Plot? We Don’t Need No Stinking Plot.
We’ll address the three game modes (single player campaign, co-op, and multiplayer) individually. The campaign plot is a fairly standard affair, with loose nuclear devices in the hands of terrorists determined to start a world war for an indeterminate reason.
Plot-wise, the fact that we never got the “why” behind the villain’s machinations irritates me. I’m not looking for a typical “bwa-ha-ha” moment, where the villain describes his elaborate scheme before throwing you into a pit with razor-toothed-shotgun-wielding-hyper-intelligent-gorillas, just a simple “this guy is trying to destabilize Russia and the US so that Kazakhstan can reclaim oil fields” or something. I’ll put it to you this way: I think if BF3 and I sat down and had a conversation, mano a disc-o, and I asked why the character did what he did, BF3 would reply “because.” That doesn’t cut it for me.
Not only is the story a little weak, the way it’s told feels a little thin. First, the game is aggressively linear. When it tells you to follow your teammate, the plot will often not progress until you are physically behind your teammate. That slows down some of the more, ah, “motivated” players trying to get through the campaign.
I frequently would get too far ahead of my teammates and have cinematic events happen into my character, so end up walking behind one of the enemy spawn gates and just watch insurgents teleport into the battlespace. I understand what DICE is trying to do, but I think they could’ve focused a little harder on the player experiencing the game organically, rather than insisting on mapping the player’s experience.
Even though I’m participating in tank battles and fighting my way into three continents, it feels small-scale. Example: my tank unit is rolling into Tehran, which has obviously been under bombardment and whatnot, but the only people I see are my two other tanks. Where are the civilians? Where are the F/A-18s flying combat air patrols?
It’s evident that DICE focused on building a world of small-scale intense firefights and in that sense they entirely succeeded, but seemingly at the cost of grander, cinematic “moments” that the competition is so good at. In Call of Duty, you have these huge dramatic set-pieces that create images that are, at times, unforgettable. I think it’s telling that I beat BF3’s campaign 8 hours ago, and I don’t remember how it ended.