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Battlefield 3: Single Player is Worth Criticizing

So Yahtzee recently lambasted Battlefield 3 without commenting on the multiplayer for more than one sentence. This was followed by a flood of comments accusing him of being a imbecile or a troll for not giving the multiplayer more time. Many people understood that Yahtzee “has the right” to complain about the single player campaign, but they said it was pointless because people only buy Battlefield games for their multiplayer.

This was about as surprising to me as the sun rising in the morning, but it still makes me frown. I also remember someone on Twitter responding to my outrage toward the campaign by saying I was essentially “stating the obvious.” This implies that everybody already knew the campaign was going to be shit, and/or that nobody really cares.

This simply isn’t true. There are plenty of perfectly valid and justified reasons to criticize Battlefield 3’s single player campaign.

Time and Money Spent On It

I’ve played campaigns that were thrown in as afterthoughts, and I can assure you that the Battlefield 3 campaign is not one of them. It has thoroughly constructed set pieces and levels, NPCs with dialogue and vague personalities, cutscenes that desperately try to tell an in-depth story, and game mechanics built specifically for single player. When I played the campaign, it didn’t seem to me like a tacked-on addition to a multiplayer game. It just seemed like a very shoddy single player game.

This shows that a large amount of effort was put into the single player mode, and if we go by the logic that “nobody buys Battlefield games for their single player,” then all that time and money was completely wasted.

New Customers

Yes, most of the preexisting Battlefield fans know that Battlefield is and has been a predominantly multiplayer-based game, but I’m willing to bet there are plenty of Call of Duty fans who haven’t played a Battlefield game before and are curious about Battlefield 3. And there’s a good chance they’d want to check out the single player right away, since so much of EA’s advertising for BF3 was focused on its story.

Oh, that’s another thing…


As Yahtzee pointed out, EA recently stated that they consider their single player to be just as important as their multiplayer. On top of that, most of the advertising for Battlefield 3 was focused on its story and single player features. Yes, this was probably EA’s attempt to make Battlefield more like Call of Duty, but it doesn’t change the fact that many people buying Battlefield 3 could easily be more curious about the single player than the multiplayer.

But even if we ignore all of these facts and assume that multiplayer is ultimately all that matters, there are still reasons to criticize the campaign.

It Doesn’t Prepare You For Multiplayer

There’s a reason many multiplayer games have tutorial levels or little single player campaigns: they’re supposed to prepare you for the multiplayer. Jumping into an online deathmatch game without being properly taught the game mechanics first can be very dismaying and even frightening, to the point where you might never want to play again after your first time. Remember what I said about Left 4 Dead 2 in my previous post about Battlefield? If that game didn’t have a single player mode I may not have ever embraced the game for what it was.

The problem, though, is that the Battlefield 3 campaign does not prepare you for the multiplayer, not in the slightest. There are a number of game mechanics that you only ever get to experience in multiplayer. Just as an example, you can pilot jets in online deathmatches, but in the single player campaign all you get to do is fly in the gunner seat and fire missiles using an auto-targeting system.

Moreover, there are plenty of single player features that aren’t in the multiplayer. If you wander off in multiplayer, you won’t get a big flashing warning sign telling you to get back to your squad. You also won’t get prompts telling you what to do. In the campaign you’re constantly being pulled by the hand without any idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Once you go to the multiplayer mode you’ll be just as lost as you were beforehand, and you’ll still get sniped by some dick you couldn’t see.

Online Activation Bullshit

Thanks to the magic of EA’s online activation system, people who purchase the game used won’t get to play the multiplayer at all. That means all they’ll have is the single player campaign, and if the campaign is nothing but a tacked-on afterthought like so many Battlefield fanboys say it is, that means used copies of Battlefield 3 are effectively worthless. So it makes sense that Battlefield 3’s single player campaign should be worth a damn, because otherwise EA can go fuck themselves.


4 responses

  1. AMEN!! i was looking foward to B3’s campaign and it was nothing but a big dissapointment. a buggy poorly desgined piece of crap dissapointment. Battlefield 1942 was the first and best game becasue it broke form the norm of “Modern” shooters. its single player was its multiplayer except it chained the different maps together to form the story of the war. it relied more on cooperative stategy than the “Skill” of “Modern” shooters. Bad Comp 1 & 2 were great way of evolving that game into what a maority of the target audience wanted, and were pretty fun games whose singleplayer game was unique enough to be its own game but also it gave you the know how to play multiplayer aswell. Battlefield 2 was a bit of a an oddity but it was a decent game all things considered, and was relativly similar in its feel and playstyle. Then B3 comes along and im thinking: “oh look a singleplayer focus + going back to the orginal intent of Battlefield 1942, awesome!” what i get is a crappy Call of Duty rip off campaign filled with bugs and a multiplayer that costs extra and is a devolvution from previous games. EA WTF?!

    November 14, 2011 at 9:17 PM

  2. How about an even more general piece of criticism? It’s there. They made it, therefore we can criticize it. People saying we shouldn’t because it’s not the focus of the game don’t seem to understand how critical appraisal works.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:09 AM

    • Falcon

      You couldn’t be more right. This type of brain dead thinking is the cousin of the equally vile ‘it’s a game, the story doesn’t have to be good’ or ‘it’s a great story… for a game’.

      Both are used to stifle discussion, and are missing the point if criticism.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:58 AM

  3. I don’t play FPSs these days. But I felt a similar problem with Starcraft 2. The single player campaign is great, but the mechanics are totally different from the multiplayer.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:20 AM

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