I feel compelled to post on Battlefield 3 singleplayer

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Posted by Thrustache (34 posts) -

Before I get to the main portion of this post, how about some back story?

Last friday I got back from a trip to St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. A fantastic holiday with my wife to visit her brother.He lives on the beach on the ocean. Man, is that glorious!

While I was there, his roommate introduced me to Battlefield 3 on 360. I only played it a couple times but it was quite a bit of fun. This is a pretty big contrast to my experience with BFBC2 on PC when that first came out.By the time I had got into that game's multiplayer portion I was way behind the level curve and felt it immediately and profusely.The odds may have been stacked against my enjoying multiplayer.

I took my sweet time with BFBC2 singleplayer and vowed to complete that before getting into the multiplayer portion.By the time I did the PC community was full of players who had dedicated numerous weeks if not months to playing the game.A complete noob dropped into servers full of these players is destined to die and die often.I deleted the game after a few days of multiplayer sessions.

I have a couple places marked with spoiler tags.These areas discuss a particular narrative mechanism that some people may wish to learn of naturally.No part of this post reveals plot points.

Back to Battlefield 3.I had a lot of fun playing while in St Croix and decided to buy the game on 360.I haven't really done much multiplayer on 360 since Mass Effect 3 and felt like BF3 was a good place to satiate that appetite.So while I was still on holiday I had amazon ship me a copy of BF3 for 360. It arrived the day I returned home.

I've played multiplayer for about 10 hours since. I am rank 11 and a corporal 2 star at this point. Mostly in assault with a bit of engineer thrown in on maps where assault makes less sense. I've had a lot of fun.Tons.Being a noob was not nearly as painful on Xbox Live as it was on PC but it certainly was a challenge starting out. Currently I'm at a typical point in my multiplayer experience where I understand the game well enough to care how I perform.I t is at this phase where I can lose focus on having fun and focus too heavily on not dying. This causes frustration and starts to impede on my enjoyment.

To clear my mind I usually try to play singleplayer. With most games like this it works wonders. I usually bang out singleplayer pretty fast and then return to multiplayer reinvigorated. This break provides me with better insight into the game's mechanics but also it helps me keep in mind that I should be playing games to have fun. So when I come back to multiplayer I have a mind to enjoy myself in life and death. Have fun in success and in failure. With this game singleplayer is not doing it's job. I don't know that I've every said that I hate a singleplayer game but I'm getting perilously close with BF3 SP.

The thing that makes me refrain from declaring I hate this game is that the story seems genuinely interesting. I want to love this game for it's compelling narrative. The love stops there. The dislike starts when the game dynamics seem to be furiously trying to ensure I have as little fun as possible. The story is told in such a way that it represents an recounting of past events. I believe the decision to force the path of the story is the root cause for the game systems that have ruined this experience for me.

I keep telling my friends that I think DICE either did not hire or immediately fired whoever was in charge of making sure the singleplayer campaign was fun. Instead they hired someone to figure out how to frequently kill the player. Preferably in ways that require little input from the player and less indication that they might get killed by not doing something in a specific fashion.

The first couple missions were great. I enjoyed them and had fun.However I quickly noticed that there seemed to be a very powerful "negative feedback" system in place. Those who may remember the first roof area may recall being shot in the face because you didn't follow but instead ran for cover right away. If you were shot in the face you probably found yourself wondering "where the hell did that come from?"

So let me tell you why this game is a tough one to enjoy, despite the interesting story:

This game overuses "quicktime events". This is a situation where you lose full control of the character and instead must wait for button indicators to appear on the screen. Generally this is a fight sequence or a situation where the character is in physical danger. If you do not hit the right button in time the game is going to kill you. The button's have no real corresponding relation to movements you make in the game normally which makes these events seem incongruous. Usually B means interact with something but sometimes it means punch someone in the face? While A corresponds to your character jumping, sometimes it means "throw someone into a train". Right trigger means fire except when it means stab someone in the throat or kick them in the gut. Those seem pretty analogous to "Punch" and thus it makes little sense why the key is different.Unless of course you were trying to make something inherently inane more interesting.It reminds me of the electronic game I had as a kid called "Simon".The thing where you hit the colored buttons in the right order or you lose.That was the 80s.Why is this showing up in video games 30 years later?These wouldn't be so bad if the outcome wouldn't cause death and a reload.If the story must be told in a particular fashion why not just make a missed fight sequence go on a few punches longer or whatever?

So if those weren't in the game, I still would be complaining about it.Like no other game that I have played this game insists on a strict linear progression.Nearly every mission you're supposed to follow, take cover, chase or do something in a very specific path with specific timing.If you deviate from the path, flank the enemies when not instructed or generally think for yourself the game rewards you with nearly instant death.This can frequently happen if you do the right path except at the wrong time.This is another instance where the strict narrative approach is overbearing and detracts from enjoyment.

In my head I can see the discussion inside the game play developer meetings: "Well the guy is in the armed forces right?He doesn't have to think for himself, he has to follow orders.He should die if he doesn't listen".At least, I hope that is the underlying reason for the game mechanics we see at work.Either way this is part of the reason I say that the "FUN" guy got fired.

I also noticed too many instances bad AI and/or delicate fight scripting not working as intended.For example there was a mission in this office building atrium that underscored this repeatedly. Enemies spawn in unrealistic fashion and if one pays too much attention it becomes obnoxious.I would carefully inspect parts of the combat area to find them devoid of foes (check your corners and all).Then after crossing some invisible line, suddenly there were guys there.

As I fought my way to the ground floor of this atrium, friendlies had spawned behind enemies and would sit there and do nothing while the enemies shot only at me.Speaking of friendlies, I need to mention that it seems like 90% of their rounds are actually blanks.I rarely would see them kill enemies and frequently it was like my squad mates didn't exist to the AI.Is that great baddy AI and crappy friendly AI or just bad programming?Who knows but I noticed this very quickly and it pissed me off after awhile.

The final AI glitch in this area happened when I killed the last baddie but no objectives changed.It turns out a squad mate was back up on the second floor shooting at a corpse.Forever.I tried using my gun and then knife to re-corpsing the corpse with no change.I also tried stabbing, shooting and grenading my squad mate but "Friendly fire will not be tolerated".In keeping with the incongruous nature of this game, friendly fire was tolerated to a great extent and blatent indications to the contrary were not enforced.Finally a grenade next to the corpse unglitched the NPC shooting at him and then my objectives got updated.I believe this happened because it was the first enemy I killed in this area.Apparently I shot it earlier than I should have?Who knows.

Another big area of discontent for me is the artificial tension the scripting attempts to create.There was one part where some kind of small coupe vehicle with a suicide bomber takes about two dozen rounds from a 50cal machine gun to no avail.These same types of cars continue to take massive damage only to explode obviously after crossing a predetermined line.I am just now wrapping up a mission where the end involves the same 50cal ammunition have no impact on ground troops.I am clearly shooting them spot on and they keep running.Who comes up with this crap?It is bad game design and it isn't fun.Soldiers cannot stand 50cal short range bullet wounds.That shit blows limbs off.Just retelling this part of the game makes me shake my head.

The reasons to dislike the experience of Battlefield 3 are sadly many.I am going to finish this game if for no other reason than to give it every chance possible to redeem itself.At this point though, I'm going to go back to multiplayer relieved to be done with singleplayer.I should be feeling reinvigorated and well entertained instead I'm frustrated and counting the missions until I'm finally done.

I sincerely hope that no future Battlefield games take the design path that 3's singleplayer campaign has.Negatively enforced linear storytelling is at odds with the nature of a first person shooter and should be avoided when possible.

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#1 Edited by Justin258 (14374 posts) -

The third game's campaign is terribly disappointing. The Bad Company games are pretty flawed and have some really weird difficulty spikes, but they do one thing that almost no other military shooter does - characters. The four guys in Bad Company genuinely felt like characters and not cardboard cutouts, especially if you wait around and listen to what they have to say. Hell, they'll start talking about their old families and memories, or Sarge will talk about his retirement, and it adds a hell of a dimension to them that makes them more than just a name, voice, and face that you have to interact with. Doesn't hurt that the actual gameplay in both of those games is also mostly pretty good, what with the fact that you have more than five feet to the left or right of you in many cases.

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#2 Posted by boj4ngles (302 posts) -

Yep, BF3's single player sucks, as is to be expected from the genre. The player navigates narrow corridors and shoots thousands of faceless clones from cover. It might as well be a rail shooter. The AI is negligible, the layout of terrain is irrelevant, and there is no logic or cohesiveness to the story. These terrible innovations were pioneered by Call of Duty 4 and have become staples of the Modern Military Shooter ever since. Medal of Honor, Homeland, the Modern Warfare series, the list of clones increases by the month.

What makes BF3 amazing is the multiplayer. Man that game is good. If you're feeling burned out on the multiplayer my suggestion is rather than switch to single player, switch maps or game modes. Try out vehicles or classes you don't usually utilize. Try sniping. It's hard at first but once you get a rifle bi-pod it becomes a piece of cake.

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#3 Posted by GreggD (4595 posts) -

I'm actually in the minority who thought the campaign was pretty good.

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#4 Posted by Thrustache (34 posts) -
@greggd said:

I'm actually in the minority who thought the campaign was pretty good.

The thing is, the story is there. I agree with you in regard to that aspect of the game. I would totally forgive the numerous AI problems, excessive quicktime events and the faceless drone waves if the negative feedback wasn't as bad as it is.

Since I am currently playing this game I hope you'll forgive another example of what I am referring to:

I am currently doing this mission that is an extraction. I'm in a mall with a squad mate and this "injured high value target" and we're leaving. The chopper has landed, the door is open and I can't go in. Shot to death, mission failed.

After dying I see that I am supposed to cover them, guess I should "follow my orders". I have to redo the last part again.

I replay it top the same point and I immediately start killing the faceless drones. I get a bunch and I see other soldiers running into the chopper. I think that is my cue to follow the blue square that is clearly in the back. I get up run to the ramp and instantly hit an invisible wall. Almost as if triggered by touching the invisible wall I get shot in the back repeatedly until dead.

Invisible walls and instant death because? Can't I cover them on the stupid ramp? The game is nearly senseless with how it does these things.

Maybe I'm just not the kind of gamer they had in mind when they made this campaign. I am obviously butting heads with the game mechanics and I'm doing so often and repeatedly in as many ways as I can come up with. I'm just not great at figuring out what it is trying to get me to do

I am going to look back on this campaign with a sense of disappointment and lamenting what could have been. I'll also be happy it is over with.

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#5 Posted by Thrustache (34 posts) -

What makes BF3 amazing is the multiplayer.Man that game is good.If you're feeling burned out on the multiplayer my suggestion is rather than switch to single player, switch maps or game modes.Try out vehicles or classes you don't usually utilize.Try sniping.It's hard at first but once you get a rifle bi-pod it becomes a piece of cake.

I totally love the multiplayer. The problem is that once I get a certain amount of time in, I start taking it too serious. Definitely not burned out, I just get in this head space where I have to play super well. That just means I need to do something else a bit.

The flying vehicles are a pretty exciting challenge but they're tricky to use properly. That is probably what I'm going to focus on once this debacle of a campaign is done.

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#6 Edited by GreggD (4595 posts) -

Considering I never ran into any issues like that, I guess I'm, once again, in the minority.

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#7 Posted by WickedCobra03 (2237 posts) -

Great post! I have a lot of the same sentiments. I really hope that no Battlefield in the future takes any of the approaches it took with Battlefield 3, premium content was the only thing that seemed decent. I am not a fan of how much they charged for it, but it seemed timely and seemed like there was a decent amount of additions for someone who was a really dedicated fan. This game on PC was gimped due to also being developed for consoles in mind. The multiplayer is decent, but does not feel like battlefield 1 or even 2 in the way that it no longer feels like a PC game. I loved, absolutely loved BF1. But I also loved Bad Company and Bad Company 2 for consoles.

The thing is, they should have left them separate. Like you said, in BF3, the Single Player seems barebones, lifeless and without any kind of lasting memory. I don't really even care about any of the characters, their situations, or why I was playing... I basically just played to see how they did in making an actual serious single player campaign. It felt like they were going after CoD, but didn't even that right. Like you said, scripted sequences were a huge annoyance, and even more so when you played on hard. I had to give up and back it down to normal since a lot of the times the enemies were unrelenting, especially that scene where you were coming out of the gas station or whatever and in a car parking lot, guys would pick you off the instant you moved.

Bad Company (and 2) were fantastic experiences. I enjoyed the characters, the story was hilarious, especially the first, and the dialog made you feel like you wanted to help these people. Oh yeah, and multiplayer was smaller, modes were custom made for consoles, and so were the game types.

I am not feeling great about Battlefield 4 coming so soon, isn't it supposed to come out in 2013? I dunno, it seems like there was something of a good period of time between battlefield 1 and 2. Sure, they tried Vietnam between BF1 and BF2, but it was more an expansion just on the BF1 engine. BF1 released in 2002, BF2 came 3 years later in 2005. It seems like this console and PC parity is going to be a thing now along with rushing releases out the door since EA now has retired its MoH to give that series some time to find itself, so now all the pressure is on BF4 to be everything, but even more so now.

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