PunkBuster, the anti-cheating service implemented in hundreds of online games, is down. As of the time of writing, the official PunkBuster website is up and down, after having been completely down for the past couple of hours. On Twitter, there are numerous reports of gamers who've been unable to play online in the most popular PunkBuster-backed title of the moment, Battlefield 3.
Without getting into the reasons why a service like PunkBuster fails in so many ways, EA isn't ignorant of the current situation and has gone as far as to post an interim fix here (correction: apparently it is ignorant of the solution; this fix is not EA sanctioned, after all) . Applying the fix is a simple matter of extracting an archive and then overwriting a couple of files inside of your Battlefield 3 install folder.
While Battlefield 3 (our review here) is the biggest game at the moment using PunkBuster, other recent titles use it as well, such as Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed III and Medal of Honor: Warfighter. It can be assumed that the online components in these games remain unavailable as well, but so far a search for reports has turned up little.
While EA has little power over PunkBuster's ability to get things 100% functional again, this issue does highlight the fact that third-party solutions are not always the way to go. For a game like Battlefield 3, which has a major focus on online gameplay, gamers should never be prevented to play over something so simple.