We weren't going to do a review, honestly. We played the "true beta" game and figured it just wasn't our cup of tea. No reason to lambast something we weren't going to endorse at launch. But news is surfacing that EA is censoring reviews, so we'll add our two cents now.
Let us first remind our audience that the only reason this website exists was due to the fact that we all play video games together. Sure, looking over our front page doesn't really speak volumes of that coexistence, but that is the truth. (Honestly, we are busy folks as well.) Many of us have now sold Blops in anticipation of pre-ordered MW3, so please note the bias we have, too. Okay, having crossed those hurdles, let us get into our review.
We exchanged quite a few emails about BF3 in the past 3 weeks. Every year I personally get excited over the next iteration of the BF series. The trailers look amazing and I really like the concept of all-inclusive battle scenarios; helicopters, jets, tanks, etc. It heralds back to our Halo days of running folks over in a Ghost or manning the machine gun in the Warthog. It is something that the CoD series lacks (CoD5 did have tanks until the fateful update). Also, we all did buy BF1943 and had a lot of fun with that small game over the summer of 2009. So we were looking for BF3 to be the answer to CoD's short-comings.
We all downloaded the "true beta" the first day it was available and then attempted to play. Servers were full. Okay, so that is somewhat expected. It is a popular franchise and this was the first day. Eventually two of us got to play that day, and I was mostly impressed. I like the concept of perpetual maps and falling back to safer areas to set up a defense (obviously, I lost the first game I played). But the more I played, the less I began to like...
For whatever reason, DICE limits a squad to 4 members. Our clan can be up to 9 players or more, and for a game that does 12 v. 12, frankly, if you have 12 friends online willing to play, then the lobby should hold that many before entering a game. This is something DICE should be good at considering the magnitude of their maps and player-count. Instead, we couldn't even get four squad members onto the same team, let alone the same game! We would populate a pre-game lobby with 4 players, and most often this would occur; 2 on the same team, one on the opposing team, and one member put into a separate game altogether! This happened over the course of 3 nights. Never once did we all four get onto the same team. DICE, just copy the lobby systems of other, I dare say, 'more successful' games. You already offer a larger sandbox with more toys, now copy and paste over what you currently suck at. Your lobby system alone is enough to keep team players from buying your product.
Loadouts are old. Character personalization is, and has been, the industry norm for some time. As I leveled up weapons in BF3, all these attachments were being added onto my weapons without my consent. No way would I put a laser beam on my AK-74, nor an ACOG on my RPK. Yet, these are added after weapon leveling up occurs. The beta was limited, so perhaps these can removed, but during the beta, they were added mid-game, forcing me to switch to another loadout without unwanted attachments.
Since this review is on a whim, we'll keep it short. The last gaming detail is the graphics/texturing. Sure, we're comparing Xbox 360 versions here, but your graphics are about 2 years behind the current status quo. In fact, one member said it reminded them of Ghost Recon from 2006 - not the type of marketing one should hope for. Most glaringly for us was the "fall through the map" glitch. For some reason, the water in the park wasn't built too well, and many players fall under the map while wading through it. We would get frustrated and then suicide, but other nefarious players were able to kill unsuspecting individuals. Well, that's online play for you. And, perhaps a "true beta" as well, which leads us into our closing remarks.
Why release a "true beta" (this is in reference to the email we got for playing the beta from EA) a few weeks prior to launch? Wouldn't a fully functional demo be more par for the course? Instead of a glitchy, unglamorous, stilted experience, DICE/EA could have offered the exact same map scenario with a perfected "true demo." Now the internet is a buzz with negative reactions to this beta because it was not that fun with all the short-comings. Sure, maybe the final game does offer more, but who wants to touch it after this beta? It left a poor taste in our mouths, and that means 9 less sales from us, but more importantly, this negative review for anyone to Google and read (all three of you). DICE, you really could have blown us away here, but instead, we're looking forward to MW3 now. Good luck next time, seriously.
Note: Kotaku has noted some changes. Good for DICE, even if it is a bit late.