Battlefield 3 review

  • The best, deepest, most epic multiplayer around
  • Genuinely stunning visuals, even on console
  • Some really cool moments in co-op
  • Campaign is tired, unoriginal and utterly robotic
  • Having to install the graphics
  • Possibly not being able to install the graphics on a 4Gb 360

Tricky review to write, this one. Tricky review indeed. You see Battlefield 3 is really two separate games fighting for attention in the same package. One of them (and arguably the one that most of the series' core fanbase are interested in) is very, very good indeed. The other, despite looking very pretty and seeming to have the best of intentions, is a formulaic, often-shambolic mess of a thing, which stumbles into the territory of the downright broken at times. 

So the question is, does one ignore the crap and rate the game based upon the best bits, or take Battlefield 3 as an overall package and adjust the score accordingly? I'm going to have to do the latter, because Battlefield 3 is an overall package, and a review cannot simply be written for a selected group of gamers. I will however, be breaking things down a bit in my text so that you can contextualise what the final number means for you personally. My position clear, let's get on with this, shall we?

You want graphics with that?

First, one very important point. For whatever reason, the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3 that runs off the main disc uses a seriously downgraded texture set for a noticeable amount of the game's graphics. I'm talking standard-def, last-gen or worse here. It's hilarious in places. Check out this video I made and you'll see what I mean.

Above: The installed versions of the textures come first, obviously

The real textures come by way of an optional 1.5 Gb installation taking around three minutes. I say optional, but it's not really. The SD textures look so bad that you will not want to play BF3 with them. Problem is, that so far it seems that if you have a 4Gb Xbox, you might be screwed. BF3, you see, refuses to recognise the 4Gb internal Flash memory as a legitimate storage device, and will not attempt the installation. It seems that unless EA and DICE sort this, without a bona fide hard drive, you're getting BF3: PS2 Edition. We've contacted EA about the issue, and obviously we'll keep you updated. That clear, let's crack on. How about we stay on the negatives for a bit and get them all out of the way?


Battlefield 3’s campaign has a few inspired set-pieces – chiefly the semi-free-roaming tank battle you saw in Grimm's FAP, and a quite tense section inspired by Hitchcock’s North by Northwest – and the core experience of firing a gun is a meaty and satisfyingly affecting one throughout, boosted to no end by DICE’s rattly, mechanical gun handling and sumptuous sound design. Also, it’s one of the best-looking, most visually atmospheric shooters of the generation so far (when it isn’t trying too hard to prove that by throwing a borderline hilarious number of combat-obscuring light, shadow and smoke effects at you).

It’s resolutely linear, but usually does a good job of feeling open. Urban areas in particular effectively funnel you along the right route without feeling too constrictive, though some rural spots jar rather horribly by using a clumsy “Get back to the fight or die” mechanic if you stray past the invisible and often chokingly tight boundaries it has in place. Overall then, doesn’t sound too bad. One thing you should know though. 

Battlefield 3’s campaign does not give a shit whether you exist or not. That Skynet-like disregard for the pathetic, fleshy human form is its defining characteristic. It doesn’t matter what you think. Things are going to play out how Battlefield 3 wants them to. Understand that from the start. If you’re really good and do everything it says, exactly as it tells you to, then if you’re lucky it might just let you feel like you’re involved. If not? Then you’re in for a whole lot of disconnected frustration.

Above: For all its graphical wonder, BF3's campaign is as lifelike as these guys

Experiencing a convincing, narrative-driven video game world is like being the only non-actor amongst an improv troupe charged with accommodating your input while pushing towards a pre-set story outcome. By contrast, Battlefield 3’s campaign is like wandering around a museum full of animatronic waxworks which repeat set, pre-programmed patterns whether there’s anyone in the room or not. Call of Duty takes a lot of deserved flack for its over-scripted, on-rails experience. Indeed, playing CoD is often more like being strapped into a rollercoaster at a Michael Bay theme park than partaking in genuine interactive entertainment. But in trying so damnably hard to ape its biggest military shooter rival, Battlefield 3 almost operates as a parody of it. In fact thinking of it like that was the way I actually got through its worst parts with sanity intact.

Above: Ever felt you're not actually part of the group?

In Battlefield 3’s campaign, we’re talking about a game in which your own AI squad-mates won’t just hog cover, they’ll invariably actively force you out of it if you happen to be sheltering behind the one specific rock or crate that the scripting has decided is theirs. No hint of adaptation. No care for the other six rocks they could take without risking your immediate death during a heavy salvo of gunfire. No acknowledgement that you’re even there. Because to Battlefield 3’s NPCs, you’re not.

Squad behaviour is so prescribed that at one point my team decided that the cover wall I was using was the designated grouping spot. They bunched up around me, locked me in position on the spot, and by some glitchy quirk of clipping, forcing me to stand up (even though they were crouching). I remained a sitting duck until the last enemy was dead. And strangely, by that point I wasn't even surprised.

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: DICE
Franchise: Battlefield
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

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  • sharkmamx_ - June 22, 2013 10:59 p.m.

    Im going to be simple, clean, and honest... Here it is. The game is not as good as they say it is. Its just fact. THe Campaign sucks it gets 2/10 because in every mission i was only thinking "when will this mission end" And the multiplayer is just broken! Why? Here is a list 1. Its not new player friendly 2. In every map where there is a tank, or helicopter you can spawn trap your enemy team. 3. Because the game is camper friendly (i have no problem with that, because its the nature of the game) spawntraping is a commun sight. And the thing that most pisses me off... Sniper Rifles are not as powerful as their real counterparts I cant tell you how many times i have gotten a hitmarker when i hit some one dead center mass. Which is where real snipers aim for... The reason i get so mad is the game tries so hard to be realistic but it failed for me. The multiplayer gets a 4/10 from me! Im 90% disappointed with this game!
  • nicogonzo16 - December 6, 2012 10 p.m.

    Today, we don’t look for the same qualities in games as we used to back in the early two thousands. Battlefield 3, developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts Sega, was released October 25th, 2011. This FPS (first person shooter) game is to my opinion a very exceptional game for many reasons. It does have some faults, but they do not outweigh all the great content it has. Back in the early 2000s, most people would rate a game on the quality of the campaign mode it contains. Campaign for most FPS games is single-player, mission mode, going from four to seven hours of game play. One plays as a character (two or more for some games) and has missions to complete and as one is completed, another one is unlocked. The story takes place in the near future, about the year 2015, but it never exactly says. It begins with a character being interrogated about a possible nuclear weapon being moved into the US. As you tell the story, you have flashbacks in which you play the missions. Throughout the missions, you fight terrorists in the Middle East to Russians invading the country. The ultimate goal is to find the nuclear weapon and disable it. The campaign mode for most of the Battlefield games, including BF3 (Battlefield 3), never drew me in as much as those of Call of Duty Series. In Call of Duty, you get to know to the characters pretty well. The producers put a lot of effort in adding personality to each character. In Call of Duty 4, I became very attached to some of the characters, and seeing some of them die as the campaign progresses really gets to me, which enhances the experience of the gaming. In BF3, however, I do not make such a connection. The game play is just around the same quality, but when looking at the characters, they don’t appeal to me as much as those of the COD (Call of Duty) series. I could name all the characters that were present in COD4 through MW3, but I could not remember any of the names from BF3. The game play is still fun, but it doesn’t have that extra incentive that makes it extraordinary. Nowadays, people with modern game systems (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) rate FPS games by their multiplayer mode. Multiplayer allows one to connect via Internet to a server in which thousands of people participate everyday. Normally one just presses “join game” and it will put him in a game in which he’ll have to kill other people, either by yourself or a team, depending on the game mode. Personally, I think BF3’s multiplayer mode is absolutely extraordinary. The game producers really stacked up most of their producing teams on the multiplayer mode. Many games have problems in balancing the multiplayer, meaning some guns are more powerful, depending on the location a team may have an advantage. BF3 does a fantastic job in balancing out its game play. No gun, perk or gun attachment is over-powering, and if one were, then an update would be released where it is fixed. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been killed in MW2 by the UMP. All weapons and vehicles of the game have positives and negatives, which encourage players to not only use one but also everything that is available. One aspect that is great about BF3 is that it has vehicles. It adds to the whole reality aspect to the game, as well as another way to have support when attacking the enemy’s position. Another great fact is that all of the buildings in the maps can be destroyed, which makes it so realistic and fun, meaning if you need to clear out a building, you can have an attack helicopter blow it up. One last thing is the size of the maps. They are massive, meaning there are times in which you run for thirty seconds to get into the action. Some people think it’s annoying, but I think it is necessary. Not just because there are vehicles available, but also because it discourages camping (sitting in one spot and shooting people as they run by). In MW2 specially, camping is a huge problem. It is very frustrating when one runs into a room and some guy in the corner kills him. It takes away the fun and good experience of the game. Having huge maps is good because there are so many routes and campers may only get one or two kills. The quality of the graphics nowadays is very important. BF3 gets the job done. Its graphics are excellent, going from the genuine details of the guns, to the realistic view of fire, to the environment you are in. They add a sense of realism that is not present in the COD series. In MW2-3, everything is very lighted and bright colored. It makes it more attractive for a younger crowd. BF3 is more realistic in that they don’t make the environments nor weapons the same as in COD. It is straight on the colors you would imagine and gives you the feeling that you are at war, not just playing a video game. It is aimed to an older crowd.
  • matt-bailey-kelly - December 29, 2011 9 a.m.

    i swear mine is a disabled version as it wont let me complete night shift on campaign as it keeps coming up with a error message sayin i have been dissconnected from the ea server plus if i do it ofline it says ive signed out the psn bloody game but at least the mp still works
  • richardr - November 9, 2011 8:28 a.m.

    I played the campaign. It gets a 5/10. Multiplayer gets a deserved 10/10. This review is pretty on the money. Overall though I would have said 9 is more fitting as I can't see anyone buying this for campaign only. But I see the reasoning, adn the review itself is 100% spot on.
  • sheldon1979 - November 7, 2011 10:38 a.m.

    I LOVE THE MULTIPLAYER I LOVE THE MULTIPLAYER I LOVE BF3 multiplayer im new this game it kicks ass im not going to say n en thing bout cod cuz cod has its perks just as well as bf3 so how bout you jus get both annnndddd uhhhhhh have ur cake and eat it to.
  • JusticeIroquois - November 6, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    I did not have an oh-so great experience with the multiplayer. Maybe it just doesn't apply to my desires or something. But I have a Vizio 32in HDTV and I can never seem to see anyone on the maps I play, when I play multiplayer. You can't add hundreds of unlockables and features to a game to make the game great, if the gameplay is sh!t. I am disappointed with BF3. Thanks for the review though.
  • 15jewfro - November 6, 2011 3:31 p.m.

    I don't have many problems with the campaign for Battlefield 3, but I do have a couple complaints: 1. Sometimes I'll just randomly die. No shooting. For instance, in the mission Rock And A Hard Place, I had to regroup with my squad, and out of the blue Blackburn decided it would be a good time to die. 2. The AI takes all the good cover. I believe this was mentioned in the review. 3. Whenever it tells me to follow a guy, the AI says they'll cover me. Nearly every time, this is not the case. Otherwise I very much enjoy the campaign and the multiplayer.
  • ImDownWithTheSickness - November 5, 2011 8:12 a.m.

    Honestly anyone who bought BF3 for campaign should have waited for MW3 because in that aspect it probably will beat BF3. Multiplayer on the other hand MW3 will not have any chance at beating BF3. Battlefield is about multiplayer not campaign and that is why DICE is such a great development team.
  • chrishoughton - November 4, 2011 7:21 a.m.

    What a load of crap. Ok the story was good but its the usual story in war games, Guy 1"oh we found some nukes" Guy2 " oh shoot there is some missing" Guy1 " oh well lets go find them" the only best bit of the game i liked was when the quake made that building fall down and nearly hit you. oh that and the sniper mission (where you get ali baba or what ever his name was) I know i may get flamed for saying this but...... MW3 WILL KICK THIS GAME BUTT HARD
  • Miruki Hazard - November 8, 2011 1:57 p.m.

    yeah.. its about time they added some flair to these stupid war stories.. and also... some females would really do... these games all feel like a sausage fest.. and not in a good way
  • LBK117 - December 30, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    On the mission were you're in a jet you play as a woman. Most women are in the air force.
  • Yeager1122 - November 1, 2011 8:16 a.m.

    By the sound of this i wish i could only buy the multiplayer
  • Nuka-Cola29 - October 30, 2011 10:37 p.m.

    Campaign was pretty great. It definately had it's moments of "holy effing $hiT!" and it did have it's stumbles where the scripted events left me frustrated. (one isolated event) in Night Shift after crossing the pedestrian overpass into a building. And up some stairs. There an enemy is in front of me unaware to me and my partner. I am then asked to knife him from behind as he has his back to me. As I approach him I get the pop up R1 to knife prompt a few feet behind the said enemy. As I step closser I fail the mission because the enemy apparently heard my stealthiness. Every damn time!!! It was because I was suppose to just walk up and knife him as soon as he turns around causing a quick time event. In which case I won! This was only time I felt disconnected to the game. Otherwise I felt that BF3 pulle off a better badass spec ops character than CoD with Dima and Vladimir.
  • CitizenWolfie - October 31, 2011 12:08 p.m.

    I had that same thing happen to me! You get about halfway down the hall and it prompts you to knife him but you're nowhere near. So you carry on until you're in a proper reaching distance and suddenly Blackburn just collapses. In the same mission, you can't get on the evac plane until EVERYONE else has. And then once they are you're given "Hurry it up, Black!" like you're sitting there having a beer. But yeah otherwise pretty cool, especially "Comrades" and "Going Hunting".
  • worldwidewonder - October 30, 2011 7:48 p.m.

    Let me get this straight... This game is better than COD: Black Ops and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (which both scored 9 on and better than Medal of Honor (which scored an 8)? This doesn't make sense. If you think someone will enjoy it more than these three games, it should have been given a score that is equal to or greater than Black Ops and BFBC2. If I didn't play Battlefield 3, I would deduce that the game is only a step up from Homefront and on the same scale as Payday: The Heist (for PS3 & PC). Having played all of the games mentioned in the previous paragraphs, Battlefield 3 is so much better than this review would lead you to believe. I agree, the single player campaign left something to be desired, but to drag down the score when other games that have shorter and less engaging SP campaigns and broken multiplayer modes score greater than or equal to BF3 is not consistent.
  • gmcb2011 - October 31, 2011 9:30 p.m.

    This has been bugging me, too. But look closer into the reviews. In BF:BC2, they said the campaign was a 6 and multiplayer was a 10. The same is said in this. It's so damn inconsistent, and that's the only reason I'm really annoyed at this review. That and the fact that it seems to be so much lower than the other review out there.
  • Samwell785 - November 1, 2011 4:54 p.m.

    yeah but they're reviewed by different people init
  • Mike3one5 - October 30, 2011 5:34 p.m.

    EA worried so much about taking CoD of the throne that they forgot that this was Battlefield (campaign wise). CoD has some of the best campaigns, and EA tried to pit a rookie against a reigning champ.
  • Plan10FromOuterSpace - October 30, 2011 3:56 p.m.

    the problem with being overly on rails is what made me hate call of duty black opps so much,I was really hoping battlefield 3 would buck this trend and provide the player with more options and less scripted sequences but i guess just imitating COD is the way forward now.
  • WarWasp - October 30, 2011 3:23 p.m.

    Let me start by saying that I love your reviews David.But I find it a bit annoying that you ragged on the campaign so much.Let's face it,it's a Battlefield game.The campaign is not its strong suit.If your experience with the campaign was so terrible,you don't need to write a four-page review and dedicate three pages to your bad experience;make the review shorter,if you must,and focus on how incredible the multiplayer is.Remember that you are one man - your experiences may be isolated and exclusive to your playthrough.If I had never played a BF game before,and I read this review,I would NOT be inclined to buy it,because even though you gave it an 8/10,the overwhelming majority of your review was nothing but negative.My point is,if you think a game is good (which your score indicates) do it justice in your review and be positive.