Field Report: Battlefield 3 PC single-player

DICE has made no secret that their efforts have been focused on making Battlefield 3 a great PC game, with high-end graphics and a slew of features geared toward PC players. After playing the game on PS3 during PAX 2011, the results of their PC efforts are immediately evident. It looks better. Controls better. Feels better.

Activating my pre-ordered copy on Origin, I jumped into the game's single-player mode. While I will jump into the online multiplayer as well for my upcoming review, my initial impressions have me worried.


Simply launching the game was a mission of its own. I was immediately met with issues with EA's new platform, Origin. Originally, the plugin required to launch the game via its web-based Battlelog wouldn't launch. My solution? Instead of using Chrome, I installed a new web browser (Firefox 7) in order to get it to work. It was a hassle, but since then, I have had zero issues with the client.

Running the game on the highest settings possible and with the latest drivers (my PC specs can be found here), I loaded the game's first mission. Simply put, Battlefield 3 is gorgeous. Character models, save for those seen in cutscenes, look fantastic. (For some reason, the cinematic models are blocky and awkwardly animated.)

While the game's mysterious opening scene grabbed me immediately, my impressions went sour not too shortly afterwards. A cutscene plays where Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn is explaining what had happened to him after an earthquake hits the frontlines. After he tells two mysterious interrogators that he "saw" something when he regained consciousness, the scene flashes back to Blackburn trapped under debris.

And then the scene stopped in the middle of a sentence. A load screen hit. "Next level coming up," I thought to myself. Instead the previous scene where Blackburn is explaining the situation plays again. The flashback hits again. A few extra seconds of Blackburn trapped under the debris plays and it shifts to a load screen. "That was weird," I think, "but the next level is loading."

It doesn't. Instead the previous cutscene plays a third time. Eventually, third time is a charm and the next level loads.

In the next level, Blackburn must hug the side of a raised fault line and crawl through an open pipe and into a building in search of a weapon before heading out to an extraction zone. On my way around a corner nearing the pipe I spot a US marine character model, standing arms spread with an expressionless face (essentially, it's doing the same thing as infamously seen in the NBA Elite 2011 demo). As I inch closer to the character model, he disappears and reappears falling out of a destroyed humvee. Heading closer to the pipe, I spot a pair of men standing over what appears to be a map. What they should be doing is examining the map and discussing strategies, instead they both stand face-to-face, arms spread in the same pose as seen earlier.

The issue appears to be an error in the multiple scripted set pieces attached to the beginning of the level. Perhaps the earlier glitch with the cutscene didn't properly load the level, breaking preset character animations.

I reloaded the level and the cutscene played a single time, the marine fell out of the truck as he was intended to do, and the two men stood arguing and pointing at the map.

BOOM video 10945

There are other issues I have with the game thus far, like the AI being aggressively linked to animations. For instance, as my team sets up around a door, each member is preset to a certain position in the environment in order to execute an "open and clear" command. If he's standing in their spot, the AI will simply push the playable out of the way. It doesn't recognize his position and compensate for it. This wasn't a big problem initially (this happens in a lot of games) but in the first level where I was dodging sniper fire, I crouched too closely near my allies who began crawling around a corner, which pushed me directly in front of the sniper's scope.

Not to be completely negative, though, the game's next mission--controlling the gun of a jet fighter--looks and plays perfectly. It's exciting and a ton of fun.

There are issues here, but I'm hoping that I ran into a few rare snags. For example, while I think it controls beautifully with a mouse and keyboard, testing it on a gamepad revealed some issues. There are multiple "Quick Time Event-style" moments in the game and I couldn't get them to work using a wired Xbox 360 controller. (But that's certainly not the way I'd expect many PC gamers to play the title.)

Also, I think it's pretty clear that the majority of people dying to play Battlefield 3 are specifically focused on the multiplayer modes of the game, which I have yet to play outside of the alpha and beta tests. Still, single-player exists. It's a mode that took time and resources to produce, and so far, it's been riddled with bugs.

I'm going to be extremely thorough with the review for Battlefield 3, examining both the PC and console version of the game. We certainly wish we could have had a timely review available for the Shacknews community, but we didn't have the ability to play the game prior to release. Look for our review of Battlefield 3 on PC and Xbox 360 some time next week.

Field Reports provide our first-hand experience with the latest games, but should not be considered a review.