Battlefield 3 has been out a few days now, and luckily for me I had a quiet weekend with not much planned, giving me the perfect opportunity to flesh out just what's on offer from its multiplayer.
I'm happy to report that DICE and EA should be proud, because BF3's online component for the PS3 is a fine achievement.
It's balanced and exciting, with great map design and tight controls, BF3 feels great to play. What struck me most when I first started up the game was just how much the graphics had improved over the series last PS3 entry, Bad Company 2.
Naysayers be damned, because the game does indeed outshine its Playstation predecessor and there is a notable improvement in the visual quality with the new frostbite engine. The star of the show is the lighting, which adds to the environments a depth that seemed to be missing from Bad Company 2. Player models are also better, animations are slick and appealing, and the game oozes that 'AAA' feel.
The visuals aren't without issues. The complaints are commonplace with PS3 and other console games these days, and include some texture pop and clipping. There are also the occasional screen hitches such as a green frame flashing through your screen, and various other little technical niggles that keep the presentation from being perfect. That said, overall the visual quality of the game is high, and people won't be disappointed. The issues while there simply don't distract me enough for them to detract from the core of the game.
Online performance for PS3 for me has also been without issue. I've been kicked from games only twice, and had a few short lived server issues on day one (I got it prior to the street date), but aside from that its performed well.
There are 3 main game modes for multiplayer. The most popular staple of the franchise, Conquest, is a capture and hold type scenario, while Rush sees one side constantly advancing to destroy several objectives over the course of a very large map, and finally death match.
Conquest and Rush are where most people will get their thrills, and the name of the game in each is team work. PSN being what it is however, has very few players with headsets, which means a lot of the squad work will come from simply following team mates, attacking the same objectives, and giving what support you can through the game's medic, resupply and repair abilities. Players really will benefit from being able to co-ordinate team work with voice chat, as the game is pretty hard to play as a lone wolf affair due to the sheer size and complexity of maps. At this stage I should probably admit I don't use a headset myself, but I have been logging into Skype with a few friends in my squad, and I can say co-ordination is key.
At the time of writing I've just hit level 11, and that has taken about 8 hours. I've seen some players at much higher levels, so I can only imagine how long they've been playing, so it seems like it'll keep you busy for quite some time. Being an objective based game, players who put an emphasis on killing enemies at the cost of capturing or completing objectives will find their level up goes very slowly (unless they play death match which isn't too popular). Quite a few times I've been the highest scoring player in a game with under 10 kills, simply by fulfilling my role in a squad properly, and focusing on winning, not killing.
Another thing I should mention are the vehicles. The only ones I can competently handle are the tanks and jeeps. Choppers and jets are simply too hard for me to use, and look as though they require a lot of practice. Which brings up a few issues I have with the game.
One is the lack of any kind of 'practice' mode. Certainly players would benefit from vehicle tutorials of some kind, as particularly the games airborne fleet is hard to handle.
Another small gripe I have is the seeming lack of 'hardcore' mode. Now, I might admittedly be missing it here, but hardcore mode in Bad Company 2 was my favourite. To me is seems often that enemies can take too many hits before going down, and sniping at the early stages of the game, without a good rifle is a bland practice as the sniper rifle seems particularly weak.
Also missing is the ability to 'cook off' grenades, and throwing grenades seems to be done without much control as to trajectory. This isn't vital, but seems like a misstep in design.
Finally I have to mention sound design. Like Bad Company 2 before it, sound design on the game is brilliant. I'm blasting it out in only 2.1 stereo, through a set of Logitech Z4 speakers plugged into my TV, but it's amazing still, and I can only imagine what it sounds like in surround. It perhaps has the most immersive sound I've experienced in gaming, ever.
FPS and online multiplayer fans should pick this one up because it's just a brilliant online experience that promises many hours of fun and frantic online shooting.
9.5 out of 10.