Battlefield 3 Multiplayer Performance and IQ Review

Battlefield 3's Multiplayer has far surpassed what many gamers had been expecting. The graphics do a great job of tying the excellent gameplay together and creating a lifelike experience. In this article we'll be breaking down multiplayer gameplay performance and image quality and finding what settings are needed to give you the competitive edge.


On October 25th, Battlefield was released for the PC with a Singleplayer campaign and Multiplayer gameplay. Developed by Electronic Arts. BF3 Multiplayer's large scale combat, featuring servers of 32 vs. 32 players has not been a letdown yet. With large diverse maps that have limitless amounts of detail pouring out, you can't help but think how big these maps really are. So far, Battlefield 3 has earned a 89/100 rating on Metacritic with a user score of 7.5. For what was being disputed as the biggest fall for first person shooters between BF3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 it does not seem like much of a competition anymore. COD: MW3 currently has an 81/100 on Metacritic with a user score of a very low 2.0. More and more users are trading in their COD: MW3 games daily towards Battlefield 3 which has not won the sales battle, but may win the war.

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Battlefield 3 Multiplayer

Battlefield 3 Multiplayer features 9 multiplayer maps that come from the storyline in Singleplayer, and have been redesigned to fit the needs of competitive gamers. EA has already announced the Back to Karkand expansion which should be coming near Christmas.

BF3 Multiplayer also has 6 game types with the two most popular being Rush and Conquest. In Rush enemies attempt to plant bombs on two MCOM stations in order to move forward and push the enemy back. This game type separates the map and closes parts off until both MCOM stations have been destroyed. Conquest is more of a team death match which opens up the maps for free movement. In Conquest players try to control up to 5 points on the map while killing enemy. Each enemy killed gives you points related to the number of positions your team currently controls.

BF3 features 59 different guns which can all be customized by adding various weapon attachments such as laser sights, flash lights, grips, an array of different scopes, and some guns allow you to change your ammo type. This allows for diverse customization to fit every players wants and needs.

Frostbite II powering BF3

Battlefield 3 was the first game featuring the Frostbite 2 engine to be released. One of the more exciting changes for us is the updated version of the object destruction technology featured in 2010's Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Frostbite 2 also supports NVIDIA's FXAA technology in their Antialiasing Post setting, which gives us an identical image to 4X MSAA but does not tax our performance anywhere near as much. This is great news for us as gamers because the new technology is beneficial to those who just can't afford to buy a SLI GeForce GTX 580 setup or any high end rig, but still want to see great quality graphics in Multiplayer without a performance loss.

EA is doing more with Frostbite II to show off how beautiful the improvements of this engine are. EA is re-designing four maps from classic Battlefield games including Strike at Karkand, Wake Island, Gulf of Oban, and Sharqi Peninsula. The changes in the restored and redesigned maps are highly anticipated, and should be released sometime near Christmas this year.

Configuring and Testing Battlefield 3 Multiplayer

Battlefield 3 Multiplayer uses all of the same graphics options as Battlefield 3 Singleplayer which we describe in detail here. There are however a few options in Multiplayer that we manipulate the most, due to performance and image quality in order to find the best balance. These options are detailed below.

Antialiasing Deferred : Deferred Anti-aliasing is the same as traditional MSAA. Options for this are Off, 2X MSAA, 4X MSAA. In Battlefield 3 the MSAA setting has the single largest performance impact. We found that this option decreased performance to a great degree in Multiplayer, and was thus not useable with the goal of keeping the framerate up.

Antialiasing Post : This option is the same as NVIDIA's new AA technology FXAA. It is a shader based AA that offers image quality similar to 4X MSAA without the performance loss. This was the setting we used most for AA, as it provided 4X AA like image quality, with barely any performance loss in Multiplayer.

Ambient Occlusion : Battlefield 3 has three ambient occlusion settings: Off, SSAO, and HBAO. HBAO or Horizontal-Based Ambient Occlusion is the most advanced setting and provides the highest visual quality. It also requires the most performance. SSAO or Screen Space Ambient Occlusion is the traditional AO setting. This setting option taxed our performance the most, at times up to 15 FPS.

Motion Blur : During our highest playable settings tests we disabled motion blur. We felt it lowered the quality of peripheral graphics and hindered our gameplay experience by making it harder to spot enemies. It does not have a huge effect on performance, but can effect up to roughly 5 average FPS. We did enable it for our Apples-to-Apples tests.

For all testing we were able to use FXAA High, the anti-aliasing mode that provided the best picture on all objects in game. FXAA High does not suffer a huge performance drop like traditional AA setting. The Ambient Occlusion settings SSAO and HBAO have the second greatest impact on performance behind AA settings, sometimes up to 15%. We will be using AO Off, SSAO, and HBAO throughout our testing procedure. You can read more about the rest of the settings in our gameplay and performance review of Battlefield 3 Single Player here.

To test Battlefield 3 Multiplayer we first played on each of the multiplayer maps and tried each of the different game types. After testing each map we found that the best map to test on was Caspian Border in the Conquest Large game type. For our run through we spawned in the US deployment area and started our testing procedure after acquiring a jeep. We then drove the jeep in third person view directly to Point "D" or "Hilltop". Once we got to the point we circled the top of the hill counter clockwise and fought off enemies. This point had the most action and required the most performance from our video cards. After 5 minutes we stopped our testing procedure.

This is very important, unlike our singleplayer testing we are going to target a much higher framerate for Multiplayer testing. This is because competitive multiplayer gamers demand these framerates, any serious gamer will target these higher framerates for playability in Multiplayer. Our ideal frame rate for "playable" gaming in Battlefield 3 Multiplayer is going to be 60 average FPS, versus 30-40 FPS for singleplayer. Therefore, we will reduced quality settings until we find this performance level, and show you the best balance of image quality and performance possible in Multiplayer.