Genre: First Person Shooter
Developed by: DICE
Published by: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, XBOX 360, PS3
Feeling Like: Internal Battle
The Battlefield franchise has been responsible for some of my favorite multiplayer moments, almost all of them in person. There’s nothing like a LAN party. I feel genuine empathy for those that never took the plunge and participated. If I was a southern old lady, I’d pat your head and bless your little heart.
Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 were certainly powerhouses in that regard. Battlefield 4 has been our recent adopted game of choice, spurring our desire to prove that we’re still capable of sitting in a chair for eight hours and shooting each other with tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers. With coffee and stretch breaks, naturally.
Even going through the old photos of gatherings in my parent’s basement is bringing back powerful whiffs of nostalgia: There’s no way we ever looked that young. How much pizza did we order? Who was that guy again?
Sorting teams, shouting strategies, trading insults and huddling up post-match to analyze are all part of the fun, none of which the developers have a hand in. It’s all about the group. Lugging your gear to the gathering, choosing where to get food, how late can everybody stay, begging the first abandonee for one more game (otherwise the teams will be uneven) were also necessary challenges to overcome. But the time melted away, because there’s nothing like sitting next to your 4-8 buddies and playing games. Even back then it wasn’t a common occurrence, the stars had to align: everybody healthy, the absence of a non-LAN party elsewhere, chores completed, parents appeased, cars borrowed and a basement big enough to host us all.
My experience with Battlefield 3 had none of that. I barely touched the multiplayer. I only spent about 5 hours total, which sounds like a lot, but a single LAN party timeline could double that easily. But two moments really stand out and propelled my appreciation of it to #247.
As you can see in the above screenshot, one level takes place in a fighter jet. I love fighter jets. Since you require a strong stomach and godly eyesight to pilot one, I will never get to fly one in real life. So I will get my kicks by watching Top Gun: Maverick (terrific) or playing an Ace Combat. The first person perspective really hooked me. Despite the game being 11 years old, it still looks amazing. The framerate never drops and you really feel like you’re being launched at a million miles an hour over the ocean. I love the detail of scratches on the windshield. My recall is limited, but I think there was only one level like this so it did feel like a gimmick, but a thoroughly enjoyable one as well. Who doesn’t love a good digital dogfight?
The second moment is a strange one.
During one level where you’re storming a mansion, I scored a headshot on an enemy and I don’t know if it’s because the graphics were too realistic, or I was in a mood but I started to feel guilty for enjoying myself. I know the baddie I killed wasn’t real, this is just a game, but for the first time in my life I wasn’t gleefully taking down enemy operatives in a realistic, military themed shooter. Huh.
Thankfully a game would really lean into this the following year (Spec Ops: The Line), but I haven’t necessarily felt this way again in a game. I certainly prefer shooters with a more fantastical setting, or something more stylish. As graphics get more realistic and settings become more familiar, I am less drawn to them. I want some kind of separation between fantasy and reality – maybe that’s why I’ve avoided the Call of Duty franchise for the last decade, despite loving the earlier titles.
So that’s why Battlefield 3 gets to be this high. A few very specific moments that were unforgettable and I am very aware of the impact it had on me at the time.