I still remember some of my first times playing the original Battlefield 1942. After endless hours of Counter Strike and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, along came Battlefield offering a completely new experience. One moment you could be swooping around dogfighting with enemy Zero fighters then be storming the beaches of the South Pacific in a tank, and this all happens on the same map. You had the freedom to engage and play on so many more levels than simply shooting someone with your rifle. Just play that memorable theme music and you'll have any Battlefield player reminiscing about some one-in-a-million sniper shot to take out a helicopter pilot in flight or some other equally ridiculous stunt. If you enjoyed the multiplayer experience of the Battlefield series before, chances are you'll really enjoy Battlefield 3. However, if you're mainly looking for a single-player game, I'd recommend checking elsewhere.
Battlefield 3's multiplayer continues to excel at unstructured play, giving you large maps, a wide variety of weapons and vehicles, and the freedom to use them however you want. For instance, I snuck close to the enemy lines and see an enemy tank leaving the base. Lacking any effective anti-tank weapons I simply marked it for my allies and hide. Sure enough, one of our helicopter pilots takes interest. A few rocket hits to the tank and the driver has to get out to try to repair it before the helicopter comes back. I get up from my hiding place, knife the tanker and proceed to capture 2 control points with my stolen tank. It's a moment that doesn't exist in many other titles and isn't forced with some quick-time-event cutscene. Nearly all your actions from killing someone to repairing vehicles will award you points and experience, and it helps to promotes play beyond simply kill death ratios. Fortifying a good position, allowing squad members to spawn on you and reviving those that go down can sometimes be more valuable to your team and your own personal score than just shooting the enemy.
In many ways Battlefield 3 plays like the love child of Battlefield 2 and the Bad Company spin offs, for the most part combining the best of both worlds. Both Conquest and Rush modes make an appearance and are especially suited for the slightly lower player counts on the console version, 24 max vs 64 on the PC. Conquest requires players to capture and hold various set points, whereas Rush offers a changing map as the defenders try to keep attackers from destroying key locations and pushing their lines back . These modes each do a great job of funneling players towards points on interest. This along with multiple spawn points and squad spawning keeps the action up despite the overall large surface area of the maps and low number of players on the console.
From the Bad Company side, Battlefield 3 has adopted destructible environments. Firing a grenade launcher, exploding a section of wall and killing the guy on the other side never stops losing its appeal. Sadly, the destruction appears to be slightly more limited and constrained than the other titles. You won't, for instance, make every flat road surface into a charred and cratered badlands as you have previously, and I didn't witness any structures totally collapsing to the all too familiar sound of groaning metal. There are still plenty of walls and light cover to blast and shoot through, however.
Battlefield 2 brings its prone position and fighter jets back to the series, allowing you to freely crawl around on your belly for that perfect sniper position or drop some bombs on said sniper from the air. There's also been some clever restructuring of the classes and their supplemental roles. The Engineer and Recon classes roughly fill the same roles as they have before, but the Assault and Support classes have traded some of their kits. It's the Assault who can now throw down health packs and use the reviving Defibrillator, and the Support carries the ammo packs. I noticed a marked increase in the number of times I could find a health pack or got a revive than I had in previous games. This is a welcome change in a series that is often plagued with uncooperative team mates favoring a single class.