A refreshingly good multiplayer installment, with unnecessary and sub-par full-package features. A review for veterans.

User Rating: 8.5 | Battlefield 3 PC
I imagine battlefield is a game many long-time gamers associate with the "good ol' days"- it certainly is for me. I began PC gaming long before 1942, but it was this game that blew my mind and drew me to obsession with the platform. As a developer, DICE has now dabbled in an array of gaming variables- from cartoons (Heroes), to story driven installments (Bad Company)- straying just far enough from it's core model (large, sandbox multiplayer) to be given a hesitant nod for variety. But, as we all know, Battlefield is a cherished jewel of PC gaming not for its pioneering innovation (lately), but for it's excellence-bar-none in a core model it innovated many years ago- said sandbox gameplay.

So is the predictable case with Battlefield 3. At its worst, it's a multiplayer shooter with an identity problem, yearning but failing to achieve full-package recognition. At its best, Battlefield is an optimized, tweaked, well balanced evolution of the same game we played since 2005 (BF2). I have to admit, I haven't completed the single player component, nor have I touched the coop- I came here to blow up LAV's full of gamers across the world, and that's just what I've been doing. At first, when I built my new computer a month or so ago, I was leery about the whole thing, and playing the first few hours didn't make me feel much better.

The multiplayer isn't without issues, and gives a worryingly bad first impression (especially if you've been into BF since the beginning). Origin isn't a bad program per-se, but as a server browser it falls shorter than even BF2's, which is mind-bogglingly disappointing. Server offerings are restricted even beyond liberal filters, and don't necessarily pair you with the best results. At least they refresh faster than BF2's did. I also had a problem activating the game that was resolved only after mind numbing searches online.

The map selection also reflects the game's identity problem. While Caspian Border and Operation Firestorm are proper layouts, Operation Metro and Seine Crossing feel like they were designed for Call of Duty players... and while that's fine as part of a business model (I understand the industry's focus on profit and broadening markets), it produces the same raised eyebrows veterans have with BF3's single player and cooperative components. After a few hours I purchased the DLC and was immediately hooked on the enlivened maps of old- burning with nostalgic glee.

Once I waded through the initial phase of familiarizing myself with the gameplay mechanics, feel, and maps (including the DLC), the true pleasure of playing a Battlefield game overcame me. As a veteran, you probably frequent a voice server, and can rely on the diligence and skill of your long-time gaming friends to wreak havoc and make an appreciable impact in any given match, regardless the occasional incompetence or stupidity of your teammates (with that in mind, it all comes together). What's great is that here there are far more exciting moments than dull, forgiving opportunities than Sisyphean nightmares, and overall fun to be had than in other competing offerings- or in previous installments, for that matter. I guess what I feel now is the consequence of a mix of technological prowess and experienced development on the part of DICE. Impressive visuals, streamlined and diverse infantry classes, and balanced gameplay all come together to form what most reviewers have largely concluded- as a multiplayer installment alone, it's a blast.

To me a multiplayer shooter succeeds when, even in the most frustrating and desperate moments, I'm still having a good time. With BF3 you're sure to have one- just be sure to keep your expectations in check. With friends, a good attitude, and an evening free of responsibilities, you'll be smiling at your computer screen much like you did years before, once again.