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Battlefield 3 Single-player Campaign Preview

13 October 2011

At a recent preview event for Battlefield 3, Final Hours, PSU was able to get down and dirty with the single-player campaign in one of the biggest games of this holiday season. I spent a couple of hours playing the first few Battlefield 3 campaign missions, and have included my thoughts below for your viewing pleasure.

From the intro mission, to the end of my play session, one thing was painfully obvious. Battlefield 3 is one of the best looking/sounding first-person shooters I have seen in recent memory. I'll try to keep from spoiling specific fights or sequences throughout the preview, however, to give you a sense of what DICE and EA are bringing to the table, I'll give you little tidbits of what to expect.

The game really opens up after a few intro sequences with the 'Operation Sword Breaker,' a mission in set in a war-torn Iraq. Players assume control the game's protagonist, Marine Sergeant Henry "Black" Blackburn, and follow the rest of his AI-controlled squad through the streets of Iraq defending against PLR Insurgents, in the effort to bring some stability to the Iraq-Iran region.

Battlefield 3 delivers explosive action set pieces that we've almost come to expect from modern military shooters. From crumbling buildings, to giant explosions, to hand-to-hand quick time events, Operation Sword Breaker set the tone for Battlefield 3 right off the bat – everything is turned up to 11. The sense of scale is breathtaking when watching a huge apartment building come collapsing down in front of you later on in the mission.

Blackburn and his crew are tasked with getting from point A to point B, and due to some early ambushes, the team must find their way around Iraq through buildings, rooftops, and parking lots. This level felt like a showpiece mission for Battlefield 3's new Frostbite 2 engine, with some impressive lighting, particle effects, and of course, graphics that makes game geometry seem real. Without ruining what hasn't already been shown in trailers, the mission ends with some rather massive earthquakes shaking things up.

The second mission is called 'Uprising,' which follows after the first mission. In contrast to the sun-baked level that took place a few hours prior, Uprising is situated at night, and is definitely the most shooting-oriented mission I played of the game. With enemies attacking from all directions, players must guide Blackburn to an extraction point while at times trying maintain a stealthy approach, and at other times engaging in blazing gunfights.

For the sake of progression, toning down the difficulty level from normal to easy was tempting, as I found myself getting killed a few times too many in the same areas. Certain checkpoints ended up pitting me in less than fortunate situations that forced me to prone and fight my way out of slowly. It is unclear as to whether the checkpoints are dynamic in Battlefield 3, however, I do know that the game seemed to be reloading multiple times in an area that enemies were already alerted in.

The highlight of my time with this mission was a boss battle-like scenario with a rat encountered in a tunnel. The rather humorous moment takes place when players are meant to stealth around enemy infantry, and end with a rather feisty vermin getting what's coming to it.

The third, and last mission we were able to play, is probably telling of where Battlefield 3 will shine the most – vehicular segments. 'Going Hunting' was the last chapter I was able to play, with players doing exactly what the mission title implies, being the gunner of a jet aircraft that takes off from an aircraft carrier.

Going Hunting highlights the superb sound design in Battlefield 3, and this jet-based mission rubbed me the right way from start to finish. The realism and accuracy that DICE has put into making this mission as authentic as possible is pretty astounding, with a rather lengthy takeoff sequence where players must run a maintenance test on the jet prior to departure.

Being the easiest mission yet in terms of difficulty didn't detract from the experience, as you feel unstoppable in the jet, even against other aircraft since you're armed with enough flares and missiles to take down anything that comes across your path.

The second half of the mission is very much reminiscent of some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare segments, where the player has a top-down bird's eye view of a landing strip and are tasked with marking with a laser for on-the-fly air-strikes.

Battlefield 3 left a good, albeit familiar taste in my mouth. I hate to compare it to Call of Duty, but the bottom line is that there is no better comparison. At times it's hard to distinguish one from another, but DICE's flagship shooter does set itself apart graphically and narratively. Battlefield 3 features jaw-dropping cut-scenes and cinematics in between missions, with an easy-to-follow story, which is a plus over previous Call of Duty titles, and really puts you in the front seat with Blackburn, as missions are played as flashbacks while he recounts his past experiences.

As far as the single-player campaign goes, expect a top-tier experience, even if it does feel familiar. Looks like we'll have to wait until October 25, and 28 in North America and Europe respectively, to see if Battlefield 3 really does go 'above and beyond the call'.


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