Once more into the Battlefield dear friends. Don’t let the name deceive you – depending on how you’re counting, this can be viewed as the fifth (or 7th or 8th) Battlefield game. We’ve had Battlefield, BF2, Bad Company, Bad Company 2 and BF:1943 as well as BF: Vietnam. There’s also the free-to-play Battlefield Heroes too.

So it’s quite a lineage – one to rival Call of Duty. And therein lies the real question – is it better?

Tough question – for sure the campaign is good. Very good. It’s a solid little 9-hour jaunt – the graphics are state-of-the-art, the story is compelling and exciting. It takes the player from the Middle East, to Paris, to America and the skies above the Middle East again. Like last year’s COD: Black Ops – the story begins with your character in custody, being interrogated about events past. The story pans out like this, one episode at a time until you are dropped right back at the beginning again.

It’s not all infantry based combat either – there are some very enjoyable side missions in tanks and one brilliantly executed level set as the co-pilot of an F-16. There is a myriad selection of weapons to try, too many to try out in one playthrough. Every weapon also has a huge variety of sights, attachments, bipods, supressors etc etc… There’s a lot to learn.

But beyond that, the campaign plays pretty similarly to the campaign in MW2 – in that respect the appreciable differences are the differing graphical styles and a different control scheme. That’s where the similarities end.

I’m guessing that almost every purchaser of BF3 will be doing so for its multiplayer experience. With every release in the series, the franchise has improved in quality, scale and scope. On the PC versions it is possible to have 64 players (and 60 frames per second if your hardware is good enough). The console versions make do with up to 32 player multiplayer (and 30 fps). It’s enough though – enough to have some seriously tense combat.

You see – multiplayer in this is tough. Really tough. In the Call of Duty games, it is possible to have a lot of fun no matter what level you are. The COD games are very good at matching players with other players of equivalent skill – so a level playing field is maintained.

In BF3 – for me it’s one constant sequence of death, death, death, death, nearly got one, death, kill (woohoo!)… I realise that I’m far from a great first-person shooter player – but I’m good enough to be competitive in the Call of Duty games. BF3, like its prequels, suffers from a multiplayer mode that seems to be solely filled with elite players.

So my skills aren’t really good enough for multiplayer in BF3 – that’s ok, there are a lot of really gifted FPS players out there who need this kind of challenge. If the Call of Duty games are too easy, or too obvious then this is the perfect antidote – an accurate, challenging, unforgiving shooter. It must be so rewarding if your skills are good enough.

Also for some people this kind of challenge is utterly compelling – fall down seven times, get up eight. But to be honest, it grinds me down a bit. After a few games of coming dead last in a row – it just gets… discouraging.

There is a good co-op mode included though and some of the missions from the single player campaign will provide some decent replay value – I’ve already played the F-16 mission again many times, like the “All Ghillied Up” mission from COD:MW.

But – I have a feeling that the forthcoming release of Modern Warfare 3 is going to overshadow this and be ultimately more accessible and more fun to play. We’ll know on the 8th...


Battlefield 3 is out now for Xbox 360, PlayStation and PC