“There’s just us. And then there’s you.” — Montes to Cole after Campo and Matkovic fall to enemy fire
Blackburn is in the back of a Growler ITV, next to a sleeping Matkovic en route to link up with the rest of the Misfit units, who have started to move towards the villa of the Russian arms dealer Amir Kaffarov in northern Iran. However, as they move through the forest, they are ambushed by an unknown unit. After successfully fending off the first attackers, Blackburn and his squad learn that the Russians are also in the region – according to some of the Marines, their intent is to kill Kaffarov so as to cover up their assumed involvement with the PLR. As the Marines make their way to the highway, they link up with a convoy, the other Misfit units. A decision is made after some discussion regarding the possibility of sending Russia and America to war, and after Cole tells them that self-defense is not ‘war,’ the Misfit units move towards Kaffarov’s villa, with the intent of continuing their set mission. Along the way, the Russian airborne soldiers put up heavy resistance, killing or incapacitating many of the Americans, and disabling or destroying many of the vehicles. By the time Blackburn, his squad, and Cole reach the end of the ground resistance by destroying and killing most of the Russian unit, most of Misfit has been disabled.
Suddenly, while the remaining marines are debating what to do next, a Russian Su-25TM streaks overhead, strafing the Marines. After an initial confusion, it is revealed that the necessary anti-air weapons – the FIM-92 Stingers – were on the Growler ITVs that were at the head and rear of the convoy. They make a dash for the ITVs at the front of the convoy, realizing it was too far to go back to the ones at the rear of the Convoy, moving from cover to cover as the Su-25 makes passes at them. Finally, Blackburn obtains a Stinger and manages to bring down the Russian fighter. However, he learns that on the aircraft’s last pass, Christian Matkovic and Steve Campo were both killed. In spite of all this, Cole is undeterred, driving a wedge between him and Montes.
- Misfit company rides a jeep en route to Kaffarov’s Villa; as they close in on the valley, Christian Matkovic awakens and remarks that in the thirty-four minutes he’s been sleeping, he was dreaming about a vanilla milkshake. Players have wondered whether or not this means anything: for me, it only shows that he’s open about what he thinks, although whether this line connects to the events at mission’s end is not so clear.
- For this mission, the primary weapon is my favourite assault rifle, the Heckler & Koch HK416: also known as the M416 in Battlefield 3, it has similar damage to the other assault rifles, moderate recoil and a reasonably quick reload. It’s the weapon I favour as the assault class in multiplayer owing to its effectiveness at medium to longer ranges: sticking a rifle scope on it practically turns this into a marksman rifle with a thirty-round capacity.
- The campaign version of the M416 is equipped with an ACOG scope and under-barrel grenade launcher. Earlier, a large number of Russian paratroopers had just landed in the valley, prompting the squad to have some reservations about crossing through to reach the other side.
- The skies were sunny earlier, but a thickening cloud layer gives the map a very washed out, grey feeling. This map appears very similar to Caspian Border, having the same radio tower asset, although the multiplayer map has nicer skies. A long time ago, I always felt that the multiplayer aspect of a shooter was designed to supplement the campaign: most of the effort would go into the campaign, and the multiplayer would feature re-purposed maps. Of course, games have been getting more and more complex: in some shooters, it feels like the campaign is simply a proof-of-concept for the multiplayer.
- The M320 grenade launcher makes a rare appearance in the campaign, although its effective radius is quite small, reducing its effectiveness as an anti-infantry weapon. As an assault class, I prefer using the med kits, since that increases survivability.
- The M16A3 makes a brief appearance, although given that it’d be better to take on enemies from afar in this mission, sticking to the M416 and its ACOG sight is probably the better idea.
- The SMAW is one of the two anti-vehicle weapons in the multiplayer, performing identically to the RPG-7 and able to disable a tank with two shots. While an AT4 was used briefly back during “Operation Swordbreaker”, it never appears in the multiplayer. Here, I think two shots will suffice against the BMP-2s that show up.
- Despite being the most open of all the missions in Battlefield 3, “Rock and a Hard Place” is still quite linear, being driven by Cole’s push to get to the other side. I paused the game here on Christmas Eve for dinner, came back after enjoying some cream puffs, and finished the mission before retiring for the night. I beat Battlefield 3 on Christmas Day, 2013, and would begin playing the multiplayer in earnest after that.
- The appearance of an SU-25 attack aircraft results in audible fear from Misfit company: having survived this much, an attack jet appears seemingly out of nowhere and strafes the squad. Carelessness about cover can lead to instant death, although the cannon should be powerful enough to annihilate the cover we do see on the bridge.
- I only wish the stinger and its Russian counterpart were this effective against jets in multiplayer: I’ve disabled only a handful of vehicles using them, and even though I’ve got the SOFLAM now, it doesn’t seem like any of the engineers are willing to use their Javelins to take down enemy air vehicles. I have no pictures of me using the Stinger missile against the Russian fast air, but after I find the Stinger and down the enemy jet, half the squad is down.
It was Christmas Eve when I finally reached “Rock and a Hard Place”: I had actually gotten to the point where the SMAW was needed to take out enemy vehicles, and I was called upstairs for a Christmas Eve dinner with lamb steak and lobster, served with a side of winter vegetables and a baked potato. “Rock and a Hard Place” may be a Christmas Eve mission set during the day, but it is also one of the darker missions, as it reveal’s Cole’s nature. Despite the landing of an overwhelming Russian paratrooper force, Cole insists on crossing the valley to reach Kaffarov’s villa with the aim of taking him down. While the end result would be expected to be beneficial, Cole is motivated by personal gain: successfully completing the mission would have probably yielded a promotion. This forms the motivation for Cole to fight against overwhelming odds, and at the end, Campo and Matkovic are killed by Russian close-air support. While it may initially seem disjoint, the outcome of this mission acts as a grim reminder of the cost associated with reckless advancement, “unhindered by emotion”. We’ve already heard this phrase elsewhere before, but its significance in Battlefield 3‘s context won’t become apparent until the next mission, “Kaffarov”, which is incidentally, my most favourite mission in the campaign. I’ll be returning on short order (within a week or so) to finish up Battlefield 3.