The Frag Limit

Battlefield 3 – Weapon Overload?
May 9, 2012, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Side Strafe | Tags: , ,

Battlefield 3 has a lot of weapons.  In fact there are over 55 different kinds of guns alone.  There are 9 assault rifles, 6 carbines, 7 light machine guns, 8 sniper rifles, 6 sub machine guns, 5 shotguns, 6 rocket launchers and 8 pistols in the game (with several faction variations as well).  In addition to this, there are also a whole host of weapon “modifications” which allow players to tweak their weapon setups with scopes,  barrels, grips, lights, laser-guides and suppressors – among other things.  Furthermore, there are also helping handful of grenades, mines, mortars and c4 explosives to add to the mix.

With all this firepower it makes one wonder how one can survive in such a hostile environment.  It also makes one wonder how the gameplay (and the general sense of player to game interaction) is affected by this extreme arsenal of armaments.  In this post I will consider such questions and try to parse out the true affect (whether it be good or bad or something else) that all these weapons have on the game.  Is this wide choice of weaponry an example of giving gamers the versatility and depth that they want or is this just simply weapon overload?

Playing BF3 is a lot different than playing other modern shooters.  Yes, other games have often have a wide aresenal to choose from – but BF3 is in a league of its own.  Even Battlefield: Bad Company 2 doesn’t offer as many weapons, modifications, gadgets and so forth as Battlefield 3 – indeed, there is nowhere near the same amount of options.  The first question that needs to be answered is why?  Why did Dice choose to go with this route?  Why are there so many weapons?  One answer may be that this is the current trend (although with the sheer scale of unlockables in BF3 it goes beyond the trend considerably).  Another answer – and the answer that I believe to be most realistic – is that Dice wanted to create a structural system of incentives.  Essentially, they wanted to make the game addictive.  And addictive enough so that gamers would be compelled to play the same maps over and over again until new content could be released via expansion packs.  Obviously then, this system of incentives boades well for the company’s bottom line and, in the end, isn’t that what it’s really all about (for Dice anyways)?

The question following why Dice made the game like this is; does this system of incentives actually work?  Does the large arsenal of weapons, gadgets and customizations, etc., actally pay off and make the game a better game?  Does the large arsenal make gamers want to play more than if it otherwise didn’t exist?  My answer is… is that it probably depends on the player.  Each player has their own unique interpretation about what is and what is not compelling.  Some players may be extremely motivated to unloack each and every item until there is nothing else to unlock – while others may find a “decent” weapon and stick with it indefinately (and not necessarily b compelled to find something better).   Indeed, in my experience with Battlefield 3, the latter case tends to be the most true. 

Having played the game for a little over 40 hours now, I have only unlocked roughly a quarter of everything there is to unlock.  Invariably though, I almost always end up playing with the same “configuration” – I always end up playing with the support class with an AEK, holo sight, grips and supressor.  Ninty percent of the time I select this loadout.  It seems to me that I have found a winning combination (for me) that augments and supports my tendencies to play stealthily, nimbly and quitely (and as medic) and I pretty much have no desire to try anything else.  Indeed, I have tried other things, up till this point, and those things have usually gotten me killed or have otherwise comprimised my ability to play the best I can in the world of Battlefield 3.  For me then, I have no incentive to unlock more and the structural system of incentives that Dice so wanted me to fall for now just seems like a large, bloated, purple elephant in the room.  And I have no intention of messing with that elephant.

I know that others though do enjoy the incentive of constantly unlocking new weapons and assests.  Indeed, on nearly every server I play there are usually about a quarter of the players on that server who have unlocked everything there is too unlock and are now simply playing to bump up their rank and/or just playing simply for fun.  I have nothing against this, of course, and I am glad that those players have gotten as much as they can out of the game.  For me, however, I will probably not be investing that much time in the game as to unlock every item (it would take somewhere in the ballpark of 80 hours of gameplay to get there if I continue at this rate!).

The other major question in regards to the large amount of weapons available in bf3 is gameplay.  How is the balance of the game affected by having over 55 guns to choose from?

To say this least, Battlefield 3, and other modern shooters similar to it, are not like the older shooters that came out a decade ago.  Games like Quake 3, Tribes, and Unreal all had a limited number of weapons that each individual player could use and no additional weapons could be unlocked.  This helped balance these early shooters well and prevented any one player (or team) from dominating the other players (or teams).  Indeed, this balance is what made these games special as the focus was less about configuring the perfect deadly combination of class and weaponry and more on simply playing as best as possible within the confines of the gameworld.  And here is where Battlefield 3 suffers.  Battlefield 3 can not and does not provide the equal playing field that those eariler games provided.  It can not provide that equal gameplay simply because it offers too much.  It’s complexity and it’s structural system of incentives makes the game bloated, heavy and slow – and not to mention, unfair.

Given this, there is always the argument that if every player on a given server (say, in a clan match) has unlocked every weapon and every item, then the game will be fair – or at least, a lot less unfair.  I am uncertain whether this argument is valid or not, as I can understand both sides equally.  Of course, if every player has equal access to every weapon/item then no one player can have a technical advantage over any other player.  Conversely though, the sheer number of weapons available in the game may create an intrinsic imbalance that may be so great that even if everything is unlocked and available to every player the combination of skill and play style, for each specific player, coupled with specific weapons may create a compounded effect larger that what can be accounted for by the other team’s players.  For example, if there was a really good version of me out there (and I’m sure there is), then the combination of using a stealthy/nimble play style with an AEK or silenced sniper rifle may simply overwhelm the competition.  No combination by the opposing team can really resolve that threat – of course unless there was a similar player on that team.  This “sum is greater than its parts” effect is a huge problem for gameplay balance in an competitive environment and I’m not sure anything can remedy it (in Battlefield 3’s current set up).

Overall, of course, Battlefield 3 is just a game and provides a solid amount of entertainment.  In this light, perhaps weapons overload is not an issue and is a real advantage for those who prefer to play the game casually.  For those who want to play the game more “seriously”, or in a competitive manner, the huge number of weapons in bf3 makes the game beyond consideration for competitive use.  The imbalance created by those weapons is just too great – no matter how you cut it.

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