Battlefield 3 Xbox 360 Review
It's been a long time coming but EA and DICE's epic first-person shooter is here. Battlefield 3's place among the genre's best this generation seemed certain before the game was even released, amid a barrage of slick and 'mudslinging' marketing tactics. The game shares obvious similarities with the often-compared Call of Duty -- the depth of the customisation and size of the maps ring true to the genre heavyweight -- but what Battlefield 3 does well is play to a number of strengths that ultimately help distance it from its nearest rivals. This experience has been slightly tweaked and molded to better suit the pacing of online console gaming. How does it hold up on Xbox 360?
What Battlefield 3 Got Right
Engrossing multiplayer suite - Battlefield 3 is first and foremost a multiplayer game. Its campaign offers a solid albeit dry experience, a downside countered by the game's competitive offering. Franchise favourites such as Conquest and Rush return alongside the traditional Team Deathmatch. Series loyalists will undoubtedly find plenty to enjoy about the mode, but it certainly feels out of place next to modes more suited to the Battlefield psyche.
Battlefield 3 still encourages you to spread out and explore the landscape for the best vantage and infiltration spots, so don't feel like you're getting less of an experience with the Xbox 360 version of the game. The in-game server browser also makes it easier to find specific types of matches in certain game modes, which definitely refines the matchmaking system over other games in the Battlefield series.
The action is fierce and the modes engaging, offering varied forms of gameplay that dictate you use all four of the available classes. These classes form the backbone of a deep and intricate unlock and customization system, giving you the ammunition (excuse the pun) to mix, match and try different class formations on different maps and modes. The sense of progression and reward is strong in Battlefield 3 and thankfully identical across all versions of the game.
Crisp Presentation - While the console version of Battlefield 3 certainly doesn't take as much a leap over its predecessor in Bad Company 2 as the PC version does, it still looks fantastic. Lighting bounces off and through environments, concrete and walls crumble around you, animations are smooth and water and fire effects look stunning. It's not without its problems though. Textures can take a few seconds to load, clipping is frequent and players, both AI and human-controlled, stay prone and frozen after death instead of falling to the ground.
Stat tracking - EA's new Battlelog service -- a stat-tracking platform that represents the publisher's commitment to the brand beyond Battlefield 3 -- allows you to access and compare stats and unlocks with friends, adding another competitive element to the experience. The service works considerably better on PC, although it can't be played without Battlelog having first been started. The interface is different on Xbox 360, although the in-game matchmaking browser is definitely a welcomed addition in place of Battlelog. Still, despite its different implementation, Battlelog provides console gamers with detailed stat information, turning the online Battlefield 3 experience into a comparable and competitive one away from the actual console.
What Battlefield 3 Got Wrong
Meaningless Campaign - Battlefield 3's single-player campaign isn't awful. Far from it. It has the explosive set-pieces, long gun battles and cliche terrorist villains anyone would expect from a game of this caliber. What it doesn't have, however, is meaning. DICE's attention to detail seems to have taken the front seat ahead of any meaningful action. The game does a fantastic job of teasing you, making you believe you have all the power before realising its corridor shooter tactics and hand-holding direction. There's absolutely no urgency driving the action, nor any real freedom to interact with the environments. A door needs to be opened. Can I open it? A plane needs to be flown. Can I fly it? An injured teammate needs to be dragged to safety. Can I drag him? The answer to all of those questions is a big fat "no": Battlefield 3 doesn't want you to do anything except shoot, as it attempts to challenge you with confronting set-pieces that dictate nothing more than a simple crouch or prone crawl.
All that said, the campaign has its moments. Much of the disappointment of the single-player has been fuelled by expectation, and has been dictated by the publisher's cry that this was going to be the best first-person shooter of all time. Furthermore, the game's narrative fails to be especially memorable, severely hampered by soldier chit-chat that attempts to water-down the game's obvious pro-war direction. Any negative affiliation the soldiers say they have with the conflict is lost as soon as they openly and aggressively begin to shoot-down enemy forces. It's in the game's effort to pass political commentary that its plots loses much of its worth, as if trying to justify the brutal, albeit necessary, action to a staunch liberal audience. It fails, ultimately diluting the importance of the soldiers actions.
Co-Op is lacking - Battlefield 3's co-op can be insanely fun if you're willing to look past its weird restrictions and and design elements. The experience is essentially identical to that of Call of Duty's Spec Ops mode, pitting you and a friend against endless waves of enemies. The downside being that enemy placement is repeated over and over again. The entire co-op experience can feel incredibly scripted, although it's saved by a number of different inclusions, including helicopter and vehicle-based missions. It could have been a lot better.
Lack of identity - What helped separate Battlefield from its competitors was its unique take on both single-player and multiplayer experiences. While the game certainly has its own unique flavour in places, namely modes like Conquest and Rush, it shares too many genre cliches with other games, implementing tired multiplayer modes, a dry, restricted campaign and a co-op experience severely lacking in ideas and uniqueness.
The Final Verdict
Battlefield 3 has only sparingly lived up to the expectations forced onto it by its publisher. The game thrives in a competitive landscape, offering intense and engaging conflict alongside detailed stat-tracking and a fantastic reward system. However, the game is dragged down by a single-player campaign that doesn't trust you enough to explore, instead placing an emphasis on detail and set-pieces. Battlefield 3 has its moments, hampered by an all-round failure to blow us away with the innovative gameplay and environments we were all promised.
By Gaetano Prestia
Multiplayer is where it's at, with refined controls, deep customization and fierce competition. Single-player has its moments but is mostly dry and unimpressive.
It still looks fantastic on Xbox 360, but textures often take seconds to load, even with the HD pack installed on Xbox 360.
A simply superb audio presentation.
You might find the drive to finish the single-player if you're after shallow gunplay. Multiplayer can potentially be played for months, if not years.
Battlefield 3 thrives online, falters offline.
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