Battlefield 3 promised us two things: an intense, engaging single player, and an expansive, rewarding multiplayer. It was able to deliver on only one of those fronts. Essentially a failure of the game’s vision that, unsurprisingly, proved to be a non-issue to the game’s success.
In the early years of the once-PC-exclusive Battlefield series, the only form of single player provided was a mode that allowed the player to practice gametypes with and against bots. Aside from beginners to the FPS genre learning the controls, this feature was largely ignored. The multiplayer component was more than enough to allow all the games up through Battlefield 2142 to stand on their own.
When DICE made the decision to expand to consoles with their Bad Company spinoff series, they wanted to attempt to compete with other popular shooters on the console market. The best way to do that was offer a wider variety of content by adding in a solo campaign filled with wacky characters and dastardly villains. While shattering franchise traditions, the newly formed single player kept true to the Battlefield formula by giving the player plenty of tools and the freedom to complete the missions in any way they chose over wide expanses of land. Fans of the series coped with this by reminding themselves that the Bad Company series wasn’t truly Battlefield, and a return to form was on its way with Battlefield 3.
That didn’t happen. Not in the way it was intended to, at least.
Instead, Battlefield 3 was some sort of mix between Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, Bad Company 2, and Call of Duty. In attempt to appeal to the widest range of fans possible, Battlefield 3 presented an even further deviation from previous entries: a linear, serious, cinematic campaign. It was well-executed and graphically incredible; the soundtrack was tense and the threats of terrorism were, well, terrifying. But we’ve seen this all before. It was in no way unique or innovative, and felt completely uninspired. Battlefield 3 fell short of its goal in standing above its competitors in the single-player department. It crashed and burned and was almost universally disliked. However, this misstep is only a stumble on the way to a triumphant return for the Battlefield series.
The redeeming qualities of the series don’t lie within the game, but within the fans, who’ve expressed a thousand times over, “We don’t care for the campaign. We don’t even want it. Trash it and focus on the multiplayer.” And so, as expected, Battlefield 3‘s online component was indeed a true Battlefield game. But has a game like this succeeded with only one half of the experience in a market filled with single-player masterpieces? I believe it has. Although the developers were unable to reach their intended goals, the player base has remained strong due to a refocusing of DICE’s efforts. Updates to Battlelog, bug fixes, an expansion containing a massive amount of new multiplayer content, as well as hints that there is still much more on its way, have shown that DICE has indeed listened to its fans, post-release. If this level of focus on the game’s more notable features had been present during initial development, it’s possible Battlefield 3 could have made a much more notable impact on the current first-person shooter landscape. Perhaps next time.
My advice for future main-series Battlefield games? Scrap the single-player entirely. Don’t bring it halfway back to its roots, but all the way. If Digital Illusions CE (or DICE, as they’re commonly referred) truly wants to go above and beyond the call, it needs to pool all of its resources to construct the greatest possible Battlefield game, not some hybrid of other shooters. Keep the characters contained within Bad Company. They were doing just fine there anyway.