I've been playing Battlefield 3 for the last few days. You might have noticed reviews appearing on other sites, but not here on PCGamer.com. That's because, due to issues with the game, I haven't been able to play enough of either the co-operative or multiplayer modes. I don't know if these problems will be part of the final release, or whether they're specific to the review set up, but for now we've decided to wait until we can play it more. Read on for more details on the problems we encountered, and my thoughts on the singleplayer, which I've completed.
First, let's talk about the problems.
During the review period, EA DICE ran multiplayer servers and filled them with QA testers. The servers were up and running 24/7, and the EU server tended to have around 25-30 people on it at any given time. For most of this time, only Conquest mode was available to play, though I got brief matches in Rush and Team Deathmatch.
Unfortunately, I couldn't connect to the server most of the time. Most of my attempts knocked me out of the game before the map had loaded with a "disconnect" or "time out" error message. If I did ever successfully connect - around 1 attempt in 20 - I would still be kicked out after playing for 20 minutes. There was also one instance where I lost about an hour of progress - including increases in ranks and class unlocks - because Battlelog failed to record my progress.
I spoke to people at DICE about these issues, but we never found a solution. I'm going to keep trying, but PC Gamer won't review the game until we're confident we've played it enough, and we know what state it's going to be in when the game is released this Friday.
Thankfully, while the multiplayer portions weren't working, I was able to complete the singleplayer. How you'll feel about it will depend on how you felt about Modern Warfare 1. Battlefield 3 is exactly that kind of tightly scripted, cinematic experience, where you're marching in a straight line through a Tom Clancy-style plot of terrorist intrigue. The story is told in flashback by a soldier named Blackburn to two government agents, and every time he begins to talk of another mission, you start to play it. It's hard not to imagine his ridiculous storytelling. "We were in Tehran, dealing with PLR insurgents. And then I shot a man, and then I shot another man, and then one threw a grenade, and I ran away, and then I came back, and I shot six men, and then two spawned behind a wall, and I shot them, and...".
In these moments when you're clicking on heads popping up from behind low walls - and that's most of the game - I found it as tedious and frustrating as that other series.
Where it differs, and becomes vastly more enjoyable, is when you're fighting inside a vehicle. There's a tank section you'll have seen in trailers, and another where you play co-pilot in a fighter jet. The latter is awkwardly shoved in to the plot, but it's worth it, and both are vast and exciting.
Still, it's not why I play PC games, and it's not why I play Battlefield games. From the four hours I've played of multiplayer so far, it provides a far more exciting, epic, and cinematic experience than the mixture of scripting and quicktime events that make up the singleplayer. Jets seem like such a small addition, and you'll spend only a fraction of time piloting them, but they make every battle feel dense in a way I haven't felt since Battlefield 2. I was playing as a sniper last night, and whenever I looked up, there were four people in the sky, twirling and dogfighting, and two more in helicopters. The jets are almost completely ineffectual against infantry, to the point that the pilots inside are playing an entirely different game. What they add is spectacle, and I'm desperate to get back to that part of the war.
We'll have our full Battlefield 3 online as soon as we can.