Late To The Party: Battlefield 3

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While everyone else is worrying about how broken Battlefield 4 apparently is, I remembered I have a PC copy of Battlefield 3 I bought sometime in late 2012 for $10 and never even installed. I guess this week was as good a time as any since I finally own a computer capable of easily running the game.

The main thing I can say that lies at the base of my entire opinion about this game is that even after two and a half years, BF3 looks really impressive when you can run the PC version at its maximum settings. It’s a far cry from what I’ve seen of BF4, but I think it definitely belonged on PS4 and Xbox One-level hardware rather than on the consoles for which it was released. One of the first times I even thought “man, we need some new consoles” was when I played a couple hours of BF3 on the PS3 in 2011.

Graphical features the art assets were apparently designed around were gone, and as a result it perpetually seemed as if something was missing whenever I looked at that version of the game. It reminded me of the PS2 versions of many early Xbox 360 games — clearly cut down from its intended design in order to reach a large player base. Most of that affect is really just on the campaign, which I actually appreciate in BF3, but not as a game. BF3’s campaign has been heavily criticized for how constantly and imperfectly it tries to put players in a series of strict set pieces, as if the consumer is an actor in a play. It’s like the recent Call of Duty campaigns but supercharged and not handled as skillfully, as glitches and sequence breaking can make the whole performance fall apart very quickly. BF3’s campaign performance is missing most of its lights and set-dressing on PS3 and Xbox 360, but when it’s all there on a powerful PC, I actually allow myself to be swept up in it.

Half the game is probably just you running alongside and watching other soldiers breach doors and check corners and stuff like that, but it actually manages to look and feel cool on that Frostbite engine (this being the 2.0 version to BF4’s 3.0) EA’s been pushing. Running down a hill towards a city in flames with 15 other soldiers in front of you does look a bit breathtaking with all the fancy lighting and shadows. You can tell DICE mostly just built the campaign to say “look how amazing our new graphics engine is,” and it is pretty impressive.

I’ll even admit the jet fighter part of BF3’s campaign where you don’t even fly the plane but just pull the trigger to shoot stuff is probably the most intense part of the campaign for me, and that is entirely due to its sights and sounds. Seeing the unprecedented (until BF4 probably) detail and realism in the enemy fighters and the clouds they fly among as they chase my plane actually made me afraid of them.

A series of YouTube videos called “If DOOM was done today,” skillfully illustrates how insipid the gameplay of a lot of these linear set piece-driven shooters are when you strip away their ultra-intense graphics. That’s how I felt about BF3 on the PS3. With all the graphics turned up on my GTX 760 though the smoke and mirrors really do have an effect.

That said, I still find myself thinking “DICE could have made an actual dynamic singleplayer game and not a rollercoaster with these graphics, and it might have been even more engrossing.” When I think about that jet fighter section, I think “imagine if an Ace Combat game looked and sounded like that.” Imagine if someone made a more open-ended shooter with these graphics where these dramatic battles really are driven by your actions.

Of course that’s pretty much what BF3’s multiplayer is — a massive-scale 64-player warzone with top-of-the-line graphics. When I first hopped in and took in the sight of planes flying above me and the whole battlefield lit up with gunfire below, I actually thought to myself “man, this looks like war.” As far as I’ve seen, multiplayer games on this kind of scale usually have quite modest graphics to cope with everything that’s going on, or maybe fewer have been made since recent technical advances. Either way, seeing a 64-player game with land and air vehicles look this good legitimately feels like a new level has been reached in first person shooters.

Don’t ask me how to actually play this thing though. I dabbled in Bad Company 2 but I really don’t know the intricacies Battlefield’s conquest mode at all. I really just ran around and got shot most of the time while admiring the scenery. There’s probably a great, deep game there that a lot of people love, but I’ll undoubtedly end up moving on before I have a chance to really learn it.

After trying out the game that tried to sell people on DICE’s Frostbite tech, what I really want to see are other kinds of games with this level of graphical fidelity. I felt the same when playing Crysis 3 — why does every game today with absolutely gorgeous graphics have to be a linear first person shooter? My disappointment with the Crysis series lies in its abandonment of the principle set by the original — a graphical showcase of its time that also lets players infiltrate massive environments however they want. It’s this thinking that makes me consider buying ArmA III – an open-world military game with similarly state-of-the-art graphics, but its reputation as an ultra-realistic simulator scares me away.

The main reason I’m even interested in Dragon Age Inquisition is because it’s going to be something other than a grey military shooter using Frostbite tech. Indeed, it’s going to be an RPG that will let me freely explore a huge world while interacting with a dynamic story. This is the real reason The Witcher 3’s delay into 2015 stings so much.

BULLETS:

  • Future plans for Sky Rogue. http://t.co/kh9yFKuztp
  • Mavis Beacon is on Steam. What. http://t.co/4MMAeSNDmb
  • So the third Witcher novel — Babtism of Fire, is out now in English in the UK. The US version doesn’t come out until June, but if I wait for the US version it’ll be cheaper.
  • The 3DS version of SteamWorld Dig is on sale this weekend.
  • Somebody starts a PaRappa the Rapper thread on NeoGAF. Rap battle ensues. http://t.co/L1YpIT0gI3
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One thought on “Late To The Party: Battlefield 3

  1. Dustin says:

    I miss playing Battlefield 3. It’s unfortunate I no longer use origin though.
    Good article!

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