Battlefield 3 – Pads are Crap
November 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
I know. I am a PC gamer, and as such, should look on at consoles with derision and pity. Poor little boxes trying to cope in a world of hex-core processors and graphics cards the size of a small hatchback… but sometimes, things do look better from behind those two little grey sticks. Racing games are immensely more enjoyable on a 50 inch plasma TV, third-person shooters don’t make me want to vomit, and occasionally (rarely, in all honesty), the casual nature of console-multiplayer makes some FPS games easier to enjoy… Black Ops, I’m looking at you.
Sometimes, it’s for slightly less comfort-related reasons. Battlefield 3 is something of a monster to run, and I was more than a little doubtful my ageing HD4850 would cope with the strain of all that lens-flare… so, I did something naughty.
I bought it for the Xbox 360.
Don’t take this post as console abuse; I am very much a fan of the 360 and what it does, it does well. I’ve enjoyed a number of multi-format games on it too, mostly for comfort, sometimes because a friend of mine has it for their 360, and multiplayer is always better with people you know. I have refused to buy a Call of Duty game on the PC since the first Modern Warfare, simply because the drop-in nature of the MP feels better on the consoles, and the PC versions always feel like ports. But sadly, after a few hours playing Battlefield 3, it becomes more than a little apparent that this is less a port, and more a lite-version compared to the PC.
Seriously, the single-player campaign was fun(ish), but the second you delve into the open, bullet-filled-and-on-fire arms of online play, the differences between the 360 and the PC become painfully clear. Maps feel tighter, smaller and oddly denser. Spawn-camping, while difficult, is a practiced norm and people are simply unwilling to work as part of a team. The number of times a defib-carrying team-mate simply steps over my still-warm body and sprints away… or the support guy decides to go Rambo and leaves us all with no ammo, and no chance… PC-Battlefield was never like this.
Stop shouting at me, and allow me to elaborate.
When I played Battlefield 2 way back in the day, the one thing that always stuck with me was just how organised it felt, even when playing on a public server; squads had leadership, spotting was more important than shooting in most cases, and squads almost always moved together. Attacks were concerted thanks to the excellent radial menu everyone had access to, and with a decent sniper in the squad, you would know where and when to attack a given capture point. It was amazing how everyone slotted into their roles almost automatically- medics hung back, spraying first-aid kits at assault troops who had fallen back with injuries; engineers would hit the flanks, keeping an eye out for armour; spec-ops chaps would be behind the enemy, spotting and knifing with wild abandon… all this organization, with several complete strangers? This is why Battlefield 2 was great.
I tended towards the spec-ops “ninja” role – sneaking behind enemy lines and C4-ing artillery guns and radio dishes, to de-fang and de-eyeball the enemy commander respectively. It was so much fun that I actually got good at it. So good, there were some games where our squad leader would drop me in behind enemy positions from a transport chopper before carrying on the assault on a capture point, knowing I’d get the job done. On a public server, when was the last time you trusted anyone to do the job right? I certainly never have outside BF2… maybe BF2142, but that’s a different blog post.
Where was I going with that again? Oh yeah, Battlefield 3 was touted as a return to these heady days of comradeship and vast, 64-player scrums. The com-flower was coming back, and so were the jets (yay!). But, and I must have missed this memo, only on the PC version.
The 360 version is capped at 24 players, the maps are clearly much smaller, and we are back to the Bad Compay 2 “hit the ‘back’ button to spot enemy units”… which loosely translates as “there is no spot function, just shoot everything”. Roles are ignored, even squads seem to need a dictionary to grasp the meaning of the term “team-work”, preferring instead to spread out and attempt to get shot repeatedly as far away from each other as possible. If this is a tactical decision, someone has to clue me in because to me it just looks fucking stupid. Nobody bothers reviving fallen squad-mates, support-players tend to hole up in a corner with their bi-pods and simply pitch a tent instead of rearming his team, and snipers… don’t get me started on snipers. Engineers seem to be better at sticking together, if only because most vehicles require more than a few rockets to take them out. But even engineers are guilty of buggering off solo, or worse – ignoring your on-fire-and-clearly-in-need-of-repair tank.
Aiming with a control pad in Black Ops is twitchy, but doable thanks to some comfortable aim-assist. In Battlefield 3, if you aren’t looking at the guy before he shoots you, you’re dead. There is a tiny bit of assist on moving targets, but damn, it’s hard work to draw a bead on a guy at a distance. The recoil for the guns isn’t bad, but it does feel a bit excessive at times, doubly so when you fit the “heavy barrel” attachment – something for which I simply can’t fathom a use for. There are a few things like this I don’t get – laser-sights you can barely see, torches that make you look like a newly-risen sun, and about as easy to shoot… and ACOG scopes for assault rifles that seem to be designed exclusively to piss me off… tunnel vision during a fire-fight? Yeah, that makes sense. These issues wouldn’t be as big if I had the mobility of a mouse, but with stumpy thumb-sticks? Frustration.
Okay, I’m whinging now. But this is clearly a game designed specifically for the PC, and as such, a weaker and unresponsive thing when played with the limited hardware of a console. Of course, on the flip side, I have seen some truly impressive stuff – the lighting effects in this game are unreal, the combat looks lovely and fluid, even with the dodgy aiming, and the maps seem quite well designed. Also, the vehicles feel a bit better with the 360 pad, more responsive and less… clunky. The jet-fighters are a joy with twin sticks and I got my first jet-kill earlier, the first in almost a decade of playing Battlefield. Hey, I fight like a man, not a goddamn sparrow…
Oddly, this wasn’t intended to be a review, but it’s starting to sound like one. Allow me to reiterate – I am loving BF3, and will be playing it for some time to come. I simply feel a bit disappointed in the way it feels on the 360; I know they have pushed the console as far as it will go (which is another sad point), but I honestly feel I need to get this game on the PC to get the full experience.
And that can’t be right, can it?