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Simon Bull, London24 editor
Friday, November 18, 2011
I’ve tried it, disliked it and have decided multiplayer gaming is not for me.
I don’t want to spend my spare time playing against the kind of aggressive, abusive and juvenile players who too often clog up the online world.
If I’m truly honest though my biggest problem with multiplayer is that everyone is much better at it than me. It doesn’t matter what game it is or how good I am offline - as soon as I step online I get thrashed by people who have managed to spend many more hours than me honing their skills.
It’s frankly discouraging, and I prefer to take my chances against computer opponents instead of mixing it with human adversaries. I don’t like the knowledge that someone is sat there grinning smugly after killing me for the 85th time.
I’m clearly in the minority though.
Formats: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (PS3 reviewed)
Verdict: 7 out of 10 – Most players will want to get their teeth stuck into the multiplayer modes, and for you a great experience awaits. For those who prefer to stay offline, what’s in store is a campaign which shines brightly in places but ultimately feels disappointing.
In the past few years solo gaming has been marginalised and these days everything has to be social.
With modern shooters the pattern is for developers to put out the minimum amount of solo content they can get away with, usually about six to eight hours, while focusing instead on the seemingly more popular and presumably more lucrative multiplayer modes.
And so it is with Battlefield 3 - the latest super-slick and stylised shooter from Swedish developer Dice, published by EA, a game which offers a bare-bones single-player campaign while providing a feast to gorge on for anyone who wants to go online.
It’s doesn’t come as a surprise since it’s not just the recent trend for multiplayer focus which Battlefield 3 is adhering to - the whole Battlefield series down the years has traditionally placed more emphasis on team warfare than other first-person shooters. Online multiplayer is what it’s best known for.
This knowledge doesn’t lessen the disappointment of another FPS coming along which, aside from a campaign which can be completed in single-digit hours, is exclusively multiplayer.
There is nothing wrong with Dice sticking to its principles but it’s a shame for predominantly solo gamers such as myself. We still want in on the exciting and explosive action of a good FPS, we just don’t want it to be a group activity.
It’s especially frustrating because if a top developer like Dice actually put its mind to creating a genre-leading single-player mode it would undoubtedly do a very good job.
As it is, the solo campaign in Battlefield 3 is OK but nothing special. It’s got good points and bad.
From a production point of view, it’s extremely high quality. This is a gritty, macho military action spectacle with a big-budget Hollywood-style sheen to it.
The state-of-the-art graphics are among the best you’ll see in any console game.
Perhaps not quite as immediately striking as Crysis 2’s visuals were earlier this year but still excellent with great use of lighting and impressive attention to detail in the scenery.
Not so good is the storyline, which is painfully generic and bland. It’s also oddly similar to the plot in Call of Duty: Black Ops from last year. You play as US marine called Sergeant James Blackburn who is being interrogated in a style more like than a police interview than a military grilling, with the missions playing out as recollections of previous events in Europe, the Middle East and America.
This new Battlefield offering has lost the humour of the preceding Bad Company games in the series, and is now much more serious.
Action in the campaign is as intense as the best in the FPS genre, with lots of big explosions, some terrific firefights and properly heart-pounding moments.
It’s not all straightforward combat. There are some deviations, such as being a gunner on board a fighter jet.
The best way to enjoy the campaign is to treat it like a theme park ride. A carefully constructed and choreographed ride.
You can strap yourself in and appreciate its spectacular thrills and spills, with impressive set pieces timed for maximum effect.
But at the same time it is just a ride, an artificial and scripted ride
Waypoint-guided movement is linear and limited while gameplay is fixed and lacking any freedom of choice.
Like a rollercoaster ride being paused every so often, the game suffers from the same frustration that blights many FPS games for me. Death is too easily achieved and too frequent, meaning the game has a stop-and-start pace which becomes tiresome.
Kill some guys, get a little further, get killed, go back a bit, try again, make some more progress, get killed, go back a bit again and so on.
Another annoyance with the campaign is the way certain segments of play are triggered not by skill but by single button presses or repeated button bashing. Want to kick a car down a hill to squash some bad guys? Batter the circle button for a bit and it will happen. Not fun.
I’ve noticed a few small little technical glitches, such as textures sometimes taking a second or two to form, but these are easily overlooked. What’s been much more of a pain is how the game has caused my console to completely freeze up a few times.
Most people will buy Battlefield 3 for the multiplayer action so any shortcomings in the single-player campaign won’t matter very much.
While I’ve only dabbled in the online play - it’s a completely daunting, alien world to me - it’s clear the multiplayer world offers more scope for creative, sandbox-style play.
The online modes let you have some big glorious battles, featuring up to 24 players on PS3 and more on other platforms I believe.
There is also a set of co-op missions should you fancy linking up with a team-mate.
Overall, Battlefield 3 is a game lacking balance.
Multiplayer appears to be a festival of guns-n-glory for those who want to play with others.
And then it’s got this single-player campaign which is extremely polished but also generic, short and lacking the bells and whistles of the online experience.
If one part was as good as the other then this would be a game at the peak of achievements in current-generation gaming. As it is, one part is distinctly better than the other so some people will enjoy this and others won’t.
I’ve seen Dice is apparently moving on to do Mirror’s Edge 2 next but if it revisits its Battlefield franchise - as it’s bound to at some point - I hope more thought goes into the solo campaign.