The Battlefield franchise has been around for over 10 years now. Starting with the original Battlefield 1942, it has progressed over time to become one of the all-time great First Person Shooter titles available. It has had stiff competition from the Call of Duty franchise since early in it's lifecycle, and continues to battle and be compared with this other popular game.
But what is it that makes Battlefield such a fun experience? What elements of the gamepley make it so compelling and interesting that there have been a string of Battlefield games since the early 2000s? I haven't played all of the previous games, but I have become a fan of Battlefield 3 since I started playing it a few days ago. I know: I'm a little late to the game, considering it has been out for over a year and a half at this point, but I am glad I got in, and if the other games in the series are any indication, it will likely continue on for some time!
I've only been console gaming for a little over a year, and my main game in the shooter genre has been in the Call of Duty series with Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 2, and Black Ops 2. So picking up Battlefield 3 and trying to play as I had in these other games proved to be disastrous!
Battlefield 3's multiplayer has a number of modes that make it interesting and fun to play. These range from classic modes like Team Deathmatch to objective based modes like Rush and Conquest. Each mode has specific goals to reach in order for one team or the other to win the round, and depending on the skill of the players and the type of gameplay (and specific server rules which I will get into later), the matches can last a very long time in some cases!
Team Deathmatch is an old standby that has been around since... well I remember deathmatch in Doom or Doom 2 multiplayer, but it may be even longer than that. Team Deathmatch basically pits two teams against each other in a fight to see who runs out of spawn tickets quicker. Each death and resurrection uses up one of the spawn tickets for your team, so the more you die, the quicker you run out of tickets.
Conquest (this is my preferred mode) puts each team at opposite ends of a large map. In between the teams there are several "bases" or capture points that each team must grab. The more capture points your team has, the quicker the other team's tickets run out. To capture the flag at these points, you need to be within a certain proximity to the flag. This will start a timer that will slowly raise your flag until you own the position. If you are taking a point that the other team had previously captured, you need to lower their flag first, before you can raise your own. This takes longer, but gives you points for taking their flag, and another set of points for raising your own.
Conquest Assault is similar except that one team owns all of the flags to start the round, and the other team is required to capture all of the points. The attacking team has more spawn tickets, but the defending team has all of the capture points.
Squad Deathmatch is similar to Team Deathmatch, except that there are 4 teams of 4 players each. This makes this mode more about team play than individual play. With that many teams on a small map, it can become quite chaotic!
Rush is another mode that is available which comprises of an attacking team and a defending team. The attacking team needs to take out a pair of M-COM stations to move on to the next attack area, while the defending team tries to prevent the attackers from destroying the M-COM sites. If the attackers set the charge, there is a set amount of time that the defending team has to attempt to disarm it. Again, the team who loses all of their tickets, loses the round.
With DLC (Downloadable Content) have come a few other modes such as Capture the Flag (capture the other teams flag and bring it back to your flag point), and a couple of others, but in general the gameplay remains the same.
The actual Gameplay
What is it that makes Battlefield 3's gameplay so strong? For me, it is the fact that when I play, I don't feel like a mouse trapped in a maze forced to look for the cheese like I had in MW2/MW3 and Black Ops 2. The battlefields are expansive, covering several square miles (as opposed to an acre or two) and running from one end of the map to the other can take some time. It isn't as simple as spawning and you are in the middle of a fight (although that can happen and when you insta-die on spawning, that can be a little annoying). More often, you spawn in an area that has no enemies readily visible and you must run, drive, or fly to the action.
When watching the battle from a safe vantage point, you get the feeling you are in a movie as you see jets dogfighting overhead, and helicopters raining death from above. Tanks blast through walls to take away that infantryman's hiding spot, and buggies fly through the mess bringing soldiers to another area of battle.
It is both thrilling and scary at the same time. You see so much going on, but look too long without paying attention to what is around you, and you are dead.
One of the things I like most is the physics of the game. Instead of pointing at someone across the map and hitting them square in the body part you were aiming at when you pulled the trigger, you must adjust for bullet drop over distance. If you are shooting with a sniper rifle at someone in a building across the street, chances are good that the middle of the aiming reticle is fine. But if you are on a ridge 500 yards away, you had better aim a little high! And if you think your silenced pistol will even reach that same target, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise!
This ain't no Run-N-Gun!
In the Call of Duty franchise, running and gunning is a valid and oft-used tactic. Run in and spray the area with bullets and you will get some kills. Trying this in Battlefield will more often result in deaths. Since your foes can come in tanks and ATVs that bullets will do very little damage to, and planes and helicopters that you will be lucky to even hit, let alone damage with a gun, it is better to run and take cover, and find your enemies before you move from cover. Even better still is to stick with a squad and help each other as you attack objectives and defend against all comers.
Helicopters and planes are available to fly, but learning to fly them does take a bit of practise. It may be wise to play some single player or co-op matches to figure out the mechanics (especially of the helicopter, which is rather complex) before you try flying them in multiplayer. If you have passengers, you can lose your team a lot of tickets in one crashed chopper without the opposing team having any hand in your demise!
There are also tanks to drive which, of course, have a main gun and a machine gunner position, so 2 people can occupy a tank at any time, and a good team can be a formidable weapon in one of these armoured death-dealers! APCs are also available with guns, TOW missile systems (at higher levels), and several passenger spots with gun positions as well at the sides and back.
Smaller vehicles like buggies (also with a gunner position) can get you quickly from point A to B (or C or D, if they happen to exist on the map!), and are mostly used just to get from one place to the next. In later DLC levels, dirt bikes become available as well.
Connecting to a Server
There are a lot of servers available in Battlefield 3, many of which are rented by individuals in the Battlefield community. Each of these servers has set rules and map rotations, and the rules are usually posted when you start to login. Some don't allow the use of semi-auto sniper rifles, or shotguns, while others have rules about spawn camping, or camping in general. Some even up the total tickets available in a game mode, so the battles can end up taking a very, very long time! As the admins of the servers, they have the right to kick anyone from the server that they feel is not obeying the rules, and even to ban them from the server for repeated offenses. So it's always good to look at the rules that have been set before you get into the battle.
Some servers also only host a specific game type (TDM, Rush, Conquest), and restrict the rotation of maps between a small set, or even just a single map if they so desire. If you get into a server that has rules, maps or game types you don't like, just back out and do another quick search. If, however, you find a server you enjoy, you can bookmark it from within the game's main menu so that you can get back to it again if you feel so inclined.
In the few days that I have played so far, I have found that only one kicked a friend of mine for missing the assault rifle rule they had posted (and that none of us even noticed) and using one on one of his classes. It was a minor offense, and maybe a warning would have been better, but it was no big deal as there were plenty of other servers where that one came from, so our group all quit that match and started up on a new server with new rules.
Single Player and Co-Op Campaign
There is a single player campaign to Battlefield 3, but I have not tried it out as yet, so I can't give any advice on this. From the reviews that I have read, however, it doesn't appear that it is terribly appealing as anything more than a story. There are no choices you can make to get through the battle and it is a shooter in between scripted events from what I have read, but I cannot say at this time whether it is any good. I will get to the single player missions soon, so that I can add that to my review, or perhaps a new review.
However, there are co-op missions that can be played with a friend, and playing them will unlock some weapons that can be used in the multiplayer portion of the game. Your score is accrued with each attempt, so even if you fail a mission, you can still unlock something with the score eaned. Or, you can replay a favorite mission multiple times to get more score and reach the final unlock.
These missions are very "on-rails" so to speak, and require you to perform a set of actions in sequence to succeed. Failing at any part of the mission requires you to restart from the beginning. This was somewhat frustrating when getting close to the end of the mission, and a single mistake spells the end of the mission, and having to repeat almost exactly what you had already done a few times before. The one saving grace was that the score accumulated, and my friend and I were able to unlock the last weapon even without finishing that mission (which we did later just for the satisfaction of saying we had done it).
Although, up until recently, I was a big fan of the Call of Duty series and it's multiplayer, I am now playing mostly Battlefield 3! If you want a quick and dirty inaccurate shooter, then Call of Duty is it with the small maps and hockey-style fast and fierce gameplay. If you prefer a more realistic shooter with vehicle and infantry warfare, bullet dynamics and the ability to resupply ammo, heal teammates and out-snipe that sniper on the building at the other end of the map, then you cannot go wrong with Battlefield 3.
With Battlefield 4 coming out this fall, there should be some deals available for Battlefield 3. The Premium edition, which gives you all 5 DLC packs for one price is likely your best option. But be warned: You need a fair amount of space (likely in excess of 10GB), and a hard drive for the HD content to get all of the DLC and the update patches that are available. My XBox only has the 4GB internal flash drive, and an external 4GB flash drive, so I was only able to get the update patch, and the Back to Karkand expansion. Hopefully, in the coming months, I can review the other expansions and give you a taste of what the single player Campaign is all about.