When EA announced another Battlefield game earlier this year, I could not help but retrieve my beloved copy of Battlefield 2, bought in 2005. This game single-handedly transformed the shooter genre and a quick glance at my old stats revealed that I spent 487 hours (that is almost three straight weeks) of my life shooting, running, sniping, flying helicopters and, quite often, dying. But those hours spent storming Karkand or taking the Kubra Dam are more than just fond memories – BF2 was a turning point in the way games were designed as it shifted the focus away from the single player campaign into the online multi-player domain. The bar was set pretty high and would BF3 be able to live up to the expectations?
It does and it does not. The single-player campaign tells the story of an American invasion of Iran and a separate terrorist plot to use some nukes to trigger a war between the US and Russia. The standard fare of set-pieces such as taking a city or infiltrating and clearing buildings is spiced-up with air battle sequences and tank raid missions, which on the whole work quite well. The campaign lasted about seven hours on normal difficulty setting but once finished I was left with the feeling I had seen most of this before. The evolution of shooters has gone a long way and any new entry to the genre has to be drastically different to make a genuine impact. Similarly the online multiplayer component is fun and updates this sort of game but it does not break new ground as BF2 did back in 2005.
The first thing that strikes about BF3 is that it looks and sounds great. The graphics are detailed and smooth, the frame rate is steady despite a plethora of action on the screen and the environments are highly destructible, thanks to developer DICE’s new Frostbite 2 engine. And by destructible I mean everything can be shot through or blown-up, which radically alters the strategies you have to apply in the game. For instance, instead of sneaking around a corner to chase an enemy, you can simply blow a hole in the wall and create your own pathway to your target.
Battlefield 3 was in my eyes worth the wait. It is not the revelation I had dreamt of nor does it radically redefine its genre but it stands out in the already crowded shooter market. And that is an achievement in itself.