"Battlefield 3" is a war game that feels realistic to the experience of combat, but it becomes quite stupid near the end. Don't worry, I won't spoil the finale to make my case.
Yet, I forgive this slip-up, because until that point, "Battlefield 3" is a gritty, very challenging war game that is intense, impressive, only slightly flawed and short.
Plot: Terrorists plan to blow up international cities with suitcase nukes. You portray soldiers and spies hunting them down across Paris, the Middle East and elsewhere.
It's tough. You can't just run into open fields, or sprint across bazaars and office buildings, pretending to be un-killable Arnold Schwarzenegger, or else rival soldiers will kill you.
So you must carefully and methodically work your way across a battlefield, frequently not even seeing where bad guys are located, as they sneak up on you.
Staying alive is often like threading a needle. In one level, I had to barely peek my gun over cars in a parking lot, then quickly shoot a soldier before he rocket-launched me to death.
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games at full retail price, according to GameStop.com. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Battlefield 3" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, PC; rated "M" (blood, intense violence, strong language)
2. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" (Activision) pre-order for Nov. 8 release for Xbox 360; will also be available for PS 3 and PC; rated "M" (blood, gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language)
3. "Battlefield 3" for PS 3
4. "Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3" pre-order for Nov. 8 release for PS 3
5. "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Bundle" (Nintendo) pre-order for Nov. 20 release for Wii; rated "E 10+" (fantasy violence)
6. "Diablo III Collector's Edition" pre-order for March 1 release for PC; rating pending
7. "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" (Bethesda Softworks) pre-order for Nov. 11 release for Xbox 360; will be also available for PS 3, PC; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes, use of alcohol)
8. "Battlefield 3" for PC
9. "Assassin's Creed Revelations: Signature Edition" (Ubisoft) pre-order for Nov. 15 release for Xbox 360; will also be available for PS 3, PC; rated "M" (blood, language, mild sexual themes, violence)
10. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Hardened Edition" pre-release for Xbox 360
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
I died about 10 times in that parking-lot level. I was aggravated, but at myself, not at the game. The game is what it is - a very hard, beautifully drawn war outing that does feel and look real-ish. Plus, the sound effects are excellently rattling.
This is a war of land and air. In most levels, you portray a ground troop or spy, armed with machine guns and rocket launchers.
In other levels, you ride backseat in a jet fighter (super cool, though plodding) and drive tanks across the desert. I finished all these missions in about six hours.
There is a flaw but it's not fatal. The "Kaffarov" level: For me, it was full of magically appearing henchmen behind my back, a quirk that made me reboot. There were not enough save points; and a hallway fire burned me to death six times since there was no smart way to walk through it.
But let's be honest. Many (if not most) gamers just want to play the online multiplayer. That's what "Battlefield" games are known for.
The online battles are much realer-feeling than, say, those in the "Call of Duty" franchise. That's not a put-down, just an observation. "Call of Duty" games are more run-and-gun and less sniper-crazy.
Plus, "Battlefield 3's" maps seem more vertical than "Call of Duty" (bigger hills and mountains to negotiate).
So right, "Battlefield 3" is a sniper's paradise. Many gamers find nooks and crannies to hide in, then just camp out and snipe.
However, you too can find your own favorite niches - soldiering, driving tanks, or flying planes and helicopters.
Awesome: You have access to every vehicle the minute you begin playing, instead of the war-game custom of having to earn upgrades to unlock sorties over many hours.
My niche is to use portable Stingers (infrared homing missiles) to blow rival planes and helicopters out of the sky. This is ridiculously satisfying. I don't know why. It's something about enemy helicopters going boom-smoke-argh, that's all I know.
("Battlefield 3" by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360, PS 3 and PC - Plays fun. Looks fantastic. Very challenging. Rated "M" for blood, intense violence, strong language. Four out of four stars.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html. Twitter at VegasAnonymous.