Battlefield 3 PC single player review
Linear, unimaginative game design coupled with poor AI and forgettable characters leave BF3's single player falling short
Despite the fact that almost nobody buys Battlefield 3 for the single player campaign, EA and DICE have insisted that it is a very important piece of the overall experience. Having been forced to play my way through roughly five hours of glaringly tedious, albeit technically impressive gameplay, I can comfortably revert to the opinion I had going in: it really is not an important part of the Battlefield 3 experience.
The story fails to grip; the characters might as well be cornflake models dressed up in military garb; and the level design is surprisingly bland and uninspired. As much as I love modern military shooters for their multiplayer bits, I started to lose interest in the single player campaigns towards the end of Modern Warfare 2. Since then, the rest all feel the same in terms of game design and plot, and I am loathe to say that Battlefield 3 feels like a step backwards.
Battlefield 3 places you about as firmly on rails as it can without actually removing the need for your left hand all together. Players are herded down narrow corridors shooting indiscriminately as waves upon monotonous waves of enemies pour forth. These corridors are usually interspersed with having to climb a ladder, open a door, or squeeze through a sewerage grate – all actions which are activated with the “E” key.
Occasionally an enemy will get a little too close and you will have to engage in hand to hand combat. Had DICE been creative we could have seen a truly interesting innovation here, but sadly, these short skirmishes boil down to having to tap either the space bar or left mouse button when told to by the on-screen notifiers. For the most part then, the gameplay is extremely tedious and bland.
Having said all that, it is a very well built single player experience. The graphics are phenomenal, as you will know if you’ve watched any of the footage released to date. The Frostbite 2 engine really is that good, and the lighting, shadows, physics, destructible environments and textures really do scream “next-gen tech”.
The sounds are also breathtaking, from the detailed clattering of individual, moveable weapon parts, to some of the most powerful explosive sound effects I’ve ever heard, the sound effects are pretty much superlative. The voice acting is also very solid, so at the very least you have five technically brilliant hours of poorly written and lazily designed gameplay on your hands.
If you’ve played the single player campaign, then you might think I’m being unfair. After all, DICE does let you go for a ride in a jet, as well as a tank. You get to take pot shots at scrambling enemies from high up in the air with your thermal goggles, and there are even a few other diversions from the regular infantry based run and gun gameplay.
The problem? Well there are a few, actually. Firstly, we’ve seen pretty much all of it before, and the stuff that is new is poorly executed. I’m not kidding myself, I know these CoD-alikes make no pretence at offering open-ended or dynamic gameplay, but Battlefield 3 feels so much “on rails” that actions such as opening doors are reduced to quick time events, instead of being dynamic options which you have control over.
For instance, if you get to a door at the end of a corridor before your squad, you will not be able to open it until they arrive. You will have to patiently wait ahead until they do, and the “E” key pops up on your screen, prompting you to go ahead. It may sound petty, but it ultimately makes the game feel heavily restrictive and ultimately unexciting.
Another problem is that the characters are completely forgettable, and the plot bears such an uncanny resemblance to those delivered in recent Call of Duty games that it’s almost difficult to not constantly draw parallels.
The result is that I ended up not caring about the outcome of the game or the destiny of its characters. This coupled with some extremely basic AI, unimaginative level design, and generally uninspired game design, left Battlefield 3′s single player campaign feeling like more of a chore than something I would actually want to spend my leisure time playing.
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