So let’s start this by talking about the user experience. You load up Origin, EA’s malvolent store slash game launcher client thing that is not Steam and it has some validation thing that takes way too long. Then you click on Battlefield 3 and it runs another validation thing to make sure you don’t live in the future; once it confirms that you don’t, you can load the game. Except that Battlefield then doesn’t load the game – instead it opts to fire up your web browser and takes you to a website EA calls the Battlelog, some people have called it Facebook For Murderers, others ‘one of the worst ideas in video game history’. Your web browser will be as unprepared as you for Battlelog, forcing you to install two plugins for your web browser to continue. Now so far in this review I’ve talked about what you do when you first play Battlefield 3; I’m going to talk about what I did for a moment: At this point in the process I turned to my one, solitary friend on Origin, who was playing Battlefield 3 at the time, and complained about the validation shit. I said, “all I want to do is shoot cunts!” He laughed and responded with “I hope you like dying.” Now at the time I thought this was just him shit-talking my gaming skills, but in reality it was an ominous warning of what was to come. Battlefield 3 is a game about dying.
Single player is fucked. I retract any and all statements in my previous article relating to differences between this game and another hyperbole-powered military-themed shooter coming out shortly. It’s the same fucking thing we’ve been doing since Medal of fucking Honour: The Subtitle. Form up with your squad. Take out those snipers! MGs on the roof! Blackburn, you take the point! Try and flank them from the side! We need suppressing fire! Shoot the terrorist! The only new thing Battlefield 3 brings to the genre is, I shit you not, quick time events. Every now and then you get punched by a guy wearing a balaclava and you have to play a little game of of press ‘e’ at the right time. It’s official; Dragon’s Lair is the most influential game of all time.
There is not a shred of originality in the game’s plot either. The game is delivered as flashbacks of Sergeant Blackburn as he’s being interrogated by two men playing bad cop, bad cop. English majors reading this are probably having a fit right now and not just from my abuse of semi-colons. For those unaware, overeliance on flashbacks is like some sort of Fisher Price: Toddler’s First Lol Deep Story bullshit. DICE’s crimes are made worse when they pollute this already awful formula by giving us flashbacks out of order and of characters who are only mentioned by name. “Oh what’s your relationship with Pilot Buzzcut?” “Hurr?” screen fades to loading screen for Pilot Buzzcut’s mission flying air support.
Oh god, the vehicle missions. They’re all disgusting but Pilot Buzzcut’s (probably not her name, I don’t care) is the worst. You don’t actually fly, your sleazy co-pilot does as you look around and fire an unlimited number of missles at the MiGs that fly around before crossing to satellite images of an airbase and call in some drones to bomb them. Captain Miller’s tanks are also equipped with satellite targeting on his missions of zig-zagging around a desert shooting at poorly armoured tanks. I guess, though, that if these awful, slow, and boring vehicle missions weren’t included there would be no respite from the ridiculously linear ‘press space to jump to the ledge and take out those MG sniper bunkers to give support to the flanking squad LAV’ bore-a-thon that the rest of the game consists of. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a vehicle or on foot though, as my friend warned, you die a lot in Battlefield 3. While the trial and error nature of these regenerating health, take out the MGs, military shooters account for a lot of the deaths, the game’s campaign is scripted in a way that has you running into explosions frequently. While usually it makes for a cinematic little kickstart to the action as your character picks himself up under a hail of crossfire, if you rush ahead too far, these scripted explosions will kill you and you have to start again. At one point in the game you actually do die, like it’s a cutscene; they make it feel really authentic though because I was immediately greeted with a loading screen and I was expecting to have to repeat the scene and just pay special attnetion for the quick-time event cues. Imagine my surprise when a new level of giving suppressing fire and taking out those MGs loaded.
Oh fuck! I said earlier that the game’s story was unoriginal but then didn’t tell you why. I think I forgot because the whole story is utter shit and forgettable. There’s a squad of marines and they shoot guys who are from the PLR (People’s Liberation Re???) around Kurdistan for a living. Then there’s something about an earthquake and an ambitious middle eastern military figure who get’s captured and reveals to the good guys that he’s just the puppet of a tearaway Russian madman with military backing and there’s nuclear weapons that wipe out a major city and. Wait. Have you guys played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? Battlefield 3‘s story is CoD4. It’s ridiculous really. It’s like video game writers are in denial about the cold war ending and the wall coming down. As far as they’re concerned, Russia are still the enemy and Al Qaeda are just a front organisation for the KGB. Then again, since game developers are still taking gameplay inspiration from 1983’s Dragon’s Lair, I shouldn’t be surprised.
Fuck, I don’t even know what to say. Everytime I try to play multiplayer the game fucks up somehow. Sometimes it’ll fail to load the game from the browser when I click join server. Sometimes it’ll crash immediately after the game loads. Sometimes it’ll crash when I bring up the control mapping. Every time a round finishes it will crash. And I mean crash to browser style crashes. One time I actually was in a match but the latency was so bad my housemate walked into my room and assumed I was looking at a slideshow of images for an upcoming game.
That said, when the planets align and you are playing a full round – it’s amazing. Like I was on Caspian Border and I was trudging through some river and a fucking tank came outta nowhere. I couldn’t do much so I just fired at it with my AK and hiliariously, like he was just parking it or something, an enemy jumped out, abandoning his tank. I gunned down that motherfucker and stole his armoured horse, driving upstream towards the enemy spawn point. I saw another tank and totally fired on that fucker until it blew up! Victory! Some legend on my team was repairing me as I went but then he got shot and my tank was in bad shape so I bailed and hid by what was left of the wall after the earlier tank battle had razed half of it. Then another enemy clumsily staggered out from the rubble! I got excited and fired but but.. I hadn’t reloaded! I only had one bullet and it struck him in the neck. Sensing the pain he turned around and gunned me down. It was a great moment, and soon after I respawned, the game declared my team victorious! No one said ‘gg’ in the text field though because everyone is still trying to figure out exactly what key lets you communicate, but I’m sure manners will return once that feature is patched into the game. Then, on cue, the game crashed.
This remains the one moment of promise in the entire Battlefield 3 package. Every other multiplayer game has seen me login, wander around for thirty seconds and then the game declare my team losers and crash. I’m still trying to find the url to Facebook for Murderers (I’m on my silver computer, the hardware of which could allegedly play Battlefield 3 at 640 x 480 with all setting on low if I had a compatible operating system installed) but trust me, my statistics are something like, 2 kills, 4 deaths and 8 games played. If this was Mario Party I’d be given a pity star for not being cool enough, but this is Battlefield 3 so I just look like a boring player – thanks a fucking lot EA.
In years to come, Battlefield 3 will be identified as a game that perfectly encapsulates everything that is fucked up about gaming in 2011. I’m not going to harp on about the launch date. The issues have been acknowledged and criticised all over the web, including by myself, in this very blog, just a few days ago. But it’s more clear than ever that this game was released now because spreadsheets run by mathematicians employed at gaming companies state that this is the best time to release a game to maximise sales leading into the holiday period. That, or they just follow what everyone else is doing. Skyrim, Drake’s Deception, Modern Warfare 3, Revelations, Kart 7, 3D Land, Skyward Sword – the greater November blockbuster window is chock full of games so big I can refer to by subtitles only. After Mass Effect 3‘s delay (presumably to dream up an appropriate subtitle), EA had to have one blockbuster for this holiday season and Battlefield 3 is it. It’s 2011 and games get released when it’s strategically viable, not when they’re complete.
This game is not complete. If you read between the lines of the multiplayer section I wrote, you might’ve noticed that I subtly hinted that the game has crashed on me… This game needs about 6 months worth of patches. I have seen it all. I’ve reloaded my gun without the animation, I’ve driven a tank through a skyscraper that disappeared. I’ve seen debris suspended in the air for an eternity. Enemies warp in and out of existence in front of your eyes, often having to complete one scripted animation sequence before they can begin the death one. I’ve followed terrorists into empty streets of Paris. I don’t mean empty in that no one was around, I mean empty as in the street consisted of sporadic peices of bitumen floating in space, the terrorist stopped himself from running into the void and looked around, as confused as I was. Shit like clipping doesn’t even register to you after you turn a corner and Paris ceases to be. It’s 2011 and gaming is marred by glitches that need patches larger in size than entire games were in 2001.
It’s not just the game code that is incomplete, not even the downloadable content is ready. I mentioned day one DLC in my previous article but I was mistaken. The Back to Karkland DLC that was promised people who preordered wasn’t even ready at the time of release. EA promise that it will be released shortly and those who pre-ordered will get it for free. Don’t worry though! They still found a way to cram some day one DLC in there. Did I say cram? I meant cut content. The Firepower Pack gives you access to exclusive weapons in multiplayer that you’d otherwise have to pay to get access to if you didn’t pre-order. It’s on disc (or on file for those of us who are post-materialist) DLC because obviously you’re playing against other people who have the shit. It’s 2011 and you pay to win.
I can’t think of any other issues fucking up gaming in 2011. If you know of one though, leave a comment and I’ll tell you how Battlefield 3 showcases it.
The way the game launches through a client and a browser is fucked. The story is fucked. Singleplayer is fucked. I don’t know if multiplayer is fucked or not because the game engine is so fucked. The DLC merry-go-round is fucked. I would urge everyone to buy Battlefield 3 and then trade it in for Modern Warfare 3 to make a point. But I have a feeling that game is going to be just as fucked. In the meantime, I just installed six gigs of RAM on my black machine and I was going to test it out by playing Battlefield 3.
Battlefield 3 is out now on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Costs anywhere from £35 to AUS$110 depending on your choice of currency and gaming platform.