Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Great graphics, wonderful ballistic science, and a very deep and rich rewards system - those are the kinds of things that people talk about when they discuss Battlefield 3.  They talk about how realistic it is and how it is very innovative and the most important thing to happen to the “First Person Shooter” in a long time, et cetera.

These people, like the game itself are pushy and obnoxious people who are going to tell you what opinion you should have and then drill down on you until you come around to their way of thinking - or else you shall be utterly dismissed.

I am not going to say that any of the compliments above are wrong.  It’s a lovely game to look at.  There is a huge amount of work there and it delivers all of the things that they promised.

Unfortunately the marketing department was bogged down with things like figuring out that the PC version can have 64 players in the same game where the Playstation3 version can only have 24 instead of worrying about whether or not the game is actually fun to play.

According to my profile I have played the game for almost 3 hours.  I don’t think that includes the Campaign & Coop modes - only the Multiplayer mode.  My intention was to play the Recon “kit” which is theoretically a sniper role, though the gun they give you only kills with a head shot.  Since no one is stupid enough to stand still long enough for a sniper to shoot you 3 times I average maybe one kill every 10 minutes.  Usually that’s when I switch to the shotgun & blow people’s kneecaps off at point blank range out of sheer frustration.

Now I will mention that the added realism is so realistic that it’s more or less impossible for me to see who I’m supposed to be shooting at.  On a high end system with HDTV graphics and insanely great video hardware, I find myself squinting & putting on my glasses to find the 3 square pixel target that pops out of the shrubberies every ten seconds or so that I’m supposed to hit.  That it’s light brown against a light brown backdrop with light brown things in front of it is completely overshadowed by all of the random neon signs, flaming barrels and random pieces of garbage flying around in the wind.  It’s a nightmare for people displaying any ADHD symptoms.

At one point I ran closer & picked up a machine gun that someone that I killed had dropped.  This apparently changed all of the gear that I had to the Support “kit”.  To me this is a bit like a wizard picking up a sword & suddenly forgetting all of his spells while sprouting muscles.  Unfortunately you still have to know to stick the pointy end into your opponent, proven out by the fact that on no less that 6 occasions I had people successfully run right at me & kill me while I opened fire at them with a machine gun.  Then I figured out that I liked the quiet life of the Recon role better.

I’m sure there are lots of people who at this point will rightly point out that I’m a n00b to BF3 so of course I suck, and I’m a n00b to the ‘modern’ FPS game in general (i.e. anything after UnrealTournament) so of course I suck and three hours isn’t enough time to form a proper opinion..... Oh wait. Yes it is.  In fact, it’s twice the amount of time that people have to form opinions about ‘modern’ movies.  So is the point that I’m supposed to sit through ten episodes of crap before I catch on to the plot of the soap opera or the japanimation dating drama?  Are FPS fans just as bad as Oprah loving soccermoms and yaoii fangrrls?

Now we will consider the point that everyone is making over & over & over again...  Battlefield3 is “Team Oriented”.  I can smell marketing-bullshit when I notice a buzzword mantra being repeated by multiple people aping the PR strategy of the GOP...  The phrase “lone wolf” is used with a particular disdain.  “If you play like a Lone Wolf, you will not succeed at this game” is one version of the mantra.

I watched & laughed at Farmville.  It was so obviously a Ponzi marketing scheme from the onset that I couldn’t bring myself to even try playing it.  Get my friends to water my crops?  Are you mad!?  And yet - I watched while all of those people who won’t play Mario Brothers but who will play Sudoku went bananas over Farmville & the horde of imitators that followed.  Thus social media marketing being part of video games was labelled “innovation” and treated like a feature even though it only really was a feature that the company itself benefits from.

Now the herd mentality is being forced upon you as a survival tactic.  Battlefield3 doesn’t suggest that you play as a team.  It doesn’t make it sub-optimal or simply more difficult to play on your own like World of Warcraft does for example, instead it outright makes it impossible.

Battlefield3 is a team-oriented game even when you play in Single Player Mode.  In fact it is worse, because your AI teammates are complete dicks.  They will stop to look around and if you stop to look around too they will run off without you seeing where they went.  They won’t tell you or anything.  They don’t give you helpful directions, they actually just yell at you to keep up.  Neither do they usually tell you what you’re waiting around for?

In fact, while working through the campaign, your team actually hoses you over & over.  Just about everything they are scripted to say is meant to distract you, startle you, or otherwise keep you from focusing on what you should be doing at the moment.  The places that they pick to make a stand are almost always tactically ridiculous and the characters that they play are the sort of people that I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire.

That they are all window dressing for the basic tutorial on how to wait, walk, wait, crouch, wait, aim, wait, fire, wait, switch weapons, wait, follow the other guy, wait, press the action button, wait, crawl under something, wait, climb over something, wait, drive the vehicle, wait blow up the vehicle, wait, fix the vehicle, this is all too obvious.  Did I mention that you spend a lot of time waiting around?  (From what I hear about the military, this is realistic.)

Worst of all is the illusion of the open world map.  The “edges” of the playable map are not physical obstructions like walls, nor are they virtual ones like an invisible force field.  Rather, when you go too far off the edge of the map a countdown for ten seconds begins to warn you to turn around & walk the other way or else you fail the mission.  Additionally the simulated voices of your team-mates start yelling at you again.

Thus, the herd mentality as a survival tactic.  The message is, if you wander too far away from the group’s objectives, you will die.  Is that “fun”?

I’m the only person who is actually thankful that PS3 users generally do not have headsets.  If they did then I would have to listen to everyone bitching at me constantly.  Trying to have a ‘team based’ game where people can’t communicate with each other is beyond silly - it is disingenuous and biased towards the PC-gamer market.

I like to think that I don’t play against people on PC’s.  If I thought that I was - I would likely just throw in the towel & not bother.  The idea of trying to aim with a 2cm mushroom joystick and compete with someone using a mouse fills my spleen with fresh adrenaline and makes me want to lash out at the closest living thing and kill it.  If I tried to do this in the game however then my vision would go blurry and I would see a bunny-rabbit from the yard pumping me full of lead while I fumbled with the reload button.

Why do I even have this game?  Peer Pressure.  I peer pressured my best friend into gambling with me on football on Thanksgiving.  I fleeced him.  Then I pressured him into getting Black Friday discounts on PS3’s on which I spent his money.  While we were there a salesman peer pressured him into buying this game.  He played it & then he peer pressured me into buying a copy.  Now I keep playing because the game itself is peer pressuring me into getting 100 kills so I can get the damned infrared scope!

I actually heard someone say on a podcast video that this game isn’t about killing people it’s about teamwork.  That guy needs to join the fucking peace corps.  “Deathmatch” is such a popular game mode that there is more than one version.  I just play Team Deathmatch so that I have 50/50 odds of getting extra points if my team “wins” and I advance more rapidly.  I know not think, know that I am not the only one doing this.

When are video game designers going to figure out that you can have both group and solo play adjacent to each other?  People do like to face challenges alone and then come back together in groups & share the experience.  Solo players making a temporary alliance based on mutually agreed to goals should always be a viable option too.  Why are groups treated with anything like permanence?  Why isn’t “my group” simply the people who are with me right now?  In this case, it’s an army story, so naturally everyone is going to be on the same side, right?  Um no.  There is Squad Deathmatch which pits you & 3 others against everyone else.

IMHO this new emphasis on team-play is worse than a shotgun script.  It makes for a lack-luster experience for the average user.  When the cost of entry is a $300 game system plus a fifty dollar game - the idea that you can’t really have fun unless you go out & recruit all of your friends strikes me as important enough that it should say as much on the box.

For a game that in all reality only truly exists for the Multiplayer mode, the ability to choose what kind of game that you want to play is terrible. In Quick Match mode you can certainly search for the kind of game mode and map that you want to play - but after that one session - you will be put into another game where the settings completely change. This forces you to wait until the next game starts & then you have to quit it & go back to the title screen rather than back to the search screen. Especially as a n00b, it is important that I can keep retrying the same game mode & map over & over until I gain some level of proficiency. Why then must they keep trying to throw me into yet another random situation and then force me to potentially ruin everyone else's game by leaving at the beginning & throwing off their numbers?

Next I want to attack the fact that there are almost no instructions on how to play the game.  The manuals are distinctly lacking information on how to operate vehicles and the Campaign mode does not in fact let you use them all.  The roles and the “kits” that they carry offer no explanation at all.  Instead I have had to learn everything from Blogs and wikis - that & failing my first Coop game in under 10 seconds when I crashed the damned helicopter.  Again, this is “fun”?

I can only compare learning to play Battlefield3 with learning to snowboard.  You have to experience at least 8 hours of non-stop pain before you can really start having any fun doing it.  I am hoping that the payoff is equal though somehow I seriously doubt it.  There are other parallels, like waiting around for your friends to catch up and having bragging rights when everyone sees you do something impressive.  Maybe if I keep thinking like this I’ll be OK.

But for now, I really fucking hate it.

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