Battlefield 3 [Analysis]

Get in the prone position, this might take a while.

For the past year it seemed like I was locked in a tower waiting for my shooter to show up. Finally on October 25th, my shooter arrived. Quickly, I realized this was a different tale. I wasn’t the princess, I was the masked man in black arguing with my shooter atop a hill. Soon after the install my princess had pushed me into a gorge and I was screaming “as you wish,” but my alas my princess has not realized my love and hasn’t jumped into the gorge after me.

“As you wish,” Battlefield.

Inconceivable!
Battlefield 3 will be a game of the year selection, but not right now. Launch period has always been tricky for the Battlefield series. Battlefield 2 would crash to desktop and also had networking issues. Battlefield 2142 was generally just a buggy game that took a month to get a patch. Bad Company 2 had server issues where the quick fix was uninstall & reinstall the game and then maybe it worked.

The tricky thing about Battlefield 3’s launch issues is that they have put themselves into a tough spot having released the game on 25th. EA and DICE only had two weeks to deliver patches so games can go underway before gamers give up and move onto the next best thing: Modern Warfare 3. Prior Battlefield titles didn’t carry the rival status as heavy as Battlefield 3. Bad Company 2 released in March of 2010, surrounded by Japanese gangsters, the god of war and baseball. Battlefield 2 was PC only and released in June of 2005, accompanied by an assortment of games released on various other platforms.

Activision’s Call of Duty series always seemed like an afterthought to other shooters; that is, until Modern Warfare came out. Now anything that had a shred of camouflage and an assault rifle gets compared to Modern Warfare. Battlefield 3 is running out of time and gamers are running out of patience. Diehard Battlefield fans will stay on board through the turmoil. But Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels, has already moved onto the next big title release: Star Wars: The Old Republic; assuring doubters that the launch issues seen with BF3 won’t happen with SW:TOR because it’s PC only and has different server configurations which they have complete control over it.

I read this two or so days after BF3 released, and I could only think, “It doesn’t matter now, because they already have my money.” I was angered; my princess and the world she belonged to surely hated me as I continue to tumble into this gorge of gaming heartbreak. So far, my shooter has offered me nothing but complications. The inability to stay connected to a server, lag attacks, rubber-banding because of bugs in the network code, Origin authentication and installation problems, and Battlelog not letting me play with my friends. I tumble deeper into the abyss.

A few days after Mr. Gibeau and his thoughts of moneybags had passed, Kotaku interviewed a different EA representative. The EA rep reported that they, “are gamers, too,” and they understand the frustrations that gamers are feeling. Also, that Xbox 360 servers were at about 95%. The best question Kotaku asked was why it had happened at all. Despite having recorded information from the beta and preorder numbers, the answer amounted to: “demand outstripped even our best expectations.” Did we just spend $60 to become part of phase two of the beta? Well, I suppose it’s just a server issue… What else could go wrong?

Prepare to die.
In Bad Company 2, finding a server and your friends was all within the game (you know, like every other game). For BF3, it’s extremely different; and not in a good way. This way comes the six-fingered man, in the form of both Battlelog and Origin. Now I am no longer the masked man in black. I am the Spanish fencer, looking to avenge my father by killing his murderer.

On the PC, Battlelog is not integrated within the game or Origin. For once, I am jealous of console players. When you run BF3, it does not open the game; instead, a web browser opens, displaying a prettier version of DRM. Battlelog allows you to track your stats, unlocks, platoons and ultimately lets EA know that you are running a legit copy.

There is no way to avoid Battlelog. In order to launch a campaign, co-op or multiplayer, you must do so through Battlelog. Since launch, Battlelog has been a mess. Joining a server as a party is impossible. Even joining by yourself is sometimes near impossible. Many times, in the time that it takes to go through the required procedures —  join a server, log in, initialize, and for the game to boot — you find yourself disconnected from the match. Then you try to rejoin that server only to be alerted that you cannot, because you already have a spot reserved.

Battlelog is quite maddening. Finding a quick match is not quick. Up until one of the recent updates, Battlelog would first try to add you to a match that was out of your region; meaning that it didn’t recognize which region you were in and you couldn’t add your region as a default. The update previously mentioned has fixed this. But still, if you want a quick match you’re better off doing a server search and then clicking into a random one with a spot available.

Even if you are able to get into a match with your party, funny things can happen. One of your party members may end up on the other team, or you won’t all be in the same squad; even if slots are available. Battlelog has since received over a 100 fixes addressing the problems that it has been causing; some are still being worked on. If you take a peek at @Battlefield’s twitter feed, problems are still arising. Despite everything else, the most glaring problem with Battlelog is that it makes Origin completely unnecessary. Though, as it turns out, Origin is the six-fingered man that I’ve been looking for.

You killed my father Privacy.
Originally Origin was just a copycat of Steam so EA could eliminate paying dues to a third party. But Origin has turned into something much worse. In order to play any newer EA game on PC, you have to install Origin (much in the same way that when Valve games are released they come with Steam). However, these two interfaces are not the same.

Where at first it might seem that Battlelog makes Origin useless, all it is really doing is taking the weight off Origin while it’s busy doing other things. Reports surfaced that Origin is scanning your computer and transmitting the data. Of course, Origin is only doing this to sell your information to third-parties. But what exactly is it scanning? Everything.

Reports came out of Germany, accompanied by a video showing where Origin was sticking its nose. BF3 is currently the worst rated game on amazon.de, due to the spyware that is Origin. The video presents a detailed Process Monitor running in real time, showing Origin accessing a tax program installed on the computer. Origin is installed on my personal computer, but luckily my taxes are done on an old dinosaur that only lives for that purpose. I do access bill paying sites on my main PC however, so I decided to get the same program (Process Monitor) and confirm what Origin was doing.

Origin found its way into my Adobe Creative Suite folders, as well as number of other places it had no need to be. Sorry there isn’t a screen grab, I was too busy shutting down Origin. Inspired by a commenter, I decided to install Sandboxie and run Origin in it. Sandboxie’s purpose is to isolate programs or viruses so people can watch how they behave on a computer without the risk of affecting anything else. Now that I have Origin trapped, it continues to try to scan the computer but is unsuccessful in its attempts. Launching BF3 can be a bit of a problem resulting in crashes; but I have contained the virus.

Now I am badly wounded. I have defeated the six-fingered man… Is this game worth it? Fellow button masher, Jarret Redding, says no and has added BF3 to his no-buy list; and rightfully so. Is the violation of privacy worth the price tag? EA has also taken measures to rewrite their EULA,taking away the rights for class action lawsuits against EA. What happens if your information is comprised? Well, by installing Origin, you have waived your rights to anything except one-on-one arbitration.

Earlier I said that BF3 is a game of the year selection. While the game is good, should these things that surround it suffocate it and diminish its right?

Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday.
Now it’s time to see whether or not DICE was able to successfully add a single-player campaign to this installment of the Battlefield series. In an interview with PCGames.de, DICE’s Patrick Bach seemed a bit set off by comparisons of Battlefield to Call of Duty. Bach said, “[I] really hope that people don’t think that we are trying to build the same game because we are not!” Things may tend to get lost in translation, but translators don’t add exclamations in for shits and giggles.

Every shooter must face the elephant in the room, Call of Duty. Normally, I’m not one to compare any game to CoD unless it is CoD. So, I entered the single player hoping DICE soaked up some of Medal of Honor’s more serious storytelling to add to the mix of emotions we had in Bad Company 2. I regret to inform you that I will be comparing the single-player campaign to Call of Duty. The story plays out while a marine is being interrogated by the CIA. As the player, you will re-enact his tales. I have no problem with this method of storytelling, but I found it to be a bit of a cop-out. Some of the scenarios ended abruptly with a CIA agent interrupting the marine. It gave cause to believe that the previously played scenario wasn’t an attempt to move the story forward, but a reason to blow something up.

Call of Duty is known for being able to just go balls-to-the-wall; where you can be your very own super soldier and win the match by yourself. With Battlefield, that’s an easy way to get yourself killed. Unfortunately for BF3’s single player, CoD characteristics started appearing. The quick-time events where you hit SPACE or you die. The overly cinematic corridor scene where you dodge an RPG. All pages out of the balls-to-the-wall, I-am-a-super-soldier book. When I approached levels with tact and subtlety, I died many times. When I embraced my inner Captain America, I found those levels a lot easier to play.

When the moment came that I dodged an RPG while chasing a guy with a WMD, I threw up my hands in disbelief. That had just happened in my Battlefield game. It had jumped the shark. DICE’s Bach returned in an October interview with stuff.co.nz’s Gerard Campbell, this time with a far more nonchalant attitude towards the single-player campaign. “Play it your way,” he said, adding that some fans probably don’t pay much attention to the single player, and that it’s not up to DICE to decide how you play your Battlefield 3. It was an… interesting change of heart to say the least.

You survived the Fire Swamp…

Once all the hurdles of Battlelog and Origin have been jumped through, multiplayer does not disappoint. Whatever their missteps with single player, DICE knows multiplayer. My plunge into the gorge has been halted, my princess has followed me in and expressed her love. I know this isn’t the end of our story, for there are still many trials ahead of us.

Now I’m the squad leader. You want orders? As you wish. But if you wouldn’t mind, could you get that friggin’ tactical light out of my face?

BF3 multi-player requires, nay, demands teamwork. Whatever the objective, if you aren’t working together, things can go downhill fast. When I set out in multiplayer, I found myself losing matches and dying a lot. But in a glorious moment during a Conquest match, on the bridge in Seine Crossing, the squads finally clicked and started using teamwork; soon we started to recapture the points. In Battlefield ups can quickly become down, and vice versa. For the rest of that match I was trapped behind a van, getting mortars dropped on me.

The huge maps are fantastic. The larger maps offer many ways to get into the battle, but aren’t the best to attack on foot. If you miss catching a ride, the long jog will at least give you time to coordinate with your squad and discuss the plan.

Multiplayer creates this love-hate feeling. Love is sending two squad members by tank and two by air and overrunning a capture point with three squads defending it. Love is getting the Ace Squad ribbon and a feeling of accomplishment. Love is the need to do it all over again in the next round. Hate is when you try to send those squad members to a capture point and do nothing but fail. Hate is when you get revived, only to be shot in the face again. Hate is teammates shining tactical lights in your face. Seriously, get that light out of my face!

Multiplayer features 9 maps that support all 5 game modes: Conquest, Conquest 64, Team Deathmatch, Rush and Squad Rush. The map design is stellar and allows for a varied style of playing. Caspian Border is wide open which allows for great air and vehicle combat. The only problem I had with air combat is that a lot of people bail from helicopters, and because you were actually busy laying fire on another plane, you die. Noobs. Tehran Highway is another gorgeous map. It’s a nighttime map, but not a midnight black where you cant see any of the surroundings textures; it’s more like a dusk that is passing into the night. It offers a basic vehicle strategy; but I found that –unless you were holding a point — a vehicle only worked in your favor for so long.

People in masks cannot be trusted.

Will there be a happy ending for Battlefield 3? I may have found my princess, but is this the other version of the story? One where I don’t survive the Machine? I have killed the six-fingered man, but I am so terribly wounded that I wonder if I even won the duel. BF3 has yet to show signs of which ending it yearns to write. DICE made a great game, but it suffers from an over-protective, sneaky publisher. EA denies that Origin is spyware and has updated their user agreement a few times to “clarify” things, while DICE employees have had sleepless nights correcting server issues and the under-tested Battlelog.

But maybe I have the story wrong. Maybe DICE is the masked man, and before they can have a happy ending they must fight through each corrective task. Ultimately, no matter which of us is the Dread Pirate Robert’s stand in, one thing is clear: this story isn’t over yet. Until the last chapter is written, perhaps I will see you on the battlefield. Watch your six?

As you wish.

Katie Horstman
Katie Horstman
Katie Horstman

Staff Writer

Katie has always had a connection to games and was able to make Super Mario Bros. a motion game before Nintendo even thought of the Wii. She has a serious addiction; an illness if you may, of loving ridiculous games. She has been through an extensive digital rehabilitation, but we fear her addiction is surfacing again.

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