I don’t normally blog about computer games other than those that I am designing to want to design. This is an exception because I have some comments about Battlefield 3 and I think it is worth making a note about them.
Battlefield 3 is a first person shooter (FPS) game. There are actually two games in the product like with may other similar game. There is a single player game with a rough story and computer opponents to guide the action and there is a multiplayer online version with no story and human opponents. At least they seem mostly human online.
I played through the single player campaign and it was not memorable. Some of the settings and accompanying storylines were interesting to play and some were not. The overall story was acceptable but I felt no connection to it. Some of the settings forced a very linear mode of play where I could not make choices and simply followed a given path while shooting at the expected computer opponents. Some of the action was long and boring with no way to skip it. One particular tank battle was just pointless.
I’ve played these FPS campaigns since Call of Duty 1 and this one was one of the least exciting games.
The multiplayer online game is very different from the single player campaign. There is no beginning or end to the overall action. there is no war, just battles. Sign on, select a server with the appropriate game mode and number of players and wait a few minutes to connect and get started. Then play until that skirmish is over.
I had never played online until a few years ago. I have only played FPS games online so I can’t compare the experience to WoW or other types of games. Once the initial fear of screwing up “in front” of other people went away, I started to really enjoy this type of game. Maybe too much.
I won’t give any more of a summary about multiplayer FPS games in general.
Battlefield 3 offers large maps and a gaming experience that is supposed to be a bit more realistic compared to other FPS games. I think it accomplishes that well. Some things that make this seem a bit realistic, even if they are contrived to make it so, are:
- The map areas are very large and the terrain and structures look like they could be real places.
- Nearby bullet strikes and explosions seem to make it more difficult to function well. This is hard to measure but seems to happen.
- Soldiers can’t jump very high and move side-to-side enough to make shooting them impossible like in other games.
- You cannot run at a guy and knife him if he has fired a shot at you. Unlike other FPS games, you cannot win a gunfight with a knife.
- There are tanks, jeeps, helicopters, and other vehicles to use.
- Buildings can collapse.
- You cannot get up from the prone position quickly enough to run for cover when shot at.
There are still things that happen in this game that make it unrealistic like other FPS games. Part of that is because this is a computer game and not every detail of battle can be simulated and part of it is to keep the gameplay balanced and interesting. Guns that can kill with less bullets often fire slower than guns that cannot. You can’t just pick a better gun and win every match. You also cannot get shot in the leg and go to the hospital. You either recover magically from getting shot or you die. There is nothing in between.
In hard core games, you can shoot and kill your teammates. I like this but there are not many hard core servers out there. I don’t kill my teammates. I like the added difficulty of it. There is also no kill-cam that lets you seem the guy who shot you so you might never go back and find him.
Unlike Call of Duty games of the past, Battlefield has four classes and each has limitations. You can pick up a weapon of a different class to become that class but you cannot pick up weapons to become a combination of classes. There is no way to have a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher. This keeps things balanced but is not at all realistic.
I have been playing as a sniper to get enough kills to unlock a better gun. I don’t think that there is such a thing in the game but I have not tried enough weapons to know for sure. Documentation is a little sketchy in this regard. A sniper is really a member of the Recon class and has tools to do recognizance activities. You can have motions sensors, remote surveillance drones and mobile spawn beacons for your squad. You also get the sniper rifle which is fun and challenging in this game because bullets drop as they travel as in real life. Long distance kills are very satisfying.
With a high powered scope, the recon soldier can spot enemy soldiers. Now for my first gripe about online games: it seems like in many battles online, most players don’t use the spot feature. Sometimes they do and it helps but sometimes, no one cares to call out enemies. “Spotting” lets you see an enemy, hit a key while pointed at them, and send out a verbal (recorded) message to other players about that enemy. The enemy should then also show up on the mini map for your teammates. I like to spot. The points are not high but I think that it helps win games.
Also, recon players don’t often enough install a SOFLAM device. This is a laser designator and it works automatically as long as targets cross its field of view. It can also be aimed manually using a remote. I’ve found that designated targets are easier to hit with guided weapons and I can also hit a designated helicopter with the Javelin missile even though it cannot target a helicopter on its own.
The assault solider is really the medic class with an assault rifle. This solider can drop medical kits and can revive fallen comrades. This class is important in tight spaces where there are lots of dead guys and a long run back to the battle from a spawn location. Once area is taken in the metro tunnel and station, there is no getting it back. Medics are crucial here.
Medics can have a grenade launcher but I have not used that myself.
The support class can hand out ammo which is also important in tight areas like the metro. They also have light machine guns available and can use C4 explosives. I have not used this class much.
When I am not recon, I am an engineer. There is a great satisfaction in having a tank blow up on a mine you laid twenty minutes earlier in the game. Mines are one of the perks that do not just go away when you die and you can litter the map with them if you get resupplied by dying. I don’t recall if the ammo box of the support class includes mines but I think not.
This class also has launch weapons like the grenade launcher, Javelin, and Sidewinder. The grenade launcher is less effective but doesn’t need to lock onto a target like the Javelin. The Sidewinder is only good against air targets but I can’t manage to be effective with it. It takes too long to lock on and aircraft usually have flares available again before I can launch a second missile at them.
There is no specific class for vehicles but if the terrain suits it, the engineer class with a repair tool is the best choice when using tanks and IFVs. A helicopter can be landed and repaired but it’s a bit harder to get out of the fight to make the repairs.
My next gripe: Too many people take a vehicle and don’t bother to pick up other soldiers. We can’t all jog to the battlefield but too many people snatch a jeep and drive off with two empty seats. There is a mounted gun that if very effective if there is a second player in that jeep!
I’m getting good with the helicopter. I figured out how to set up my joystick and throttle so that the controls are almost like the MS Flight Simulator flying copters. Unfortunately, the game does not support multiple joysticks so I had to unplug my foot rudder controls and use the twist action of the joystick instead. It’s not as realistic but seems to work well.
Since the web has lots of basic tips about playing with the right class, joining a squad, and other things, I’ll only give this tip that no one every suggests: don’t bother to take all of the objectives in a game of Conquest. The team only needs 4 of seven to get a benefit and leaving objectives unguarded ends up losing the game for an otherwise winning team. Sure it’s no fun to guard an objective but it’s a good way to win.