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Review: Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is a worthy successor to the critically acclaimed franchise. Electronic Arts

As one Tripe-A hit after another litters the video game landscape this fall, EA unleashes its haymaker with Battlefield 3. But does this explosive, multiplatform first-person military shooter have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights?

As with other titles in the genre, the bread and butter of the Battlefield franchise has been multiplayer -- and Battlefield 3 is no exception. Developer DICE has implemented the Frostbite 2 game engine, an updated iteration that powered DICE's previous release -- Battlefield Bad Company 2. The revamped engine has pushed this strikingly realistic shooter to the next level thanks to improved lighting and textures.

But this tactical shooter's real strength is its sound. Each firearm packs a unique auditory punch that has not been duplicated in gaming. The screeching sound of firing a rocket and the powerful blast it creates makes the player feel the intensity of these large-scale battles.

The size of these skirmishes is another staple of the Battlefield series, and Battlefield 3 exceptionally pulls off this aspect. The sprawling maps feature a wide range of environments, from open vistas that can contain sections of dark, tight corridors to gritty urban areas. These open maps provide countless ways to take down objectives and rack up kills.

But Battlefield has never been solely about kill-death ratio like other shooters. It's more team-based, helping your side complete an objective by wisely using the class you choose. There are four classes in Battlefield 3, each providing lethal firepower while also allowing player-specific tools to aid their comrades. A major change from Bad Company 2 is the tweak to the assault class, which now has the ability to hand out health packs to injured teammates and revive fallen soldiers. The engineer class can repair damaged vehicles like tanks and helicopters while also having rocket launchers and land mines to destroy enemy vehicles. The support class hands out ammunition and has access to heavy machine guns. The recon class, or snipers, have long-range weapons for picking off enemies at a distance and can call in precision strikes to take down vehicles.

Another calling card of the Battlefield series is destructible environments and Battlefield 3 is no different. If a sniper is perched in a building picking off player after player, fire a rocket at that building to take him out. Looking for a backdoor to a specific objective, create your own by blasting a hole into a building. This level of destruction changes the landscape of the battles because you never truly feel safe. Couple this with the outstanding sound, and you have a recipe for tension and immersion that few games can replicate.

Like other online shooters, Battlefield 3 has a deep progression and ranking system, allowing players to unlock a multitude of weapons, attachments and gadgets. But unlike other shooters, you earn experience points in a number of ways, like healing teammates, handing out ammo and repairing vehicles. You can even gain experience points for spotting enemies, laying down suppressive fire and even having teammates spawn on you to lessen the distance to the next objective. This dangle-the-carrot method is very addictive, giving you more incentive to continue playing for months.

The multiplayer comes with three modes -- conquest, rush and team deathmatch. Conquest pits two teams trying to capture and hold strategically placed points on the map longer than the opposition. The objective in rush is for the attackers to place bombs at certain points on the map before their allotted number of lives runs out. If the attacking team can take out these two objectives, two more become available and their original amount of lives is replenished. The goal in team deathmatch is to reach a specific number of kills before the other team does.

DICE has added a cooperative mode that drops two players into a combat scenario with only one life each to complete the objective. If one player dies the other player can revive him but if both players die, you have to start from the beginning. It's a shallow experience compared to the outstanding multiplayer.

The single-player campaign is also mostly an afterthought. The four-to-five hour story doesn't have enough meat to really leave a lasting impression. Though it has some solid moments and the cutscenes look great, it's more of a diversion to the true star of this package.

Battlefield 3 has made an indelible mark during a very crowded fall. Though some might classify this as a one-trick pony, DICE has put all of its efforts in providing an addictive multiplayer experience that carves its own niche in the crowded military shooter space. This game's emphasis on team-based tactics coupled with unparalleled sound and striking graphics separates it from the pack.

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