty realism of man-caused and nature-caused devastation is impressive to behold.

The game also does a good job of illustrating that war isn’t always fought in the bright sunshine, with easily identifiable enemies. The dark, smoky environs of street-to-street battles accentuate the fog of war.

In the final analysis, the multiplayer gameplay in Battlefield 3 is outstanding and the single-player is no slouch either. With customizations and a plethora of maps and a full complement of vehicles, Battlefield 3 will satisfy most FPS fans.

Platform: PlayStation3/Xbox 360

Manufacturer:  Electronic Arts

Rating: Mature

Score: 9 field of battle chilies

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