Before you go storming down to the base of this review and reading the score, recognize that this is the second arm of our Battlefield 3 coverage. I received the game the night before its retail release, and I really wanted to put the multiplayer component of the title through a lot of play testing before I slapped a score on this puppy.
So, with that, read the single player review, then come back and read this review. Only after that can you yell at me about the score.
The multiplayer side of Battlefield 3 is, as the sub-headline above suggests, truly the best in its class. Whether you're playing on a PC or console, know that buying this game will give you access to a robust and thoroughly enjoyable multiplayer experience.
The best part about Battlefield 3 (and, in a general sense, the entire franchise) is that players are rewarded more for playing the objective and task at hand rather than treating every round like team deathmatch. You'll earn so much more experience from planting bombs and taking flags than you ever would by standing back and killing enemies that you actually gravitate towards playing the game the right way almost immediately.
Even better, DICE managed to take that logic and apply it to the class system in this title. You're rewarded with healthy experience for knowing and playing your roles, so there's always this drive to be a great Assault medic or repairing Engineer. If you play your class properly, you can have a terrible kill:death ratio and have the highest score for the game. I went 5 and 10 once as a support class player and wound up in the top three for the round. How did I do it? I held points, stuck with the front line, dished out ammo and put down constant suppressive fire.
The vehicles are also great this time around. It takes a truly talented player to board a helicopter or plane and be, frankly, worth a damn. They are tough to control for a reason: not everyone should be able to hop into a chopper and score something on the order of 30 kills in a row. Vehicles are balanced against ground troops and drivers/pilots have to be constantly aware of their opponents.
There are a ton of maps and a ton of scenarios on each. If you've ever played a Battlefield title before, you know that they use the same large maps in different ways. Rush and Conquest can happen on the same map, but DICE arranges the play boundaries and objective so well that each game flows differently.
After 10 days, I haven't even scratched the surface in the realm of unlocks. If you're a completionist, rejoice in knowing that you have months of legitimate play ahead of you should you buy into this multiplayer. That doesn't even account for the fact that DICE will almost certainly be adding weapon DLC down the line.
I guess one could complain that leveling happens slowly here, but we actually like that fact. You're constantly rewarded with visual perks, so I didn't mind it taking so long to get to the next level or gun. In fact, for a shooter looking to dominate platforms for months to come, it's good that DICE elected to make earning guns and equipment more difficult.
The cooperative missions here are good fun, but they pale in comparison to the competitive efforts. You'll be able to unlock additional weaponry if you play through each bit and perform well, but you'll need a partner with some patience to do so.
The two largest gripes I have with this side of DICE's shooter stem from the lobbies between game rounds. While waiting for a new game to start, you can't customize your soldier in any way. All those things you just unlocked? They'll have to wait until the next time your at the main menu or before you spawn in the next round.
Moreover, it's impossible to quit out of the game lobby and to the main menu. You have to wait until the new game starts and then quit from that menu. Or, more obnoxiously, you have to either turn of your console or quit to the dashboard. Both this, and the lack of customization options above, feel like stupid mistakes to us. Perhaps DICE wanted folks to focus on sitting and waiting in the game lobbies, or, maybe, going over their previous round's stats. I don't know, I just don't get it.
If this were a multiplayer product alone, I'd be willing to toss a perfect score its way. Understand that if you only play the multiplayer portions of games, Battlefield 3, so far, is the best title I've seen this year in that regard. However, I'm rating a full package here. And, as a full package, Battlefield 3 just isn't that great. It's strong, yes, but it's not perfect.
There are gamers out there that play titles for their campaign arm alone. If you are one of these people, think twice about buying this game at full price.
That's why I'm presenting Battlefield 3 with an 8 out of 10.
Full Disclosure: CraveOnline was sent a review copy of Battlefield 3 for the Xbox 360 the night before the game released. We finished the single player campaign the next morning, spent some time with cooperative play and spent more than 10 days with multiplayer.