I have been playing Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 together, getting to grips with the weaknesses and strengths with both titles. COD: MW3 left me with a rather sour taste in my mouth – because while I enjoyed the (short) single player missions I found that it was a strictly ‘paint by numbers’ experience, bringing nothing new to the table. Battlefield 3 has been the more enjoyable and entertaining of the two, without question.
Developer DICE have clearly decided to ‘borrow’ some of the more appealing aspects of the Call Of Duty franchise, incorporating epic cut scenes and a cinematic storyline for the single player experience. Sure, it is another hilarious exercise in cramming as many stereotypical elements into one storyline, but single player fans are going to love it. How can we knock a story based around stolen nuclear warheads?!
You are placed in control of various people throughout the game, from US marines to aircraft gunners and the task at hand is normally quite simple. Proceed from point A to point B while killing anything with a pulse that happens to stroll into your line of sight. The environments cover New York, Paris and Tehran and are beautifully designed, so you never have a sinking feeling of lazy deja vu.
For the first time The Electronic Arts funded Battlefield 3 has taken the spotlight from Modern Warfare in single player, because the set pieces are actually much better thought out. The graphics alone are worth the price of admission. I simply can’t get enough of the new Frostbite (V2) engine. It takes full advantage of the Direct X 11 API and 64 bit processors with an in game destruction model, called ‘Destruction 3.0′. There are some stunning physics on hand with quasi realtime radiosity using Geometrics Enlighten technology.
The company have been highlighting this engine since it was announced, with in house presentations to the press. If you see it in action with a decent modern day gaming PC then I guarantee you will be impressed. I actually replayed one of the earlier scenes in the single player campaign so I could watch my team mates ascend from buildings. This may sound rather sad, but the smoothness of the animation is really that impressive that it immediately caught my eye. I was also taken by the beautifully rendered smoke effects, especially after taking out a nearby building with an RPG. This is what PC gamers want to see, an engine which looks much better than the console version.
The environments fully make use of all of these stunning engine advancements. The dusty Iranian streets with wind whirling up debris from nearby alley ways. The rain pouring down from a beautifully lit night sky onto the roofs of nearby buildings. The sun glinting and reflecting from weaponry and vehicles and the use of fragmenting lighting is remarkable throughout.
To run this game with high AA at high resolutions of 1080p or higher, you will need a decent PC – which is just the way it should be. I used a GTX580 for this review and it was smooth, silky and extremely interactive on all levels. Full marks to DICE for all this hard work. I applaud them.
The single player campaign is enjoyable, although those gamers who long for multiplayer might just omit it completely. I recommend a play through once, just to see the direction that DICE are taking. It is a linear campaign and somewhat predictable, but I found it just as enjoyable as Modern Warfare 3, even if I found a few of the sections less than compelling.
The biggest problem is that the player can’t run around with a level of freewill, because the game developers have a strict path in mind and until you get told, you often can’t climb buildings or even walk through doors. The scripting is rather tight, but in the context of a single player war game we can’t make too big a deal out of it. It is almost as if DICE wanted you to play an interactive movie, rather than a open environment based game. This is a shame, as the engine is so damn impressive that I wanted to take a detour from the single player path many times to check out some details in the visible distance.
The single player game uses characters which have been mapped from the faces of real people, and the voice acting is first class. I found myself speaking out loud at some of the scenes, complimenting the artistic direction and level of detail extracted from the engine. It may be a linear single player experience, but it is a great indication of what is possible from modern day PC hardware, in the right hands. The ‘WOW’ factor is there.
DICE have also included a two player cooperative campaign which uses some of the environments from the single player title. They have raised the difficulty level to compensate for double the firepower, making a few of the missions actually rather difficult. The helicopter mission was a lot of fun, even if it is a complex control system for a newbie.
Multiplayer is simply marvelous. Modern Warfare 3 pales in comparison to the online experience available with Battlefield 3. Yet again, DICE are aware that a modern day gaming PC has much more power on hand, and they have the capability for 64 players (from 24 on the consoles). The environments are also bigger, grander and stunningly beautiful. I played the multiplayer on an Xbox 360 only a few days ago and smiled inwardly, nodding my head to DICE, simply because they know the hardware and the limitations. Having a copy of Battlefield 3 running on a capable PC is a sure fire way to feel good about yourself.
The mechanics of Battlefield 3 use the tried and trusted rules of the previous title. Dying soldiers get respawned in waves, lowering the teams overall ticket count, until they run out. Conquest missions have players battle for control over specific objectives. The team with lesser tickets lose their tickets faster. Squad Rush has a team defending a series of checkpoints as the other team tries to charge through. While these are nothing new, the coding and development has improved over the last year and they now have more populated environments, with enhanced detail. Hiding in buildings for sneak attacks and controlling choke points is an integral now, as it every was. The scale is just bigger and more lusciously envisioned. I could write several ‘reviews’ on the multiplayer alone.
Jets make a key appearance in multiplayer and we like how they are separated from the heated action on the ground. DICE have made some advancements also with the class configurations, allowing for a stunning array of unlockable content, meaning each gamer can fine tune and customise their combat with a level of detail that should appease even the most cynical of gamers. I love the new vision affecting laser weaponry, and the use of flashlights can disorient enemy forces when they least expect it.
While I got quickly bored with Modern Warfare 3′s multiplayer experience in a single day, i have been playing Battlefield 3 online since it was released and there are no signs of it feeling stale yet. DICE haven’t broken the system, they have instead enhanced the engine to take use of a high powered PC, offering improved visuals, larger maps, more detail and stunning animations and lighting effects. Multiplayer is superb, and the single player addition will attract a wider audience if it is linear. Battlfield 3 is highly recommended to those gamers who are sick of playing rehashed console titles, which I think would be everyone.