It's a shame, then, that DICE's concentrated attempt at storytelling - a 12-level single-player campaign - falls completely flat, demanding a poignancy and emotional engagement it simply does nothing to earn.
It's a bolt-on campaign so obsessed with military manoeuvres that you spend more time watching your marines preen and posture than actually fight in an engaging setup, with your comrades masking loading screens by barking their orders before kicking down doors. The attention to detail is nothing short of magnificent, but it's a real shame to see the player's role marginalised because of it.
Much of the game is shrouded in foggy night-time darkness, with DICE's environmental artists doing an admittedly splendid job of creating a gloomy rendition of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. A squad of US marines charging over a hill in Operation Guillotine is a gripping moment, showing that DICE does have the talent at creating stunning set-piece moments - they're just too few and far between to create an engaging campaign.
Going forward, if DICE really wants to ape the rollercoaster ride mentality of the corridor shooter then it'll need to learn how to better disguise its seams. Move out of bounds in Battlefield 3 and you'll be hit with an obtrusive 'return to the combat zone' overlay, followed by death, and fail to move in time with the script and you'll catch glimpses of enemy troops spawning out of thin air.
One of the more significant problems is that players run around with little agency or impetus, with DICE far too busy incorporating authentic military lingo to actually worry about whether the player is being effectively orientated into the action. Yet authenticity isn't enough, as the campaign devolves into a baffling action-movie plot with pantomime villain Solomon deciding he wants to destroy the world for a reason that is never stated.
Rounding off the package is a six mission two-player co-op mode, which is functional but never fun. Players are restricted to playing online, with no split-screen option available, and the levels involve the tactical dismantling of scripted sequences. Each level promptly becomes a particularly glitzy whack-a-mole, with enemies popping up in the exact same locations time and time again.
It's also bloody hard, and with lengthy missions and no checkpointing you're likely to find yourself more frustrated than incentivised. The main problem is that DICE is clearly gunning for the score-attack mentality of Modern Warfare's Spec Ops mode, yet the end result is simply not suitable for this purpose.
Which leads to a difficult quandary: how do you grade a game such as Battlefield 3? The multiplayer mode is nothing short of essential, but at the same time it's hard not to be sorely disappointed by everything else on show.
Battlefield 3 isn't quite the Call of Duty killer many were wanting, then, and it's especially jarring to view EA's 'above and beyond the call' marketing brouhaha in light of the fact Battlefield 3 falls to its most damning lows when it's trying hardest to compete with the latter.