Battlefield 3, First Impression. Wow!

Last night, I was deliriously happy. I was running around my flat, waving my arms and bouncing up and down, stopping occasionally to run over to my girlfriend and shake her in excitement. The reason for this madness? Battlefield 3 was out. More importantly, Battlefield 3 was out a full four days earlier than I’d expected.

The surprisingly sudden launch came courtesy of the denizens of Reddit, who collectively figured out a simple way to activate the game early. While the game was due to be released in the UK and the rest of Europe on Friday, customers in Korea and Singapore would be getting the game on midnight on Monday.

Activation was a simple case of connecting to a proxy server in Korea (generously provided by another Redditor) and performing the activation check. The activation check looked at your IP, figured you were in Korea and that the game had been released there, and obligingly released the lock. Once you had an activated game, you could share the file with your friends and they too could launch the game.

At first, scared of the consequences, I started up Origin in off-line mode and began the campaign. It begins with a manic train ride, rife with quick time events and unbelievably impressive visuals. I won’t spoil the story, but suffice it to say it’s along the same lines as last year’s Call of Duty, with each level made as a flashback to past events as you re-tell it to an interrogator.

The pacing of the story isn’t as ideal as Call of Duty 4, the definite high water mark of linear shooters of this style, but does provide plenty of opportunities to vary the environments and weaponry available, with both largish outdoor areas, claustrophobic urban fighting and some trademark vehicles to play around in.

On highest difficulty, the game feels appropriately challenging if a little unfair; too often in night-time battles it’s impossible to see opponents on your flanks, who will quickly gun you down if you’re not paying attention. Another annoyance is wounded enemies who lie in the undergrowth, undetectable. When you walk by unaware, they stab you and it’s an instant game over.

Otherwise, the fighting is enjoyable and technically brilliant. The graphics are well worth the upgrade that many have made, and the brilliant soundscape from Bad Company 2 has ably made the transition. Playing with headphones on, particularly on the ‘war tapes’ setting, is eye-wateringly perfect. Even so, in the campaign fighting the enemy AI just isn’t as fun as playing online.

It was with some trepidation that I ceased playing the campaign and cautiously connected to Battlelog, the online portion of Batttlefield 3. When I realised that there were full servers in the UK, I became incredibly happy again. I connected to the first one, set on the beta’s massive conquest map Caspian Border, and was amazed.

Where the beta had been enjoyable but buggy as all heck, the retail version looks to be heavily upgraded and with all major bugs fixed. The game ran superbly on my setup where it had lagged before, and for many hours I had no complaints. The game felt different than the beta, fresher somehow, and with each new map I gained a deeper appreciation for the game.

Needless to say, the technical strength of the campaign was also found in multiplayer. Again, the graphics were stunning and the soundscape delicious; the combined experience whilst flying a jet at 1,000 feet over the map, tipping the wings and looking at the beautiful carnage occurring below was quite something.

Like Bad Company 2, the game modes and actual gunplay feels great, with a large array of weapons to choose from. The maps are also well crafted and allow for a lot of creativity in playstyle and armament choice. The unlock system is incredibly deep; with so many weapon customisation options available there’ll be a lot to keep you playing for a long time.

There are still a few issues with the game; the chat box is unnecessarily large, it’s hard to progress as a fighter pilot without countermeasures with so many Stinger-toting engineers running around, and the minimap is woeful. None of these are game breaking however; on the whole the game has launched with many fewer bugs than in Bad Company 2. Many of those problems were to do with the server browser, so switching to Battlelog has seemed to be a wise move on that front.

Overall, it’s a great start for Battlefield 3 and should prove even more popular than the excellent Bad Company 2. Personally, I can’t wait to get back home and play some more!

This article was written by William Judd. William writes for Mobile Fun, the UK’s leading online retailer of the sim free BlackBerry 9900.

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