Review: Battlefield 3 – Armored Kill
Battlefield appeals in a military-shooter infested industry by offering intense combat on a grand scale, something which the Close Quarters expansion – albeit, not a bad expansion overall – failed to emphasise. Armored Kill promised what the franchise does best; big warzones and a focus on vehicular combat, meaning your chances of surviving on foot for long are quite slim. Admittedly, based on what has been shown so far of the downloadable content lineup for the game, this particular expansion looks the most appealing, and in most places, it delivers.
As with previous expansions, Armored Kill introduces four new maps; Bandar Desert, Alborz Mountains, Death Valley and Armored Shield. From first glance, what is pleasing about this selection is the variance, from a massive desert to snowy mountains, midnight valleys to open countryside. Apart from being the most sizeable maps in the game, the wide array of environments is immediately welcome, and perhaps highlight that the game’s original maps were quite lacking in colour and ambition.
Unfortunately, the sheer size of these battlefields presents a problem that will only affect the console crowd; twenty-four players across maps that despite having had their boundaries shrank to cater for the lower head count, feel too empty, and with action spread far and thin, perhaps moreso on the massive Bandar Desert than the others. With 64 players and larger boundaries, this isn’t the case on PC, who might enjoy a space that properly caters for that many players instead of confined to smaller maps.
Beginning with ‘Bandar Desert’, the biggest map in Battlefield history, tanks establish a heavy presence in the open desert area dividing the urban resort-like area and the military base. This open expanse allows for the big guns to open fire on one another without the confinement of buildings and obstacles – anything smaller than a tank caught in the crossfire is likely to be blown sky high, unless they’re in one of the ATVs – a returning and welcomed addition to the franchise, that allow for agility and speed across the expansive terrain, and will be a godsend that choose to go on foot. The map’s Conquest flags are unconventional – four flags are scattered across the town resort whilst a singular flag remains far from the rest on the opposite side of the sands. Usually this would cause players to be stretched out across an area which already keeps them at distance, but luckily this lone flag controls the ownership of perhaps the most significant addition to the vehicular arsenal.
‘Alborz Mountains’ is another gargantuan map, with Conquest points spread evenly across the corners of the map; however, the version I played (360) saw not all of the map being used, as with the others, but players can do so in Rush. The terrain of the map quickly changes from muddy forestry to snow-capped mountains, resultantly leaving the map at a slant; yet having the higher ground isn’t always the ideal scenario, as many of the capture points in the wintry areas are tucked away from vantage points. Out of the four, this was my favourite, descending head-first down a hill in an ATV with jets flying overhead and tank shells near-missing our vehicle was a thrill that can be had on the other three maps, but was particularly satisfying on this one due to the tight roads that weave between the points and towering hills.
Mentioned briefly earlier, the AC-130, a new addition, circles the map on a pre-set route and acts both as a menace to any unit on the ground, and a mobile spawn point – its circular route allows for units to essentially paradrop onto any of the five capture points. Teams must capture a specific point and hold it to claim ownership of the airborne behemoth – although disappointing for many who wished to hold it for a significant amount of time, it is highly susceptible to jet fire and goes down faster than it is claimed, much to the delight of the opposing team.
‘Death Valley’ is the game’s second night map (the first being Tehran Highway) and utilizes Frostbite’s lighting engine to extraordinary effect. Mobile artillery is prominent, with bridges and hills allowing you to get a good (but dark) view of the area below. The night sky is illuminated with the bright explosions and flares of jets and the omnipresent AC-130, whilst tanks explode like fireworks into a blazing glare of orange. The construction site towers above the map in one corner, illuminated like a beacon from top to toe, but is the only remotely interesting structure on the entire map, with the rest being odd, scattered bases with a highway on the very edge of the map, rarely ever traversed. Personally, I would’ve have like to have seen more structures that take advantage of the lighting like the construction site does, and give the map a little scenery.
‘Armored Shield’ was the least interesting map in the run-up to release, but quickly became one of my favourites in the game, the beautiful environment is bordered by huge wind turbines that provide a lovely skybox even on consoles (where the skyboxes are notoriously awful otherwise). Driving the new, agile tank destroyers across this terrain is a blast (pardon the pun) and ATV drivers will find excitement in the little hills allowing them to pull off some massive jumps, and who knows? One day someone might take down a chopper for doing so. The new Tank Superiority game mode is best played on this map for the large open space, although the waiting game to enter a tank (or any vehicle in any other mode) is tiresome, and with 24 players, they might as well have given everyone a tank to cause chaos with.
In terms of replay value, the assignments and unlockables that come bundled with the expansion are vehicular based due to the expansion’s theme, consisting of vehicle unlocks, so don’t expect any new guns to toy around with (not that they would be of any use against tanks). There’s plenty of content here for the Battlefield hardcore.
Despite the limitations of consoles and the waiting game for vehicles, Armored Kill provides players with what Battlefield does right, massive warfare, and is an essential expansion for fans of the franchise. The maps are mostly a delight to play on and you’ll certainly be spending plenty of time doing vehicular manslaughter until the next offering comes along.