Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to this evening’s entertainment. Tonight we have an amazing fight scheduled to take place. In the blue corner, weighing it at a mighty 15 kg and wearing black covered with blue neon lights is the PC. In the red corner, giving up some weight at a lean 6 kg and wearing beige with three flashing red lights is the Xbox 360. Tonight they are fighting for the Battlefield 3 belt, the right to claim superiority as the system of choice for Battlefield fans everywhere. So without further ado… LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!
I began with the single player campaign and regardless of system, it wasn’t great. It screamed Call of Duty (CoD) rip off, with large scale set pieces and multiple perspectives. This basic formula wasn’t the issue, rather the fact that almost everything about it had been done better by CoD. The story lacked weight, the voice acting was bland and the action was repetitive. The biggest problem I had with the campaign was the quick time events (QTEs). These can work in certain genres but the first person shooter is not one of them. The abundance of QTEs did nothing but pull me out of the action and remind me that I wasn’t a soldier in a large scale battle, but just another Joe Schmo with a controller in his hand.
I realised, like everyone else, that Battlefield was all about the multiplayer and this is where the two versions started to diverge. The PC version supported up to 64 players, whereas the 360 edition only accommodated 24, no doubt due to processing constraints. The 360 version involved some additional sacrifices. The maps were smaller, the graphics took a hit when compared to the single player and large amounts of action caused some pretty significant frame rate drops. I got the constant feeling that this game was simply too powerful for the 360. It really felt like a PC port which is something I hadn’t experienced since playing Doom 3 on the original Xbox.
I have to give it to DICE, as they did manage to keep all of the vehicles in the console version, as well as all the game types. Speaking of game types I found some truly enjoyable scenarios on offer. The two most popular were Rush and Conquest. Rush had my team mates and I either defending two points or attacking them. The attacking team had a limited number of respawns to destroy these points and once they achieved this, the defending team fell back to the next set of points while the attackers continued forward. In one particular map, while I was on the attacking team, I base jumped off a cliff to the objective, all the while shooting at my enemies below. It was exhilarating stuff.
Conquest was a more traditional mode where I found myself trying to secure points on the map. While I had played similar modes to this in countless other shooters, I had never played a game that executed it quite so elegantly, plus the presence of jets, tanks, choppers and APCs really added an extra dimension for me.
I did encounter some problems in my time with both editions of the game. In the 360 version I encountered some serious lag issues. A patch was issued by EA which helped this problem somewhat but it wasn’t until I engaged in some technical flimflammery, which involved some port forwarding, relocation of my router and a large amount of swearing, that I was able to play in a fairly lag free state. What made this even more frustrating was that even with 64 players, amazing graphics and larger maps the PC version was virtually lag free.
I also experienced some minor issues with the new Battlelog system when playing on PC. To launch the game I was taken to a website which kept track of my stats and levelling progress. There were some glitches with this and it seemed a bit temperamental with some web browsers. This web based launch portal also meant that I was forced to leave the game if I wanted to change servers, and while this was a small thing, it became an irritation as I was attempting to sample all that Battlefield 3 had to offer.
I don’t think I’ve encountered a better multiplayer experience on the PC. The tactical shooting struck the perfect balance between realism and fun. I also loved the team focus which served to differentiate the game from its nearest competitors. Apart from the forgettable single player and a few minor annoyances, a military based shooter has never impressed me as much as this.
I didn’t have as much fun with the Xbox version. It seemed to be simply too stripped back when compared to its superior big brother. Add to that the technical issues of frame rate drops and numerous game crashes and my experience was quite sour. I couldn’t help but feel that the 360 would have been better served by a game designed for the console from the ground up. From my time with the game it was clear that Battlefield 3 was too much of a beast for Microsoft’s ageing unit to handle.