The gameplay in the singleplayer campaign differs greatly from the multiplayer component, with numerous quick-time events (QTEs) that are spread throughout the levels. DICE stated that levels are a mix of sandbox and linear though many reviewers later commented that they were moreover linear.
The campaign takes place in numerous locations across the world, but is mainly set in Iraq and Iran, the latter country of which plays an important part in the storyline. The gameplay in the campaign varies wildly, including tank combat, acting as a member of a sniper team, and acting as the rear pilot of a F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighter.
An unidentified US Marine with handcuffs is seen evading law enforcement in New York City. The Marine hops over an overpass onto a subway train, manages to break into it, and engages the train's hijackers, who have also planted explosive charges throughout it. He works his way to the front car, where he is ambushed by Solomon, the man behind the attack.Eight months prior, Sgt. Henry Blackburn's five-man squad, Misfit 1-3, attempts to find and safely return a U.S. squad investigating a possible IED in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, whose last-known position was a market controlled by the People's Liberation and Resistance, an Iranian paramilitary insurgent group who have crossed borders into Iraq.
They find the missing squad and discover they had been ambushed by the PLR; but while fending off enemies closing in on their position, a massive earthquake wrecks the city. Several hours later, Blackburn wakes up after being unconscious, listening to a frequency which announces that a major earthquake has affected operational capability in the Iran-Iraq region. Blackburn and other survivors fight their way out of the ruins of the city toward an extraction point.
On the same day, the PLR stage a coup in Iran, and the U.S. subsequently invades with fifty-thousand Marines. Lt. Hawkins takes part in an air raid against enemy fighters over Iran and an air strike over Mehrabad Airport.
In the aftermath of the air strikes, Blackburn and Misfit 1-3 are sent into Tehran to perform a battle damage assessment and apprehend the leader of the PLR, Faruk Al-Bashir. While investigating an underground bank vault, Al-Bashir's suspected location, Blackburn and his team learn that the PLR have acquired portable Russian nuclear devices, and that two of the three devices are missing.Being overrun, Misfit 1-3 requests backup from an M1 Abrams column led by Sgt. Miller. The column heads towards Tehran from the southeast through the Kavir Desert, while engaging PLR tanks, as well as assaulting a PLR encampment housing rocket batteries.
A few hours later, Miller's tank column arrives in Tehran and begins to facilitate Blackburn's helicopter extraction, but is subsequently captured while waiting for the arrival of the Quick Reaction Force. Shortly later, he is promptly executed on film by Solomon and Al-Bashir after the latter gave a brief monologue. Two days later, Misfit 1-3 resumes the search for Al-Bashir. They engage PLR soldiers patrolling the streets of Tehran, and come upon an apartment block which they suspect Al-Bashir is hiding in.
While assaulting the building, Al-Bashir tries to escape via SUV, but ends up crashing after Blackburn fires on the vehicle. Blackburn and Campo manage to capture a fatally-wounded Al-Bashir, who realizes Solomon betrayed him and reveals his plot to detonate the nukes in Paris and New York City, before succumbing to his wounds.
Due to the info on Al-Bashir's mobile phone, Misfit 1-3 gets a lead on an arms dealer named Amir Kaffarov. They discover he was working with Solomon and Al-Bashir. A week later, they head towards northern Iran to capture Kaffarov, who is located in his villa on the coast of the Caspian Sea, near the Azerbaijan border.
On the drive towards the villa, Misfit 1-3 is ambushed. They discover that they have just engaged Russian VDV troops. They move up a hill and encounter a massive presence of Russian airborne elements being airdropped into the fields ahead. They have no choice but to push on and engage the Russians.
After clearing a battalion-size of enemy troops and destroying multiple BMP-2s, a Su-25 ground-attack jet begins to engage them. In the ensuing chaos, two of Blackburn's squad mates, Christian Matkovic and Steve Campo, are killed, which puts Blackburn and Montes at odds with their commanding officer, Cole.
Meanwhile, a GRU team led by Dimitri Mayakovsky assaults Kaffarov's villa. Kaffarov tries to bribe his way out, but Dima begins to interrogate him nonetheless. Later, Blackburn arrives at the villa and finds Dima and an unconscious Kaffarov.
Dima reveals Solomon's plan to Blackburn and requests his cooperation to prevent a war between their nations. Meanwhile, Blackburn's commanding officer Cole arrives at gunpoint. This forces Blackburn to shoot and kill his superior before he could kill Dima.
Due to his actions, Blackburn and Montes are brought to New York City and interrogated by CIA agents Gordon and Whistler, to whom he explains all of his previous operations. During Blackburn's captivity, Dima's squad attempts to stop the attack in Paris.
They engage PLR operatives through an office building and the EURONEXT stock exchange. French police and GIGN units arrive at the entrance of the stock exchange and engage both Dima's squad and the PLR operatives, all while Dima is chasing the nuke carrier. His squadmate, Vladimir, is killed during the chase. This, however, does not stop Dima. He continues the chase and finally catches up to the carrier.
After securing the bag, Kiril opens it and discovers it was a decoy. The nuke then detonates in the distance at the EURONEXT building, killing eighty-thousand people. In the aftermath, Dima and Kril suffer from the effects of radiation poisoning due to the nuclear device's detonation.
The CIA agents do not believe Blackburn's story, since Solomon is a CIA informant and there is no concrete proof of his involvement in the terrorist attacks. They instead believe that Russia is responsible for the attacks, and that Dima has tricked Blackburn.
With no other options, Blackburn and Montes break out of captivity to stop the attack in New York City. The events of the introductory mission play over again, revealing Blackburn as the man in handcuffs and the train's hijackers as operatives of the PLR. When ambushed by Solomon, Blackburn gains the upper hand by grabbing hold of a PLR operative with a detonator, allowing him to detonate the explosives, causing the train to crash.
Blackburn then pursues Solomon through the sewers and engages the PLR along the way, before climbing up to street level. Montes, having obtained a police car, picks up Blackburn and engages Solomon and the PLR in a brief vehicular chase, which ends with both cars crashing in Times Square.
As a bewildered crowd watches on, Montes is shot and killed by Solomon, but Blackburn catches him off-guard while reloading, which results in a brawl between the two. Blackburn manages to knock Solomon to the ground and begins to beat him to death with a brick. He then recovers the final nuke.
The epilogue depicts Dima, suffering from the effects of radiation poisoning, writing about the efforts of both him and Blackburn to stop Solomon's plan "to set fire to the world". As he finishes, there is a knock outside his door, prompting Dima to ready his handgun.