The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Battlefield 3- Thunder Run

“Hey Miller, you should collect that guy’s salary. You just did his job for him.” — Miller’s tank Commander.

Jonathan Miller riding in the open hatch of his M1 Abrams tank, staring at the sky with a toy dinosaur from his son. After being brought back to attention by a crewmate, he watches as the Marine tank column cross the Kavir Desert. A pair of AH-1Z Vipers fly overhead as the tanks cross the desert, but soon rockets are fired from over a sand dune. A Marine identifies them as old Soviet BM-21s, but they appear to be no threat to the tank column. As the Marine tanks push forward, the unit leader reports that scouts had sighted PLR tanks ahead of the Marines. Miller takes up his position as tank gunner and drives the tank forward. As the Marines continue their advance, ten T-72 tanks arrive from behind a sand dune, and fire on the Abrams. The Marines halt and return fire, destroying all ten tanks. However, as the Marines resume their advance, two more T-72s fire on the Marines from behind a cloud of dust. However, the Marines activate their thermal vision, and the battle quickly goes in their favor, destroying both tanks quickly. The Marines continue their advance, pushing forward, but are halted by an artillery strike ahead of them. Miller then switches to video feed from a MAV and lazes the enemy encampment housing the rocket artillery. Two A-10s perform a strafing run, with minimal damage. Miller returns to his position while a loader loads High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds. The tanks proceed towards the enemy encampment at the berm, losing Anvil 3-2 to artillery. The tanks destroy several enemy BMPs and foot soldiers, before reaching the other side of the encampment and destroying the rocket artillery battery which explodes with multiple secondaries in succession. After the battery is destroyed, AAV-7A1s deploy friendly infantry to the position. The Anvil tanks proceed onwards, pursuing two fleeing enemy tanks. The T-72s bait them into an ambush, where six tanks assault the Abrams unit from a ridge line. Miller’s tank destroys the ambush force.

Miller’s unit reaches an enemy convoy with multiple enemy armored vehicles and infantry. The convoy is subsequently destroyed. The tanks drive to checkpoint ‘Tarmac’ while a B-1 bomber performs a run over a nearby position. The Anvil unit reaches checkpoint ‘Kilo’, a highway lined with burnt-out military and civilian vehicles. Then they reach overpass ‘Alter’ where they are hailed by a USMC engineer. Miller gets out of the tank and meets with him on foot with, equipped with an M4A1 carbine. The engineer tells Miller that his unit was ambushed by the PLR after laying minefield-clearing charges and were subsequently unable to detonate them. The tanks drive up to the frontline and cover Miller while he retrieves the clapper and detonates the charges, clearing the minefield. He re-enters the tank, this time manning the M2 Browning machine gun on the top of the tank’s turret and eliminating enemy infantry while they proceed towards the city. They come across a large amount of enemy infantry wielding RPGs and a tank at a petrol station which Miller promptly detonates with the machine gun, destroying the petrol station and tank. While approaching the overpass on the road to Tehran, Anvil 3-3 is destroyed by a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED), a civilian car loaded with various explosives. The other tank commanders report a catastrophic kill, meaning the tank was completely destroyed. They halt under the underpass while Miller destroys four more VBIEDs and anti-tank infantry on the overpass. The tanks then proceed towards downtown Tehran after receiving a command for mission reorientation.

  • Apparently, the inclusion of dinosaurs was something the Battlefield community had really wanted, although I wouldn’t have found the inclusion of dedicated game-types to be particularly suited for such a game. On the other hand, by including dinosaurs as Easter eggs, the developers have found a way to incorporate fan-inspired elements into the game without affecting the game itself.

  • In the multiplayer, I’ve spent a total of an hour and forty minutes in a tank (of my 21 hours of accumulated play-time so far) and have nearly enough points to unlock the 50-caliber co-axial machine gun.

  • The M1A2 in the campaign comes with the 7.62mm co-axial LMG, as well as both the thermal optics and zoom optics. Owing to the way the tank performs, it appears the tank also comes with the maintenance perk and an auto-loader. In multiplayer, armour players have are limited to a passive and active perk, as well as one secondary weapon.

  • Earlier, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolts strafed an enemy position, emphasising that warfare is seldom conducted with just tanks: there is a great deal of support from air forces, as well, and while all of the branches are very proud of their roles, the effectiveness of present-day war machines arise largely because of the use of a combination of ground and air superiority.

  • With these elements in mind, setups like Girls und Panzer or World of Tanks are hardly ideal representations of proper military tactics, although that isn’t to say they lack merit. From a personal perspective, the former is meaningful for the same reason Saki is meaningful, while my stance on the latter has not changed and is now unlikely to do so because of unnecessary interference from an unqualified individual that will likely negatively affect gameplay even further.

  • Assuming we duel on skill alone, this is the outcome of what would happen if I skirmished the entire “Mädchen und Panzer” World of Tanks clan all at once: a pile of flaming wreckage with me as the sole victor.

  • I’ve now reached the freeway at this point, which means switching off as the tank operator and returning to machine gunner’s role. A long time ago, when I still drafted articles for TV Tropes, I got into a scuffle with another contributor over the passive voice: whereas they believe that the active voice is the only means of writing, there are several cases where the passive voice is preferred, switching emphasis to the patient rather than the agent. Naturally, a skilled writer uses both voices when the situation calls for it  (an unskilled writer only knows one style and fails to see the merits of other approaches), rather like how a skilled programmer will know when to use iteration and when to use recursion.

  • Of course, I haven’t contributed anything since May 2013, with most of my time now dedicated towards my own endeavours (like playing Battlefield 3 and reading Tom Clancy’s novels) rather than exchanging blows with individuals who can’t even write over something I won’t gain credit from.  Thus, we may return to Battlefield 3, where I have now detonated the mines and are thanked for doing so. While the soldier who was originally tasked with priming the trigger might be seen as not doing his job properly, listening carefully to the tone of his voice suggests at the kind of fear he’s experienced, hence his (understandable) lack of inclination to grab the detonator. This is a subtle moment, but one that again, contributes to the atmospherics in Battlefield 3.

  • The .50 Browning Machine Gun (12.7×99mm NATO) cartridge is one of the most powerful rounds available. Originally designed as an anti-air round, its stopping power made it suitable for stopping ground vehicles, as well, and the ballistic coefficient of the round is sufficiently high as to make it a good choice for anti-materiel rifles.

  • The mission ends once this overpass is reached. “Thunder run” was one of the missions showcased early on during the Battlefield 3 marketing campaign, and having completed the mission, I can say that the mission does not disappoint. It’s the perfect balance of giving players autonomy over a tried-and-true 61.3 tonne war machine, and allowing them to relax a little during linear scenes.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how tank missions are done. The seventh mission in the Battlefield 3 campaign is, very simply put, stunning: nowhere else in the game (besides the next mission) allows players to take control of an M1A2 Abrams that feels like the real deal. Whereas in the multiplayer, the M1A2 is balanced such that it is statistically identical to the Soviet T-90 Main Battle Tank, the campaign sees the tank given performance similar to the real world, being able to sustain several grazing hits from the enemy T-72s, and returning the favour to them using sabot rounds that blow them out of the water in a single hit. The M1A2 is a solid piece of military hardware known for its durability, and the campaign is the one place where players get to experience this. Compared to Bad Company 2‘s “Heavy Metal” mission, “Thunder Run” feels much more satisfying, giving players access to the M1A2’s full suite of tools needed to down enemy armour: simply put, the tank feels powerful and thus, very enjoyable to operate, whereas in Bad Company 2, it took several HEAT rounds to down enemy infantry fighting vehicles. Besides the tank combat, the player also has the chance to kick back during the rail shooter phase of the mission, eliminating enemy vehicles along stretches of the Tehran freeway. These elements give “Thunder Run” solid atmospherics and execution, and indeed, I wondered if Battlefield 4 would feature a similarly fun mission set in the freeways of the Suzhou-Hangzhou region; many summers ago, I was on a tour of the area and thoroughly enjoyed the setting. One evening, after a dinner with a deep-fried whole fish as the centerpiece, our tour group boarded the bus and made its way along the freeway by night. With Rie Tanaka’s “Soshite Sekai Wa Kyou mo Hajimaru” playing on my iPod Touch, we drove along the freeway, lit with LED-railings that alternated colours periodically. Those moments have never left me, and I have since wondered if games will go about capturing those feelings in their settings. How does this pertain to “Thunder Run”? Technically, it doesn’t, as this is me reminiscing about one of my favourite freeway trips, although I will say again that “Thunder Run” is one of the most entertaining missions in the campaign, if only because it is able to really capture the power of the M1A2 to conclude this post.

8 responses to “Battlefield 3- Thunder Run

  1. Wild Goose February 2, 2014 at 18:27

    Going Hunting and Thunder Run were, for me, the great setpieces that drew my attention and caught my interest. While everyone has their own opinions vis-a-vis Battlefield 3, there is near-universal acclaim for Thunder Run. THIS is how you do a setpiece mission. Once players hit Thunder Run, they’re stoked to continue the rest of the game. Thunder Run is just an awesome, awesome mission from start to finish.

    Having said that, soloing the entire MUP clan in an M1A2 is just cruel and unnecessary. On Spacebattles, we’d declare that to be a Vlad Tepes award. :p Though it’s a matter of sciences, really – materials sciences have advanced tremendously since the 40s, and even Cold War tanks like the T-72s that impotently fire upon Miller’s tank would be invincible lightning bruisers against World War 2 tanks. (Though I have point out that some of those T-72s are probably the Iraqi-manufactured Lion of Babylon tanks. You thought a T-72 export version was bad? The Lion of Babylon is like an I-Go in comparison.) I really can’t speak as to MUP’s skill, but I’d wager that us in VLCTY (the SB clan) could probably hold our own (well, so long as we had a decent shot caller managing us. I find I’m exponentially better following orders than acting independently. Yes, that means I’m in the same skill bracket as your average Arab world tanker. Oh dear. -_-;; )

    Having said that, from the accounts of serving Spacebattlers who’re active duty, the modern T-72 used in Russia is apparently a pretty good piece of kit; might not be up to the same standard as an Abrams, but it’s a very potent weapon in it’s own right, and pretty damn good.

    For what it’s worth, Sumeragi mentioned a few weeks ago that she would be quitting World of Tanks for a while… and then barely two weeks ago, got banned yet again. Fingers crossed that, like Hagoshod, it’ll be permanent, given that by my count she’s gotten banned more times than I did last year, and relentlessflame threatened me with a permaban for attempting to appeal my latest ban.

    But at this point, I’ve pretty much given up on World of Tanks; I just play a few matches a week, and save my gaming time for Warframe, and Star Citizen when it comes out -in particular, I’m looking forward to Operation Pitchfork.


    • infinitezenith February 2, 2014 at 19:08

      My personal favourite missions are “Comrades” and “Kaffarov” for their beautiful maps, but “Going Hunting” and “Thunder Run” were hugely enjoyable. A bit of gushing has already arisen in my “Comrades” post, and is almost sure to return in my “Kaffarov” post. What made “Thunder Run” stick out was that I could one-shot the T-72s (as they are themselves reasonable tanks, that speaks volumes about the nature of this mission), which stood in stark contrast to Bad Company 2‘s equivalent mission. In all honesty, I’ve been dying to try “Thunder Run” for quite some time, and when I was done, I was most satisfied 🙂

      I mentioned “duel on skill alone”, which means “assuming we were given equal footing”. With an M1A2, a player would be able to completely decimate any player on any server owing to the technological advancements. A year ago, I mentioned the nature of this discussion in one of my Girls und Panzer talks (either for episode eleven or twelve), so when I say that I’m itching to challenge them, it’d probably be in a game where skill, rather than equipment, is what matters. Battlefield 3 is okay in that regard for foot combat (and less so for vehicle combat).

      I didn’t mention names explicitly here in the hopes of not drawing fire prematurely, but regarding our “mutual friend”, I was the one who reported the post that led to his current ban. I’m not particularly tolerant of Sinophobic and revisionist perspectives, and one could say it is lucky our “friend” is so unhinged, making it easy to ban him – yes, this individual is a grown man pretending to be an anime girl! I wanted him banned because no one at AnimeSuki once acknowledged that Willx and Ridwan were basically just agreeing blindly with our “friend”, but his extremist views make it all the easier.

      Here’s to hoping that the ban is permanent: such bans on AnimeSuki forum members can be characterised by the fact that their avatar is visible alongside the banned message, while temporary bans are characterised by the avatar disappearing.


  2. Wild Goose February 2, 2014 at 20:37

    Well, IRL you could one-shot T-72s with the Abrams’ silver bullet DU penetrators. ;D Looks up 73 Easting, it’s an interesting read of a lopsided battle.

    Incidentally, random aside: I once mentioned Girls und Panzer’s depiction of Miho’s rescue, and our mutual friend’s insistence that it was unnecessary, to Spacebattles, and crowdsourced opinions. General consensus was that if it was an active warzone, Miho’s actions were brave but the wrong thing to do, because rescuing that Panzer III crew left her column leaderless, which could have a negative impact in an active warzone – and we did see that Pravda took advantage of that.

    At the same time, however, every soldier on SB who’d served said that from the moral/team standpoint, it was also the right thing to do, because fuck that shit, you don’t leave people behind to drown, and you should never sacrifice people’s lives to win a trophy. The only quibble was that Miho really should have made a noduff call, but that’s forgivable because of the need for immediate action, and we weren’t sure she had the authority to call for a halt to the match. (Also, Thanatos, one of our mods, an active-duty USMC tanker, has now changed his avatar from something manly to Miho, and has proclaimed his undying love for Miho and the series. ;D)

    Anyway, I do admit that Thunder Run and Kaffarov are my favorite missions in the game – both have an excellent mix of atmospherics and ass kicking. Fear No Evil does a very good depiction of why urban warfare is so terrifying for tanks, and why you need tanks and infantry working together in urban warfare, but in terms of edge of seat thrills and awesome set pieces, I have to give it to Thunder Run and Kaffarov, true. (Especially the parachute drop at the start of Kaffarov, just as the BF3 theme kicks in. Glorious.)

    And yeah, BF3’s MP is a lot more balanced towards skill – or rather, IMO, skill and situational awareness. It’s ridiculously easy to get killed because you were focused on something and then someone’s shooting you from the side – which is how I usually get killed AND give kills. :p I think with my Chinese New Year Money, I might need to purchase an additional hard drive…. that, or delete all the porn on it. :p

    As for our mutual friend’s avatar, I’m not sure that’s the case. Kaioshin’s been permabanned, but his avatar is still visible, strangely enough. On the other hand, each time I was banned, my avatar and sig were gone, which is the case here.


    • infinitezenith February 2, 2014 at 22:30

      For Battlefield 3, the campaign is an awesome ride (critics nowithstanding), and as for the multiplayer, fun it may be, I’m going to take a break, since stress from real-world obligations is stopping me from aiming straight: for the past two weeks, I’ve been interrupted every match I’ve played. If I can get to Rank 45 by the summer, I’m seriously considering getting Premium at full price.

      As far as bans go, Kaioshin is probably the best example of what a permanently banned user will look like as far as appearance goes: their profile picture does remain visible, and underneath, the status “banned”. A user under a temporary ban loses their avatar. I have a feeling “onee-sama” will be back again, but if that is the case, with the number of bans they’ve accummulated, their number of chances left has got to be running out.

      If I may speak openly (as immature as I may sound when I do), when that flame war broke out last year, I was busy with software engineering and database courses. Had I intervened, it would have had a hugely adverse impact on my academics, so I settled for watching in the wings. The outcome of that little flame war was disappointing. The overwhelming consensus and the fact that “onee-sama” violated forum rules by making ad hominem attacks made it blindingly clear who should’ve been banned, but nonetheless, no action was taken.

      My disappointment at the fact that such an individual could have been allowed to remain is partially why some of my posts take shots at Shiho Nishizumi and World of Tanks, making mention that event in the passing. I suppose for me, I would gain closure when I’m certain “our friend” is permanently banned: it would validate both our perspectives that such narrow-minded, unethical and dangerous thoughts are not to be entertained nor tolerated, whether online or in reality.


      • Wild Goose February 3, 2014 at 19:14

        I suppose all that we can do is to report the onee-sama when she acts up again.

        Though from what I can see, apparently there’s a feud going on at the World of Tanks forums where another poster is trying to call her out, and some MUP members are jumping in to defend her. *sighs*

        This is why I’m going to Star Citizen for my MMO needs! Incidentally our Org leader is Canadian, btw. :p


        • infinitezenith February 3, 2014 at 19:20

          I’ll definitely report any objectionable behaviour in the future if I see any. It will be satisfying to see the days of tolerating intolerance to be a thing of the past. I’ve never understood why people insist on defending this individual, someone who’s proven to be wrong, time and time again, about everything from history to Girls und Panzer and everything in between. If my reporting “onee-sama” this time leads to a permanent ban, I’ll probably indulge in some champagne 🙂

          As for Star Citizen, I like what I see, although that release date is a year from now, so I’m going to be looking forward to what comes first 😉


          • Wild Goose February 3, 2014 at 21:18

            You could always get in on the Beta. The full game will sell for $60, while Alpha-access ship packages are as low as $40, which is a pretty good discount. Plus, Beta progress will be kept when the release goes live, so that’s an incentive to start playing now. ;D Though last I checked, I think there were only 10,000 slots left for Alpha access packages.

            Also, the nice thing about this game – at any time, I can melt down the ship I purchased for store credit, which I can then offset another cash purchase. So my Aurora LN which I bought – I can melt that for $45 of store credit, plus another $5 store credit I received for downloading the hangar module… so the next ship I buy will have a discount of $50. XD (Of course, that’s if you don’t want to earn money and buy ships ingame, the hard way, lol. :p


            • infinitezenith February 3, 2014 at 22:49

              I appreciate it, but I still have to beat a few more games and finish the Tom Clancy novels I got, plus my sketch of Tari Tari‘s Wanaka, a handful of other books and anime, before I consider getting any more games. The backlog of hobbies continues to pile on 😛


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