Battlefield 3 Campaign: 8 Ways It Copies Call Of Duty
When imitation isn’t a form of flattery
Published on Oct 26, 2011
A warning, there are spoilers in this article, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Battlefield 3 reviews are out in the wild now, and you can read our Xbox 360 verdict right here, right now. The end-result of DICE’s glittering hype train was to be expected really; a lacklustre single player campaign salvaged by an outstanding multiplayer component. It’s an approach that is becoming part and parcel of the FPS genre these days.
The campaign is weak because it doesn’t actually feel like a Battlefield game. Gone are the wide open expanses of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which are now replaced with tight, static corridor environments that feel more like a Call of Duty game than something of DICE’s own design.
That would be fine except, after rushing through the short and genuinely uninspiring campaign, it’s clear that DICE isn’t suited to making the same kind of big action blockbuster experience that both Infinity Ward and Treyarch do so well.
Again, it’s important to point out that the Call of Duty campaigns are better is like saying that drinking a mug of rancid month-old milk is better than drinking a mug of two month-old milk, but still, Battlefield’s campaign does feel weak by comparison.
So here are the many Battlefield 3 campaign moments that seem to have been inspired by the Call of Duty series, and why many of them simply feel slack when stacked up side by side.
Running head-first, into mediocrity.
Although the Battlefield 3 trailers have always boasted about realism and an authentic military experience, the truth is that the game is laden with a range of insane, over-the-top moments right from the word go.
The first mission, Semper Fidelis sees Sargeant Blackburn leaping round the side of a flaming New York subway train to the tune of several dull QTEs like a mad gibbon. Realism is pretty much thrown out the window from the word go. Worst of all, it’s incredibly boring.
One of Battlefield 3’s main problems is that it tries to deliver these mad, over the top set pieces that actually don’t feel all that mad, or over the top at all. Even the earthquake in Fault Line is dampened by some uninspiring action.
A nuke goes off as well. We won’t say where and when, but when you compare the event in Battlefield 3 to Call of Duty 4’s stunning nuclear blast mission, in which your character crawls along the ground while dying, DICE’s effort feels laboured by comparison.
The final battle is also classic Call of Duty fare that beggars belief, except there is no real excitement to what goes down. In short, it doesn’t feel like a Battlefield game at all, and more like a misguided attempt to ride the coattails of Activision’s success. Instead DICE should have stuck to what it knows best.
Looks nice doesn't it? Shame there's little fun behind those trees in campaign.
Tight, restricted and heavily scripted aren't words that would have commonly applied to the Battlefield 3 series, especially after Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s wide expanses and freedom to tackle skirmishes as desired.
But Battlefield 3’s progression takes place along one wide, sterile and unimaginative corridor. Sure, the visuals look brilliant, but that doesn’t mean the areas don’t feel boring. It’s key to remember that visuals alone don't make for a fun experience if there is a real lack of substance, and this is exactly what happens in the campaign.
The scripting smacks of Call of Duty, although where Infinity Ward and Treyarch come good is each studio’s ability to make those areas feel tense, engaging and rammed full of action. Battlefield 3 doesn’t hide its set pieces well, and this breaks the pacing entirely.
You must always stand in the exact precise spot required by your HUD marker to trigger the next set-piece or NPC dialogue, you can’t do most things for yourself, and the only reward for exploration is the occasional bare room or bland corridor with nothing in it. Again, the campaign is basically great visuals, but little substance.
Still, there's no quick-scoping thankfully.
Commonly regarded as the Call of Duty series’ stand out mission to date, All Ghillied Up saw a young Captain Price and his handler traverse the irradiated bowels of Chernobyl in full stealth mode. You can cut the tension of that mission with a knife, and when It all comes to head once your cover is blown, the heart-stopping pace leaves a lasing impression on you.
DICE has attempted to recreate this mission almost to the letter in Night Shift. It’s a level that starts of slow and tense, builds up with tons of action, and then culminates in an extraction rescue. In short, it’s exactly the same as what happens in Call of Duty 4.
To be fair, it’s a solid mission and does the job well, although it still feels weak when compared to Call of Duty’s offering. Night Shift’s stealth section can't match moments such as lying prone in the Chernobyl field as guards march right over you, or the moment where you must shoot Zakhaev from the tower block.
The moment when Price’s handler Captain MacMillan is wounded and must be extracted from the warzone also happens in Battlefield 3. PLR agent Al-Bashir is hurt and your teammate hoists him on his shoulders.
As you hide in a dilapidated shopping mall to wait for extraction, you’re ordered to plant claymores at the entry points and hold of waves of enemies until the route is clear. This is near-identical to the ferris wheel extraction scene in All Ghillied Up, but no where near as tense.
This should have been a superb mission. But it just makes us do sad-faces.
Remember the skimobile chase section in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? It was highly restricted, short lived, but at least you had a modicum of control over what was going on. Best of all, it was a burst of fun, action-led insanity that delivered a jolt of excitement after a fairly slow and tense mission.
Battlefield 3 features similar on-rails sections, but they are just so, so painfully dull. The jet mission Going Hunting should have been your first taste at controlling the multiplayer jets, but instead the level opens with you checking wing flaps and rudders. Fun.
Once you’re in the air, all you’re doing is occasionally pressing one button to fire missiles, another to deploy flares, but only when you’re allowed to. Compare this to the nonsense, but still fun Vorkuta bike chase scene in Call of Duty: Black Ops, and you can see that DICE is a little bit out of its depth.
Later on, you have section that sees your character repelling suicide bomber cars from the turret of a tank. It should have been fun, but it’s just long stretches of driving and nonsense chatter from your comrades, which is occasionally broken up with quick bursts of gunfire. These moments feel like a chore, rather than fun.
Don't try to actually steer, it won't work.
The jet mission actually ends with a UAV-style task that sees co-pilot Hawkins raining down missiles and calling in air strikes on a PLR airfield below. All your doing is following on screen prompts and HUD markers while bombing parked planes and eventually a group of troops attempting to flee in a chopper. Again, this is painfully dull.
Compare this to any of Call of Duty’s air support missions – particularly Call of Duty 4’s Death From Above, which sees you controlling an AC 130 while supporting stealth troops on the ground and once again, it’s clear that Battlefield has attempted to better what has gone before.
Breach and clear
Popularised by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, breach and clear sections see your character entering a room full of enemies in slow motion, while gunning them down before the dust settles. This also happens in Battlefield 3 a few times, except in real time, and much, much worse.
Although to be fair, these moments aren’t as scripted as Call of Duty, but they still feel a tad limp. There is little fanfare for what should be a tense breaking and entering set piece that instead falls by the wayside as a minor distraction.
OK lads, lets make this quick, clean, and controversial.
Controversy (Really skip if you hate spoilers)
First No Russian turned the press against Modern Warfare 2 for its depiction of airport slaughter, and now we have Fear No Evil, a mission that ends with your character being captured by PLR forces and having his throat slit on a live terrorist video message.
It doesn’t really fit into the plot in the same way that the events of No Russian spark the American-Russian war, and it feels like a poor attempt at clutching for your heartstrings. There is no real impact here, and it slightly feels like an attempt to drum up controversy.
This image brought to you by Van Halen's song Jump.
Battlefield 3 doesn’t dabble in rappelling as much as Call of Duty does, but still, there are some neat moments in there. Sliding down a lift shaft, only to kick a PLR goon in the chops is fun, but it smacks of Call of Duty yet again.
There are no high-flying moments such as barrelling down the launch tower on Call of Duty: Black Ops, and although DICE has always pitched Battlefield as a realistic military FPS, the lines between authenticity and nonsense action are continually blurred.
Had Battlefield, stuck to its guns and delivered a chilling, realistic take on modern war, then the effect could have been utterly brilliant. Instead it is hard to play the campaign without referring back to Call of Duty, because the comparisons are just so blatant.
If you’re a long-standing Battlefield fan, then chances are you will find the campaign restrictive and alien to the franchise. Then again, single player campaigns are being viewed increasingly as a minor element of FPS titles these days.
The same is true for Battlefield, as both multiplayer and co-op rescue what could have been a very weak showing for DICE. So take our advice and do try the Battlefield 3 campaign, but lower your expectations and you’ll still come away satisfied to a point.
Then all you have to do is forget about it and dive into the rich and vast multiplayer offering, and yes, it really is that good.