Battlefield 3: a beautiful, satisfying, best-selling failure
posted on 02.05.12 at 11:25 AM EDT by (@GrizzNKev)
Let's go back to roots.

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.

  • http://www.youtube.com/tezchi TezChi

    I think this can easily work both ways. Developement time and money is often spent on an unnecessary, unwanted addition to a game which ends up unplayed and not in the fans’ interest.

    For example as mentioned above in the article, if fans truly did not want SP in the game, why bother adding it if is certain to be a (very) poor experience? Likewise however, and in my opinion more common in modern times, is the addition of multiplayer when the fans said – “We don’t care for the multiplayer. We don’t even want it. Trash it and focus on the Single Player.” I see this all the time with single player games, where if you look closley there’s some skulking MP mode, hiding unplayed under the banners of the real experience.

    The answer is simple. Developers should seriously ask themselves what fans are expecting from the game. In the case of Battlfield 3, it seems clear that the fans had little interest in the SP, and indeed the developers seemed mutually to brush it off. Therefore I think you were right – if certain modes and tacked on ‘features’ do not warrant the cost or player experience – scrap them and focus on what the game is supposed to be offering.

  • King-Optimus_777

    I see nothing wrong with the game i wish people would bash COD as much as they are bashing BF3 like good god no one every talks about how COD franchise hasn’t change since MW1 its the same gameplay over & over & over again in my opinion COD = Same Shit Different Day but Battlefield = trying to improve on the experience

    • http://gearsjourney.blogspot.com Acidicsam

      @King-Optimus_777:

      …not sure if serious…

    • Akira

      @King-Optimus_777: Call of Duty gets bashed a lot… maybe even more.

  • King-Optimus_777

    Then why does it sale a lot and when i try get my friends to come to battlefield they refuse to and they keep on wanting to play COD

  • thunderbear

    I disagree with the article… also one of the main reasons I love Gematsu is because there’s not a lot of opinions forced on you like most other gaming sites. If you are going to do editorials, I wish you would at least create two different RSS feeds so I don’t have to come across these sorts of headlines. If I want people’s opinions, I’ll go to a forum. I’ve been a long-time reader of Gematsu/Scrawlfx and I really hope this isn’t a trend.

    • Sal Romano

      @thunderbear: Well, the article is clearly labeled an “Opinion” on the main page. If you don’t want to read it, just don’t click the headline. :]

      As for reading the headline, that’s something I really can’t help. I understand not everyone agrees on everything. But when you disagree with something, it’s best to constructively share why you disagree so that people might see both sides of the argument.

      • thunderbear

        @Sal Romano Well, like I said, I use RSS feeds. And the headline itself is declaring a strong opinion. And I did offer a constructive option; create two different RSS feeds. One for news and one for editorials so people like me, who don’t really care what the rest of the internet thinks about games can live without the negativity. Otherwise I’ll just unsubscribe and not use Gematsu which would be a shame because it’s usually a great site for information.

        I’m tired of every Joe and Schmoe on the internet wanting to share their opinion. It should be my choice if I want to read those or not. If you, as a site. chooses to not give readers an option to opt out of these editorials, then my choice is only to unsubscribe. Which again, is not what I want because outside of these editorials, I like this site.

        • Sal Romano

          @thunderbear: Zero pretty much took care of my argument. It’s unfortunate that you’ve decided to unsubscribe, especially considering these types of articles so rarely appear on Gematsu. And because it’s one out of a literal 12,000 that we’ve sacrificed so much time to provide our readers (so yeah, kind of ridiculous reason to leave).

          You have to consider the growth of the site, and the push for discussion and interaction. While you’re free to express your opinion, I can’t cater to one “Joe” or “Schmoe” (as you put it) that has an issue with opinion-based articles (which they can freely choose to avoid). Fact is, the majority of the community enjoys these articles, even if they disagree with their own beliefs, because it opens the door to debate and discussion.

          I asked you to “constructively share why you disagree [with the article] so that people might see both sides of the argument.” You’ve still yet to do that. Maybe you should. Maybe you’ll run into others who also disagree. Then again, maybe you won’t. That’s the beauty of an opinion – they can be shared and discussed, and maybe even morph your own.

          Sorry I couldn’t help, Thunderbear. I liked having you around. I’m not a bad guy – I like to consider myself a really nice person, actually (I try to be, at least) – so I truly hope you’re able to find a site that suits your needs. Though, I will warn you, just about every games site you’ll come across will publish at least one opinion-based article every now and then.

  • Zero

    @thunderbear

    Really? Are you kidding me? Better just stop going on the internet then, everyone has an opinion about everything. And the internet is a place where people go to express opinions.

    You had a choice, and you made it. You decided to read the article, you were not forced to read it. I might sound like the bad guy here but oh well, I find what your saying completely ridiculous.

    Since your tired of every Joe and Schmoe on the internet wanting to share their opinion, feel free to not respond to this.

    “Do this or I’ll stop coming to the website!” For real? I know sal was being a nice guy, and he might get on to me about my response here, which would be fine. I just read the comment and starting shaking my head.

    You just can’t please some people sal. Please keep posting these opinion based articles, I think they are good for the website and the RSS feed. :)

    Moving on, I agree with you Kevin. I personally think they should just have kept making Bad Company games, and kept the traditional BF games separate.

    In other words, I enjoyed them as separate games. I didn’t like Bad Company 2 as much because it lost much of the charm that made the first one so good, Campaign wise.

    BF3s campaign was as tacked on as you can get.

    • thunderbear

      @Zero You are kind of a good example why I don’t read comments. You had no reason to write “are you kidding me?” and in real-life you probably wouldn’t because you know you would be perceived of as a jerk. The internet is a great useful place for information, it’s not just a cesspool of people’s opinions. Gematsu was a great place to visit until they introduced articles like this. Thing is, the headline itself expressed an opinion (using good old sensationalism to grab viewers attention which is cheap). If the headline had been neutral, like “Editorial: Battlefield 3″, I would not have cared and moved on.

      Believe it or not, but there are plenty of places on the internet where you can find information without having to read a lot of opinions. That’s why I’m on the internet. I’m not on it to get drowned in mostly uninformed, emotionally charged, often mean-spirited opinions. I subscribed to these comments to see if it was possible that Sal Romano and company would see reason in this and give people like me a choice. There are other gaming sites that are professional enough to not force opinions on people (again, referring to headlines as that’s the part you can’t avoid) so I’ll probably stick to those.

      Considering the responses, I am unsubscribing. If the internet world was different and people expressed their opinions with respect and regard for the people they talk to, I would participate in it. But 90% of it isn’t.

      • Zero

        @thunderbear:

        I was hoping to have a nice discussion with you, since you seem to think a crime was committed here.

        I try and point out the obvious, that everyone has an opinion. And that you decided to click the headline, and then you decided to read on.

        Hypocrite – : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.

        You go on about how you don’t read comments, and you focus on that.

        Then you reply to my comment, and the first thing you type is, “You are kind of a good example why I don’t read comments.”

        That’s very hypocritical.

        I’m sorry man, you can’t have it all. This website is not just for you, or just for me.

        It is trying to grow and get more active users, get more people posting comments. Discussion is important, as are opinions and articles that allow writers to express themselves.

        This is important on all websites. Not everyone is going to agree with you, not every article will be filled with mostly positive writing.

        The funny thing here is, this is mostly a positive article. The headline doesn’t tell the whole story.

        What more can I say? Stop and consider that I’m not trying to be your enemy.

        You only said I disagree with the article, then go into criticizing the website, and sal, and Mr. Grismore for allowing something to be posted that you don’t necessarily agree with.

        Which is why you got the response from me that you did.

        This is what I see when I read your comments –

        “I don’t agree with this article, you are wrong. I hate how the internet is full of people that don’t always agree with my opinions. I also won’t bother discussing why I disagree, because I don’t read comments. If you don’t agree with me, you are in the wrong and your opinion is; uninformed, emotionally charged, and mean-spirited.”

        Anyways, I’m sorry sal for getting this off topic.

      • Kevin Grismore

        @thunderbear:

        I’m sorry that you disagree with what I said.

        One of the things that makes gaming great is how subjective it is. While I took the time to express how I felt about the game, you have absolutely no obligation to read what I have to say or reply to it. There’s no reason to cause an uproar and demand Gematsu change its policies over a single article that was clearly labeled as an opinion.

        I had hoped that this piece would spark some discussion on whether or not I was right. While it’s impossible to appeal to everyone, I appreciate when those who feel I am incorrect provide a solid explanation as to why they disagree, as it allows myself, as well as the readers, to consider the topic from a different perspective.

        I also hope that I didn’t come off as uninformed or mean-spirited. I closely followed the development of the game, participated in both the Alpha and Beta tests, and have logged over 50 hours on the final product and its expansion. Though the title was meant to attract attention, I provided a balance of both praise and criticism for the game throughout.

        The best I can do is encourage you to stick around, and maybe you could tell us how you feel about the game too. If your argument is strong enough, you may just win me over.

  • vertical09

    I cant believe i read through that whole FPS article. Well, if it was CoD i wouldnt have even came in =P

    • Louis Guinto

      whats a CoD? lmao

  • http://twitter.com/leeray666 Lee Ray

    I do agree with this article. Although, I think there should be some single-player element. Like with the PC battlefields it should be a reflection of the multi-player experience.
    You could have missions in which you have to play the role of an assault class, and your objectives are to keep your team alive using med packs and the defibs. And you can have sections in which you’ve got to use smoke to tactically help your team move from one area to another etc. etc. You could have chopper training, jet training etc. etc. That way people can fall back to the single player if they need to brush up on skills rather than being the one dude to waste a jet because they’re trying to learn to fly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spencer.okonski Spencer Okonski

    +1, +bombers with defensive gun turrets… i spent hours gunning down tailing enemy planes on my roller coasters of doom!

    PS. attempt to make the most beautiful, realistic, and expansive WW2 game of all time!

  • http://www.facebook.com/spencer.okonski Spencer Okonski

    Picture being inside a photo-realistic B17 bomber! You and 5 lonely and isolated gunners dumpin ammo out at enemy fokke wolfs with wind blowin at 5,000ft above Nazi Germany!

  • http://twitter.com/prignony Yves Prignon

    It didn’t work because it was not on steam that is all!. I didn’t buyed it because I don’t want another system than steam. Put it on steam and I buy it if it is like 35€ not more!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000181466141 Bill Henry

    I just want DICE to bring back the 4 characters they had in Battlefield Bad Company 2