Review: Battlefield 3 multiplayer impressions - rant included

by Steven Williamson on 9 November 2011, 16:38 4.5

Tags: Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), PC

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Why isn't anybody talking to me?

Halcyon days

Call me old-fashioned if you will, but multiplayer gaming on Xbox never used to be like this back in the day. As an early adopter of Xbox Live, I used to get my multiplayer kicks from long late-night sessions on Ghost Recon, where team communication and planning were paramount to success.

Those initial months on Microsoft's online service were followed by intense sessions on Rainbow Six, where the majority of people would be up for a chat and a bit of banter with the opposition in the "lobby" prior to the match, before we knuckled down to business, combining tactics, skill and firepower to work together to "own" the enemy.

Apart from the odd, loud-mouthed teen - usually an American cursing an English player for drinking too much tea or having bad teeth - players communicated during matches, talked tactics and flagged-up enemy positions to help each other out. Even when playing with people you didn't know, you'd soon make friends and invite people into a private "lobby" so you could join up and take on other groups of like-minded gamers.

In a short period of time, usually less than an hour or two, I'd be hosting a team deathmatch game with a full complement of England-based players, all wearing head-sets and all wanting to communicate and win. Nowadays, and now here's a sweeping generalisation, gamers - well, those who play shooters - are selfish, unwilling to communicate and totally out for themselves, putting leaderboard bragging rights before team wins.

Robot army

Battlefield 3 certainly isn't the only game to feature masses of voiceless, selfish soldiers, but it does represent how drastically things have changed in the multiplayer arena on Xbox Live over the years. Without a lobby system to build up a rapport with team-mates - or to take a dig at the opposition - prior to battle, I can't help but feel a little disconnected from my fellow gamers in BF3.

I jump into random servers, usually with people I don't know, due to the unusual times in the day when I can play, and as soon as I spawn my 11 team-mates go dashing off in different directions, some of them even trying to out-run each other to be the first to jump in a jet or a tank.

Maybe I'm looking back at my gaming past through rose-tinted spectacles, but seriously…whatever happened to communication in multiplayer shooters? I've yet to play a match in a random Battlefield 3 server where someone, anyone at all, has had a head-set plugged in. That's 24 players and not one of them wants to communicate.

And, game after game I'm greeted with the same stony silence - I might as well be playing Call Of Duty, which hosts some of the most selfish multiplayer gamers you're ever likely to encounter, who run around like headless chickens and are in it for the perks and the kudos of being the person in the team with the most kills. Some of those COD gamers have certainly filtered over to the Battlefield arena. More's the pity, I say.

On your own, buddy

As a result of this silence, and general lack of team spirit, you can feel quite alone and isolated from your team-mates in Battlefield 3 as most people go about their own business without a care for tactics. Indeed, the only noises I usually hear are the sounds of war reverberating through my headset.

I lie on the floor helplessly suffering in the hope that someone will revive me with a defibrillator, but team-mates just rush past engrossed in their own game and their own greedy goals. Based on many years of team-based multiplayer gaming, Battlefield 3 can feel so far removed from those games I used to play, where team-work and communication was everything. Yet, and this is no cop-out, it's still bloody brilliant.