If there’s a segment of the gaming market that is fuelled by testosterone and machismo, it’s first person shooters. Make the FPS a quasi-realistic modern day shooter like Battlefield 3, and you’ve got yourself a good old fashioned sausage fest. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun…
Players of previous Battlefield adventures will know that when it comes down to it, any lasting enjoyment you’ll get from the game comes from multiplayer. The single player campaign – which comes on a separate, second disc in the Xbox 360 version I tested – is a little cliched. The lead character – Sgt Blackburn – is being interrogated in an attempt to stop a nuclear weapon being detonated in New York City. Through a collection of flashback missions, played by a few different characters and introducing different weapons and vehicles to the combat mode – you discover the course of events that lead to your attempt to stop the nuke.
There’s no open world conflict in the single player campaign – players pretty much follow the lead of a non playing character to get from key point to key point, with the occasional quicktime event thrown in to mix up the shooting. There’s also the sense of limitless joy as you strap into an FA-18 Hornet to try and take out a key character, having mid-air dogfights and bombing the crap out of planes on the ground.
Although it looks amazingly detailed (with the HD texture pack on), it can be a little unrealistic at times – on one occasion my squad was firing down on a tank. I tried to flank it, but as soon as I fired a single shot, the tank turned away from my squad mates and blew me to smithereens. likewise, finding cover can be a frustrating experience, with bullets occasionally passing through concrete walls to separate your brains from your skull.
But that said, it’s pretty much par for the course. It looks brilliant, sounds brilliant and plays as responsively as you could hope for, but that doesn’t change the fact it feels tacked on to the multiplayer aspect of the game.
It’s here, playing with 23 other people over Xbox Live (PC supports up to 64 players), that you truly begin to appreciate the wonders of the game. Each map is a wide, open sprawl, full of places to find cover, tanks, choppers and jets to drive and fly, and an army of respawning opponents to try and take out.
Where Battlefield stands out from other FPS games is in the emphasis it places on different roles within multiplayer. Players can choose from four different classes, each with a different set of skills and weapons. Engineers can fix vehicles, or blow them up with a grenade launcher. Support class can supply ammo to other players, while Recon comes armed with a sniper rifle and the ability to lay a respawn beacon for other players at key locations.
While you can easily join a game and hope for the best, the better option is to form a squad and take on the enemy with military precision and proper tactics. But even if you don’t, the stunning visuals will leave you groaning in pain every time you die, which happens a lot, if you’re anything like me.
Once you’re done, you can log on to Battlelog to track your stats and compare them with your friends. Although in my case, that does make for some rather depressing reading.
Overall though, Battlefield 3 is an exceptional example of just how advanced modern console gaming is. Stunning to look at, amazing to listen to and offering competitive matches with 23 other players over Xbox Live without any real lag or dropped frame issues, it’s a must have for any FPS fan, although only if you’re keen on multiplayer.
If you’d like to join the millions of people killing Nick in Battlefield 3, his Xbox Gamertag is Lethargic Bruff
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Nick Broughall is the Australian Editor of TechRadar.com, where he gets to indulge his passion for geekery and the lastest technology. He is also the Editor of EFTM.com.au, where he gets to indulge his passion for manliness, from sampling fine liquor to the joys of growing a beard. It's a pretty good life, really.