One man’s return to the Battlefield

I got an early start on the Battlefield series. When the BF: 1942 multiplayer demo hit in August of 2002, a couple of friends and I holed up in the squalid basement suite that served as my Benchmarking Sweatshop at the time. Test systems were transformed into gaming rigs, and fueled by a combination of take-out and Slurpees, we played into the following morning. Finally, with the sun rising and our hands cramped from hours of non-stop fragging, we tore ourselves away only to repeat the ritual the following weekend… and the weekend after that… and the weekend after that.

We continued these once-a-week sessions with the demo for some four months before finally springing for the full game. Student-loan payments took priority back then, and the gameplay was so good we didn’t mind spending endless hours toiling back and forth across the beaches of Wake Island, the only map in the demo. Years spent in crudely networked dorm rooms had us well-versed in the art of first-person shooters, but Battlefield‘s grand scale and seamless vehicle integration added new depth that kept us entertained for hours.

As the franchise shifted venues and eras, both in official releases and through mods like Desert Combat, we followed the Battlefield series religiously. Inevitably, though, girlfriends and real-world responsibilities eroded our weekly schedule. The squad ultimately disbanded before Battlefield 2142 hit, and I just couldn’t get into it or the subsequent Bad Company releases. Perhaps Battlefield 3 would be different, I thought.

In some ways, this latest chapter in the franchise represents a radical departure. The game starts you off in a web browser, and that means sitting through a couple of plugin installs before you can do anything. This is really no more annoying than the miscellaneous updates attached to seemingly every new Steam game, and the browser-based interface lends itself well to stats tracking and social networking. Being able to browse battle logs and upcoming unlocks while waiting for the game to join a server and load the map in the background is really quite convenient. The problem is the timing; after transitioning from the browser to the game, there’s still up to eight seconds of additional load time on an SSD-equipped system. Cut that to less than a second, make the transition seamless, and you might be onto something.

The web front-end makes more sense for multiplayer than it does for Battlefield‘s single-player component. Then again, the solo campaign doesn’t really feel like it should be a part of this game at all. Before Bad Company came along, the Battlefield name was free from any association with the on-rails shooter genre popularized by the Call of Duty series.  To be fair, I enjoyed BF3‘s single-player missions more than I did the last Modern Warfare game. The pacing feels less frantic, and perhaps due to my aggressive tendencies, I tend not to get stuck behind trigger points facing endless waves of enemies. There were some memorable sequences among the missions, even if the gameplay feels formulaic.

The quick-time events simply have to go, though. They might seem like a good way to make in-game cinematics more interactive, but nothing breaks immersion like being told to press an arbitrary key at a specific moment.

Expecting a Battlefield game to ship without a single-player component is probably unrealistic. However, the Michael Bay theatrics should be reserved for Bad Company and other spin-offs. There’s nothing wrong with Battlefield‘s single-player roots, which pit the player against computer-controlled bots on multiplayer maps. If a storyline and missions are a must, why can’t they channel more Operation Flashpoint and less Call of Duty? I suppose the sales figures for those two games provides the answer.

So, what about the multiplayer? That’s the main course, and after making my way through the infantry-centric single-player campaign, I was a little worried that Call of Duty-itis had infected the rest of the game. Fortunately, it only took a few rounds to confirm this is the Battlefield I know and love. I’ve been playing the game’s classic conquest mode almost exclusively, and apart from struggling to learn the ins and outs of the massive maps, I feel right at home.

Honestly, I expected to die a lot more than I have thus far. There have been times I’ve cursed campers and grenade spamming, but they’ve been rare. My casualties are largely my own fault for thinking I still have the mad skillz of an early-20s university student.

The multiplayer isn’t perfect, of course. The deployment map is a bit of a mess, and the one in the HUD isn’t much better. Squads are difficult to coordinate, as well, although I’m admittedly used to having my team assembled in the same room—a tough act to follow. At first, I also experienced quite a bit of frustration after getting gunned down by higher-ranked players with superior weapons. Upgrades are unlocked quickly, though, and there’s a certain satisfaction to pulling better guns from the cold, dead hands of your victims.

Battlefield games have always looked pretty good, and this one is particularly gorgeous. The visuals are stunning, and I’m particularly impressed with the smoke, fire, and explosive effects. You’ll see a lot of them, because the game’s levels are littered with enough burning cars to fuel a Stanley Cup riot. The environments aren’t quite as destructible as I was expecting, but I’ve had my cover quickly reduced to rubble right before my eyes on more than a few occasions. I was also rather impressed when the giant antenna tower from one of the multiplayer levels fell on top of me.

While Battlefield 3 doesn’t have nearly as much unique detail as Rage, the textures are sharper up close. The lighting looks pretty good overall, even if some of the effects feel overused by the campaign’s penchant for peppering night missions with loads of blinding headlights and baddies with flashlights. If I didn’t fear being gunned down, I probably would have stopped more often to take in the view.

When piped through headphones with the virtualized surround-sound of a Xonar sound card, Battlefield 3 sounds amazing. The audio packs a solid punch and offers good directional cues without getting too muddied in big firefights. Somehow, the subtle tick of a sniper’s ricochet is more terrifying than the bombastic din of a tank battle.

With a pre-order DLC freebie on the way that includes my beloved Wake Island, plus other Battlefield classics, I’m looking forward to many evenings spent staying up far too late to play just one more round. I had a couple of nights like that before hunkering down in crunch mode for an upcoming product launch, and just writing this blog post has me jonesing for another fix.

Comments closed
    • Draphius
    • 8 years ago

    how did the multiplayer stay true to the battlefield roots??? theres no commander,no mcomm stations,no artillery,no rader, no supply drops, almost no real BF maps(feels like bad company maps but nothing sticks out like attacama) no destructible bridges that i could find, and no singleplayer with bots or maps just to practice on. battlelog has to go! most those features u talked about with battlelog could easily have been kept within the game and not in a webbrowser. u cant setup your loadouts for your char’s inbetween games or in battlelog. every map has also turned into a rocket and nade spam fest which u woulda thought they would have fixed after the previous games that had these problems. all in all im pissed i bought this game cause this is bad company 3 and not BF3. RIP battlefield we had good memories

    • Aveon
    • 8 years ago

    So if I actually plan to buy the game tommorow and start playing multiplayer, half the world would already have 10x better arsenal than me .

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      Only until Christmas and then you can be above all the kids.

      • d0g_p00p
      • 8 years ago

      Pretty much yes. I bought the game on Wednesday when it came out. I started playing MP on Saturday morning and was already outclassed by everyone. Just like I complained about it’s hard to get kills and level up when everyone has way better stuff than you. I am struggling to get better weapons and unlocks but I’m stuck with the default n00b weapons while everyone has supped up guns and long range scopes.

      • homerdog
      • 8 years ago

      It doesn’t take long to unlock the important stuff, at least for weapons and gadgets. Unfortunately some of the vehicle unlocks take far too long to earn and the vehicles can be pretty useless without them (jets without missiles…).

        • Draphius
        • 8 years ago

        SRSLY i hopped into a jet and was getting killed repeatedly trying to figure out how to fire my damn missiles only to learn u dont get any in the beginning

      • Draphius
      • 8 years ago

      just skip the game and pickup skyrim, its awesome!!!

    • CampinCarl
    • 8 years ago

    For me, all they need to do to make this game almost perfect is remove those damn tactical flashlights from the multiplayer game. Seriously–those things blind you in broad daylight and everyone knows that’s not even possible >_>

      • travbrad
      • 8 years ago

      You’ll be happy to hear they are going to be nerfing them soon then. 🙂

      [url<]http://www.ripten.com/2011/11/10/upcoming-battlefield-3-patch-will-nerf-that-damned-tactical-light/[/url<]

    • Aphasia
    • 8 years ago

    For any battlefield fan, this is a required viewing.. well worth it.

    GamerSpawn History: Battlefield (45 min)
    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELwO-CMoDYI[/url<]

    • travbrad
    • 8 years ago

    Great blog post and it almost exactly matches my experience with the game. Back when the 1942 demo came out it took over our LAN party and instead of playing a variety of games we just played BF1942 the whole time. 🙂 I sort of lost interest around BF2142 too, partly because it was lackluster, and partly because I was just too busy.

    I played BC2 and it was good but it just didn’t live up to the past glory of BF2/1942/desert combat. I’m not sure BF3 does yet either, but it’s pretty close, and I’m really looking forward to the classic BF maps in the ‘Karkand’ DLC. 🙂

    • d0g_p00p
    • 8 years ago

    I must be getting old or something but I can say that I really wish I did not buy this game. I remember in the previous BF games I was able to pretty much hold my own and have fun. Not this one. I have around 10 hours logged in MP and I have yet to unlock any new weapons over the crappy standard ones you get when you start. I am lucky if I get 3 kills per game, it also does not help that I cannot start with any weapons better than the n00b guns you start with.Sure I have gotten some unlocks but they are all basically useless. C4 and mines? yay don’t know what I can ever use those against. It seems whenever I join a server *everyone* has way better guns than I have. I even picked up some weapons from the very few people I have manged to kill and I see right away how they have the advantage. Scopes that highlight people, thermal scopes, night vision, etc.

    It’s obvious that I suck but it seems really unbalanced that I cannot get better weapons to help me out because i cannot kill anyone and it does not help they have better gear I don’t remember any of the BF titles being like this. Oh well out of all the titles I bought this year this is my only regret.

      • travbrad
      • 8 years ago

      C4 is one of my favorite weapons, at least on the maps with lots of vehicles. Great for sneaking in and getting a guaranteed tank kill, and also tons of fun doing “jihad jeep” runs: [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clDpZIaU3-Q[/url<]

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      Battlefield 3, like BC2 before it, has a tremendous learning curve, whether you suck or not.

      Still, you can do considerable damage with any rifle and a 4x scope (first unlock). Unlocking the IRNV and sticking on a foregrip makes most weapons positively evil, and I’m a fan of sticking a silencer on any machinegun with the above combo- ultra-stealthy bigass gun.

      If you stick with it a little, you will get used to using the various weapons and get a feel for what unlocks work with you.

        • d0g_p00p
        • 8 years ago

        I have not gotten the 4x scope, how is that the first unlock? I have gotten a surface to air missle and a glock 17 as the only weapon unlocks. I would love something better than the iron sights. I cannot seem to find any guides online that show how to get unlocks or the unlocking tree. If you have one link it up please I would love to check it out.

        I really want to enjoy this game because i see how it could be a blast. I love the vehicles but again as a standard soldier I get gunned down all the time and half the time I don’t even see who kills me. 🙁

        edit: I see. It looks like I need 1 more kill to get the 4x ACOG and 2 kills to get the holo. Pretty sad that in 10 hours of MP game play I have less than 10 kills. I knew I was terrible at this game but I did not know i was that bad, lol!

      • Mars_999
      • 8 years ago

      Well I can tell you this, if you are gaming on a dinky screen get ready to get owned. I moved to a 32″ TV on PC and my kill rate went through the roof.

      This game is more than just gun and run, use your mind a bit, C4 is great for taking out tanks, MCOM station choke points, mines in areas that are high traffic. You need to know these maps like the back of your hand man, watch learn, if you see dumbasses taking that same route over and over again, then mine it for tanks ect…. As I said its more than just in your face action, I mean yeah that is fun but dude that doesn’t win the round push, attack, set MCOM’s and capture flags, all IMO are more important, as I hate seeing my win/loss ration keep going down…

      Hope to see you on the battlefield!!! I am Mars_9999 in game so join up!

      Later

      • sirsoffrito
      • 8 years ago

      I play Engineer, and mines are the most useful ever. Two M15 AT mines will destroy heavy armor and all of the passengers aboard. Just place them all across and up and down the roads two by two, and remember any time you hit ammo drops or respawn to put those mines back down. Never have them hanging around in your inventory. For that reason, I actually love the smaller conquest maps like Grand Bazaar, as the roads are narrower. Sure I die a lot running across the road, but it is so worth it when I’m randomly running to my next objective, I hear an explosion go off in the distance, and I’m awarded hundreds of points for vehicle destruction combined with passenger kills.

      The starting rifles really are not bad. I thought they were at first as well, in particular because of the firing arcs and travel times. I was never sure where I was hitting. Truth be told, I figured out I was overestimating the arc in most cases. Just aim like you would in any other shooter, really. It’s different in vehicles I think, because the distances are usually greater. And sniping, but for that reason, I’ve mostly stayed away from Recon.

      Or go Support like my friend, drop ammo all the time. Basically, don’t just depend on kills to get points, and before you know it you’ll have that mortar, and you won’t even have to aim really.

      There’s plenty of ways to play and have fun, I think. It’s all about finding that niche.

      • Draphius
      • 8 years ago

      btw for all the people pissed they are stuck with noob weps play a support and use the SAW! there were so many rounds that i topped the scoreboard for kills when i was between lvl 1-6 against people that were rank 20+. that gun is crazy good if u just grab your junk and say Eff it and just rambo it up

      • ChronoReverse
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, I had a lot of trouble initially too.

      HOWEVER, the best way to get points and better weapons is to do the mission objectives, not get kills.

      Therefore, stick with your squad (or another one if your squad is full of idiots who run off in different directions) to capture or attack points. Do this well and you can amass at least a thousand points a round which will quickly get you at least the second and third tier weapons.

      For the Engineer, I favor the SCAR-H, for Assault the M416 and for Support the M249. There are better guns but those come early and will be useful even much later on. As you gain more kills with those weapons, you’ll also receive the scopes and stuff.

      Another thing to do is use flanking tactics. Shooting people from behind is the safest way after all.

      • dashbarron
      • 8 years ago

      I feel for you. I’m experiencing something like that. Just seems my years of FPS neglect have me seriously behind and handicapped tremendously from the people who are getting exponentially better.

    • lycium
    • 8 years ago

    i’m not especially good at the game, and it really *&@#%^ me off that the guys who need the awesome guns least are the only ones who have it.

    it’s also almost impossible to join a server as 3 players on the same network without someone’s game crashing or disconnecting.

    • michael_d
    • 8 years ago

    Strengths: terrific sound and animation.

    Weaknesses: glare makes it look as if one is watching tv, lighting is very poorly done in comparison to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Metro 2033 and Rage. AI in SP is very poorly done as well, enemies keep spawning in certain areas until protagonist reaches a certain area.

    • GasBandit
    • 8 years ago

    Nice column. I wish BF3 had gone 1942’s bots-for-single-player route as well. I like being able to play with a fewer, select group of people but still have the sweeping epic fights against 64 enemies.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    When playing the travesty of a story that is the sp I was enjoying some of the moments of gameplay but I was so put off whenever the rehash of blackopps campaign got in between me and my game. I LOVED how amazing the SP looked and wished that some one would take the tech and make gamings equivalent of saving private ryan. Alas all we have is COD 4 that pushes in that direction.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    got in a couple rounds last night and even with a poor K/D ratio I was always in the top 3 players on my team. Me and one buddy pretty much singlehandedly turned a battle around with 5 tickets to go by running around behind the front lines as a sniper and engineer to take capture points from teh back end of the map. It was amazing.

    • Yeats
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]the game's levels are littered with enough burning cars to fuel a Stanley Cup riot.[/quote<] I lol'd.

    • dashbarron
    • 8 years ago

    Besides being outmatched by people with a lot better FPS and BF3 experience/skills, the maps are the hardest thing for me to get used to in this game.

    Love it though. Great graphics to flex GPU muscle and addicting gameplay.

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