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I’ve been out of the Battlefield loop for a long time. After Battlefield Vietnam, the series just didn't excite me anymore. Perhaps it's because I've been somewhat spoiled by the ultra-refined gameplay of Call of Duty. Still, the Battlefield series has always felt broken to me. That didn't stop me from recently trying out Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for the first time, though, thanks to the excitement generated by my hands-on with Battlefield 3.
Sadly, I didn't have much fun. Rather than leaving me smiling with warm, nostalgic feelings, Bad Company 2 left me pissed and frustrated. Then I noticed something unfortunate: This hackneyed predecessor felt an awful lot like Battlefield 3. In fact, the both seemed exactly the same. Uh-oh.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Why is that a bad thing? The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games are almost exactly the same." And you'd have a decent argument if it wasn't for one important fact: Modern Warfare is a good shooter. Bad Company 2 isn't.
This is why I fear that this new, overly hyped game from EA won't be as amazing as people are assuming. A better graphics engine doesn't mean a better game, after all.
Doing gunplay the “realistic” way
The Battlefield games pride themselves on their gun physics — the realistic recoil and bullet trajectory. Everything works the way it should, which is an admirable feat, but how does hyper-realism translate to a better gaming experience? It doesn’t, actually.
For those of you who have never fired a gun before: It's really, really tough. If you consider how easy it is to miss a target only 20 feet away, having realistic weapons in a game can sort of take the “fun” aspect out of the experience.
I get that it’s not a problem for everyone, seeing as how BF has a decent userbase, but the reason a game like COD succeeds more as a shooter (competitive or recreational) is because the guns aren’t realistic. One gains a sense of gratification after picking off an enemy from 100 yards away…with a pistol.
What does this have to do with Battlefield 3? Well, it definitely won’t convert any seasoned Modern Warfare fans unless it cuts back on the gun physics. Unfortunately it doesn't; my hands-on with the new BF proved that the weapons still fire like they’re being held by someone with Parkinson's Disease.
Putting the "field" in "Battlefield"
The venues in EA's team-based shooter have always been huge and rightly so: Vehicles like jeeps, tanks, and planes need room to move. Unfortunately, once the series decided to go "modern," vehicles no longer played that large of a role in the gameplay. This leaves entire maps for you to vulnerably run around in, inevitably leading to a bullet in your back. Behold the core of my frustration.
The conflicts in Bad Company 2 are a complete mess. Its maps are so vast, and everything is so sprawled out, that they lack any real focus. Yeah, certain modes (such as Conquest) will concentrate the battle to specific points, but the majority of your deaths are due to an enemy outside of your peripherals.
The 64-player matches don't help much, either. Sure, this idea has always sounded great on paper, but the reality of it is far from fun. Have you ever been in a chat room with 64 people in it? The experience becomes a bit impersonal after a while.
With regards to Battlefield 3: While it does seem to have a few orderly maps that mimic those found in Call of Duty, a few look just as open and confused as before. Unless developer Dice designs some levels that cut back phantom deaths and add a little more vehicular variety, defections from Activision's franchise will most certainly be scarce — at least once the game's hype wears off.
Why did this one trailer cause Modern Warfare 3 to lose so much steam?
So what’s all the fuss about?
The answer is pretty simple: graphics. EA's latest war epic looks gorgeous, and the unexpected overhaul has drawn a lot of focus back toward the franchise. At last month's industry trade show E3, every ounce of praise I heard about the game was based on how “amazing” it looked. Even some Bitmob staffers were drawn to the title just by its graphics. But I think it goes deeper than it simply seducing us with its looks. I think people also want something different, even if it’s potentially worse.
Like some quaint jingle from a TV commercial, "Call of Duty" has been stuck in the heads of gamers for quite a while — and they're starting to tire of it. The first-person shooter is likely the most stagnant, self-limited genre on the market, which is why 99% of the hype within it is aimed toward a single franchise. Halo was the shooter for several years until Activision kicked it off of its soap box. And now, people are ready to place another game underneath the spotlight.
I have no doubt that Battlefield 3 will sell like crazy. Several people are going to convince themselves that this game is a breakthrough, even if it's nothing more than a new coat of paint. But that won’t change one simple fact: If you didn't care about Battlefield: Bad Company 2, then you certainly have no reason to care about this presumed messiah of shooters.