EA’s latest blockbuster is two distinct games -- excellent, complex multiplayer and simple, short but fun single player
- Some of the best team-based multiplayer we've seen
- Excellent graphics, a solid game engine
- Hours of replay value
- Simple singleplayer storyline
- Some bugs, especially in Origin
- Some multi-player features missing from the last game
Battlefield 3 is two distinctly different games -- chaotic, complex, world-class multiplayer with enormous replay value versus a pulp fiction singleplayer story that sometimes plays like a pop-up shooting gallery. The game's tacked-on co-op missions sit uneasily between MP and SP in terms of enjoyment. If you're an online gamer you're well catered for -- Battlefield 3 is undoubtedly one of the best multiplayer games we've spent time with in a long time, and although some features are missing from previous Battlefield games we're still happy. If you're an offline gamer -- well, you're out of luck thanks to EA's somewhat Draconian backend software.
Battlefield 3: Origin
As a necessary addendum to this review, we have to cover what is by far the least impressive aspect of Battlefield 3: the Web-based Origin software and Battlelog browser-based game launcher. Effectively a competitor to Valve’s Steam online store and game download service, EA’s Origin takes the reins of the company’s relatively unknown EA Download Manager in handling the downloading and install process for Battlefield 3. Subsequently, you’ll need to install Origin to play Battlefield 3... which is not as easy a process as it sounds.
On our reasonably capable test PC — a slightly tweaked Dell XPS 8300, with a fresh copy of Windows 7 and an upgraded Radeon HD 6970 graphics card — refused to run Origin (which is still a ‘beta’ release, shockingly) until we tracked down a pre-beta version online. After that, we had to download Battlefield 3 three times for it to install correctly — 35GB out of our meagre Australian download limits to install an 11.4GB game. Reports of problems with the service are very easy to find all across the Internet, not only just in EA’s overwhelmed customer support forums. Anyway — once that’s out of the way and the game is installed, we were then confronted with EA’s one-size-fits-all approach to launching Battlefield games: Battlelog.
Battlelog is, in a simple sense, just a Web page with some convenient links to launch single player mode, co-op and a reasonably capable server browser for multiplayer. The functionality is all good, apart from the mystifying lack of a few filter settings (password-protected servers can’t be hidden, for example, and there’s no filter for setting maximum latency). The problem? Reliability. Over the past seven days that we’ve been playing, there hasn’t been a single time when we’ve been able to get into every server that we’ve tried. One night, after two hours of downtime for EA server maintenance, no servers worked. Even on a good day, up to half the servers we tried — which were not full, with no restrictions or queues — simply didn’t work.
We don’t think that Battlelog is ready for widespread use. It works OK but we really think a game of this calibre should be polished in every sense, and having a sloppy server administration service is surely going to drive away gamers. It’s not like EA doesn’t have the money. A couple of months should see major grievances fixed, we admit, but this should have been completed before the game’s debut.
Battlefield 3: Conclusion
Battlefield 3 is very much a game of two halves: excellent, peerless, unparalleled multiplayer with hours and hours of replay value, versus a cookie-cutter single player experience we probably wouldn’t bother playing again. Co-op sits somewhere in between as a tacked-on extra. Don’t buy Battlefield 3 for the single player — buy it for the multiplayer; we guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
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