Electronic Arts, the publisher of upcoming shooter Battlefield 3, has come under fire for a pre-order bonus scheme which fans of the series claim makes the game unbalanced and unfair for those who don't qualify.
To tempt gamers into shelling out for a pre-order copy of the game, EA has teamed up with UK retailer Game to offer some exclusive in-game content: the Type 88 LMG, a gas-powered, air-cooled light machine gun with bipod for improved accuracy; a unique flash suppressor for the SKS sniper rifle, which makes it harder for enemies to pinpoint where shots are coming from; and armour-piercing flechette ammunition for the DAO-12 shotgun.
In addition to these exclusive extras, those who have pre-ordered the title from Game or Gamestation will receive day-one access to the DAO-12 semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun - something other gamers will have to work to unlock using in-game experience points.
EA's decision to make certain weapons exclusive to those who pre-order the title hasn't settled well with the game's fan base, however. Since the company announced the deal yesterday, fans have been queuing up to complain - especially the ones who have pre-ordered the title directly from EA, and who are thus unable to claim their freebies.
Comments on EA's official blog for the game are almost exclusively negative. "I have no problem with day-one unlocks as a little bonus," claims one fan, "but store exclusive weaponry is just pathetic."
"I can live with day-one access for pre-orders or paying for new maps," agrees another, "but my patience ends at weapons that can only be unlocked by cash and pre-orders. This is just plain wrong, because it directly affects the balance and the gameplay."
It's an issue that EA has dealt with in its previous games, including the Medal of Honor reboot - which saw those who ordered through EA receiving exclusive weapons that are unavailable in any other way.
"It's still very frustrating to me when playing Medal of Honor that I won't ever have access to the MP7, M60, M240, and RPK," one fan complained, "all because I didn't preorder on the EA site. The lack of post-pre-order access limits the game, and when there are weapons like the MP7, which are overpowered relative to the other class weaponry, it becomes a practice in frustration."
So far, EA has not responded to questions of whether the pre-order exclusives will ever be unlockable for those who have chosen to buy the game elsewhere, or who are waiting until after release to see whether the title lives up to its hype.