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Denny Markovic
01 Nov, 2011

Battlefield 3 Review

PC Review | Blasting foes and Battlelog woes.
There is a rather enormous amount of hype surrounding DICE's official sequel to 2005's Multiplayer Shooter Battlefield 2. First because it's supposed to look amazing, second it's back on the PC as lead and with 64 players returning, and finally it's supposed to destroy another military shooter that's coming out in the not so distant future. Realistically though, who cares if it's better than another game? If both are good, pick up both; simple.

But that's not the point of this review. No, the point is to outline why Battlefield 3 is such a great game in so many ways, but suffers from a fairly large amount of technical problems that hold it back from being amazing. Yes, the game has flaws. Among all the hype and steam that it's managed to rise up, it's not the perfection that many fans thought it would be. But since when is anything ever perfect?

Before we jump into the main course of the pretty meal laid before us, we'll jump into the entree which is the Single Player, though unfortunately it's a fairly stale tasting one. DICE have gone ahead and added a campaign similar to that of the Call of Duty games in progression and linearity, but with a story that simply proves ineffective until the very end; but by then it's already too late. The story bases itself around the seen before concept that there are terrorists around the world and they're killing marines and bombing countries with nuclear devices, and it's all told and outlined for you through a series of flashbacks. Eventually, after the five hour trip you'll come to the end, and all will be well within the Universe once it's all said and done.

While the single player has some fairly jaw dropping set pieces at points (for those who play it, the jet level is worth seeing), the overall package feels very stale and you can't help but feel you've done this somewhere before, more than once. It's extremely linear and littered with QTE's too, so the campaign feels a lot like a point and click adventure posing as a tech demo rather than a fully fledged single player experience. It's a very, very nice looking experience, but an extremely forgettable one; eventually becoming a massive drag by about the four hour mark. While we mentioned that there are some pretty fantastic looking set pieces and triggered events within the campaign, it's simply not worth getting into for those who have little interest in the campaign, and DICE really should've stuck to the tongue in cheek and more dynamic structure that Bad Company 2's campaign had.

The Flawless Pro shoots at nothing.

The Flawless Pro shoots at nothing.
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But enough about the campaign, as that isn't what you buy a Battlefield title for. The real reason about 99 percent of people bought it is for the Multiplayer, and of course DICE deliver the goods here in mostly great condition. 64 player combat has made a triumphant return (but only on PC, 24 is the max on Consoles) and it shines quite brightly on most maps, making the now standard Conquest and Rush modes a chaotic and frankly somewhat insane battleground where you can die from out of the blue from practically anything, including team mates. Most maps do compensate for the player size with good scaling and plenty of vehicular (and anti-vehicle) warfare to go around, balancing out the infantry to vehicle ratio, though some maps in 64 player are quite frankly ridiculous in that they're a little too chaotic, often resulting in deaths the very moment you spawn. A good example of a map like this is Operation Metro, where though it's fine with 32 players, in Conquest mode with 64 players packing the server it is simply a giant spam fest of explosions and bullet spraying - and that's only with infantry too. Some maps tend to be overkill with vehicles and players on Rush maps (Operation Firestorm Rush with 64 players is stupid), so it's a bit odd that DICE got these maps through QA and decided they're great for 64 people.

With that said though, you'll have a lot of fun with the game most of the time, particularly with the varied classes combined with friends in your squad and capturing points as a team. There is no title quite like Battlefield 3 on the market and with the amount of unlocks and levelling available to players, they can be playing this for hundreds of hours and still be receiving new content.

But regardless of the chaos and the amount of enjoyment Battlefield 3 can provide, in come the plethora of issues that also plague the game, which can quickly turn a bout of fun into an immense level of frustration. The first layer of this frustration is Battlelog, the new browser based interface that is used to access everything including the Campaign, Multiplayer servers, Co-op modes and statistics.

Run 5 minutes. Die. Repeat.

Run 5 minutes. Die. Repeat.
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While Battlelog tends to work alright for people going into servers on their own most of the time, a number of issues pop up when trying to party up and join servers with friends. The party up part with your mates is the easy part, but getting into servers can be a massive gamble as some will frequently be unable to join a server regardless of whether or not it's full, or they will simply not receive the notification from Party Leaders that they want to join a game. There are also bugs in that you cannot actually see your friends online even though they actually are, and sometimes jumping into a game results in an instant crash. Plus due to Battlelog's synchronisation with EA's Origin, there can be launch issues plaguing it there too. It just feels cluttered and completely unpolished, as it's riddled with bugs and seems to be more a layer of DRM rather than a well integrated and helpful feature. Why can't we have our server browser and options in the game? Why do we have to go through not only Origin but Battlelog to launch a game? You're going through layers of applications to run Battlefield 3, and it's completely unnecessary and simply not helpful in any way; especially due to the numerous bugs encountered.

Once you actually are in a game, the frustrations may not stop there. The launch week has seen some massive hits on servers with general lag issues and crashes, and though they've been reduced significantly they still rear their ugly head on occasion. Though the one big flaw that DICE have in Battlefield 3 Multiplayer is a decision of theirs to move the hit registration (your bullets hitting people online in english) to the client-side, which can result in some incredibly frustrating moments of instant deaths and being shot through cover, along with the game's general wonkiness when it comes to its hit detection.

To elaborate on what exactly client-side hit registration is, it is when every bullet fired is registered through your, or the clients side, rather than the server. This basically means that you and your opponent's ping is entirely dependent on whether or not you can get good shots in. While client-side registration can work for the most part, the problem that arises is disparity in ping between players, and we're talking 64 players here so it's a rather diverse range of pings. The best example of the flaw behind this form of hit registration is that if someone has extremely low ping and yours is slightly higher, he can hit you well before you jump behind the cover you're near, though on your side you're already behind the cover. This results in you essentially dying while behind cover which leads to frustrating moments for the player that just died. On the opposite spectrum there are high ping issues too, where if you have a very low ping player being shot at by someone with a high ping, the low ping player may suddenly die instantly without even seeing his health drop.

Russians are Rushin'

Russians are Rushin'
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We won't delve into it too much more as it gets fairly complicated with examples, but you get the drift. Bad Company 2 was based on server-side registration which was much more stable and compensated for DICE's notoriously poor hit boxes in their games, so for Battlefield 3 to jump onto client-side and still have general shoddiness in its hit boxes can result in a very, very frustrating experience for online players. It's incredibly disappointing to see the game go this path, as it does tend to ruin the enjoyment of the game because you suddenly die while sitting behind cover. And since we have no way to check pings on players in the server (which is ridiculous), you can never really bet everyone will have similar pings.

Negativity aside though, Battlefield 3 has one major pro that is hard to fault, and that is its presentation. In both audio and visuals, Battlefield 3 is virtually unequalled technically, with some of the sharpest and high resolution texture work seen in a video game to date, and the most incredibly crisp and intense sounding effects you will hear. We (if it wasn't obvious) played the game on the PC with a very high end setup, and when everything's cranked up to Ultra it's a sight to behold. Animation in particular is quite incredible, with near flawless execution in blending between poses and sense of weight emphasised greatly on each character. It runs suprisingly well on a variety of systems too, with mid-range hardware running it fine on a mixture between Ultra and High and low end performing admirably on Medium to Low. Though the general consensus prior to the game's release was the game needs a monster PC to run, it's proven to be untrue and the game is extremely flexible. If you're looking for a game that will test your PC's power out and will showcase the raw power of what the platform can do, then Battlefield 3 is certainly the game you've been waiting for.

When all is said and done, we can't help but be a little glum about our experiences with Battlefield 3. It's an absolutely fantastic amount of fun online, and combined with the co-op missions you can do with friends for unlocks and score hunting there's a tonne to do in it. It's just that among the enjoyment of the game, there are layers above it that you sometimes must plow through in order to get to the goods. And when you've got the goods, sometimes you'll hit a sour spot. It's a game that certainly meets the hype the gameplay videos have shown us, but doesn't quite soar in its responsiveness and is held back greatly by Battlelog and its woes. If you can live with these technical hitches you're in for the best Multiplayer experience this year hands down. Just don't expect anything when it comes to single player, and hopefully in due time the bugs and problems will be patched out.
The Score
Battlefield 3 is a poor single player title, an amazing multiplayer game, but has layers of useless nonsense that hurt it in the long run. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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24 Comments
2 years ago
There is a rather enormous amount of hype surrounding DICE's official sequel to 2005's Multiplayer Shooter Battlefield 3
2 years ago
SCUMBAG NUMBER.

Changed it, thanks!
2 years ago
So in some ways, even though it's primarily a PC game, the console version is superior because you don't have to go through both Origin and the Battlelog? Or if you do, at least they're all just in one place on the disk? Sounds like EA messed up pretty bad there.
2 years ago
sobriquet835 wrote
So in some ways, even though it's primarily a PC game, the console version is superior because you don't have to go through both Origin and the Battlelog? Or if you do, at least they're all just in one place on the disk? Sounds like EA messed up pretty bad there.
In some ways yes.

The PC version is definitely the way to go, as consoles really do get a very cut down title. But with that said, Battlelog can be an absolute pain in the arse, and the hit registration in this game is worse than BC2, which is astonishing.

So I would say for pure accessibility and mostly problem-free gaming, console is better. Once it's all patched up and smoother though, it'll be pure awesome.

Battlelog is still crap though. There is literally no reason it's there apart from being a disguised DRM layer, as everything it does can be implemented in the game, and likely much less problematic. I initially liked its idea in beta, but after extended use and seeing that its state has changed very little since beta, I've grown to hate the hell out of it.
2 years ago
The campaign was decent enough. It was pure Call of Duty rip-off, though not as entertaining.

The multiplayer is excellent, but I do think some of the maps suffer on console due to the player limit.
2 years ago
First can I just say what a joy it is to read a review for an online shooter written by someone with enough understanding to know the difference between client side and server side hit detection?

The tech knowledge you bring to your reviews Denny is one of my favorite things about them, and one that you just don't see enough of.

Also I'm kind of curious to see how this works on my pc with all the talk of it running well at lower settings on low end pc's. I've been playing on PS3 and having a blast (Although fuck the campaign) but I'd love to get into some 64 player.
2 years ago
In regards to the hit detection, wouldn't using server side detection just create a different set of issues? Like you're shooting at someone on your screen but not actually hitting them?
2 years ago
No, because server side isn't based on predictions like client side is.

Server side will always know what the exact state the server is in and will always have a more stable and overall efficient system in place with hit registration, because every time someone fires a round, it'll send it over to the server, track its projection and outcome and hit it exactly where it should but just apply the ping levels onto it. Other problems can arise particularly if the server suffers from packet loss and has general issues, but most of the time it'd be a lot more stable.

Client side brings in far too many issues and simply isn't as efficient as server hit detection is as it's predicting where shots will land. Low ping player sees dude, fires shots at him. Server takes the data, predicts what it'll hit, then sends to dude being fired at. Dude is already behind cover on his screen, but server kills him anyway because it's predicting the shot based on the client.

It gets complicated really, but tl;dr server side is simply the best way to go, and DICE are absolutely insane to go client side AND still have poor hit box registration. Seriously these guys need to learn to network better, or look at games such as UT, Quake and hell even CoD4 (which funnily enough, is a heavily modified IdTech 3 engine).

Here's a vid showing off what I mean by hit rego problems. Vehicles get it a lot less but infantry is absolute bs.

2 years ago
I am aware of what issues arise from using client side detection(shot around corners, inconsistent splash damage from explosions etc.), as it's what a P2P game like Uncharted uses.
But of course with dedicated servers they do have the choice to implement either method.
2 years ago
I still don't understand why these type of games even bother with a single player portion. Just make it multiplayer only and have a more polished (and hopefully cheaper) title!
2 years ago
The MP in this game is nothing short of amazing.
I have been playing MP games for many years and have not had as much fun as I have in this game.
(when you are able to get in and not have it crash on startup etc)
2 years ago
Battlelog is annoying.
2 years ago
Rage SP is much much more amusing (like Borderlands for comparison, just less gun combinations). If you're going to spend your dollars on one or the other, for SP I'd head to the ID title. Then again, COD due out in a week. Nov is a headache for AAA games.
2 years ago
Great review :)

The PC version looks amazing but seriously, having to open up Origin, then load Battlelog and actually choose your games from the webpage is a freakin' joke.

And I don't really care what type of hit detection is used as long as it works, but I don't remember a game being this bad.

They've obviously rushed the crap out of it to beat COD to the shelves but they've just hurt their reputation. (And the DICE employees on the official forums replying like absolute pricks just adds to it)
2 years ago
Denny wrote
So I would say for pure accessibility and mostly problem-free gaming, console is better. Once it's all patched up and smoother though, it'll be pure awesome.
So, is PALGN going to do a review for the console version?
2 years ago
The hit detection is definitely a problem that will be improved over time. Origin and battlelog was horrendous day 1 but at current i find it acceptable even if i don't like it, but seriously I separately have to add origin and bf3 friends even though everyone can only have 1 account WTF. Patches will improve everything in time, hopefully, unless another EA game is released and all their monies will be directed to promoting (not developing) another bomb game.
2 years ago
I definitely fell victim to the getting hit behind cover on one occasion. I haven't had much time to play it though , the install took long enough, what with Origin attempting to download the game to install instead of using the disc (found the solution on a forum), then having to update graphic driver to stop BF3 from crashing. I'm finding it frustrating to simply find a game and jump it. It takes several goes to get in. I was also disconnected a couple of times.
2 years ago
I was going to get this, but it seems that you have to have top class internet. Mine is piss poor.
I guess I'll go with COD again. It's accessible, easy to get into a game and simple to play.
2 years ago
Ken_Gooner wrote
I was going to get this, but it seems that you have to have top class internet. Mine is piss poor.
I guess I'll go with COD again. It's accessible, easy to get into a game and simple to play.
you need top class internet for both ! what would you have me do ?

kinda was keen to find out what Gooner is icon_sad.gif
2 years ago
mikezilla2 wrote
kinda was keen to find out what Gooner is icon_sad.gif
An Arsenal fan.
2 years ago
Why, why do they feel the need to go the way of other FPS titles and add a single player.

1942 was a winner because it had great MP with vehicles and 64 players. BF2 followed that with MP only again and sold incredibly well and earned a 9 in a review from PALGN.

Such a shame to see that a poor SP, as well as this out of game sever browser bs, coupled with technical issues, has hurt the score it could of got if they had just gone MP only again. And thus probably turned many away to move on to MW3 or others.

I guess DICE and EA dont care, they've already got the sale...

Another main gripe for me is squads. There is only 8 squads allowed in BF3 compared to BF2's 9, also only 4 are allowed in each squad as opposed to 6. Now this adds up to exactly 32. Whats happens though when the server is full on a 64, and one squad is turned private with only 2 in it and all other squads are full. Well it means you cant squad up. Not once in my 2000+ hrs of playing BF2 did I ever think to myself, 6 players is too much in one squad.

Also joining with friends is annoyingly fustrating. Join on opposing sides, or even if you are on the same side, not in the same squad.

DICE have lost their original vision. The other added gameplay mechanics are fun and fresh, but have wrecked things that they already had done well. Time was wasted on the SP development
2 years ago
I don't get all the hate with battlelog. I myself have been victim to some niggling problems, this has happened twice already but for a while I would just stay on Joining Server..., othertimes I couldn't start co-op with a friend, however the fix was this to simply disable my anti-virus temporarily.

At first I found it a very awkward and strange tool, I mean why wouldn't there be a traditional server browser IN game as there always has been? The fact is, I've noticed that the battlelog allows alot more sociable interactivity between other players, especially random players who you meet in game, than oppossed to previous BF titles. I've already added a few players who I have squadded up with in some games that we have done really well together, thanks to battlelog they have made such a process really easy and stream lined. The stats is a great epeen archive, you may not care about it, but many do, and its also a great indicator as to how a player usually plays and how well they do it, a useful tool for those who are trying to put together a competitive team.

Battlelog seems to be quite stable nowadays say compared to when the game was in beta. I'll be honest after the jet mission I pretty much put the singleplayer down and have invested 40 hours into the multiplayer since release, haha! (Cursed battlefield, will probably fail my subject icon_sad.gif ) The singleplayer was indeed tacked on and I consider it as a freebie, afterall who buys battlefield for the singleplayer, hell BF2 didn't have a campaign heh.

I've been victim of the client-side registration bug myself a few times, but it hasn't been has prevalent for me ever since I started playing the game since release. It seems like it was more prevalent in the beta than it was in release, possibly due to the fact that metro is a tight infantry map (and yes I agree the 64player conquest version is a right joke). While it was frustrating in the beta, for some reason I've not found it as much of a problem in the release, I don't know what else to say about that, it just hasn't been a problem for me and my only issues with gameplay is rubberbanding, which seems to have mostly been fixed now.

You say Operation Firestorm Rush map on 64 players would be silly and imba, I believe this without a doubt, but as far as I am aware the rush maps weren't intended to be played with 64 players. Even when I search the filter now for 64 player rush servers there are very few and for good reason, they were made for 32 players max in mind, 64 would definitely make it one huge cluster fuck. Those kind of servers to me are akin to 32 player matches on 16p maps, tight, spammy and silly.
2 years ago
@Mike, cba quoting sorry
nah i can play all the cods pretty easily on my internet with a fair amount of frustration but at least i can play it
2 years ago
Ken_Gooner wrote
@Mike, cba quoting sorry
nah i can play all the cods pretty easily on my internet with a fair amount of frustration but at least i can play it
well there shouldent be to much of a problem here besides going back to playing something akin to MW2
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