The Games Of Christmas ’11: Day Eight

There are some things you should not ever doubt. There will be death. There will be taxes. But there will also be a certain type of videogame. Can you guess what happens to who? And where does it happen? I think you know this one…

It’s… Battlefield 3!

Jim: The third Battlefield game was one of those long-term inevitabilities that, when it arrived, came on quickly. The first glimpse was impressive, but then suddenly it was with us, and we were playing it. When I first saw it at the reveal in San Francisco in March it was clear that EA’s attempt to push the series into new territory meant going head to head with the Call Of Duty series: noise, fury, hype. Unsurprising, of course, because big corporations have to be seen to be taking on their rivals. What this meant for us was a single player campaign that, while suitably shiny and bombastic, suffered from all the worst aspects of the linear military shooter. This was irrelevant, however, because the real game, the aspect of Battlefield 3 that actually matters to posterity, is the multiplayer.

It’s a dazzling piece of work, and the kind of all-encompassing combat experience that the PC does best. No disrespect to our console cousins, but I can’t possibly countenance playing this kind of game on a gamepad, on a TV. It needs mouse control, it needs my huge monitor and my headphones and a keyboard. I’m relishing getting to grips with something that I’ve already fleshed out so much skill for over the years, through many other shooters, many other Battlefields. It’s a grand thing.

I have to say, actually, that Bad Company 2 felt, in some ways, like an extended practice for Battlefield 3. Everything in that game felt like it was a run up to the more spectacular aspects of Battlefield 3, particularly the sheer scale of the 64-man maps, and the infantry/vehicle cross over that has reintroduced jets and makes tank combat a long-range delight. That said, I think Bad Company 2 actually used scenery destruction technology more effectively. I’ve not noticed its implementation, particularly in the destruction of entire blocks, in quite the same way in Battlefield 3 as I did in BC2. I think that’s basically a level design decision, and perhaps a little subjective on my part, but it’s a nagging thought about what could or should have been.

And so to the bit that I can’t help revelling in: having upgraded my PC this year and seeing some of the results of that on screen. Battlefield 3 is probably the game that will reward the hardware tinkerers most out of any this year. As pretty as Skyrim can be with some work, and as lavish and The Witcher 2’s world proved to be, it’s Battlefield 3 that pours the most pixels into my face. From the sheer amount of burning debris, dust and particles, to the absurd intensity of the firefights, DICE have delivered the most sumptuous audio-visual mixture I’ve ever tasted. The gun action is incredible. Even after I’ve played and replayed the maps, it still remains potent.

Yes, despite some of the rough edges (which are also being slowly patched out) – the single player, a couple of poor MP maps, dodgy squad functionality, a flashlight which a conduit to the heart of the sun – Battlefield 3 is a bold achiever. There’s no way this won’t be on list after list for games of 2011. It is a technical and design achievement that, while expected, is nevertheless rewarding through extended play.

Of course many of us remain unconvinced by Origin and Battlelog. I have a number of friends who, despite dearly loving the Battlefield series, are denying themselves the game on the basis of this new system being a step too far by EA. It’s too intrusive, they say, and gives too much control to the makers of the game. They have a point, because we’ve entered an era in which over-arching control of games is eroding some of things that are most precious about them, the democratic aspects that were so fruitful, such as modding. No matter how good a game Battlefield 3 is, the way it has been delivered is shutting off that vital lifeblood and, long term, it will prove to be a mistake. That thought makes BF3 bittersweet. I hope it can return to the path righteousness some time in the near future.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    Shooting gun,
    shooty shooty.
    Shoot a man.
    Manshooty shooty.

  2. c-Row says:

    I think the problem with BF3 and MW3’s singleplayer campaign just viewed as a bonus for the majority who jumps right into multiplayer anyway is that most advertising I have seen for both of these games doesn’t focus on the multiplayer aspect but throws the singleplayer’s eye candy at the reader/viewer.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Right, because advertising people understand explosions and fast edits, not multiplayer subtlety.

    • c-Row says:

      But “People get it for the multiplayer mode anyway!” is the favourite counter-argument if one criticises the singleplayer campaign’s shortcomings, isn’t it?

    • Urthman says:

      The latest RPS Electronic Wireless Broadcast had a great bit where a teacher asks his students how important a compelling storyline is for a game like GTA4. They all said, “Essential. I wouldn’t buy it if it didn’t have a great story.”

      Later in the term he asked how many had played through the story in GTA4. No one had. They all said they just spent time fooling around in the open world.

      How you sell a game =/= why people buy a game =/= how people actually play a game.

  3. Meat Circus says:

    I would like to play this. But I’d like more not to have to install spyware.

    So. Now you’re promoting spyware-laden games as one of your games of the year! My goodness. That’s pretty shitty of RPS.

    Stop promoting spyware.

    • Llewyn says:

      They’re promoting games as their games of the year. There’s been enough written about the non-games aspects of games in other posts.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Which happens to mean promoting spyware.

      You can’t have, on one hand, RPS claiming high standards of ethical journalism, whilst at the same time promoting a game that requires spyware to run.

      That’s hypocritical at best and corrupt at worst.

    • sneetch says:

      You should boycott RPS, Meat Circus, that’d teach ’em!

    • MaXimillion says:

      Considering the amount of games that are Steam exclusive, not promoting games that require “spyware” to run would limit their coverage quite a bit.

    • jezcentral says:

      Oh, great. Now someone else is accusing RPS of corruption.

      Has this somehow become the latest internet meme? Or did I take an arrow to… Sorry, I can’t bring myself to say it.

    • Llewyn says:

      No, it means promoting the merits of a game. It’s up to the reader to decide if the things that go with that are justified in order to play a good game. RPS have themselves highlighted the flaws of Origin extensively.

      As for your corruption bullshit, it merely shows you to be such a drivelling imbecile that I feel bad about justifying your cretinous comments with any sort of reply. More fool me, I guess.

    • TheApologist says:

      There is no logical connection between lauding the merits of a game in spite of the controversy of Origin and “corruption”. Nor is it even hypocritical. Given they have written about Origin and Battlelog and clearly reference these issues again in this very article, one might suggest that, rather than simply censoring expressions of their view that it is a good game, they are crediting you with the intelligence of weighing up the pro’s and con’s for yourself.

      Shocking! Down with that sort of thing, eh?

    • archimandrite says:

      Don’t feed the trolls. Just don’t.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      Origin is no more or less Spyware then say, Steam. The claims of Origin being spyware are, to say the least, disputable.
      This makes it rather difficult for RPS to cover anything these days. As RPS is actually covering some fo the more serious problems at EA (Forum ban is EA account ban, for example. And be wary folks: This is not limited to Origin as many think, it is EA-wide, up to and including BF2), I find it weird that you would accuse them of hippocrisy.

      As you have probably noticed, many RPS members are getting quite wary of this seemingly constant stream of corruption accusations, which appears to have started with Crysis 2, then Portal 2, then Red Orchastra 2, and now Battlefield 3.

    • Kadayi says:

      “You should boycott RPS, Meat Circus, that’d teach ‘em!”

      One can only hope.

  4. WhatKateDoes says:

    Verily it is great ! \o/ However, I’d like to draw your attention to the lack of any female characters/player options in the game…… Just kidding! =D

    …..or am I? ;)

    ..also “heart of the sun” quote is brilliant :)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Well it *is* a manshooter, for shooting of men.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      “Shooter of Men” really needs to be a movie title at some point.

    • WhatKateDoes says:

      Have you noticed tho that they seem to have retained the female pilot player sounds when you hop in a jet? So at least one can appear to be a female pilot man-shooter :D

    • BigJonno says:

      It’s a legitimate complaint. Unless you favour supposed realism over the inclusion of half of the human race.

    • glocks4interns says:

      I’d direct these complaints to the Pentagon, not EA.

    • tungstenHead says:

      It’s probably just as much a technical limitation as it is an “artistic direction”. Gears of War 3 was the first game in that series to feature female COGs because it was the first game that Epic could squeeze them into memory (insert joke about oversized boobs). A lot of additional data for an extra gender: animation, textures, models, sounds, the works. Considering the fidelity and quantity of those assets in BF3, it would be a major hurdle on the consoletoys to double the character overhead. That all said, I would have liked to see female soldiers too.

      But even without them, BF3 remains an incredible game and absolutely one of the landmark releases of the year. I have been enjoying it immensely.

  5. rupert says:

    game of the year for me , its awesome, who doesn’t love flying around in a helicopter shooting stuff!

    • Cinek says:

      For me it’d be GotY if not the fact that I need like 50 apps running in background to actually START playing the multiplayer in first place. You need Origin with origin account, you need web browser with Battlelog account, you need TeamSpeak with Teamspeak account and some friendly server, cause EA thinks it’s not good to add usable voice chat in team-based game, than you start the BF3.exe finally, but it also runs some anti-cheat mechanics and god knows what else probing your computer.

      It’s ridiculous. As far as game is OK – it doesn’t deserve any award what so ever solely by practices like this.

    • glocks4interns says:

      What problems are these, er five to fifty (depending on if you count them) apps causing?

      The lack of voice chat is a problem and was very stupid to not ship with. That said they’ve said they’re adding it.

      As far as the web browser interface I never hated it and have come to like it. I think most complaints are due to the fact that it is something new. Are we really complaining that we can continue to easily browse the internet and watch cat videos while your match is loading?

    • Lamb Chop says:

      Honestly I’d prefer to be able to edit my loadout in between games. Or have an easy way to examine unlocks and progression. And, you know, just alt-tab to look at cat pictures instead of relaunching the game every time I want to switch servers. It’s needlessly complicated for a feature set that’s predominantly ‘social’ and not ‘game’ and it’s indicative of the success of monetizing the social model that industries have begun tacking it onto places where it doesn’t belong at the expense of features we used to take for granted.

      BF3 has incredible core gameplay and is deserving of this list. But it would’ve been so easy to make a set of peripherals that support the gameplay rather than inhibit it.

    • TWeaK says:

      I can agree with the editing the loadout between games, but honestly, ‘relaunching the game’ is bullocks. What you have is no different to a map loading, and it does it all in the background and pops up when it’s ready for you to play. Or, you can uncheck the box and switch to the game when you’re ready.

      The stats pages aren’t bad too IMO, can’t see what’s not easy to understand about them.

  6. royaltyinexile says:

    An 8?!?! Zomg this read like a 6. RPS selling out.

  7. Unaco says:

    So… Does this entry double up handily as COD:MW3 as well?

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Could say that. I doubt MW3 will be on here. From the introductory text it’s the sole inevitable Hot-Manshoot in the calendar. MW3 also did not sit well with RPS… I liked the SP much more than BF3’s, though, but that’s not saying much.

    • HermitUK says:

      Something tells me that MW3 won’t be appearing on this list at all :p

    • LarsBR says:

      I don’t recall people comparing Counter-Strike and Battlefield 1942 much, which is pretty much the same comparison as CoD and BF3. They’re not the same game, except of course for the campaign, which are both waiting for the doorman-simulators.

  8. McDan says:

    I’m thoroughly enjoying this game, if it wasn’t for skyrim this would probably have been my game of the year. Surprised to see it get so low on the advent-o-calender though. And John probably doesn’t like it because he tries to be assault but can never heal people. A shame.

    • bear912 says:

      The advent calendar is in no particular order, aside from day 24, which shall be their Game of the Yearest game.

  9. davsheep says:

    Pity the game crashes on a regular basis on a PC with the latest drivers and more than enough resources to run in. Makes the game unplayable. No mention of this however – unless rendering a game unplayable is a “Rough edge”.

    • grundus says:

      No, it doesn’t, at least not on my machine. In fact it runs like a bloody dream, it’s just a shame my internet connection can’t keep up.

      Frankly, I think BF3 is the best online FPS I’ve ever played, but the list of those that I’ve played are as long as… Well, this list:
      Quake 3
      Call of Duty 4 (that basically encompasses every COD since COD4, they’re the same game)
      Battlefield 2 for about two hours
      Bad Company (on PS3)
      Bad Company 2 (on PS3 and PC)
      Battlefield 3.

      Ok, I have played more than that, but not for long enough to really remember. I think one go-to FPS is fine, and BF3 is that for me. I think it’s the versatility that I like, if you want to play it like it’s Call of Duty just find an infantry maps server (which I pretty much never, ever do), or if you want to have epic battles find a big map server. You can customise your loadout for basically any range of engagement, you can use vehicles if you’re feeling a bit lazy, or if you just want to play one-handed you can use the MAV… Not that I do that either. Just saying, if they fix the crazy balance issues (the worst of which is the mobile Anti Anything, no shadow of a doubt), I think you’d have to be really ‘unique’ to not find something FPS-like to enjoy in BF3. Of course there are no vegetables to take.

      But yeah, I think it boils down to the fact that you can, technically, unlock every gun, gadget and vehicle attachment in the game without ever killing anyone, should you wish to do that.

  10. The Pink Ninja says:

    I hope this will be my game of the year when I have the money to buy it and time to play it…

  11. MiniMatt says:

    This year has pretty much been defined by being the first in which boycotting over DRM / licencing / software as a service has been painful.

    Previous years it’s been largely a case of boycotting bad ports of bad games so no big loss; this year Ubi have even bought out a few good games and BF3 is the one which really did hurt to reject.

    • Wisq says:

      Sadly, I accidentally broke my own Ubisoft boycott with Driver, just by not realising it was Ubisoft before I bought it.

      The launcher and the need for a new account on some other service was indeed about as painful as I expected, with absolutely zero added value. On the other hand, the game was pretty good and the DRM didn’t cause the world to end or kittens to explode. And on the third hand (yay radiation), I have a very stable internet connection, which means a) I don’t know what would happen if I was offline, and b) I’m not likely to be offline in the first place.

      So I’m not sure whether I feel vindicated, or silly.

  12. Isometric says:

    I would have played it more frequently if not for some of the maps. Half of them are far too small, relying on choke points. It doesn’t end up being fun when all you’re doing is shooting people down a tunnel over and over. I need more of a tactical experience that some of the other maps offer. I’ll probably go back to it when the Karkand expanion is released.

  13. sneetch says:

    Yeah, it’s a good game, I’m personally still unsure whether it or MW3 is the bestest manshooter evar but then again I prefer infantry only matches so the vehicles aren’t much of a draw for me.

    The technical bollockry required to get co-op working in BF3 is a big mark against it though (technical problems in general do) as does the lack of utility in the whole battlelog nonsense (why can’t I change my loadout outside of the game, for example).

  14. humanchu says:

    I actually bought a PC to play this properly (after running out of curses operating the Dualshock). But I happened to put on the BFBC2 disc I had around first and now I don’t think I’ll bother with BF3. BFBC2 it’s just much more fun with almost zero frustration.

    I wanted to love BF3 (talking mp only btw) but I have realized I find it a bit of a mess.
    – less destruction
    – tons of gadgets that are a) not fun (hello flashlight) b) an unbalanced mess
    – static meatgrinding on the smaller maps
    – marathon running on the larger maps
    – too realistic for comfort-knifeplay
    – crappy in-game interface
    – irritating high contrast graphic design scheme
    and I haven’t even had the pleasure with Origin and Battlelog

    I find it does deliver on the graphics though and I hope the engine gets used in a better game real soon.

  15. Vinraith says:

    Look at that, you finally got me to click on a Battlefield 3 article.

  16. Vorrin says:

    As a long time fan of the bf series, I don’t reallylike it enough. Most of the decisions whether in an absence of voip (on pc only,figure that),a completely useless chat, some extremely dodgy and cramped level designs, seem to show a complete disregard/middle finger up, to the users, and even more to the actual fans of the series.

    Graphics and audio and fantasticly tight gunplay aside,it really just feels like a massive step backwards compared to bf2 or even 2142, especially in what makes pc games stand out nicely from console games (basically all simplified, there being 2 possible ways to a certain result rather than endless,and so on)

  17. TODD says:

    Hmm. My top two picks for GOTY, The Witcher 2 and Battlefield 3, have been knocked out early. I would be surprised if DXHR were still standing on day 24, but I’m running out of guesses here.

    • Brun says:

      Just based on RPS post volume, I’d say that the top two games of the year will be DXHR and Skyrim. Or some random indie bundle.

    • psycho7005 says:

      What about Minecraft? Seeing as that was technically released this year…

    • Jonith says:

      Did they not give it Minecraft last year?

  18. Potunka says:

    If i was the EA bossman (which I should be, honestly) I would have taken the single-player campaign up against GTAIV instead of CoD. Just the way multiplayer functions, I imagine BF3 on Frostbite2 could have done such cool things with a single-player campaign. Hang out at base, customize your squad, speak to your CO and get missions in the surrounding, OPEN-WORLD area until it’s all blowed-up and secured then move on to a different environment.

    As a side note, not releasing modding tools is so stupid. Look how much money Counter-Strike has made! durp durp durp corporations fearing lack of control or something?

    • Brun says:

      They don’t want mods to outcompete their paid DLC.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      I find this accusation weird, as Skyrim and New Vegas are doing just fine with mods competing. As you may not know, DICE did not release any modding tools for BF2 or BF1942 either, all the mod tools there are fan made. However, I do understand that getting a server to run mods is much more difficult now.

    • Brun says:

      You’re correct that Bethesda and Valve seem to be the only publishers really committed to modding. Others will do it here and there if the developers can bully them into it.

      The paid DLC argument is really a very general case. Thinking about it now, EA probably doesn’t want BF3 modded because it’s a competitive multiplayer game and allowing modding would give hackers a lot of information about how the game works under the hood.

    • Wisq says:

      Better tools = easier to make content = time spent improving tools is offset by time saved making content. Therefore, it seems to me that “moddability” has the most benefit for games that are extremely content-heavy (like Bethesda games), or platforms that are intended to act as a base for a large number of games, maps, and total-conversion mods (like Valve games).

      Anyone who goes the former route has a huge effort ahead of them, and anyone who goes the latter route is competing against the de facto mod platform champion.

      If you only put a little effort into opening up your game to modding, you don’t get the benefit of great dev tools, nor the huge mod community, nor the reputation for being an easily moddable platform, *and* you add competition against your own DLC. Doesn’t seem like much of a deal to me.

    • diamondmx says:

      ^ This is exactly why I think there has been some hostility to mods by devs lately.

  19. Brun says:

    Software-as-a-product is a dead business model from the 90’s. ALL software makers – not just game companies – are now following the software-as-a-service model because it’s infinitely more profitable and carries a lower risk over the long term. While I understand and sympathize with the people who dislike it, Origin and its competitors are really the future and refusing to use them on principle is going to mean depriving yourself of a lot of good gaming experiences.

    I really don’t get why people rage over the Battlelog. The important part – the server browser – works fine. If you aren’t interested in the social-networking features, you don’t have to read them. At least EA isn’t charging you for the Battlelog like Activision does with CoD Elite.

    It’s really a shame that BF3 isn’t bigger than it is – MW3 seemed to get all of the attention and sales even though BF3 is a vastly superior game in virtually every respect. I’ve converted several of my friends from MW3 to BF3 and all of them have said “I can’t believe I wasted my money on MW3.” Such is the power brand name holds over the weak-minded – sometimes I wonder if BF3 would have sold better if it had been named “Call of Duty: Battlefield 3”.

    This was my third-most anticipated game this year, after Skyrim and Crysis 2, mainly because I didn’t know beforehand how disappointing Crysis 2 would be. BF3 has definitely lived up to its expectations.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      ALL software makers – not just game companies – are now following the software-as-a-service model because it’s infinitely more profitable and carries a lower risk over the long term.

      This is precisely why I try to avoid it: because for me, as a customer it is more expensive and carries a higher risk over the long term.

      Companies will still do it as long as enough customers don’t mind being sold short, but I am willing to forgo many games that I don’t think offer a good deal overall.

  20. phenom_x8 says:

    Do christmas always means spending more money there, guys??
    Where’s the church, the sermons, the gift for the poor and another religious act ?
    Damn, what have happened with me! Its must be because of my empty wallet!!

  21. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    A pity that I can not afford this game…

    Also a pity that EA has a bit of a ‘heavy-handed’ approach when it comes to getting rid of undesirables. Hopefully they will fix that eventually.

  22. SamC says:

    I just wish solo pub playing wasn’t so inconsistent. The experience ranges from “OMG 12 kill streak – being gunner for an amazing helo pilot – blasting dudes behind cover” to “oh, that guy killed me for the seventh time five seconds after I spawned – helo pilot slamming directly into closest radio mast – holding zero cap points for the entire game”. I know teamwork is too much to expect, and I guess this is more of a problem with team based multi-player games in general, but I’m just amazed at the height of the highs and the low of the lows.

    • TODD says:

      If you have a microphone, make an effort to find a clan server you like and join their Teamspeak/Ventrilo/Mumble. This makes the game ten times better.

  23. tomeoftom says:

    It is the Best Manshoot.

  24. Radiant says:

    I really quite liked the single player.
    Especially when compared to the incredibly boring and one note MW3 single player.

    Whilst, vehicles aside, the majority of it is of course a point to point and then shoot fps It did some very innovating things within that tired formula.

    The Russian levels for example were AMAZING.

    The car park [fighting with car headlights in your face], the multi lane aspect of the fighting [pick a lane and fight through it, switch lanes and fight through it, see a wall and shoot through it] and the ever varying scenery that changed the way you played all felt really fresh.

    The russian levels were like playing Outrun with guns.

    They really stretched the legs of the game and what was possible if devs just stopped being brain dead and sprinkled some seasoning onto the genre.

    Not to mention those Russians?
    I fucking loved those motherfuckers.

    They really felt like I was fighting my way to get on top of and win the situation I was in.

    The marines on the other hand? Bunch of numpties.
    Just reacting to idiot situation after idiot situation of what felt like my own doing. Until… “HOLD THIS AREA TILL WE DIE”. Causing the people who come to get you to also die.

    MW3 in comparison never had those Russian bright spots.
    It felt like watching the same 20 minute film about epic shooting on repeat for 9 hours.
    After a while you just ceased to give a shit.

    • Brun says:

      As a huge fan of anything with a jet engine, I absolutely loved the F/A-18E level, despite the fact that it was a relatively bland on-rails affair from a gameplay standpoint. Cinematically that level crushes anything that Modern Warfare has to offer.

    • TODD says:

      I was downright awed by the jet mission right up until combat started; as you said, it was ultimately a dull rail shooter level. If players had been allowed to fly the damn plane, it would have outshone everything else in the campaign. As it exists now, especially for veterans of multiplayer, it is a frustrating interlude that only highlights the artificial limitations of the game rather than showcasing its potential.

      e: I also agree that the Paris level was the best. Speeding through Paris traffic sets the mood; then the action kicks off with your friend running over a terrorist and shooting him in the head when he smashes through your windshield. It also featured the only slow-motion “dramatic” moment in I’ve seen in a linear shooter that felt appropriate to the action on-screen and wasn’t just there to make you a superhero for a few seconds. The use of music is flawless.

    • Radiant says:

      I forgot to say how great the sound was too.
      Playing BF3 then playing pretty much anything else was a bit of a come down.

      And with the jet level it’s ok to run through it on normal but on hard it becomes down right tedious!

  25. DigitalSignalX says:

    If there could be a prize for awesome game that still stands up, despite being on a tremendous pile of shit containing bugs, activation issues, support issues, insane consumer practices, incredibly stupid single player campaign … it would (only) be BF3.

  26. rocketman71 says:

    Oh, come on!. BF3?. And with Origin on top?.

    And after Orcs Must Die instead of Dungeon Defenders?

    RPS’ Advent Calendar is going down the toilet this year.

  27. Kadayi says:

    TBH I quite like Battlelog. Initially I was a tad skeptical, but having used it a lot it makes a sense to leverage the power of your internet browser given the insane amount of stat screens you can bring up, as well as be able to directly tap into the community aspect. I’m bemused by the hysterical reactions of some to both it and Origin though. The notion that people are boycotting the game because they drank the Kotaku kool-aid over Origin being somehow ‘The devil’ is hilarious.

    • TODD says:

      I know about ten people personally who play Battlefield 3, and all of them say Battlelog as a whole is a massive improvement over the old server browser. I can’t help but think that there is some mob mentality and irrational resistance to change behind complaints about the new system.

      Now, that isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of other problems with which to take issue. Battlelog is plenty of DRM in and of itself, for instance; Origin is completely superfluous and an obvious attempt by EA to make its piece of shit download manager as ubiquitous as Steam. The unresolved crashes, stupid squad management interface, and single player campaign inexplicably divorced from the Battlefield experience were all legitimate complaints.