Several sports rivalries have emerged throughout the years. The Red Sox and Yankees. The Packers and Bears. The Lakers and the Celtics. Now a new reivalry has emerged in the video game industry: EA and Activision, or more appropriately, Battlefield 3 vs. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Now both games have been released, and while they can’t play against each other like sports teams, the reviewers have been playing the games and sales have been made. In the end, one game will have more sales, but which will have the best reviews? Here are my impressions of the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3 for your consideration.
Battlefield 3 is the first game to take advantage of the new Frostbite 2 engine, and the game looks spectacular. The models of the characters are some of the best looking characters out there. You aren’t going to notice any jagged edges, even at close range. They move realistically without having any kind of clipping issues. The lighting really takes advantage of the shadows. Several times I shot at what I thought was an enemy moving in the shadows, and upon further inspection it was some ragged cloth waving in the wind.
Not only are the character models impressive, but the environments are even more impressive. In one mission, you might be travelling down the alleyways of a war-torn city, moving methodically until you have taken care of your final primary objective. The next mission you can be on an aircraft carrier and taking off in a jet targetting enemy bogeys in the air, shooting them down. The view is practically endless. It’s shocking how well the same engine can handle open vistas and claustrophbic alleys.
Sound is a subtle way to enhance an experience. All of the sounds of war envelope you, and you can hear them with a great surround system. Soldiers yelling commands at each other during a firefight, at other times talking softly to avoid detection. The grinding of tank treads while laying down to hide while enemies communicate with each other really gets your heart racing. All of the guns fire with such a sound that it makes you think that you are firing them personally. The sounds of war are well conveyed throughout the game.
The main storyline is confusing. You are a soldier who has travelled all over the world and uncovered a nuclear plot by the Russians. You’ll end up in Iran, New York, Paris, and in the middle of the ocean. There really isn’t any good explanation of why you are in these places, and the cutscenes between the missions really don’t do much to help explain the situation you are in. If you like being yelled at in a dark room by your commanding officer, you’ll love this storyline. Otherwise, you won’t get much out of it. You also won’t get very much out of the single-player game, because you can get through it in a weekend.
Controlling your character is standard for a shooter, but the controls are tight. There is some auto-aiming that can assist in your targetting, but you can turn it off if you like. There is no hud on the screen for your health, just a compass to show your direction and the ammo of your current weapon. I only wished that there was a way to see if you were crouched or standing, because it was difficult to tell at times what position you are in.
The multiplayer is what will draw you back to Battlefield 3 over and over. While they had issues at launch, those issues have been smoothed over and you can expect seamless gameplay now over Xbox Live. The standard Deathmatch modes are there, but there are plenty of options to change things up a lot to provide unique experiences. The Conquest and Rush modes are available as well, and they will definitely feel different depending on which map you play on. The Xbox 360 version only supports 24-players and the maps have been optimized for that number of players. It might not be as many as the PC version which supports 64-players, but but it’s still good amount of players to keep the multiplayer interesting.
Battlefield 3 also includes a co-op campaign that is different from the single-player experience. It contains six missions that have a very loose story, but there isn’t any real incentive to actually play it. You do unlock weapons by gaining high scores, but you could be doing that while actually playing the multiplayer. It feels rather safe, and it’s surprising that they didn’t try to use the single-player campaign with some squad-based communications for the co-op instead.
While Battlefield 3 was aiming to be the biggest name this holiday season, and while it has made strides towards knocking off Modern Warfare 3, it misses the mark. That’s not to say it is a bad game, it’s a very good one, but the polish and excitement that is found on the Call of Duty series feels missing here. Still, there are much worse games you could end up with this holiday season, and the competition between the two series should heat up significantly in the next few years.