This article contains some mild spoilers about the first three missions of Battlefield 3's single-player campaign.
You'll have seen Operation Swordbreaker from coverage from April - including our preview - and it's the same as you remember, albeit with slightly less visual flair when running on the Xbox 360 compared to the PC.
For those who need a refresher course, the game starts with fictional paramilitary group the PLR causing trouble for the US on the Iraq/Iran border. Sgt. Henry 'Black' Blackburn - alongside Misfit squad sidekicks Montes, Chaffin, Matkovic, and Campo - trek around Sulaymaniyah to locate a missing unit. There's that bit with a sniper (remember the plant pot getting shot?) and a rooftop assault on invading forces, some impromptu bomb defusal, and then a massive Earthquake at the absolute worst possible time.
Battlefield 3 is told in a similar fashion to Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops. Missions are essentially delivered as flashbacks, recounted by Blackburn as he's being interrogated by some ambiguous (yet clearly important) people in New York. This is more of a stern sit-down chat rather than crazy drug cocktail, however, with the two unnamed interrogators (one of whom is Glenn Morshower, who played Aaron Pierce in 24) trying a touch of the age-old aggressive cop/mean cop routine.
The next mission, Uprising, takes place with Blackburn regaining consciousness a few hours after the Earthquake. Sulaymaniyah has been devastated, US forces are scattered, and the PLR is staging a coup in Iran. I'm just going to put it out there and say that things are going to get worse before they get better.
Uprising has you moving back the way you came in Operation Swordbreaker, only with everything ruined and the entire area littered with PLR. Regaining consciousness, Blackburn sees a high-ranking PLR officer - known as Solomon - asking a badly wounded US soldier whether he wants to live or die. Unable to answer, the PLR drags the poor guy off as he screams in agony.
Not fancying a similar fate, Blackburn keeps to the shadows and crawls underneath torn up streets to avoid PLR squads. Whereas Captain Price is all awesome snowmobiles and running away from explosions, Blackburn's take on military looks particularly undesirable, especially when he's getting hassled by a rat. A rat. Even nature is against him, and you skewer the rodent with your knife after a quick QTE sequence.
It's not really that surprising that Blackburn manages to escape from the clutches of the PLR, after at least one daring gunfight involving an RPG missile and a bus, and returning to the interrogation room in the present he's asked to explain his relationship with Lieutenant Coleby Hawkins.
This leads to the third mission, Going Hunting, which has you playing as Hawkins herself, the gunner pilot of an F/A-18F, designated Shark 4-6. After the events in Sulaymaniyah, the US has sent 50,000 marines to Iran and is launching air raids on high value PLR targets. You're after PLR top dog Faruh Al-Bashir, launching an airstrike on Mehrabad International Airport.
In terms of aesthetics and atmosphere, Going Hunting is absolutely sublime. The little details, such as how the audio changes as the roof of the plane comes down or the effects as you run the pre-flight checks on the aircraft carrier, are absolutely stunning.
But in terms of gameplay? The entire mission is basically on-rails, with you doing nothing but controlling the plane's rockets and countermeasures - and it's especially upsetting that you can't fly the jet, seeing as you can in the game's multiplayer modes. It ticks all the boxes required of a typical FPS vehicle mission, but it doesn't really excite past the stunning visuals.
Returning to the interrogation room, Blackburn is asked about finding the nuclear missile in Tehran. Then t-- wait a second, nuclear missile? There's no time for answers, with the game loading its next mission, Operation Guillotine, which you'll have already seen in various trailers and Neon's hands-on preview a couple of weeks ago.
As for the rest? We'll have to wait until launch.
Battlefield 3 will be released for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 on October 28.