A History of Violence
What do you want in a war game?
It's difficult to sum up what made Battlefield so appealing to me when I first played 1942 so many years ago. Most likely, it was because my friends were playing it, and because it was different from other first person shooters. This distinction was found in its huge, open battlefields, its diverse class system, and the myriad of vehicles that made the game a completely different experience every time you joined a server. The developers tinkered with the mechanics of their open-world battles through several subsequent games, all of which more or less retained the original aspects that made it so engrossing. The formula was successful, but being PC-exclusive as gamers tired of perennial system upgrades and immigrated to the 360 and PS3 caused Battlefield to slowly fade from relevance.
The Empire Strikes Back
Electronic Arts was sick of Call of Duty stealing all the glory on the consoles. So they came up with a simple, devious plan: lure potential Modern Warfare 3 players into the new Battlefield game by infusing it with stuff that made them feel at home: shiny lights, focused action, a slew of unlocks (to keep players coming back, masking unrewarding gameplay), and a low threshold. DICE played their part to keep the hardcore franchise fans sticking around - they said they'd develop the game for PC first, then consoles. They maintained this throughout development, despite a disappointing alpha and beta showing.
And now they've admitted that this was a lie.
I put up with the beta, despite the signs that the game would be lackluster. Now that the game is out, it's clear that DICE have screwed this thing up. They've contradicted nearly everything they originally said about the game design in an attempt to pander to a new audience. I can't begin to list all my gripes with the game here, but I'll put a few out: the maps are small, players must unlock the most basic functions, flashlights are blinding, snipers frequently out-duel machine guns at close range, the squad system is dysfunctional, and the game lacks any semblance of balance. They've fixed the terrain glitches from the beta, but the maps are pathetic. BF3 does nearly everything worse than Battlefield 2 did it years ago, and there's really no excuse for that.
I didn't want to play Call of Duty; that's why I sold back my copy of MW2. I wanted a different game, a sequel to BF2 like they tried to convince me I was getting. Having said all that, it's not a terrible game; it's probably worthy of the ~7/10 rating the users have given it on Metacritic (the critics' reviews are useless, because EA hand-picked favorable outlets). It's possible patches will bring it to a point that it's an actually great game, but that may be wishing for a bit much.
In some alternate universe, motivated purely by the desire to make an awesome, open-world battlefield with teamwork and tanks and helicopters and jets and aircraft carriers, devoid of the pressure from Activision and EA's bickering, and wanting to give the people who play the game what they want, Battlefield 3 could have been great. At least we only waited six years for this mediocre sequel to BF2. The silver lining is that Skyrim is only a few short days away.
(Editor's note: I wrote this on a cool head. Imagine what I would've put in here if I'd just been the victim of the auto-knife lock-on kill system they've implemented in the game...)