While the Battlefield series initially established itself as a predominantly multiplayer experience, the latest Battlefield 3 scene EA showed the gaming press was another chance for the publisher to showcase more of the game’s single player story mode. It’s another insightful look into protagonist Sergeant Blackburn as he’s being interrogated by two as-of-yet-unnamed characters in New York.
“You don’t come across a guy like that by accident.”
That was the crux of this heated conversation where Blackburn is being questioned about his connection to an ex-Spetsnaz operative named Dmitri “Dima” Mayakovsky. It quickly turns into a verbal exchange of trying suss out how much each side really knows about this Russian. This is the same Dima who is the central character in the complementary Battlefield 3 novel written by ex-SAS operator Andy McNab, which emphasizes how Battlefield 3’s story goes well beyond Blackburn’s narrative.
This was also a rare opportunity to watch an actual prerendered cutscene from the campaign. You get to see considerable facial detail on Blackburn, as well as his interrogators. The on-site Battlefield 3 spokesman was consciously tight-lipped about the work that went into these scenes. I was especially curious if they used known actors since one of the officials questioning Blackburn bore a resemblance to Glenn Morshower, one of those “Hey, it’s that guy!” supporting actors on television.
This then transitions to a non-Blackburn playable section in the story where the player is now in Dima’s shoes. He’s in Paris, tasked to eliminate a target carrying a nuclear detonation device. There’s an air of mystery as to whether this presumed flashback is based on what Blackburn knew about Dima’s activities or what the interrogators knew. Whatever the case, it’s a heated garage battle right from the start, accented with the cacophony of French and Russian banter over the sounds of gunfire.
Everything from Deus Ex: Human Revolution to Dead Island to Crysis 2 has ensured that we haven't been short of garage settings in 2011. Maybe I just have a high tolerance for these kinds of levels, but it certainly wasn't something I minded in the context of Battlefield 3's story. It was also a fine opportunity to once again show off the bleeding light effects from the Frost Bite 2 engine as this garage had the standard unflattering fluorescent lighting.
The path through the garage eventually led to an office environment that had its share of armed guards. The nuclear device was important enough that Dima’s small squad was soon greeted with lethal gas, although they came prepared with gas masks. This area also featured a few office-based shootouts, highlighting Frost Bite 2’s work in environmental destructability. It also helped to have a heavy machine gun to lay waste to all the glass and walls in between Dima and the soldiers protecting the target.
It’s a rather gutsy move for EA to once again showcase the PlayStation 3 version. While it doesn’t diminish my excitement for the game overall, it wasn’t lost on me that some of the wall destruction looked somewhat dated, especially when compared to seeing this game running on a high-end PC. To its credit, there’s a practical, utilitarian appeal in destruction in Battlefield 3 where destroying objects can give you a clearer shot of an enemy.
While the target was often within sight, it felt like Dima wasn’t getting any closer during this raid. He eventually gets flanked by another enemy, triggering one of the few quick time event melee struggles in this mission. Our protagonist quickly takes the no mercy approach by simply taking off the foe’s gas mask; a quick and practical move that sends the guy writhing on the ground. Often the tease, EA cued the fade to black, effectively ending the presentation.
It can be a risk to make a story experience feel fragmented if it jumps across too many locations throughout the globe. Yet if the narrative has a strong enough sense of cohesion, then things might pay off so well that the game might actually standout. And in a densely packed genre like the modern first-person shooter, Battlefield 3 just might get some recognition for taking a chance in this regard. We’ll get an even clearer picture in the coming weeks as we will have a couple more previews leading up to the game’s launch on October 25, 2011.