Battlefield 3. What a disappointment. Before anybody pipes in, I wasn't even going to bother buying this last year, but a friend of mine got it for me (and I paid him back) so that we and a few others could play online together (more on how that went later in the review). I've watched the beta of Bad Company 2's online played and found it to be interesting, and while I've never really played any of the Battlefield games (or that many FPS games for that matter), I could definitely see the appeal and the differences that let it stand out from other First Person Shooters. Huge, open maps, more people fighting each other, greater emphasis on teamwork and contribution beyond just killing people, and vehicular combat. I found that to be immensely appealing, and a nice contrast from the smaller, more fast-paced nature of Call of Duty's recent online iterations (not that I'm saying they're bad, but that they are clearly different).
Of course the reason I wasn't keen on buying BF3 to begin with is because I had pretty much put EA on my video gaming shit list at that point in time (and it's still on there). I'm not anti-business as much as I'm anti-corporatism. What seperates good businesses from shitty ones is that the good businesses treat their customers with respect and even reverance, and possess a genuine desire to make products/services/entertainment for people and to make their lives feel better in some way, shape, or form. Shitty companies only see their customers as something to be exploited. Instead of saying "What's good for the customer is good for business." they say "What's good for the business is good for the customer." I'm sure from EA's perspective, shit like Origin, day-one DLC, and online passes seem like a good thing for them as measures to leverage greater control over their customers, but they make the fundamental mistake of assuming that as a business they are supposed to leverage any control over their customers to begin with. The reality of business is that the customer is in charge. Always.
The entire reason a business exists in the first place is to create customers, as business is an organ of society and therefore cannot exist for its own sake (as defined by economic scholar Joseph Schumpeter).
Now there's a reason I went off on that business tangent. One other distinction I should note between good and bad businesses is in perspective. Good businesses tend to either see things in either a very focused and/or holistic viewpoint, whereas bad businesses will only see things in a superficial manner. It'd be like going to see a doctor. A good doctor will examine a sick patient, take note of all their symptoms, and then try to find the root cause of these symptoms and treat it. A shitty doctor will just treat the symptoms without regards to a root cause. Treating your symptoms is irrelevant when the root cause goes untreated.
In the case of the game industry, the superficiality stems from the fact that the business side of many of these bigger companies are run by people who are not gamers and do not have a gaming context. In many cases we see a lot of these guys come from other areas of entertainment, or not even from entertainment at all. And we can trace this all the way back to Atari with Ray Kassar, whose background wasn't gaming, or even entertainment, but fucking. textiles.
But because these guys are not gamers, and simply see gaming and gamers as something to be exploited, they try to take the easiest path to success, namely by copycatting what is successful, hence why you see a lot of industry pundits and even some misguided developers saying they need to "emulate" games like Call of Duty or that they need to retool their games to get the "Call of Duty audience."
"I'm the forefather of shitty game industry practices!"
Now there's nothing inherently wrong with copycat games. Copycat games have existed since the Atari, and even with the NES, we saw clones of both the original Zelda and Zelda 2, and on PCs at the time in the form of The Great Giana Sisters emulating Super Mario Bros. We even had someone on this site argue that a Sega Genesis game, Crusader of Centy
, was a better Zelda game than Link to the Past was (and they may very well be right for all I know). A copycat can do just fine if it is able to distinguish itself or do what it's emulating better. Usually having ambition helps, too. Clearly Battlfield is trying to distinguish itself in the FPS market, rather than trying to completely xerox what everyone else is doing. The developers recognized that people might want a different
kind of FPS experience from Call of Duty, or Half-Life, or Halo, or whatever else was out at the time that these games were released.
Which brings us to the root cause of what really fucked Battlefield 3: EA trying to make a game that was clearly trying to do its own unique thing more like a game franchise that already exists (Call of Duty), a winning strategy that has fucked them over with not one, but two
MMORPGs now. Nevermind that EA seems to have an obsessive hard-on over the years for wanting to be Activision's rival, though it seems that as more and more reports of financial woes pop up regarding EA, their wanton desire to be Captain Ahab to Activision's Moby Dick will prove prophetic as they ultimately sink themselves and all the studios they've bought out and ruined with their lack of gaming understanding.
But I didn't write this up just to talk about the game industry and business. I just wanted to illustrate a point about why BF3 wound up as it did, before I tackled the review proper. The game industry mostly sees gamers and gaming much the same way the music, movie, and book industries do: "We need to make this film for this demographic! We need to get in on the epic fantasy film genre! We can do shitty remakes and adaptations of earlier films without having to put in the time, resources, or effort!" It never works that way, and seeing as how I've mentioned that a lot of the business side of the game industry may come from other entertainment mediums, it shouldn't be a shock that they carry this mentality over to gaming as well. Even worse is that this mentality may more often than not poison game developers as well.
But enough of that. I'm not here to just review Battlefield 3. I'm gonna demonstrate how this game, with a little bit of ambition and a whole lot of effort, could have been an exemplary example of an FPS alternative to Call of Duty and could have even potentially exceeded it on its own merits.