Thursday, 24 November 2011

My Usual Spiel: Battlefield 3, Long live the War Veteran(s)

Also Known As: BF3
Also on: X360, PS3
Genre: Online Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE (Digital Illusions CE) 

Good aftereveniorning, time for more shit I’ve done played and time yet again for another post title, this is the last one I need to create I think of posts with a theme cause I can’t seem to post anymore without it having some sort of theme, or I think the term is regular article, though I still need to ask my good friend Dave Jackson how he gets that‘regular posts’ feature on the side of his blog. Anyway as“The Past and times of Yore” is the title for reviews of games of the past (and sometimes more recent past) “My usual Spiel” is the new title for my reviews of reasonably new games, games of which I came out in the past 1 or 2 years but unfortunately it’s kind of hard to judge. 

I indeed have decided to go back and review past games I have played but it’s kind of hard to differentiate between the past and the“present” in general let alone game releases and obviously I do have to play the game first before I review but that’s not too much of a problem as with new games I buy the game then immediately play it (usually) and whenever I go back and replay a game singleplayer or otherwise the review usually comes after it. Also “review” I probably not the right word to use for these things my “spiel” refers to my“take” or “opinion” on the game and what it means to me, instead of catering to all crowds and giving a score out of 10 at the end, saying that I do try to write the blog to be intelligible to people who don’t usually play computer or video games (or at least the ones I do)hence the large amount of hyperlinks(heh heh) but for the most part there is a lot of gamer lingo in there and I apologies for anyone finding it difficult to both read both my prose and the technobabble mixed together.

But anyway, time for more relevant words to today’s topic though I do need to give a bit of backstory on my whole EA Battlefield experience to make things a bit more clear for my actual review.

Well I’m going to say it, I’ve always been a staunch supporter of EA/DICE’s Battlefieldseries, at least that’s where I stand, it’s kind of a gaming version of the old Australian Holden vs Ford car rivalry, of course one could argue that they’re both different games despite the initial similarities though I still don’t see why you would buy both.

Lego: experience it your own way
This series I can say has a special place in my heart kind of like Lego has a special place in the hearts of children, It provides a service to me as my preferred kind of multiplayer FPS as Lego provides a service for keeping children (and adults) entertained. It also provides me with many different experiences of the one medium, this game gives the FPS genre a much broader feel then the likes of Counterstrike Sourceand the older FPS such as Quake II provides, it allows me to play the game in one way and when I get bored of playing that particular style I can continue with a different style of play. And thus is Battlefield, the game of which I have enjoyed ever since the likes of Battlefield 1942that has graced my screen to this day and as my good friend Brok power has pointed out numerous times Codename Eagle that has come before it. Battlefield 3 is the latest one to come out and is the successor to Battlefield 2 which in turn was the successor to Battlefield 1942. I never played 1942 much online it was more of a LAN game for me (as was Battlefield Vietnamand Desert Combat) only more recently since I had purchased the complete pack for a bargain price I had a small go on the 3FL server Brok had recommended and played on consistently which I even had a go of myself and I got to say it was pretty fun, previously I had only played singleplayer with bots, which is also fun but does get a bit lonely after a while. Battlefield 2 however has been my most online played FPS, I really didn’t have a problem with it, it was a good enough replacement for Vietcong which was one of the first games I played online and the first one where I was serious, serious as in I was in a clan as was online at specific times in order to play for “wars” against other clans, Vietcong was a great game in a way that it had a great multiplayer and a great singleplayer which is a great achievement for an FPS.

Vietcong: a most classic and one of my favorite FPS

Battlefield 2 however did have its differences from Vietcong, for one Battlefield 2 was set in present day using modern weapons, and it had (depending on the map size i.e. 16/32/64 player) a vast amount of area to move around in and that’s just one of the reasons I liked about it another was the different sides and classes you could go, classes were a big thing in all of my FPS playing and it is one of the reasons I never liked Counterstrike Sourcethat much. What I mean by this is that a side is what army you are playing as, whether it be the US or Russia or some kind of Middle Eastern Army (MEC, PLR) and your class is what role you are taking, whether it be basic assault, medic, sniper, engineer etc and what made it great was that all armies have different weapons to each and all classes had different weapons as well. BF2 also had vehicles, and lots of them which included jeeps, APC’s, tanks, choppers, jets and more, along with the vast expanse that was most levels this was a great combination. I played Battlefield 2 online for lack of a better word (or two) a lot, it had next to no singleplayer aspect but this didn’t matter, you played BF2 multiplayer online and that’s all that happened it had ranks and weapon unlocks and was kept alive by expansions and booster packs such as Special Forces, Euro Force and Armored fury. I played a small amount of clanning and warring. And it was good, it worked well, it played well with a few minor quirks here and there and I enjoyed it.

Battlefield 2: Simple and effective

Of course I could go on to Battlefield 3 right here but except the Battlefield saga kept going, I for one did not play Battlefield 2142 much at all (I think I played the demo for about 10 minutes) though sometimes I wish I had cause it looked kind of fun. After Battlefield 2 my main FPS of play was Battlefield Bad Company 2 (this is an odd title I know and there were a few more Battlefield games between this but I didn’t play them so look to the video above) Anyway this is where I noticed things had changed which were:
  • It had a Singleplayer story-driven mode
  • It was limited to only 32 players
  • There was now less classes and they had changed their loadout and abilities
  • You were no longer able to play as the Commander.
  • There was no Airstrike, Vehicle drop or Minimap UAV (this was replaced by a remote-controlled helicopter and possibly the support mortar)
  • The maps were smaller so there was somewhat less vehicles altogether
  • There was no prone ability
  • You could no longer use the Laser guided missile in the Jet or the TV-guided missile in the Attack Chopper

I did know this type of thing would happen as I had skipped over a few battlefield games since BF2 and yes there were some good things namely better graphics for one and new unlockables. But I casually brushed some of these changes aside as I always had this idea that the Bad Company series was largely singleplayer focused and was EA/DICE’s attempt at a singleplayer Battlefield experience which by my opinion, worked. I only played the second Bad Company game but I enjoyed the fast paced storyline for the most part. Recently I was talking with a friend regarding Battlefield 2 and he made an interesting statement regarding the series saying that: Battlefield 2 was all the pieces laid out, the whole modern-day combat product with all of the features (well mostly) and they have taken bits away, added bits on, meshed pieces together and generally changed things around. Regardless I was a bit taken back by these changes whether they were permanent or not.



Then came Battlefield 3, I wasn’t really expecting it until I decided to get Bad Company as an upgrade for BF2 I naively thought it was the sequel to BF2 but obviously this was incorrect. So I basically was not expecting anything when it came out and it was only through the encouragement of friends both to play with and write my review that I purchased it not too long ago for a bargain price of $57.00 I might add at a certain non-commercial gaming shop in Elizabeth st. And I will start with the Singleplayer.

Running, following, hoping you don't get shot, usual exciting day
I’ve never really expected a singleplayer in Battlefield, that was largely the territory of other games of roughly the same field, such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, Day of Defeat maybe?. 1942 had only a sort of play through all the maps in a half-historical re-enactment of World War 2. Battlefield 2 had no singleplayer campaign at all apart from the semi-useless 16 player bot mode which I think was bettered in later patches but I never bothered to check. Bad Company was the first one largely based on a singleplayer experience, a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare style of singleplayer mode to be precise and Battlefield 3’s singleplayer mode is no different. I hate to complain about this but I have never liked this style of singleplayer storymode, my favorite singeplayer experience of all was not in the Half-life series as some might think, but in Vietcong. Vietcong had a great storyline, you were the same person the whole time a new sergeant going into a new base during the Vietnam war, you had your office and quarters where you could read your diary, previous mission reports and many other documents you also had a firing range you could go to and pick any weapon you had unlocked or picked up to test out and take on the next mission and there was almost always a meeting in the briefing room which was heaps of fun to watch before you went out on your mission and on several occasions you could walk around the whole base.

Ahh, trademark army banter
 There is none of these things in the BF3 singleplayer it revolves around a story where you are blipped flashback-style into the minds of several different people and do various army related things which all revolve around the one storyline, there is no home base, no office or quarters, no picking your weapon, no briefing just a harsh awakening and a boot in the head (sometimes literally it seems with the shaky camera) to get your fun-filled action-packed mission-face on soldier. But don’t get me wrong I’m not saying this isn’t fun filled experience, it is fun, but coupled with the features I had previously described would have made the entire experience all that more fun(er) and possibly (ier) and also last a bit longer, maybe I just wanted to see what happened, but usually with things this action packed it is over relatively quickly. Vietcong had that kind of slow paced walking through the jungle ambush style of play which added a great deal of atmosphere and suspense and anyone who has seen movies such as Platoon and then watched Black Hawk Down

Platoon: stealth, jungle and suspense
Black Hawk Down: action-o-rama
Maybe it’s my fascination of being in an expansive online world that I like that attracts me to games that have it (Battlefield as an FPS example, WoW as an MMO example and Test Drive Unlimited as a racing example) except this isn’t exactly the same type of interaction that a typical MMO would give (well, at least when it’s not player vs player enabled), in this environment there’s danger around every corner, literally a corner could be a shield or a barrier from being spotted by a prowling tank (or “lumbering” whatever a tank does) and obvious difference being that pretty much every living thing you interact with is either a friend or an enemy, there are no civilians here, although I sometimes wish there were. I’ve always wondered what games like the Battlefield series would be like with civilians around like you usually see in news reports and documentaries, where you not only have to check your fire for friendly units but for civilians running around as well. I have played the entire singleplayer campaign now and ran through totally deserted streets apart from the scripted events of when enemies suddenly appear and you mow them down. Of course there are certain reasons why I thought there are no civilians in most FPS games:
  • You could shoot them for fun like the cold blooded murderer you are :D
  • You could use them as human shields
  • They could be distracting
  • They use up extra graphical and processor power

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, however took civilians to a new extreme as you can see below:


I have not played Modern Warfare 2, but seeing this like this makes me think that the Battlefield 3 singleplayer could have been much more entertaining, of course Patrick Bach, Executive Producer of Battlefield 3 had this to say. To be honest, I don't want to be slaughtering masses of civilians in fact I don't even want the intention to, I just want them to be there, walking, running, screaming, hiding doing what you usually do when a gunfight breaks out, to give you the challenge of distinguishing whether they are a threat or not.

Anyway on to the multiplayer front and as if this post hasn’t been long enough already I’ve got a bit to say, once purchasing the game I was quite eager to see what this momentous release was like, what they’d changed and what was new, and the first surprise was how the installer scared the hell out of me. When you install Battlefield 3 for the PC you have to install this thing called Origin which is basically a new version of the Electronic Arts downloader, and "downloader" being the key word as when you actually activate your product you have to actually press the button to “download” it after this it proceeds to download the game saying it’s going to use 11gig of your bandwidth even if you have the DVD in the drive. However, the difference being is that if you started the origin installation process with the DVD in the drive it would say it’s“downloading” but you notice that it’s going way too fast and there’s no net activity because it is “downloading” off the DVD, but if you started the origin “download” process with no DVD it actually would download the whole 11gig. Well gee that’s not confusing at all is it?

I rarely complain about game company ‘requirements for play’ but this is just ridiculous and dangerous especially for people (like me) with fairly small internet bandwidth caps. But anyway I got the game installed from the DVD thankfully and found that the BF3 main menu system is run from your web browser, which is a very interesting change that I have not seen before, but it works ok and is fine with me, having a look at the multiplayer games available I do enjoy having a large amount of server filter options which work well. I found the in-game interface easy enough to manage, the new player spawning system is pretty good the way you can spawn directly into vehicles, but does take some getting used to.

BF3 spawn screen: fancy but not too complicated
 Now for the classes, this is probably going to sound like a rant from me because I have always been a huge fan of class-based FPS as unlike the FPS of old you could do something which made you different from the other person, it gave you a role to fill that no-one else could i.e. Medic can heal, Sniper has long range capability and the nuances that balanced them out i.e Medic could provide health and revive but their weapons were weaker, Snipers had long range weapons but in close range could only defend with a pistol, Engineers and Anti-tanks were slower and equipped with SMG’s or Shotguns but packed more firepower with other weapons and with either a boon or bane to vehicles and Assault were basically the all-round class. To be honest I had no problem with the 7 class system that BF2 had, all of them had their own special way of playing and their own toys. But as I mentioned earlier in the post this had changed in BF2142and then slightly changed again in Bad Company, this wasn’t too bad I guess they had merged the Spec Ops and Sniper classes naming them‘recon’ resulting in Snipers having C4 and being able to unlock a Spec Ops style Carbine, they had also merged the Engineer with Anti tank so you were able to unlock and choose either rocket launchers or anti tank mines to use. These two changes I tolerated but then it kinda got weird, they had given the support light machine gun to the medic and given the ammo resupply bag to the assault class so there was no more support class which was kind of strange cause I always had thought of assault as the main non-support class.

BF2 spawn screen: Seeing this made me happy even before playing.
 And so in BF3 I look at the classes and find that the Assault and Medic classes have now been combined, so in theory there was no assault anymore and the Medic class I had always gone and loved was now the only choice for a base assault class, as the Support was back to normal having the LMG again and the ammo bag. I just found it annoying that this had happened cause now my identity as a support class was skewed I have sort of decided to either go Assault (Medic), Support or Engineer depending on what my squad needs, but this is made more difficult because of the fact that both the Medic and Support classes are both displayed as the same icon in the deploy screen.

Battlefield 3 classes: more gear more specializations, more unlockables, better?
Furthermore to my ranting I’d also like to point out that I do not approve of the new minimap, I mean compared to what people say about it I can see things fine in its neon glowingness, the thing that annoys me is the new way you can zoom in and out. The minimap in both BF2 and BC2 had two modes one was where it was in a corner of your screen and it showed your immediate area, the other was when you pushed the button to enlarge the map (mine was capslock) and it automatically showed the whole map. In BF3 the minimap is controlled through the N and M buttons, one to enlarge the map the other to zoom the map if I so desire. When starting play the minimap displays your immediate area as usual but when I press the button to enlarge the minimap it comes up with an enlarged version of my immediate area, I don’t want this, I don’t think anyone would, what I want is when I press the enlarge map button I want to see the whole map I don’t want to have to press N, N, M just to see the whole damn map. People have told me that they don’t really use the large minimap or even that they don’t need the minimap altogether as you just “know where to go” but I for one use the minimap a lot especially when seeing spotted enemies around me and also just when I want to check out which areas of the battlefield I should go, of course I don’t know whether someone has brought out a fix already or this is going to be changed in a later patch.

Oh great an enlarged version of my immediate area, not my cup of tea

 Planes are back, fill her up please!
 With the aircraft there are now jets in the game again, but after having played the singleplayer mission being a Jet gunner and having lots of fun with the ground attack toys I was mildly disappointed that apparently you cannot be a jet gunner in multiplayer, with used to one of my favorite things to do in BF2 although only being able to use the one hard-to-use laser guided missile, it was very satisfying when used properly and speaking of which they have also taken out the popular TV-guided missile from the attack copper (sigh). Speaking of aircraft though I am now quite elated as I mentioned before you could auto-spawn into the choppers and one of my favorite things to do as an engineer was to sit in the chopper as a passenger with my repair tool out and repair the chopper when needed, it’s quite humorous as people get frustrated as to why they can’t destroy it and also helps because the choppers (especially the transport ones) are easily shot down.


But apart from those things not too much had changed that mattered greatly to me, sure the graphics are better but Battlefield 2 though in its entirety was perfect for me (well that is after all the bugs and glitches were sorted out) it replaced Vietcong as my main multiplayer game for a great length of time until I eventually discovered the greats of MMORPGS with the infamous Lineage 2 and then WoW which ultimately became one of the reasons I don’t play FPS heavily or in clans anymore, the other being the repetitiveness FPS play i.e. run around get shot, spawn again repeat, next map repeat though I’m not going to get into that whole argument that’s just one of the reasons. As I read one employee of DICE saying that it’s very hard to tweak a game when doing so means that you may change or take a minimal feature a single or group of users know and love and I can agree with that, it’s always what I think whenever something is changed in a game sequel or patch, instead of complaining about it, just think about the person who has to make these decisions. Battlefield 3 in its entirety is fun to play, even if it’s missing or changed a few things that I did enjoy myself with and I hope the series continues to be great as the ones I’ve played have been my best experience of multiplayer FPS gaming, it allows people who are not the best at running and shooting to excel and have fun in other ways and allows so many different aspects of play to specialize yourself in.

Battlefield 2002-2011, No matter which side of the war you’re on, long live the veteran.

JD


I may have died but I was different to everyone else, well at least I tried to be

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