Here you're shown the toys, but told to keep your hands off. DICE are driving. This is summed up perfectly by the jet level early on in the game. It's a masterclass in atmosphere and scripted action: it walks you to your plane sitting on the runway of an aircraft carrier, takes you through pre-flight checks, flies you to the action and walks you through some thrilling dogfights, before allowing you to bomb a handful of targets on the ground below (in a homage to Modern Warfare's AC-130 mission). You're there for the ride - to line up boxes and fire off missiles. Not to fly.
That's how the majority of the campaign feels. You're kept on a tight leash, asked to follow your team mates and shoot the bad guys while they get on with the multi-disciplined, tactical fighting you'd expect to be doing yourself online. It's a perfectly enjoyable six or so hours of combat - one that's far superior to the campaign in the Bad Company games - made deliberately easy and fun for more casual players who can't commit to multiplayer. The plot is complex enough to justify the action's more realistic focus, and although emotionally affecting in places, it shies away from controversy. We're not asking to see all the gory details, but one particularly devastating scene - something that would change the world forever - is written off with no more than a suggestive fade-away and a few lines of dialogue in the following scene.
The campaign impresses in all, matching - and occasionally surpassing - Call of Duty in all bar originality. Is it worth picking up Battlefield 3 for the campaign alone? Depends how comfortable you feel for handing over £50 for six hours of action. Right now, with all the other big games out there vying for your attention, the answer is probably a no. However, if you've any interest in multiplayer that 'no' can be converted instantly to an overwhelming 'yes'.
You can even feel good about shelling out for BF3 if you plan on sticking to solo and coop. The two-player collaborative mode is - yet again - something of an aside, but it's another series of missions you'll enjoy playing through. Essentially a story-driven horde mode, you play as characters loosely connected to the campaign's over-arching plot, and compete for points over 20 minutes or so of carnage. Each stage is challenging, even in regular, so completists will relish the challenge of smashing them on hard.
Taken as individual pieces, only Battlefield 3's regular multiplayer is really strong. The co-op and story are both perfectly well executed, but lack true greatness. So, that third elephant: is Battlefield 3 really better than Modern Warfare 3? It's a matter of personal taste, but for us the campaigns are on a par, while Battlefield 3's incredible multiplayer edges this ahead of it's accomplished rival. Still, that's our impressions based on extensive beta-trial comparisons of both games, plus subsequent exposure at controlled environment review events - which proved how far BF3 had improved since its controversial open beta trial. Quite how the two will compare on 'live' servers is yet to be determined - but with Modern Warfare 3 still weeks away, the first salvo in the grittiest war yet for online gamers' attention is being fired today, with the launch of Battlefield 3. We'll be sure to update you as both communities develop...
The best multiplayer on console... with decent campaign and co-op in the same box
- Looks incredible, even on console
- Unrivalled sound design
- Same great Battlefield multiplayer
- Great value for £50
- Solo players will feel short-changed
- Plot meanders and stumbles