Battlefield 3 Single Player Console Review

Battlefield 3’s intentions couldn’t be clearer.  Call of Duty certainly didn’t define modern first person shooters, but it’s definitely given DICE something to aim at, even if it misses the target on a couple of occasions. Not that you can blame them for trying, of course, and because EA have pushed Battlefield harder than anything we’ve ever seen them get behind a hungry market is going to lap this one right up regardless of what we say.  Perfection this isn’t.

I think that’s partly the problem here.  The drip feed of hysteria inducing teasers has given the impression that Battlefield 3’s single player campaign (we’ll address multiplayer at a later date) is the stuff of kings, where in reality it’s yet another linear blaster with little tactical decision making at play, instead preferring to shepherd a witless character down increasingly narrow (but invisible) walls.

A criticism hardly unique to this title, of course, but it’s disappointing to realise that on a second playthrough everything remains the same: explosion times, enemy positions, squad placement.


Indeed, death, with its associated load time and sometimes clumsy checkpointing, becomes more of a chore than I’d have liked, especially at the end when the game doesn’t stick to its predetermined rules and throws the odd wildcard.  I’m not expecting to be able to dodge bullets in slow motion, but some warning at least would go a long way to alleviating any trial and error nonsense.  It’s rare – sure – but it’s there, and one moment in particular will ensure nobody gets a clean sheet on their first go.

[drop2]Likewise, DICE aren’t comfortable with adhering to concepts explained earlier.  Shoot out lights with a sniper rifle to darken a landing zone but then remove the ability to do the same ten minutes later to hide the player when surrounded by enemies tracking you like metal to a magnet.  And again, when you see an escaping car you’re told to gun it down, but then expected to ignore that later when forced to run after a helicopter.

The player should never feel like they’re at fault when design decisions are made against the run of play.

There are a couple of technical issues too – clipping raises its ugly head (I found myself inside the door of a car for one cut-scene because I’d moved too far back before a trigger moment) – and the way the game makes you wait for your squad at every junction starts to grate, especially on a repeated mission (or, indeed, if you were killed and forced to retry).  That section from the trailer where you take down a sniper hiding in a hotel?  Far less fun in reality.

Negatives abound, then, but here’s the rub: Battlefield 3’s actually a surprisingly good game.  Despite the issues, DICE have managed to find a workable story and wrap a good chunk of gameplay (around 6 hours on normal, another on hard) over an impressive array of mission types.  The main character, skinny Staff Sergeant Blackburn, is mostly locked to Iraq/Iran during the game, but expect at least one diversion and – nicely – a level or two from other characters.

We won’t spoil the major stuff here, but let’s just say that there’s an alternative point of view on offer, a fair amount of retrospective plot (with Blackburn’s present tense playing out in an interrogation room) and a few sections where you’ll retread familiar ground but with a different character.  It works well, and the dozen levels or so never feel like padding; the pace snappy, the action constant, even when you’re in stealth mode.

The biggest hit, personally at least, was a desert-based tank assault, which starts off with a more traditional long-range attack before a frankly brilliant dash through an encampment under fire from infantry.  It’s a highpoint in a game that doesn’t really have any sticking points – it tails off towards the end, certainly, with two missions in particular suffering from repetition and some awkward scripting, but most of the game is a fun, albeit rather more grounded than Modern Warfare, ride.

But it’s when Battlefield pushes the boat out, figuratively, that it works the best.  A flight section might only see you manning the guns (it’s as on rails as anything we’ve seen before) but – for the first run through at least – is exciting, tense and visually breathtaking.  Helped in no small part by some exemplary voice work, DICE has managed to capture a sense of atmosphere and dread better than anyone else.  And, of course, it looks stunning.

I’m reviewing this based on Xbox 360 code (patched up, with the game installed and the HD pack present and correct) and although it’s clearly not a patch on the PC version, I’m willing to bet that you’ll not find a richer shooter for some time.  Textures are sharp, the characters animate well and the lighting is wonderful – sure, there’s some smoke and mirrors, but DICE have perfected a gritty style, with clever highlights on the screen reflecting the light brilliantly.

[drop]The frame rate’s fine too, running at thirty frames per second, although there’s some tearing and slowdown in places.

There’s some ugly modeling in play, mind – it’s jarring to see a photo-realistic pavement holding up a car that looks like it’s made from a handful of polygons, or a tree swaying from the roots, but generally if you stick to the beaten path it’s a staggering achievement given the age of the consoles running it.  Call of Duty might have a quicker, more stable frame rate, but it has never looked this good overall.

The guns feel weighty, the driving (when you do get to hold the wheel) is fine, aiming is precise and the Quick Time Events, which punctuate the game with a steady regularity, don’t get in the way enough (or are tricky enough) for them not to be any more than a diversion.  Tapping a button six times to rappel might mask some loading, but it’s bordering on silly; although that’s an isolated instance.

There’s little more I can cover without spoilers – Battlefield 3’s single player works, but never threatens to change what we expect from the genre, or really push it beyond some incredible visuals and – frankly – stunning sound work.  The aesthetics and presentation are top notch, the gunplay and pacing what you’d expect, and the story’s not nearly as daft as it could have been.

A ‘more realistic approach’ might be pushing it, perhaps, but in this case, it works just about hard enough to differentiate itself from the competition.  And, of course, there’s the world class multiplayer that the game is best known for (and in the case of the 360 version, at least, takes top billing in disk order).  We’ll come back to that in due course, but as a single player campaign this is one worth playing through.  Once.


  • Amazing graphics and sound
  • Solid enough gameplay


  • Some odd design choices
  • About as linear as it gets
  • “My chi is mad focused, yo”

You can’t blame DICE and EA for the direction Battlefield 3 has taken.  There’s a decent game here, but it’s nothing – beyond the special effects and presentation – that we’ve not played before.  The AI might be smart and your squad at least can fire for themselves, but when it’s the same thing each time, ad verbatim, you can’t help but wish for something a little bit more freeform, dynamic and tactical rather than a roller coaster ride through the Middle East.

Score: 7/10



  1. Well my rental of this was posted yesterday (win) so i’ll be hammering single player this weekend but, thanks to EA and that shitbollocks online pass, I’ll not be trying multiplayer so will not be buying the game either. Up yours EA

    • Congratulations, you stick to your guns on this 3shirts and miss out on one of the best MP experiences I have had in 25+ years of gaming.

      There are so many publishers going the same way that eventually you won’t have anything to play…

      • Apart from Valve, and a few other publishers who aren’t so goddam stupid and sheepish to realize that this will end up causing greater damage to the console market than passes help it.

      • @ScottW-1976

        You really think online pass will dominate? If you look at the current trends, I think you’ll find it’s going to go free-to-play, as it is the most lucrative option.

      • So many things wrong with this. Firstly, yes, thanks I will ‘stick to my guns’. I’d rather that than disregard my morals at the first sign of them getting in the way of something!
        Secondly, I didn’t mean that I wouldn’t buy this because of the online code but rather that I am unconvinced by the game and the online code thing stops me from testing the game with a rental, thus I can be sure I’d like it so will not buy.

        The fact that people like yourself just accept that publishers do this is the reason they get away with it. Stand up for what you think, even if it means a little sacrifice.

    • That’s where online passes are really annoying. If I’m not sure about whether I’ll like a game or not, I usually rent it first to try it. Given BF3 is essentially a multiplayer game with a SP portion tacked on I wouldn’t really be able to test this one.

    • I’m with you here 3S. I tend to tend to rent my games then buy if good. If its good enough I’ll buy cheap, but it doesn’t sound like it’ll stand out enough with all the top games coming.

  2. Forgot to go to the midnight launch. Was just in Game and forgot to buy it then too. Er… maybe get it from Tesco later!
    Sounds just like I expected, plenty of “paying tribute” to CoD’s modern-day games and lots of very pretty staging and set pieces. That’ll do me.

    • Shame on you! You must have had something really big on your mind at the time!

    • Good you didn’t buy from Game. The last time I bought something from them they tried to sell me about 16 other things that I didn’t want as well. When I say no the 3rd time just give up! Surly £40 of my money is enough.

      • I know someone who works at a GAME outlet and I can assure you its not their choice to pester customers, more of a manager decision.

      • Yeah, it was the deliberate move from customer service to customer hindrance and mithering that made me leave Game around about 2000, Dave’s right – it’s not the staffs fault really, it’s the area managers and Head Office. I wasn’t willing to do it as it contradicts my idea of good customer service, so I left. It’s too much like a hard sell to me.

      • I work for one of the “brands” that this company owns, and belive me when i say, its not our choice.

        my customer service trys to stay sensitive to what the customer is actually after without going OTT, whist admittidly i cant say the same for everyone.
        so for example today battlefield launch day, customer comes with a limited edition battlefield box, first thing i would say is, anything to trade today, the i ask do they have a loyalty card, then as per rules its time to expand the sale. so i tend to stay sensitive, i choose 1 offer, its normally the one that perhaps i might take myself so today i asked if they would you like rage for half price. DONE!

        only time i would say more is if they had brought a standard box, i would have offered the limited for £3 more (why its more when they have same RRP is beyond me.)

        this like i said cant be said for everyone and i feel your pain but i have had countless “discussions” on not offering other items when ive succsessfully sold somthing or not getting any items on a string of sales.

        the company seems to have an issue with identifying its different customers. from familys, gift buyers, to us the general gamer.

        i actually remeber a training video my first xmas with the “company version” of my store. we got 2 videos, the woolworths xmas, and the company xmas, so the woolworths xmas showed a family getting up on xmas day to a parcel in woolworth paper, look its a wii. the dad sets it up, and the son starts playing. hes having so much fun. his sister says i want to play. son asks did we get an extra controller (i think you all know where this is going) mam says, oh, they didnt offer me an extra controller. son keeps playing away sisters board (obviosuly this family is mega hard up not getting the daughter any gifts of her own) sons getting board now, asks mam, did i get any other games… mum says oh, they didnt tell me i might need other games (clearly mum is a doofus) its getting late and sons batterys have just died, says did we get rechargable batterys (this kid should work in GAME) dad says, oh didnt think we would need more batters (NOT A REAL DAD, DAD ALWAYS HAS MORE BATTERYS EVEN DEAD ONES!) kids argue and storm off to bed,

        so then they move onto the company xmas and as you can imagine, theres so many gifts under the tree and its the opposite scenario, they have all the games, the extra controllers the batterys everything and everyones happy joy oh joy.

        some people who have wrked there may remeber that vid.

        point is GAME are not happy ever, if i did a sale for a xbox 360 with kinnect deal tommorrow with adding 2 extra games, xbox live, charge kits and another controller. i would still get some flak for not getting the extended warrenty! see what im saying lol

  3. Good review echoing my sentiment. I am just about to start the tank level so I look forward to that. I also mentioned in the forums that the whole scenario is played out very similar to Black ops and with a hint of MW2’s headline raising chapter. What do others think?

    • Tank levels excellent, as are the jet levels. Good mix I think!

  4. I was excited about this for a while but I think my enthusiasm’s run off somewhere – may pick it up in a few months…

    • That’s where I’m at. Originally this looked like it was going to be something special but I’m disappointed that it has turned out to be a generic, albeit entertaining, shooter. Definitely one I’ll get later on, but nothing I’m desperate to buy now.

  5. Bored shitless of military based FPS’s now, gonna give this and COD a miss this time around.

    Plus the review sounds distinctly average for a AAA title…

    Drake to the rescue :)

    • Distinctly average is 5, not 7.

      • Was refering to the text, not the number at the end. :)

        Doesn’t sound as though it brings enough new to the table for me to throw 40 notes at….

      • I’m sorry but sadly a 7 has become the new 5. I imagine this will be a fun singleplayer, but nothing that will make me replay it again once I’ve finished it. To me, that is average.

      • @MrSpeedyGonzales – 7 is the new 5 to only those who can’t count.

      • @Speedy: Agreed. Most review sites that work on a 1-10 score system very rarely score anything lower than a 5 unless it is really terrible.
        5 = crap
        7 = average
        9 = awesome but with a few faults
        10 = awesome but with a few faults but its got GTA or Call of Duty in the title so we will let it slide

      • TSA uses 1-10. 5 Is average, not 7.

      • Sorry, wasn’t grouping you guys in that statment, I could just understand where Speedy was coming from :)

      • TSA’s average is 73 according to Metacritic
        So of the games TSA has reviewed this is average. (fractionally below)

        A score of 5 would be 33% lower than TSA’s average.

        Of course TSA hasn’t reviewed every game, but of the ones it has – this is below average.

        So there is some merit in saying 5 is poor & 7 is average.

        Mind, at least TSA has scored it in line with the feeling of the review, most Battlefied reviews out there read similar this & are full of criticisms but have been awarded a 9 or 10 at the end. Odd.

      • @unclebob

        im pretty sure that no matter what previous scores have been dealt out, on a scale of 1-10, 5 is average

      • unclebob (ace user name, btw). 7 is the average of scores we’ve awarded. Not the average on the scale we use. So of all the games we’ve reviewed, this is roughly in the middle but it’s above average on our scale.
        This is an essential differentiation because the scale stops at 10 but can go all the way down to 1. We’ve given games scores of 2 and 3 in the past. Using a /scale/ where 7 is average would mean we’d have to stop at 5 on the lower end. Obviously, that’s madness.
        BF3’s single player campaign got a 7 from us, which means it’s pretty good but won’t set the world alight.

      • 5 is the mean average of the scoring system.

      • Once read a review in some shonky old PSone magazine of some god awful Samurai game that concluded with, something along the lines of “A terrible game and one for true die hards only” before issuing a score of 84% – awesome.

        Always liked that TSA used the 5 as average same as Edge, seems the most logical system to me – though the words are often far more important.

      • @Tuffcub and all other TSA people. I was not judging TSA on there score of 7. I was just saying that overall, out of all the sites and mags that review games, a 7 has become the new 5. In reality it should be that a game rated 7-10 should be worth my £40, i.e. good game with a few kinks to iron out. I 4-6 game should be worth a bargain bin or onsale etc, i.e. an average game, few glitches and the story etc could do with some work. 3 and below is a poor game. It shouldn’t be that a game that gets a 6 is a pile of crap that no-one should buy. I know TSA scores still work on the principle above but no-one else does.

      • A game that is slightly below the average of TSA’s average score is still an above average game. :) Compareing the score of a game to anything else than the full scale of points is well… pointless if you ask me.

      • Blimey. Just smile and wave boys!


      • Sorry speedy, didn’t mean it to read like I was setting up against you on that mate, I really wasn’t. the whole topic just made me remember that old review really :D love and peace fella

      • @colossalblue

        If 7 is the ‘average’ score you guys give out then (and correct me if i’m wrong here but I did study economics for three years) the statistical average is 7….thus making this game…an average game?

        Basically, if 7 is the most common score you’ve given out, then that is the ‘average benchmark’

      • Was it only me that read that? This game get s 7 – Quite good, not average. just in case you can’t be bothered with the link
        1/10 = Abysmal.
        2/10 = Extremely poor.
        3/10 = Poor.
        4/10 = Below average.
        5/10 = Average.
        6/10 = Above average.
        7/10 = Quite good.
        8/10 = Very good.
        9/10 = Excellent.
        10/10 = Unmissable.

      • I’m fairly sure the guys buy a lot of the games they review, so they’re not going to go out of their way to buy the crap ones to review, are they?
        That should explain the discrepancy between the average score they give and the stated score for an average game.

      • Quinkill you’re absolutely correct. Glad at least one person who understands what an average is saw fit to post here.

        I understand that TSA might mean to make 5 their ‘average’ score, but it only takes a quick glance at your stats page on metacritic to see that this hasn’t happened. You can say this is good but statistically it’s only as good as the average game you play, or close to it.

      • People quoting our Metacritic average forget that Metacritic;

        1. Only pick up our PS3 reviews.
        2. Don’t have them all.

        I’ve said this before but people seem to forget and love bringing it up.

        TSA’s score for an average game is 5. End of.


      • In regards to the “average of all review scores, thus an average game” argument:

        It’s fundamentally flawed on two levels:

        1) A review score, in this case for a product, is based on a predetermined rating system, defined by the laws of maths. Thus on a scale of 1-10, 5 is the average.

        2) If you apply the “average of all scores thus an average” argument to the scores applied then eventually we would hit a ceiling where all games were review 10 as the rules would dictate that 10 is an average as it is the average of all scores.

        This is obviously on a more general system, disregarding of course that TSA’s 5 = average as well.

    • To avoid the rating argument, it does sound pretty average for a ‘BLOCKBUSTER AAA / GOTY IM SO AWESOME BUY ME’ game.

      I’d buy Uncharted 3 if it wasn’t for the PSN Pass, no matter how good it is. I need to to put my money where my mouth is :3

      • @ jikomanzoku…you better not be chatting about Bushido Blade sonny Jim *unsheathes his Katana*

  6. Yeah so far im not wowed at all

  7. Review confirms this is basically an A to B shooter with plenty of COD references. I’ll be picking it up today for 2.99 from HMV but it will be gone again come Wednesday when I get Uncharted3 :)

  8. “You can’t blame DICE and EA for the direction Battlefield 3 has taken”

    Really? :-) Someone needs a slap, that’s for sure.

  9. I just don’t understand why EA/DICE felt they had to try and outdo COD in the single player game, COD & BF are two very different games and I think it would have been far better if they had used the single player campaign to introduce players to the multiplayer game, after all the BF games are predominately MP games, the SP games is just an extra.

    Also to judge the game based purely on the single player aspect (as some commenters seem to be doing) is a mistake, imo.. I assume a MP review will follow after this, and that’s what judgements should be based on.

    • Not played the SP but have done about 5 hrs on MP so far. Fair to say that it is everything the average sounding SP isn’t.

      If you have enjoyed any of the previous BF/BC games just buy it…

    • for me SP is the main reason I buy BF3 MW3 if they came with just MP I would not bother buying them.

  10. Will there be a mp review?

    • yes, we’re trying to make that happen with our hectic schedules.
      For what it’s worth, I hear it’s amazing (when it works).

      • Servers went down for an hour at about midnight last night… The ‘Quick Play’ option isn’t good – too many peeps connecting to the same games! Best to browse servers and join a game a couple of pages down – no problems there :-)

      • Just type UK into the server filter and you’re good to go :-) the TFU and Ocuk servers are very good.

    • Brackets aren’t just for Christmas YD!

      ‘given the impression that Battlefield 3′s single player campaign (we’ll address multiplayer at a later date) is the stuff of kings’

      hopefully we can get a few meets up and running, unfortunately, I am away from my PS3 all of this weekend!

    • its really good. but not awsomely good.

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