Monday, 4 November 2013

Battlefield 3

It's difficult to review a game that is as segmented as this, namely because you have effectively 2 games in one here. The first being the actual single player mode which I'll be breaking down, and the multiplayer mode which I'll also be breaking down. Then after, have a breakdown and go on a 2 week bender of drugs, drink, hookers and games, without the drugs, drink or whores. Well... maybe the hookers. The old motto, Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a good looking corpse. Those that said that, never saw a kid die in an industrial blender. Or an acid bath.

But still.

The Battlefield series has long been known and popular for its almost unrivalled online gaming functions, 64 player battles fought on huge maps, with respawning and regenerating lives until either time runs out or until all lives have been sufficiently expended for one side to cry home to mummy. With each increment of the series, the games have taken place in wars across the ages, even in the future, with this instalment being set in the "Tomorrow" war of near future-land and featuring long term hot-cold, on-off again bed buddies, the Americans and the Russians.

Never quite sure why the world seems so focused on having the Yanks and Ruskies going toe to toe for so many games, they do it in the whole of the Modern Warfare series, in various Battlefield games etc. Why not don't armies take on the Japanese? Because they'd be stormed by giant robots and ninjas that blast nukes from their hands. Nobody takes on the British because nobody can be bothered with the small island of tough bastards that wouldn't shoot people but rather punch bullets into their enemies before giving them a dry slap and telling them to 'man the fuck up.' Or is that just Manchester?

Battlefield 3 takes the side of some guys in the American forces and occasionally some guy in the Russian forces, trying to work out through a series of flashbacks, what has happened, where some guy is and what happened to a bunch of nukes that might be around. The plot follows main-generic-white-guy being interrogated about missions that fucked up, things they were told and found out while skipping out to other people doing other missions in that fun, non-cohesive plot way that people seem to enjoy (read: have forced upon them) that allows a player to enjoy tanks, planes and other such vehicles when the real forces have specialisms that wouldn't involve them doing such things in the real world.

War is fun, fighting is awesome and people need their shit fucked up. Hoo-hah.

The levels involved are a rather straight forward affair, giving a mix of large open areas of combat, close area combat with an obligatory level involving stealth, flying a plane (painfully badly made), driving tanks, barricading against army onslaughts and breaking through large buildings and skyscrapers. Most of the levels offer nothing more than a flavour of the online mode except for the airplane level. This has to be a contender for “Poorly made, poorly executed” level of the decade.

Being dragged through a long scene with nothing going on, the flight warm up, then having the plane take off by the pilot which is NOT you while you occasionally look around and fire a few missiles and flares at attacking planes before doing what seems to be a compulsory element of warfare gaming, Infra Red bombardments. It's painfully slow, removes almost all interactivity and becomes a stop-go snore-a-thon just to painstakingly do something that either could have been done in a few seconds of cut scene or could have had the player started already by being in the damn air while under attack.

There are, elements that could be boss battles in the game, which are just Quick Time Events and depending upon where you are when they happen, might be fatal or just need repeating. It's another break from the norm of game play that you'd usually not expect but save for the idea behind boss battles supposedly being of something difficult, you can't really have that in a "realistic" shooter game. A realistic shooter can't suddenly have a cyber demon pop up and take 50 rockets to down while you yourself limp like a kid with skinned knees at the merest graze of a bullet. The balance is gone and though it might be amusing for a few seconds, you're changing the game again just to balance and quantify doing something unrealistic. So QTE's are a possible way to go though to make a "boss"/"final boss" in such games without going the scripted "keep doing x until you meet y" route.

Possible idea for future games, any time the final boss turns up early and can be shot, the rest of the game should be playable with huge story changes. Just a thought.

Control wise, it's the fairly usual affair of run, move, look, shoot etc, learning the grenade buttons; crouch/prone buttons might be a little awkward at first if you've been playing other games of a similar nature. Driving tanks and jeeps is fairly straight forward except the trigger becomes accelerate and flying helicopters is like rubbing your stomach with one hand, patting your head at the same time with the other hand, then changing over every few seconds, while on a unicycle. It takes an effort to master and thankfully it's only in a co-op level.

For all intents and purposes, the single player mode really does gear the player up for the online multiplayer mode and the non-stop chaos those online modes entail. While there is a story, it's nothing we've not seen before and has the same usual predictable twists and faults one would expect, there's nothing really new here or shocking, and that includes the supposed shocks that are meant to make us go "oh wow no really?" when the story line copies other shocks from other games that were done far better than this is executed.

Each level gives you a load out of weapons and equipment and forces you to utilise them, a main weapon, a pistol, grenades and usually some specialist equipment to help achieve the objective. It gives players the chance and opportunity to test out and use various equipments and weapons, such as RPGs, while stealing enemies’ weapons will also give you the chance to experience those too. Making you a war-fare time Robin Hood in stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and by rich I mean dead, and by give I mean shoot in the face.

Co-operative mode within the game allows for 2 players to work together (assumption) to try and overcome 6 different missions ranging from large open areas, to different aspects of the single player missions, to flying a helicopter and being a gunner for it. If the other player dies, they can be picked up like a healthy handshake and ass-slap will repair their fatal wounds, like a gaping head wound would be fixed in that fashion.

IF (big if there) you can find and use someone that knows how to play or can be relied upon to not bollocks up the entire mission, you can get into a circumstance where people can actually flank, pincer and cover each other without feeling silly about it. Some events and missions require very specific timing and the margin for error down to the time it takes most people to realise light has gone round the planet. Thankfully the stealth mission isn't failed if you're revealed and you can just brute force it afterwards.

Even in the hardest mode, the game is fairly forgiving if one person plays keep away from the bullets and just revives the person who is out in the open whenever they drop the floor, but given that, guns and weapons feel accurate and not as spray and pray as have been seen in other games. The iron sights in weapons seem to hit opponents with regular consistency rather than missing outright and stands as a feature passing over to the online multiplayer too.

All in all, the single player mode feels very tacked on and with a predictable story, only serves to cement itself as nothing more than a training session for the online game which the series is more famous for.

Having said that, the online mode is double-edged sword.

The premise is simple; you start at rank 1 and can be one of 4 types of specialist from the first aid guy that never picks up his downed colleagues, engineer guy that is the only real defence against tanks, except for, another tank. Support guy with the big machineguns and toys and Sniper guy who smells really bad and sits away from everyone else, like most gamers do at an outdoor family event.

Each class has its own weapon sets and inventory to be chosen and more is unlocked as the levels progress. The more someone uses a specific weapon, the more items they unlock for that weapon such as new scopes, handles, undertow launchers, stands, silencers, or bigger equipment like first-aid paddles, mines and explosives, rocket launchers and remote control robots. The game has these classifications set up to ensure that nobody is able to do everything and the emphasis is on team play. A sniper with a lock-on guide will be great use to an engineer with the right rocket launcher for massively long range attacks doing more damage. But otherwise just paints up a bright dot on the screen that might as well say "it's a fucking tank".

Likewise first aiders require dead people to help or can drop health packs, support people can drop ammo for others and engineers can (if equipped) repair tanks and vehicles. Teamwork is the name of the game and unless you're on the rather pointless "Close Quarters" maps, you're not likely to be able to Rambo the game for your team (unless you're really agile in a tank and a damn good shot) it's unlikely you'll survive unscathed for a whole round and not need to respawn.

There's a lot of variation in maps, some will have players taking and holding an objective, some will have the defend/attack system of playing with HQs, others are of the "get a flag and hold it as long as you can" type, some levels are straight kill fests of one team slaughtering another, other levels are vast open, sprawling areas populated with tanks, planes and god knows what else to give the impression of a full scale (poorly organised) battleground.

Once into a game, you can either solo it within your team, or be put into squads, randomly being put into squads is a veritable lottery of whether it benefits you or not. Some of the perks for players can be attributed to the others in the same group, from more ammo, to being unshakeable in combat, to running faster and longer than others. If they leave mid game or switch teams, your bonus that they provide for you, drops immediately. Rather reminiscent of the old "It's my ball and I'm going home". Though some of the perks are rarely felt significantly within the game.

Following suit with the Battlefield games is the highly destructible arenas, most buildings can be blown through and holes punched into walls with grenades, walls shredded and used as sniping points, areas of cover blown apart and removed from play. Need to get on the other side of a wall, hit it with a tank, C64 or grenades and you'll likely get through.

Vehicles are an odd mix-up, of players either working well together to get lots of kills with drivers and gunners working well in tandem, or someone jumps out and buggers off to enjoy something else, there's almost a feeling of being forced to remain in a vehicle with someone while you're flooring it around the map up until the point of the enemy blowing you up, almost like a very dysfunctional marriage.

There is a lot of fun to be had by the game and the game plays out very well with large scale battles, though there's always the issue of respawn and dying straight off if you start with squad mates rather than the HQ, but the HQ spawning tends to leave you miles away from the action. At times though you'll hit highs of flanking squads of people and slaughtering them all before they realise you're there and then to be spun around and throat slashed by someone who steals your dog tags and runs off, likely to be gunned down by someone coming to your aid.

As with anything that relies with online play, there will be griefers, there will be those exploiting things, there will be those taking the piss, trolling and making life shitty for others. But a balanced team set up with equal skilled players, will make for a very thrilling game.

It all depends on if you can tolerate being so dependent on others for a good game, while lacking the ability to reach through their TV, grab them by the headset and garrotte them with the damn cables.