Battlefield 3, the new first person shooter from Electronic Arts, has the ambition of fragging current kill leader Call of Duty.
Call of Duty, the latest installment of which went to market November 8, 2011, after this was written (an advance review copy was not provided), has given Battlefield 3 some openings to claim the crown.
Call of Duty, after the marvelous single player campaign in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, served up two ridiculous and stupefying offerings in its last two incarnations, Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. The former was completely illogical and ridiculous, leading to speculation that the next installment would skirt its predecessor's extravagant idiocy by being set as a prequel to Modern Warfare. No such luck, according to reports.
Black Ops had a better story line, but the gameplay was pure farce, as it amounted to peeking over barriers for a millisecond in order to kill an enemy, be rained with bullets by a squadron of enemies with ridiculously accurate aim, then duck back until you miraculously regenerated your lost life force. Rinse and repeat. (Wait as long as you like, really. Although crack shots, it rarely occurs to the enemies in the Call of Duty series to advance, much less flank one's positions.)
Note: lest the reader consider my skillz to be the problem, I hasten to add that I beat the original Modern Warfare on Veteran difficulty.
Sadly, Battlefield 3's campaign is just as pointless and tedious as those of the Call of Duty series. After a rousing intro, Battlefield 3 throws the player back in time to a fictionalized conflict with Iran. The storyline is not as preposterous as Modern Warfare 2, but the game play is just as tedious. The enemies appear to be wasting their time shooting at you, both because they should be competing in Olympic shooting competitions and because the player is able to regenerate a limitless number of bullet wounds so long as they aren't suffered in rapid succession.
The most bizarre flaw in all of these games is the lack of a cover system. Gears of War has it, Mass Effect has it, and of course, Deus Ex has it. But Battlefield and Call of Duty, games dedicated to the principle that exposure to the enemy equals death, somehow give you no ability to blind fire from cover or duck out and back into cover with a single key. It's absolutely inexplicable.
Battlefield 3 has some of the prettiest graphics of this generation of console games.
But let's face it. No one buys Battlefield or Call of Duty for the single player. The multiplayer is where the action is at.
How does Battlefield 3 stack up there?
Very well indeed. In fact, for many, Battlefield 3 may just be their multiplayer game of choice.
Battlefield 3 uses dedicated servers even on consoles, eliminating the awful problem of relative player lag on the Call of Duty series. In a nutshell, on the console versions of the Call of Duty games, one player hosts the game and serves the game to the other players. The player hosting the game gains valuable milliseconds over the other players. When viewing a replay of one's death on Call of Duty, one frequently will see that while from their perspective, they were firing on the other player, from the other player's perspective, they were simply able to mow the other player down without firing a shot. In a game of twitch reflexes, this frequently means the difference between life and death.
Advantage Battlefield 3.
Battlefield 3 also is free from the ridiculously overpowered and cheap combinations of "perks" that so marred Modern Warfare 2.
You will never be killed by an idiot running around at super human speed dual wielding shotguns in Battlefield 3. Nor will someone teleport across the room to knife you. These are real blessings.
On the other hand, the perk system, minus its incredibly overpowered combinations, was great fun, and Battlefield 3 doesn't quite have anything to compare to it.
What Battlefield 3 does offer is far richer team play. You can heal your teammates, feed them ammo, become a tank killing specialist, or provide sniper support.
Tanks? Oh yeah! Then there is Battlefield 3's biggest edge over Call of Duty.
You can command a tank. Or a jet. Or a chopper (though it is diabolically hard at first).
I remember as a kid wanting to play a game in which you could be a tank commander. Now I can. It's really fun stuff. Yet, as powerful as tanks are, a good team can defeat them.
Battlefield 3 (at least on the Xbox 360), is not quite as smooth as Call of Duty. Call of Duty boasts a silky smooth sixty frames per second, while Battlefield 3 is locked at half of that. The result is a more detached, robotic play experience than the pure visceral thrill of Call of Duty.
Battlefield 3 is also, if such a thing exists, the thinking man's shooter. Defense wins over an undisciplined offense. There's no room for lone wolfing it in Battlefield 3. You have to work with your teammates to unseat a well positioned sniper, for instance.
Battlefield 3 wins in another crucial area. In hours of gameplay, no one called anyone a derogatory term for a black person, homosexual, or Jew. Try matching that record in Call of Duty, which is overrun by both bigots and twelve year olds eagerly emulating them.
Battlefield 3 may not unseat Call of Duty, despite selling 5 million copies at launch. But it is well worth a look for its excellent graphics, strong, deep gameplay and emphasis on more realistic team orientated combat.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an Abrams tank to drive.
60/100 Single player.
Available on Xbox 360 (the version I played), PS3, and PC.
Realistic violence and profanity.
Disclosure: Recent FTC regulations imply that I should disclose that the game manufacturer provided me with a complimentary review copy of this game.
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