The Let's Play Archive

Battlefield 3

by Lazyfire

Part 1: Episode 1: Earthquake Weather & Episode 2: Aftermath

Episode 1: Earthquake Weather

Wherein we get the setup for the game, meet the major players and fight the PLR in Iraq

Episode 2: Aftermath

After surviving the Earthquake Blackburn has to fight his way to a friendly extraction point initially unarmed and alone.

Weapons Of Battlefield 3

The M16

What modern military game doesn’t include an M16 of some nature (Answer: Ghost Recon Future Soldier)? Versions of the weapon appear in everything from Goldeneye to CounterStrike to pretty much every modern shooter. In BF3 it is your starting weapon which makes sense as the US military, including the Marines, have been using the rifle as the standard since 1969 in one variation or another. The rifle was actually introduced in 1963 where a hasty entry into service only served to showcase some of the issues the early designs had when forced to operate in the jungles and swamps of Vietnam. The issue when the guns were issued starting in 1965 was the lack of a chrome lining in the barrel, which left it susceptible to corrosion and required constant cleaning. Of course other issues, like a lack of cleaning supplies, the new 5.56x45mm round and sudden adaptation of a new weapon also contributed to issues on introduction.

The manufacturer, Colt, took many of the issues with the weapon into consideration when it offered the M16A2 version of the weapon in the 80’s. The Marines adopted the weapon first, and other branches followed later in the decade. The changes were both cosmetic and functional, including a thicker barrel that would better handle sustained fire and was more resistant to damage, an adjustable rear sight, modified hand guard and replacement of the full auto mode with a three shot burst selection.

Most video games actually depict this version of the weapon, including the Call of Duty series where the M16 has always been a three shot burst weapon. This is an accurate depiction for most services, with the M16A2 and current generation M16A4 being burst or semi auto firing weapons to conserve ammo and increase accuracy. The M16A3 was introduced around the time of the M16A2 and is either semi auto or full auto. The M16 featured in the first level is actually this model despite the fact the character should probably have a burst fire M16A4. The M16A4 features a rail system for things like the red dot sight seen in the first level and is readily accepting of grenade launchers and “master key” under barrel shotguns as well as a number of grips, laser sights and other attachments.

Battlefield 3 features two variants of the M16. The first unlocked is the M16A3, which comes standard on the American side of the Assault kit, and a Russian acquired version of the weapon is the last unlock for the class overall. Like its real life counterpart it features semi and automatic fire. The M16A3 and A4 are unique in Battlefield 3, sharing attachment unlocks. Most would consider this a good thing, as Assault Rifles in BF3 have the most attachments of any weapon class. The M16A3 is a good starting weapon, with a high rate of fire, average assault rifle damage and low bullet spread. These characteristics make it a very popular weapon in multiplayer and also very hated by those killed by it.

The M16A4 is cosmetically the same as the M16A4, but fires only in semi auto or three shot burst. Most of the handling characteristics are the same as on the A3, with a bit less left/right recoil and the difference in fire rates due to the burst nature of the gun. The burst nature allows a bit more accuracy, but may be a disadvantage in close quarters. Assault rifles like the M16 are also unique as they offer an under slung rail attachment and under barrel attachments like shotguns and grenade launchers. If the under slung rail isn’t selected the grenade launcher or shotgun will appear as a standalone weapon. This fact will inform what the load out will be for the average M16. Due to the high accuracy of the weapon attachments like the Heavy Barrel and Foregrip are pretty pointless, and the under slung weapons take the slot dedicated to the medikit. Running a simple red dot or ACOG on the M16 is probably the best option. Other attachments aren’t really needed as the gun is already pretty good and most attachments are designed to have a drawback. Attaching a laser will make the M16 more viable in close quarters maps, so it is an option on more cramped offerings like Metro.

The M249 or “SAW”

For some reason I misidentified the LMG (Light Machine Gun) I picked up towards the end of the video as the M248. That gun doesn’t exist, but there is a version of this weapon identified as the Mk. 48. What we picked up was actually the M249, or the Squad Automatic Weapon. The M249’s life began in the Vietnam era, due to a couple factors. At that time the M60 was the Light Machine Gun of choice. Despite the moniker it was still heavy and usually required a two person squad to effectively use the gun. Additionally in each squad there was a dedicated Rifleman who would have his gun set to automatic fire while the rest of the squad used semi-automatic fire to conserve ammunition and provide for more accurate shots while the rifleman suppressed the enemy. Weapons of the era like the M14 and M16 rifles weren’t designed for sustained fire and so incurred operational issues from this sort of treatment.

The Army sought a middle ground between the M16 and the M60, a lighter weapon capable of sustained fire. In 1968 the Army Small Arms program began planning for a 5.56 mm caliber LMG. Two years later the SAW moniker was applied to the potential weapon, but the caliber requirements were stripped as the 5.56 mm round was seen as too small and ineffective. By 1972 the Army had published requirements for the potential SAW competitors, and later a 6 mm cartridge was selected as part of these requirements. However, when it came time to test the experimental weapons three 5.56 mm options were included in the testing; an M16 variant, the Minimi by FN and the HK 23A1. Initial testing ended as 1974 came to a close. After a year delay two weapons were selected, the Minimi and one of the 6mm SAW variants.

This decision broadcast some of the dissatisfaction the Army brass had towards the 6mm round. While a larger round would certainly help provide cover penetration and stopping power to the weapon profile it would also mean another unique round at a time when ground forces were using something like four or five different calibers in their small arms already. With no other apparent platform for the 6mm cartridge the 5.56 Minimi was the obvious choice. In 1976 the SAW design documents were changed to require a 5.56 round. This sent several of the competitors back to the drawing board to meet the new requirements. In 1979, nearly eight years after development started, the remodeled weapons began testing again. A year later the Minimi, now designated the FN XM249 was more or less the winner of the competition when it was designated as the best future development opportunity. Later the same year a contract for further development was signed and a year after that (1981 by now) testing of the now-twice overhauled weapon began. A month short of 10 years since initial design documents were approved the FN M249 was officially adopted by the United States Army.

It would be another two years before the M249 would actually enter service with the Army, and a year after that it was adopted by the US Marine Corps as well. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. Production of the weapon was suspended in 1985 and FN had to make fixes to the design and provide kits to fix persistent issues with fielded weapons. It took 9 years for the SAW to be reinstated.
This didn’t stop the weapon from being issued in the Gulf War in 1991, where complaints about the gun being clogged easily by dirt and sand as well as rusting issues were identified. By the time the invasion of Afghanistan was launched the M249 was common, being issued to two of eight members of a squad (it should be noted that Misfit Squad seems to only have four official members, which may explain why only Montes carries an LMG, which is actually an M240, another FN product).

In Afghanistan and Iraq the weapon saw many of the complaints from the Gulf War, and constant use has lead reports of weapons literally falling apart. Overall the gun is praised by operators for fitting the mission profile, even when the various issues are considered.

The SAW is one of the first LMGs unlocked under the Support Class in BF3 outside of the starting LMGs. The big advantage in game is the rate of fire the SAW provides, though it does see less recoil than other guns in the same category, it still has a significant kick. I’m not a big believer in the weapon, but my load out suggestion is pretty simple and applies to most any LMG in the game. You’ll want the bipod for increased accuracy, flash suppressor for better visibility and holographic sight for the wider field of vision and slight zoom it provides over iron sights and the red dot. Throw an ammo box down at your feet, set up the bipod and end anyone who steps in front of you. The high rate of fire, high accuracy from the bipod and huge magazine means a concerted effort will have to be made to force you out of your position. Realistically, though, this can be said for all LMGs in BF3. The SAW is a good introduction to the 100 round LMGs, sitting firmly in the middle of the road on most stats and excelling in rate of fire. Because it has lower damage than most of the LMGs the ROF and slightly increased accuracy are needed to keep it competitive with other weapons in toe to toe firefights.

There is almost no background information given on the PLR in the game so far despite the fact they are the only force we’ve come up against early on. Believe it or not I don’t think this was a mistake, but rather a deliberate choice by DICE. In about every movie or game you are either a rookie who needs to be filled in on something or you are a veteran dealing with a new situation. In BF3 you are a veteran with no rookie in the squad dealing with something very familiar, so it makes no sense for the game to give you an info dump on who exactly the PLR is.
The PLR stands for the “People’s Liberation and Resistance.” The backstory of the leader, Faruk Al-Bashir, is mentioned in the tie-in novel “Battlefield 3: The Russian” which I haven’t read, but apparently he was a general in the Air Force of Iran before turning his attentions on the PLR. The easiest comparison between the PLR and a real life group would be Al-Queda in Iraq. Both are paramilitary groups that recruit from all over the Middle East (as one of your squadmates notes, they aren’t speaking Arabic only) and both battle US forces while making use of Russian surplus weapons. However, there are a few notes of Hamas and Hezbollah in the PLR, as it appears to be state funded and has some political leverage, appearing as a police force in quake ravaged Iraq in the second mission only hours after the impact.
The full extent of the PLR’s involvement in the game hasn’t been covered yet, and it looks like it will play a major role for the next few chapters based on what I’ve seen so far.