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Battlefield 3: Limited Edition

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Digitial Illusions (DICE)
Media: DVD/2
Players: 1; 2 - 24 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Two peculiar features await Xbox 360 owners who decide to go to war with Battlefield 3: Limited Edition. First, the game arrives on two disks, one for single-player and the other for multiplayer. It's an oddity, but considering the DVD's limitations, it's a logical split. Actually, it's more logical than you would ever expect - but more on that later.

You're also greeted with the option to install an HD texture pack. The install is completely optional, though you'll want to make room for the 1.5 GB install since it makes a world of difference as far as presentation. Running on the improved Frostbite 2 engine, Battlefield 3 looks phenomenal, but takes a massive hit without the added textures. The downgrade in visuals doesn't affect gameplay, though the difference between the two is very noticeable. It's almost an SD versus HD sort of thing... you can still make out what's on the screen, but you lose a lot of detail.

Frostbite 2 isn't perfect, but it still delivers an amazing visual experience. For all its limitations, the single-player campaign still delivers some incredibly breathtaking moments. The first mission aboard a jet is breathtaking, as are a few other key areas. There's a lot going on, and DICE definitely delivers on the atmosphere. I did, however, have to make a few more adjustments to my screen's brightness. Battlefield 3 is a dark game, so you want to see as much as you can since enemies love to hide in shadows.

Audio is another knockout blow. I've always been a big fan of what DICE is able to pull off with its audio. I mean, I still remember playing Bad Company and thinking it was getting ready to rain outside my apartment. Battlefield 3 didn't fool me into phantom weather, but most of the little audio moments -- like insurgents assuring US forces they wouldn't be hurt after an earthquake -- managed to pull me into the experience.


I can honestly see players opening Battlefield 3, tossing in the multiplayer disc and never bothering to check out the single-player content. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't blame them. The Battlefield franchise has always been about delivering great multiplayer, and while Battlefield 3 manages to deliver on that end of the experience above and beyond what previous entries have offered, its single-player is a massive disappointment that fails to live up to even a hint of what makes Battlefield, Battlefield.

The single-player campaign follows every military movie/game/novel trope and blends them into a somewhat entertaining, yet unfulfilling experience. The narrative is book-ended with an interrogation scene, and follows a series of missions leading to a... well, the destination isn't that important. All you need to know is you'll get through it rather quick and never look back. There are a couple of really memorable moments, but every moment of the single-player campaign is so heavily scripted, it flies in the face of the chaotic fun found on the multiplayer side. In my opinion, DICE had the right idea with Bad Company and would have been better off following a similar set up.

Single-player branches out into co-op, which is slightly better. The moment-to-moment gameplay is a bit of a letdown as a whole, but there are few things that aren't better with a friend. You can develop strategies to take down enemies and otherwise play around with whatever situation you're facing.

While DICE doesn't deliver on either co-op or single-player, multiplayer is an absolute beast of a mode and will keep most players hooked in for months. Unlike a certain other military-based shooter, Battlefield 3 is built for large-scale battles. There are a couple of close-knit maps, which are perfect for modes like Deathmatch, though the real fun comes with the larger modes - Conquest and Rush.

Conquest has long been a staple in the series and requires teams of players to capture control points across a large map. Holding on to control points causes the other team to lose respawn tokens. The first to zero loses. In Rush, teams take turns attacking and defending different positions. Both modes place a high emphasis on teamwork, setting them apart from even the best team-based play modes found in other shooters. Every experience is a lot of fun - probably the most fun I've had with an online shooter in some time. I especially liked the constantly shifting map types. You begin in one section, only to have larger areas open as you push through the map. It requires constant communication between teammates and flexible tactics.

Did I mention the vehicles available on multiplayer? You'll see a few during the single-player campaign, though these sections are very limited to a particular purpose. In multiplayer you can, at least in theory, jump into a jet and crash into an opponent before safely ejecting. As unlikely as the previous scenario is to actually happen, it's good to know you have the option.


Battlefield 3 tosses a couple of incredibly hard sections at you, though most of the challenge stems from a couple of overly-scripted moments. Though the predictability helps when trying to find a workable strategy, the lack of freedom forces you into a very small box. In a mission early in the game, you are instructed to stealthily kill an enemy. Regardless of your approach, the other enemies in the area are alerted, forcing you into a shootout. It works for a linear story, but pushes you into an tough situation.

Many of the later sections are filled with bottlenecks filled with enemies. It is not uncommon to run into a situation where you take hits from out of the blue. Even when you're in cover, you'll usually fall prey to an unseen enemy. Nearly every enemy has pinpoint radar and will find you. When you return fire, a few rounds will usually spray around them. Though you'll eventually get through some sections with a little persistence, expect a couple of reloads.

On the multiplayer end, you'll run into a couple of really experienced players who will pick you apart while you fight to level your character and earn a few more rewards. You'll have an easier time when playing as a team, especially since Battlefield 3 offers a few opportunities to earn rewards while playing as a support specialist, such as repairing damaged vehicles or reviving fallen comrades. It's a nice approach; you just need to figure out how you fit into the larger strategy.

Game Mechanics:

Battlefield 3 earns a bulk of its high score in multiplayer. Although the single-player is a big part of the game, as I said before, I could easily see a couple of players never bothering to touch the single-player disc and still getting their money's worth.

As in previous games, you have the option of four classes: Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon. Everyone will find their favorite class to play as, though you may want to spend some time in the shoes of each just to earn some experience. The ability to switch between roles and still contribute to the team effort is also a major plus and will make you a valuable asset.

The new classes will throw a couple of long-time fans for a loop. For instance, the Assault class, a frontlines fighter, has access to med kits and other items usually reserved for a Medic class. Some classes, like Support, make use of new mechanics, such as suppression, which distorts a player's vision when they come under fire. During E3 2011, DICE explained many of the shifts were based on player feedback and internal studies. Back then, it was hard to conceptualize just how the revamped classes would work out, but after hands-on time, the changes make sense and work well.

DICE wasn't kidding when they said Battlefield 3 would allow for lots of player customization and rewards. As previously mentioned, there are numerous ways to progress through the unlockable rewards beyond killing other players. Additionally, many of the unlockable items - like weapon attachments - are tied to an overall gun level, not your character's rank. If you decide to use a different gun during a match, you might earn a scope or other gadget for that gun.

It doesn't take much to unlock some attachments, though it is a bit of a slow start as you try to figure the system out. Newcomers will be at a disadvantage to long-time players, though this is a fact of online gaming life. I'm not the best Battlefield 3 player out there, but was still able to quickly earn some trinkets by playing alongside a team. Earning vehicle-specific upgrades takes time, though odds are if you haven't unlocked something, it probably doesn't fit your play style anyway.

As far as the "Limited Edition" moniker goes, the pack offers you free access to Return to Karkard, the first expansion pack. The pack probably won't do anything in terms of single-player content, but it will offer new maps, weapons and other items for multiplayer matches.

If multiplayer isn't your thing, you're probably best off skipping Battlefield 3 and opting for a more single-player friendly shooter. Although there are a few memorable moments, the single-player experience is way too short and not much fun. Multiplayer fans who enjoy large-scale battles and team-based play will enjoy every minute spent with Battlefield 3 and should definitely add it to their list.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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