These days it seems like a cliche to tack on some kind of recognizable classic rock to set the tone for a modern war game or movie intro. This also occurs at the start of Battlefield 3's campaign, not that I’m complaining. I'm actually impressed that EA DICE decided to go the Americana route with a Johnny Cash song I didn't recognize.
It does set the tone well for this story of BF3's now-well known protagonist, Marine Sergeant Henry "Black" Blackburn as he and his squad are traveling by truck to the first mission of the game. It also marks the beginning of a hearty preview day hosted by EA, where we also had a chance to check out more multiplayer and the game's little known co-op mode.
Actually, that wasn't exactly the beginning of the game’s story. Before this initial mission in the Middle East, BF3 really starts off with a prologue-style mission, one that EA politely requested that we not talk about quite just yet. Needless to say, it's a solid starting point, and transitions into a new scene from Blackburn's mystery interrogation we referenced in our last single-player preview. The interrogation delves further into what is presumed to be the main terrorist threat of the story, not to mention curious names connected to the antagonist group, the PLR (People’s Liberation and Resistance).
In trying to stay light on the spoilers, we can at least say that EA DICE certainly managed to cram a satisfying dose of plot development and unsurprising twists to these missions befitting a squad-driven war story. Things that can go wrong in urban warfare (particularly in a Middle Eastern setting) certainly do. After a quick debriefing on Operation Sword Breaker (also the chapter’s title), Blackburn’s squad's first goal is to locate Viper Squad. With the PLR in the vicinity, the path isn’t exactly straight.
It was impressive to have this tight series of combat situations where Blackburn and his mates had to improvise in order to adapt to the evolving situation. One minute they’re dealing with a single enemy threat--and very tactically I might add--and the next minute you might be taking on a small army. Thankfully there are a couple 50 caliber machine gun turrets to mow down the latter.
By the second half of this mission, Blackburn’s squad ends up with an intense helping of hallway-enclosed shootouts. This brief section brought up the only two gripes I had about this current preview build: 1) There were a few performance hiccups where the game froze during this battle (I played on the Xbox 360), and 2) It got too easy to be penalized for friendly fire. The latter was especially troublesome because not only do you get a "Game over," but the AI squad mates sometimes get in the way. I guess that’s what I get for depriving myself the full screen view and relying on scopes too much.
Where things get interesting is how the much known earthquake comes into play. Frankly, I’m not 100 percent convinced it was a natural earthquake. Perhaps instead it's something triggered by the PLR. Whatever the case, buildings collapse accordingly, transitioning to the next chapter, titled "Uprising."
This mission conveys yet another example of how objectives change at a moment’s notice. Blackburn finds himself hiding from the PLR while making his way to an extraction point. This mission presents a diverse mix of short distance enemy situations and much further ones, the kind of set-ups where I wish there were more sniper rifles in the field. While this chapter has a similar area from the last chapter, the dust filled evening makes for an impressive contrast to the bright sunlight from "Operation Sword Breaker."
The vehicular component has always been such an important part of Battlefield, so it makes complete sense for it to have its moments to shine, starting off with the next mission, titled "Going Hunting." Here you play the gunner on a vehicle. It made for a fine deviation that involves shooting down a series of targets both on air and on the ground. While this sortie might be a tad long for some fans, rest assured that you get to go back on foott in the next mission.
This then led to Operation Guillotine, which we already previewed during TGS. From there we were transitioned to Battlefield 3’s Cooperative mode, which we will talk about in a separate preview very soon. As a reminder, Battlefield 3 will be released on October 25 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.