Andy McNab and Peter Grimsdale


For Lawrence

Author’s Note

I have been invited to work alongside many different gaming companies in the past, but up until now, I have always turned down their offers. But the opportunity to work with DICE and help develop Battlefield 3 was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. Not only did it mean I’d get to work with gamers whose track-record of ground breaking games is world renowned, but it was also clear right from the start, that BF3 had something special, something that other games didn’t. The only word I can think of that explains it, is ‘substance’. BF3 wasn’t going to be a simple shoot ’em up — it was going to be packed with emotion, grit and the sheer physicality to take any gaming experience to another level.

I was first asked by the development team to help weave together the different storyline strands which make up the levels of the game. I worked alongside them providing ideas on how the action might play out, and just as importantly, giving possible reasons as to why the action might go in a particular way. I gave advice on how soldiers talk, act and think. For example, soldiers within the game needed to have the exact words and inflections to accurately reflect how soldiers in the real world speak. Words like ‘maybe’, ‘we will try to’ or ‘we will attempt’, don’t exist in a soldier’s world. We use words like ‘you will’, ‘I will’, ‘we will’. All dialogue is absolute because soldiers in the real world must be positive in everything they do. After all, real lives are at stake, so there is no room for failure.

The second part of my role was to work alongside the team’s graphic designers to make sure what you see and hear as you play the game feels ‘right’. We would sit for hours talking about how men and machines move tactically and how they look, even down to making sure that the soles of soldiers’ boots were dirty and worn. A desert camp that is attacked by US tanks within the game is an exact replica of a camp on the Iraq/Iran border that I flew over four years ago. Authentic detail is so important because our brains are very good at telling us when something isn’t just right.

The third part of my job was to work with the actors and stuntmen in the motion capture studios, to ensure the game’s characters moved like men who had been handling weapons and fighting with them for all of their lives. I also explained their lines to them, so that they could do their job and display the appropriate emotions like fear, anger and determination as they carried out the task ahead.

BF3 is the most sophisticated game ever because it gives the player a far deeper, more physical presence within the world in which he/she is playing. An ex-US Tank Commander who has seen the game said the whole experience was better than any simulator he had ever been in, and that it gave him flashbacks to the Iraq war. In a positive way.

But the game is just one window into the BF3 experience — this book is another. It seemed a natural progression to write a novel to complement the game as there was still so much more of the story to tell. That story is Dmitri ‘Dima’ Mayakovsky’s, a Russian ex-Spetsnaz Special Forces soldier. He finds himself in a world that no longer has the certainty of the old Communist dictatorship he once served.

Dima will certainly never win a humanitarian award for the role he plays in BF3, but he’s a character its impossible not to feel drawn to. The novel gives you the opportunity to see things from his point of view, and maybe understand the decisions and actions he takes when he finds himself in this most impossible of situations.

I hope you enjoy the book and game. I think they work really well together.

Andy McNab


Beirut, August 1991

They’d been stood on alert since 0600. Moscow didn’t call until three, the hottest part of the day, in the hottest month, in what must have been the last non-air-conditioned hotel in Beirut. But that was the GRU’s style: they never failed to disappoint. Dima swung his legs off the bed, felt his head swim. Picked up the receiver. Two thousand kilometres away, Paliov’s voice, full of anticipation.

You set?

For the last nine hours.’

A red Peugeot, Jordanian plates.’


There was a pause. Dima pictured him, his desk in Moscow littered with memos and telexes, all stamped ‘Urgent — most secret’.

Four blocks from Khalaji’s hotel, the Majestic Palace, a parking lot on a bomb site.’

That narrows it down. Half the city’s a bomb site.’

The whole Iranian nuclear delegation’s at the hotel, so it’ll be swarming with their own security. But they’re not permitted out of the grounds. Our information is Khalaji’s all set. You won’t have any problem.’

You always say that and we always do.’

Paliov sighed.

I assure you, everything’s in place. Khalaji thinks the Americans are coming for him, so there’ll be no resistance. Just get in and drive. Tell him there’s a plane waiting just across the border and show him the documentation as we agreed. Once you’re on the move, if he realises who you are, what can he do? Just have the autojet ready.’

The chemical cosh: always the GRU’s answer to any problem.

And if there is a problem?

Kill him. Better Iran’s nuclear prodigy dead than the Americans really do get their hands on him.’

Paliov rang off.

Dima dropped the phone back on to its cradle and looked across at Solomon.

‘It’s a go.’

Solomon sat cross-legged on his bed, the disassembled pieces of his US-sourced Colt 45 laid out in front of him. He didn’t react, just glared — his default expression. Still so young — twenty — but projecting an intelligence that would have been intimidating in someone twice his age. Once Dima had been his mentor but Solomon didn’t need mentors now. Beside him Dima felt old and inferior, not a good feeling before a hit. For a few seconds neither spoke as they listened to the overhead fan stirring the soupy city air. Near the window a fly was noisily trying in vain to separate itself from a slow gluey death on the wax ribbon. Outside in the traffic, horns blared, the collective frustration of Beirut’s drivers at the permanent gridlock. Then, without warning, Solomon’s face split into a mirthless grin.

‘You know the part I’m looking forward to?When Khalaji realises he’s not headed to the land of the free. I want to see that look.’

Not for the first time Dima wondered about his protege. Particularly disturbing was the pleasure Solomon took in others’ misfortune. And on this, his first GRU field assignment, how come he manages to stay so cool, Dima wondered. He got up, went to the bathroom, sneaked a sip of vodka from the flask in his washbag. Just a small one to see him through the next few hours. He returned to the room, picked up his 45. Holstered it. Solomon frowned.

‘You cleaned it?’

‘Yes, it’s fine.’

Solomon raised the barrel of his own gun and examined it for the umpteenth time. ‘With all the dust here. Plus these 45s are notorious.’

Know-all, thought Dima. It was the ammunition they should be worrying about.

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