I stayed up all night last night playing the single player campaign of Battlefield 3. I didn’t really notice how late it was until I was already more than halfway through the game, so figured I may as well keep going. Right now I’m running on a couple of hours of sleep after being awake for more than 24, so I’m still a bit spaced out and loopy. I thought I’d write down some quick notes about my thoughts on the campaign before I forget.
My only prior Battlefield experience was playing some multiplayer BC2 with Jess while we were in Queensland for EB Expo. My only prior experience with first person shooters was quitting Bioshock, Fallout, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. when they got too scary and rage quitting Mass Effect when it got on my nerves on a particular level. Oh, there were some mild successes in-between: things like L4D and Killing Floor and some others. That and finishing Deus Ex: Human Revolution yesterday (first FPS I’ve ever completed).
I thought it was a fun campaign. It had to be to keep me awake for this long with no coffee. Not only did I forget the coffee, but I forgot to drink and eat in general…and _really _resisted bathroom breaks. I am glad that I didn’t read any reviews until after I finished, because apparently not everyone thought it was as fun as I did and the reviews would’ve possibly tarnished my experience while playing if I had read them beforehand.
Some common complaints included things like the storyline being too linear/the player not having any choice. I know what they mean. I am used to MMOs and other games that allow you to explore the world, make decisions, etc. In fact the games I’m used to try to make it appear like you have as much choice and influence over the character’s life and world as possible. Of course most of the time this is just a thin veil of illusion making you feel important, but still - they try.
Not so with Battlefield 3, though I’m not sure why people are complaining. It’s as if “Linear” has become a synonym for “bad” when it comes to games and it’s just not true. I viewed it as a different type of game than others I’ve played, with different intentions and gameplay goals. The campaign reminded me not of building my own story, but of reliving one that already happened (which makes sense, seeing as SSgt Blackburn is actually recounting past events until the last mission). I didn’t have to think about what to do next or what direction to go in (if you stray too far from the mission area you fail) - all I had to do was focus on the story and try not to die while playing it out. The game doesn’t try to be what it isn’t (an open ended world where you create your own destiny) and I appreciate that.
Considering I just spent 8 hours finishing this thing in one sitting after having quit so many of the open-world type games in the past, this suits me just fine.
Key spamming thing in hand to hand combat
I wasn’t too fond of the key-pressing battle mechanic in some of the missions. For example, sometimes someone will attack you and you’ll have to press E, Space, or a mouse button at just the right time to overpower them. I thought this was good in theory, but in the end just became a little frustrating. Sometimes you have to chain key presses together one after the other and if you get even one wrong you die and have to start that scenario over. I ended up dying enough times on a couple of these to actually memorize the key sequence and ended up spamming keys one after the other until their prompts came up to make sure I got it in time.
Some enemies are hard to see
A lot of this was due to me being a n00b because this seemed to get a lot better at the end, but in some missions I couldn’t figure out for the life of me where the shots were coming from. But hey, I guess this is what happens in a war zone (right?)
Cinematic audio very quiet compared to in-mission audio
I’d set my volume to be perfect when actually playing through the missions only to find that I could barely hear anything when the cinematics between each mission came on.
Just the regular bugs. A few that stood out were…
Stuff like NPCs going through walls, sometimes invisible colliders on the roads getting me killed, etc. At one point I ran out of ammo in a mission because I didn’t realize what I was meant to be doing (and that the NPCs were spawning continuously until I went to this one particular place). I picked up a different gun from someone I had shot earlier. There was a sequence of events that included a mini cinematic of sorts and when I came back out of it I had my old gun again, with ammo replenished.
There were also some clipping issues in places, but find me a game without any. And a collider seemed to be missing off of a big tank or other vehicle in the Between a Rock and a Hard Place mission. I don’t know if crawling inside it when we were getting attacked by the jet did any good, but I felt safer >.>
The one thing that stood out to me the most - and I think this was both in the first intro sequence on the train and when replaying it in the last mission - was when I had to overpower this NPC at close range (not Solomon). Both of my hands were bare and seen grappling with the NPC, but pressing the left mouse button would still cause me to shoot from…somewhere. I don’t think the shots did any damage (that or they missed), but meh.
The visuals in the game are amazing. At one point I was meant to be shooting bad guys from a jet and all I wanted to do was take screenshots. It didn’t hurt that I was able to max out the settings for the first time in my life, but I’m not just talking about graphics quality. I’m talking about the feel and atmosphere of the world in general.
The story was great and kept me interested the whole way through. It was like watching an action movie, except with participation involved. If this was a movie, I’d probably pay to see it in cinemas.
The variety of the missions
Throughout the game you do everything from running around and shooting bad dudes to being the gunner of a jet, driving a tank, and a large variety of other stuff. It’s like each mission was a brand new gameplay experience. The variety is a huge part of what made it fun for me.
The quick pace
This game kept me interested for a total of 8-9 hours. I think this was pretty much perfect timing to keep my attention.
Out of all the playable characters, I probably connected with Dima the most. And no, not just because he’s Russian. I think part of this had to do with my being frustrated on his behalf about being bossed around by his Spetsnaz comrades so much. I did notice this with the other characters as well (everyone else kept telling them what to do), but in Dima’s case this seemed especially prominent. Dima kept being treated like a kid by the other two, who seemed to find it acceptable to tell him what to do all the time. Yes, I understand that this was likely just the game’s way of actually progressing you into following the intended sequence of events, but it made me mad for poor Dima. Of course, he did do something really idiotic in the mission where they have to chase the nuke carrier, but whatever. He’s not your maid, buddy. Soon you’ll be telling him to make you a sandwich.
I actually wasn’t sure whether to put this in the “Favorite parts” or the “Annoyances” section, because Dima was one of my favorite parts…but holy crap was the way they spoke to him an annoyance. It was one of those in-world annoyances that get you annoyed as a character, though, not as a player.
I’m still only half awake, but long story short: good game. It was fun for what it is: an 8-9 hour (probably less for most as I’m slow) fast paced, solid story that doesn’t bother trying to make it seem like you have any semblance of control over the outcome. And that’s just fine by me. “Linear” is not a bad word.
Update: Check out my friend 0xadad’s thoughts on the campaign as well. He brings up some good points.