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Battlefield 3

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.

 

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FIFA 13

          Picture this; you build up play slowly from defense, switch the ball to the flanks, cut inside and feed the creative ‘number 10’ player who slides a perfectly weighted pass into the path of your lightning-quick striker. The opposition ‘keeper rushes out, and you dink the ball over him and watch as it rolls into the net. The crowd erupts. Perfection. Fifa 13.

The beautiful game just keeps getting better. Fifa 13 takes the way we play football to new heights. Simply put, the game feels real. The quality of a player’s first touch is dependant on their skill level. If you slightly under-hit a pass it will be intercepted, over-hit a pass and the ball will evade its intended recipient, who will then remonstrate with the passer. Amazing. It is now extremely difficult to dribble around entire defenses and smash one in the top corner. You have to earn it. A new ‘attacking intelligence’ feature means your players will work as a team when attacking, and then it is up to you to pick the right pass or cross. Opposition defenders read the game well, and will happily pick off any sloppy attempts. The new defensive system that was implemented in Fifa 12 has been retained and refined, meaning you will have to work equally as hard in defense as in attack. At first this is a lot to master, but my word it is satisfying when you do master it. This is the closest a football game as ever got to the real thing.

Take my first match; I launched straight into Career mode and the media opinion was that I needed a win in my first match to silence the doubters. No worries I thought. What transpired was a comprehensive 3-0 defeat to some Italian minnows, where I failed to record a single meaningful effort on goal, and was mercilessly taken apart on the counter attack. I miss controlled balls, failed to find my target with numerous passes and gave away dozens of free kicks. ‘This is s**t’, I said to myself. But it isn’t, not at all. What it is, is an absolute masterpiece. What EA have managed to create is the perfect blend of fun and hard work.

With the Fifa games, I have taken the incredible level of detail in player likenesses, stadiums, kits and commentary for granted. These are all present in Fifa 13, and they have all been tweaked to make it an even more immersive experience. The commentary has great depth, and observations are fluid and instant. Even the immeasurably dull tones of co-commentator Alan Smith are tolerable. The crowd noise is spine-tinglingly good. Various teams’ fans have new chants, and they are particularly audible when your team are in the ascendancy.

Career mode offers you the chance to be a manager, dealing with all aspects of your chosen team, such as transfers, budget negotiations, scouting and media duties. The transfer system is much more realistic than in previous titles, no longer will Wayne Rooney inexplicably join West Ham United. The inclusion of transfer deadline day is a lovely touch. You can create a player to join a team and work your way up from starlet to superstar, eventually going on to manage the team. Ultimate Team is back and better than ever, with numerous items available to create your dream team. If you grow frustrated with the new game-play, you can always rely on playing online against an opponent who pays little attention to tactical defending.

My fear was always that Fifa 13 would be a mere continuation of the franchise. I’m delighted to say that those fears were swiftly put to rest. I tip my proverbial hat to the games’ creators. It goes without saying that the game looks fantastic. The way the game plays, however, has been revolutionised to such a scale that the mind boggles as to how they can improve on this latest instalment. Whilst I was playing this game, a friend walked into the room, glanced at the telly and said, ‘I didn’t know there was a game on, who’s playing?’ That, ladies and gents, says just about all there is to say.

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