With the launch of Battlefield 4 imminent it seems appropriate to take a moment to reflect on what made the older brother so fun to hang around with. I first tried playing Battlefield 3 when it was back in the public beta stage; and I found it more frustrating than trying to eat custard with a fork. Despite this insta-judgement I persevered and quickly fell in love with its meaty sounding weapons and stunning graphics. I guess I should also mention I found shooting other players fun as well. Perhaps what made the game for me was how refreshing the game play was. Going back to the frustration I felt earlier, I gradually realized that nothing had rivaled Call of Duty for so long that I almost instinctively started running around, bunny hopping and hip firing until, in a sitting on the toilet epiphany kind of moment, I realized this was not Call of Duty and my whole style of play was completely misjudged. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy that franchise, but I am tired of the quick scoping and the constant disbelief that comes with it. Perhaps I am getting old and ‘mature’ but I do prefer Battlefield 3‘s wine and cheese tasting to Call of Duty‘s Big Mac.
Of course I do not mean this literally (I still love you Big Mac’s!) but the game play feels much faster paced and furious without the need for perks or kill streaks. If you are sniped then instead of feeling teeth grinding, neighbour intimidating resentment, you feel impressed more than anything else since these snipers have to take into account bullet drop and distance. The best word I can think of to describe my style of play is patient. Battlefield 3 teaches you to crouch or crawl your way to the nearest rock, fence or burning wreck to flank that one irritating machine gunner suppressing your team mates rather than run straight at them. It teaches you this by the quick deaths, the suppression system and slow health regeneration without a med kit. The suppression system, more than anything, taught me to slow down and actually think about how to engage a target. If you are being fired at, which will be most of the time, the screen will go out of focus and if you return fire the shots will become increasingly inaccurate as you become more and more suppressed. Eventually of course you will start taking hits and die or find cover and the suppression will break. You quickly learn that good players will be able to suppress and kill you within seconds.
These good players will also be team players if you are lucky enough to have joined the right match. Most of the time you will be the unluckiest person in the world at that point. However, the emphasis on team play relies heavily on the different classes. Each class will have a unique set of weapons and lovely gadgets to tinker with and these classes are: Assault/Medic, Engineer, Heavy Machine gunner and Sniper. Working together, these different classes would form a formidable unit. The Assault class can throw down med packs that quickly heal nearby soldiers and also revive teammates. The engineer can crack out a handy repair tool or-something which will have you in stitches for hours- go head to head with other players with an EOD robot depending on how helpful or aggressive players wish to be. The machine gunner can provide (you guessed it) heavy firepower or an ammo box to feed hungry guns. Finally, the Sniper can plant a radio beacon that can act as a mobile spawn point. While I do enjoy the class based system, unless you play with a small group of friends or some sort of clan, it can become tiresome after the medic in your squad simply ignores your dying corpse and decides to take on a tank with pistol for the hundredth time in a game, or the machine gunner chooses to not lay down ammo.
I choke back bitter feelings towards this anonymous player who, during a game repeatedly ignored the whole squads plea for ammo and who I personally blame for the loss of the game. Despite my bitter sentiment, the multiplayer is extraordinary in terms of quality and variety. The maps are vast, varied and interesting and become even more so depending on what type of game mode you wish to play. I could happily play them over and over until I keeled over. In some maps such as Tehran Highway or Seine Crossing, you have city environments. Others such as Bandar desert or Nebandan Flats are vast expanses peppered with small outposts perfects for long-range combat.
Either way you will need transport to get you from place to place and there is no better feeling than a group of you jumping out of a hovering transport chopper with all guns blazing to capture an objective. The vehicles are just as varied as the maps and you will see plenty of vehicles storming across the maps. In a similar fashion to the weapon upgrades, vehicle upgrades can be unlocked by killing the enemy team, which will in turn improve the vehicle combat effectiveness. My personal favorite combination on a tank for example is to have a proximity scan to detect nearby infantry, infrared smoke to avoid lock-on from enemy missiles and a guided shell for extra firepower.
The campaign is where Battlefield 3 slips over and breaks itself into clichéd shrapnel of terrorists and an invasion of a middle eastern country where you destroy all and sunder while chasing said terrorist. I would only play the campaign if I was really stuck for anything else to play or my Internet was down. It is visually impressive and the AI makes it a tough challenge but it is painfully obvious that the developers were more focused on designing the multiplayer aspect. And for that I am actually grateful. I am somewhat surprised that the Co-op aspect was not expanded upon since it was a nice alternative to both the multiplayer and the campaign, even if after over 10 attempts at the finale I still couldn’t knife the big bad terrorist properly.
Battlefield 3, like its aging predecessors, is a true multiplayer game. It gives you a vast array of interesting weapons and vehicles to play with then hands you the vast maps to drive, fly and run around on. What makes this game so appealing is its ability to make you appreciate every shot you fire. Whether it is a machine gun or a TV missile from a helicopter, every shot counts; and believe me you will feel incredibly smug with yourself when you kill someone with a TV missile. What is also special about Battlefield 3 is also its name. The game is exactly what is: a huge 64 player (on PC only. HA!) battlefield with small scale, large scale skirmish. The next time you play Battlefield 3 get to some place where you won’t get shot and just watch over the map. When you spend five minutes watching jets scream across the maps or two tank armies clash as AA fire streaks through the sky then you will understand why I will always love this game.