The latest update for Battlefield 3 is now here, bringing with it numerous improvements, changes, and features, one of which is not sitting well with some players.
Many of the improvements to the PC version do appear to be good things. The commo rose now handles better and has new options, most notably the ability to call out for ammo, health, or repairs at any time. Gone are the days of desperately looking around for a medic when badly in need of health, which I can’t say I will miss. Other additions: jeeps now have horns to help alert teammates you’re trying to pick up; helicopter pilots are now better rewarded for flying well; the SOFLAM is effective even when you’re not controlling it; suppression bonuses are easier to earn; all players have IR flares from the start to help them succeed as pilots; and the minimap has been improved. That still leaves a number of issues unaddressed, but these all strike me as changes for the better.
Seemingly hidden at the bottom of a blog post outlining the update’s features is a mention of “shortcut items.” Battlefield: Bad Company 2 players will remember these from when they were introduced alongside the Onslaught downloadable content in mid-2010: Put simply, they are DLC packs that can be purchased (with real-world money, mind you) in exchange for access to unlockables (weapons, specializations, etc.) you would otherwise have to play through the game to earn. These are being reintroduced for Battlefield 3 on PC; you can now browse your way on over to Origin and find ten different shortcut packs ranging in price from $ 4.99 up to $ 39.99, the latter of which includes all of the unlocks found in the other bundles.
It’s one thing to see something like this in a free-to-play game such as Battlefield Heroes or Play4Free. Those are free games where the developer is hoping players will want to spend money whether it be on a new weapon, a cosmetic item, or some other kind of bonus. It’s different when the game in question is of the more traditional variety, as evidenced by the reaction many players have had to this news.
I’m personally of two minds about this; on one hand I can see how this option is beneficial to new players and those who have less time to play but want to experience things they wouldn’t be able to without devoting a time they don’t have to the game. At the same time, I can’t blame players who have worked hard to access those unlockables and are now mad a new player can drop a few dollars and have access to the same armament as them. A gun that I didn’t have access to until after two dozen hours of playing suddenly being wielded against me by someone in their second match is not a scenario that has me keen on jumping back into the game.
While many readers are upset with the addition, not all of them are — perhaps because Bad Company 2′s shortcut DLC took the edge off to some extent. That was the case for Ryuken1106, who said the BF3 news wasn’t a surprise. “I don’t think it’ll really imbalance it as far as I know (not that I’m an expert on the topic),” he wrote on the boards. “They’ll have the same weapons as those with all of them, sure, but some of the beginning weapons are just as good. It’ll be their skill level that determines how [good] they are with the weapons… the players who’ve played to unlock the weapons will [be better with them] than players who bought them all. In the long run, they’ll get the weapons anyway and I don’t see the later weapons as a lot better (since they all have pros and cons), so it should be as if nothing changed (except for EA getting more money).”
In agreement with him was zma1013, who wrote, “It doesn’t bother me. I’ve played and have unlocked nearly everything in the game and I had fun doing it; of course, I’ve also played a crapload of hours that I know other people just don’t have to spare. It’s good for people that want to try guns with different attachments without having to devote their whole life to the game.”
Over on Facebook, Benjamin Bourjois said he’s one of the people who got some use out of the shortcuts in Bad Company: “I for one was glad as I got into the game late so it allowed me to avoid the grind for weapons playing against everyone who had magnum ammo. It’s perfect for noobs.”
“I don’t see why everyone has a problem with it,” Gary Colbert said. “If people are too lazy to unlock stuff by themselves and they just want it all at once, they can pay for it. This isn’t CoD; it takes more than a day to unlock everything in BF3. This also isn’t CoD where there are a s*** ton of overpowered weapons (if any, I haven’t been killed by anything I would consider to be ‘overpowered’), so people having guns without earning them isn’t like giving them an advantage over everyone else. If they are bad at the game they will still get run over regardless of the weapon in their hands.”
Mikhail Floyd sees the shortcuts as potentially being useful to those who go from playing on one platform to another. “Well, let’s say for example you’re an Xbox convert to PC like me, and you’ve already unlocked your favorite guns and attachments but now you have to unlock them all over again as well as pay for the extra game,” he wrote. “So, based on the fact that I got Battlefield for like $ 35 on Origin a couple weeks ago, adding a few bucks to get the stuff I already have on Xbox doesn’t really bother me. It’s a big help in my case.”
One might suggest EA, with its EA Account system that seems to provide little benefit to gamers in many cases, should provide access to your profile (and all of its associated unlocks) regardless of the platform you’re playing on. But if gamers are willing to pay for a shortcut like this, it’s easy to easy to see why EA, from a business standpoint, would not be in a rush to provide such functionality.
Even with this surprising amount of optimism, there were many others who found this practice objectionable and were happy to shout about how this is another sign that EA is nothing more than a money-grubbing publisher.
“This is pathetic,” Eric Sauerborn put it simply, drawing a lot of agreement. Josh Littell added, “It’s EA.. It’s only about $ $ $ with them. That’s why BF3 is all but dead in [the] competitive gaming scene.”
I don’t believe these unlocks necessarily give someone an advantage, but not everyone agrees. Shane McGary wrote, “[This] gives inexperienced players the advantage over people who earned it. It’s another money mongering move made by EA, and to be honest this move makes Activision look like a charity.” El Pinche Rafa also sees this as an indication of greed: “Money, money, money is all videogame companies care about now… Can’t wait to get the new Moneybox 720 & Moneystation 4 to play Call of Money: Money Warfare 4, Medal of Money & Moneyfield 4.”
Justin McFarland believes there may be some hypocrisy among those hating on the concept. “This is where everyone gets mad and say that this is horrible and that EA is just being greedy (surprise!) but then turn around and buy everything up the next day,” he said.
Francisco Duarte voiced his surprise over the shortcuts not being available at launch. As Bad Company 2′s also came months after release, I’d like to think that is actually by design. Both myself and 1UP community man J Kartje worried these shortcuts may be included in the next Battlefield right from the start. Even if we accept that unlockables don’t provide an advantage on their own, I don’t like the idea of facing off against players with access to more weapons, attachments, and perks at launch because they purchased some DLC. If it comes months down the line, so be it. For now, I remain hopeful,perhaps foolishly, that shortcuts won’t be in place at launch for the next Battlefield.