Under the Radar

Battlefield 3 Campaignin'


Okay, so...we finished campaign play over the weekend and ended the game wrung out. This game is bad ass.

Bad. Ass. Not like one of those strippers in the Pegasus Club near Ft. Polk with all the scars and needle tracks, but awesome.

Frustrating at times, but bad ass. If you’re not prepared to work your fingers into tenosynovitis battling your way through to the end, stick to the multi-player modes. We’re going to go through some of the highlights we particularly liked. It will not be a piece by piece analysis, but there may be a few spoilers. Bug out now and quit reading if that’s gonna ruin it for you.

Hard to say what's more unnerving...massed Russian airdrops or graphics that allow you to count your expended brass.


Having come off a long stretch of Modern Warfare, we’re still not quite familiar with the BF3 controls. The starting level launches with a suitable amount of tension and mayhem. There’s a steep learning curve that’s going to piss off mediocre to average players who have a real life. You learn quick or are massacred in the streets of some Al Asscrack kind of Middle Eastern city. Recommend the normal setting if you’re a casual 1ST person shooter. We’re going to give EA their due on this one. They did their homework and the graphics are phenomenal. You can see the reflection of the sky in the carbon-fiber knuckles of your desert gloves. They definitely went full-tilt to accurately portray the conversation and movement of a seasoned grunt on his 3RD or 4TH MEU trip to the sandbox. If there’s anything negative, it’s the conversation: it’s just a little overdone, like they distilled a platoon’s worth of gungy grunt talk down into a squad sized element. Overall impression: effin’ great start to the game, let’s git some.


Complete combat immersion.  Heavy use of OPFor weapons, lots of incoming.  Dark environment.  Environment is phenomenally interactive, at one point we actually watched a grenade near a tree splinter the trunk and within the next few minutes, the weight of the tree caused the entire thing to topple.  One must wonder if the grunts in this game will get the clap. The thickness of cover is important as it will only stop incoming for so long.  Walls are good, cars are so-s. Those jersey barriers made out of crappy Hajji-cement last about as long as they really do in the AOR, so avoid them.

The double tap is important; most of your enemies wear some type of ballistic armor and extremity wounds won’t necessarily disable them (unsure if some of this is scaled by the difficulty level or if it’s supposed to reflect the common use of meth, adrenaline, etc. by real muj; either way, it’s damn dangerous).  The rounds that you fire don’t just disappear. You can account for your rounds and walk them, another testament to the realistic graphics. You can fire 4 rounds from 100 yards away and go count the number of impacts in a the car windshield your were shooting at later.  Be aware, your enemies will move from cover to cover, they don’t fall into the peek-a-boo syndrome that other bad guys tend to have.

Who doesn't like surfing on a subway train with a gun?


Get comfortable with gender ambiguity. You operate (or we did anyway) as a female backseater launching on an F-18F from a Navy carrier (CVN-77). Yep, you gotta play a chick, and don’t ask us why your Naval pilot partner is wearing an Air Force patch on his flight suit. If you’re one of those weirdos who’d rather play aircraft simulation games than an fps, this will be worth the cost of admission for you. Outstanding multi-platform use of weapons including JDAM,s, gun runs, and air-to-air engagements. Radio squawk feels combat accurate and the environmental manipulation almost makes you feel as if you are in a flight simulator, especially if you have a big flatscreen and surround sound.  Try not to puke up all that delicious officer food, you zipper-suited-sun-god you.


Start your mission as a recon marine doing BDA.  Naturally, higher HQ sees an opportunity to be seized, tosses you a FRAGO and your squad is sent in under heavy fire to secure an apartment complex.  The enemy strategically uses flares, and seriously…the game’s manipulation of light and its effects on the environment are staggering.  Time this so you can play it in the dark with all the lights out. You can even tell if there is a fluorescent or incandescent light in each street lamp, room fixture, or car headlight.  Everything from more pronounced reticle glare to shadow recognition are taken into account during this night assault.

Without spoiling the gameplay, it’s important to note that this level is much less difficult if the player utilizes the ENTIRE map, without getting bottlenecked into the path of least resistance. Don’t hey-diddle-diddle straight-up-the-middle. Nobody repeats Pickett’s Charge these days because it’s a bad idea.  Your companions do well to help eliminate the enemy, however, as with all shooter games there are some tasks can only be accomplished by you (such as suppressing an MG nest or de facto bunker).  Prior to assaulting the complex, there will come a point where the enemy will continue to spawn, rolling down a set of stairs until your reach your check point.  Once you finally breach, you are treated to the great pleasure of seeing the flaming body of some terrorist running out of the door, burning with the agony of freedom courtesy of one of your recon brother’s frag.

One great thing about clearing this structure is that there isn’t a bad guy around every single corner. This builds an exhaustive tension, which gives the player that realistic feeling of not knowing just when to expect some asshole trying to kill you.  The level continues with more heavy engagement and some surprises with everything from heavy armor to hand to hand CQB.  Here’s a tip for your success: don’t button up. If you remain stationary, you’re dead. Your enemy has frags and is happy to use it.  The storyline gets fairly intense at this point and the stakes get higher.

Ground attack run; picture courtesy of Holy Hand Grenade's YouTube jet tutorial.


Gargle a little ahead of time to get guttural. You start out speaking in German with authentic Spetnaz weaponry..it’s a great start to this round, but the icing on the cake is your comrades’ initial contact with the enemy, which reveals some tactics that can be easily attributed to GRU operators.  The view from inside the gas mask is so real you have to make a conscious effort not to suffer labored breathing in real life. Humor isn’t lost on this level. There are some subtle scenes that will elicit some chuckles. It’s easy to imagine yourself doing the same thing as the characters in the game, and the outcome is usually pretty close to the truth.  The pressure is on and you can feel it in both the storyline and the gameplay.  Great combat continues, graphics do not disappoint, but we didn’t care for the necessity of killing policemen in order to maintain our clandestine black cover. Yes, the story line and the need to stop the greater threat demand (needs must when devils drive and all that) but we didn’t like it.

Running with Dima and Kiril...good movements mostly, but everyone sounds like Ensign Chekov.


Thought flying a Hornet was fun?  This level gives the player the opportunity to lay waste and destruction on a grand scale through the wanton use (and misuse…we played this one a couple times just to crush stuff) of America’s greatest indomitable battlefield, the Abrams tank. Anyway, you begin the level by doing what any good soldier wants to do during those boring moment between TICs in a national invasion…rampaging through town running over hostile crunchies in a steel behemoth. Not much in life more fun than that.  Then the action becomes decidedly real as the dust of Iran (which isn’t too terribly much different than the dust of Iraq so many of you have tasted) dries your mouth. Driving these monsters is serious fun, and we all know that using a main gun round on one that one poor bastard armed with a only a pistol is just awesome.  The introduction of VBIEDs as a danger to armor is a new concept in first person shooters, but you quickly understand the importance of destroying them.  Regarding accuracy and verisimilitude, yes… some of them are orange and white taxis, when they’re not a little white Toyota pickup.


Getting close to the end. Tanks, explosions…more explosions, capture.  This one hits uncomfortably close to home. This is the chapter that leaves you feeling just a little uneasy In this scenario you find yourself in front of a camera with some assholes spouting political doggerel about how badly America sucks, why covering your women up with clothing from head to toe is awesome and assorted other enlightened (if brutal and profane) crap.  The rest of the level sucks, and again… hits close to home.

The clatter and racket of small arms fire is disturbingly realistic. Sadly you don't have the option to stay in your tank the whole time.


What modern FPS would be complete without a HALO jump?  It wouldn’t be, of course. Thankfully BF3 removed the player’s ability to plunge to their death by making the jump part of a video break at the beginning of the level, or we might still be trying to get through the damn thing.  The combat that follows is familiar to the rest of the game, but you finally get out of built up area and into some bush… just where we like it… ya know, in the bush.  Eventually you reach a villa and engage in the flip side of the storyline as a Russian GRU operator.  You know what the coolest thing about a glass house is? You don’t have to go inside it to kill whatever’s in it.  Note that a CQB style weapon like a good shottie or blunderbuss will help on this level. You can get away with the slower reload times if you’re careful, but if you’re one of those who believe volume of fire compensates for lack of marksmanship, then stick with something magazine-fed.  Thermal capability will come in handy here too.  Spoiler alert (though if you need it at this point we have a problem): you get to go through and clear out the world creepiest shoot house in this level, complete with pop-up terrorists. Real and cardboard. How cool is that? Mind your angles.  Cornering is important here, and believe it or not some of the fundamentals of real life MOUT tactics will actually work for you. The storyline is going to take a big turn here.

Fighting in and around a mall at night was challenging; would've been nice if they'd put as much effort into the Marines' tactics as they did their profanity during the cut scenes and cinematics, but it wasn't worse than most Hollywood efforts.


Put a bow on this thing and wrap it up.  We’re not going to give away the end. As you might expect, there is more than a fair amount of shooting here, and if you’ve built up some tension or angst you get to experiences some cathartic CQC closure. Good times.

Overall? This is a big evolutionary leap from previous Battlefield campaigns and the graphics are better by an order of magnitude. They really are that good. In all seriousness, we can see guys having flashbacks or getting twitchy if they really get sucked into the game. There was some lag on an older model console and we had a few disconnect issues the first couple of days, but overall great gameplay. Comparing it to Black Ops, the gameplay is as good or better, graphics completely blows it away (we’ll see how it compares to MW3, but it seems hard to believe they’re going to be able to beat Frostbite 1). The storyline comes up a little short, though. Despite what EA said in a recent interview with Stars & Stripes, these aren’t the kind of characters super-geeks are going to name their children after. This game is well worth playing in campaign mode, if only to get yourself prepped and ready for the truly awesome multiplayer brawls we’re going to discuss next time. Feel free to disagree with our analysis, but if you do…you’re stoopid, and you should write your own review.

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