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Field Report: Battlefield 3 PC single-player

We're still working on our Battlefield 3 review, but here are our first impressions of the first few missions found in the game on PC. So far, we've experienced a number of strange glitches.

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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.

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.

From The Chatty

  • reply
    October 25, 2011 1:00 PM

    Xav de Matos posted a new article, Field Report: Battlefield 3 PC single-player.

    We're still working on our Battlefield 3 review, but here are our first impressions of the first few missions found in the game on PC. So far, we've experienced a number of strange glitches.

    • reply
      October 25, 2011 1:08 PM

      so it's a typical, bug ridden, DICE game then?

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        October 25, 2011 1:37 PM

        I've experienced no bugs whatsoever.

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          October 25, 2011 2:42 PM

          Have you played it for more than 5 mins? The whole key/mouse binding is riddled with bugs.

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            October 25, 2011 3:47 PM

            Yeah, bound all my keys, played it for 2.5 hours or so, not one bug yet.

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      October 25, 2011 1:23 PM

      I got Chrome to work for Battlelog once I enabled plugins to run automatically on [*.]battlefield.com (by default I have click to play on).

      I haven't come across any of the bugs mentioned here in the single player campaign myself, with just 3 missions left. It is linear, but cinematic and an audio-visual treat. Actually, I haven't come across any bugs at all, apart from a weird graphical anomaly that reloading fixed. The main problems would basically be personal due to design issues. It is very CoD, and I'm okay with that - I know I'm going to play through the entire thing at least. I'm ripping through it before I get sucked into the multiplayer (and Uncharted 3 once it gets delivered this week...).

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        October 25, 2011 1:26 PM

        When I finish the game, I'm going to go back and try the beginning for a third time. I want to see if maybe it was just a weird one off issue.

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          October 25, 2011 1:29 PM

          I think it's possible that many people are just falling into the natural rhythm/expected pathing they just want you to take. Especially if you've been watching all the trailers and recreating those viewpoints yourself.

          If in doubt, I think it plays well if you hang back and let your squad lead you most of the time.

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            October 25, 2011 2:32 PM

            I don't know that we should expect patience from gamers! :)

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      October 25, 2011 1:25 PM

      FWIW, I had no such issues with bugs. The campaign just isn't very good.

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      October 25, 2011 1:26 PM

      No bugs experienced so far for me and the SP is a ton of fun!

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      October 25, 2011 1:26 PM

      Luckily, I haven't experienced any bugs at all in SP and it worked fine out off the box with Chrome.

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      October 25, 2011 1:34 PM

      I haven't experienced those SP bugs, but I agree with the other guys. The SP isn't bad, but it's painfully linear. That said, I don't feel that it's much different from the MW games. I'm having the exact types of frustrations as with those games.

      On the whole, none of these games' single player experiences are very deep, but they do make for some very pretty and neat setpieces.

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      October 25, 2011 1:40 PM

      I have yet to be able to play single or multiplayer. Multi tells me there's an error on the EA backend when I try to quickjoin and I'm unable to join any games, single player is an unplayable mess of stutter (I think triggered when a new sound fires, even the intro videos stutter constantly).

      Neither of these were present in Alpha or Beta :/

      I fucked with it for about 3 hours this morning and couldn't find any solutions. I have installed new audio drivers (but had to run to work before testing it) and will try to forward some ports this evening. Those are my best leads so far.

      Framerate is fine for the 3-5 seconds of gameplay I get between pause/stutters, mouse feels pretty floaty though, and tweaking the sensitivity slider didn't seem to make a lot of difference. It's a pretty frustrating way to start out with a game, but I really can't form any serious opinions about it until I get the thing running.

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      October 25, 2011 1:58 PM

      no bugs for me yet. Its a fantastic game that looks and plays brilliantly.

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      October 25, 2011 11:56 PM

      "For some reason, the cinematic models are blocky and awkwardly animated."

      They are probably matching the console quality. I'm not saying that to be a troll. I honestly think that on the consoles, the transition is meant to be seamless.

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      October 26, 2011 12:00 AM

      it keeps crashing in operation guillotine for no reason, it makes the video driver crash. i tried every damn game, benchmark, diagnostic tool, to see if my video card was broken, but it's perfect, it's just a bug from what i see, no matter which video driver i install, i can't get past that mission, it keeps crashing in the same spot (hd6970, btw)

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        October 26, 2011 8:27 AM

        Have you tried playing in window mode? Also have you tried the latest beta drivers?

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      October 26, 2011 11:11 AM

      .... There's a single player mode?