We’ve seen three themed expansions for DICE’s Battlefield 3 in the past year. First, we got teleported back in time for Back to Karkand with some classic maps from Battlefield 2. Next, DICE kicked off the summer with a direct assault against the run-and-gun play style of other shooters with Close Quarters. Personally, these were some of the best designed maps introduced to the game since it was launched in 2011. A few months back, we were thrown into some of the biggest maps DICE had created in Armored Kill. I couldn’t get into these maps, but vehicles just are not my thing. DICE is now launching their fourth expansion, Aftermath, upon fans, and after a good week playing, it completely makes up for my lack of enthusiasm for Armored Kill.
Aftermath is DICE’s way of pulling the ill thought of campaign into the multiplayer aspect. The one memorable moment in the single-player portion of Battlefield 3 is the earthquake that wrecks havoc on a city. In Aftermath, you are playing in that destroyed area. Every map is littered with debris, making these new maps an obstacle course to navigate.
First, though, let me bring up the the piece of awesome that makes this expansion worth the download: the X-Bow. We have plenty of weapons in Battlefield 3 by this point; I think we can all agree on that. Even so, I was a tad disappointed that we were ONLY getting a crossbow and not eight new weapons on top of it. That was, until I finally unlocked it.
The X-Bow has to be unlocked via an assignment. Once you unlock it, you can freely take it into any map/mode with any class; at the expense of a gadget. Yes, a gadget and not your sidearm. So instead of spawning with a med pack as an Assault class, you can carry a crossbow into battle. It’s a risky trade, but getting kills with the crossbow is one of the most satisfying experiences in the game. You can also unlock various bolts, like a long-distance bolt, an explosive bolt (for taking out vehicles), or a scan bolt (which pings back enemy locations after hitting it’s target).
While the crossbow is epic in it’s own regard (and thankfully DICE did it very well), the maps are actually solid boards to throw into the mix. I’m not usually a fan of cluttered maps, but they feel like honest attempts to submerse you into the atmosphere of a post-earthquake environment. Each map has its own set-piece that after just a few plays, made them stand apart on their own. Azadi Palace has a market in the middle, with maze-like corridors everywhere. It blends some distance with a close-quarters vibe, so you can run around freely with your choice of weapon.
That’s the beauty of all of these maps. There is a wonderful balance between close-quarters fighting and open areas. If it wasn’t for the cluttered and often times tricky environments, these maps would be some of the best in the game.
Epicenter has a great construction area, including a high-rise to fight on. But the epic center of combat seems to be over the central road, which has been left in a state of devastation from the earthquake. It looks like a Californian nightmare, complete with a few tunnels under the asphalt to crawl through. There’s nothing worse than trying to capture a point, and getting shot from someone hiding un the sewer pipe.
Markaz Monolith is one of my favorites, with a large building being the center of attention. The building has several floors, making it a very vertical battlefield. Hovering over the B flag in conquest (the location of the building) is a snipers treat. Unless you are fighting in the building, this map is a little more open, and certainly not one I would run around with an 870 shotgun.
The last map, Talah Market features a shrine as it’s key feature. Most of the fighting, though, takes place in the marketplace below, which is littered with choke points to mow down enemies. There’s a little less wreckage here, and not as much debris to try to get around, which puts it right behind Markaz Monolith if I had to rank the maps in terms of favorites.
Each expansion has brought with it a new game mode, and Aftermath is no different. Tank Superiority was a complete disaster, but (again) DICE makes up for it with Scavenger. Scavenger is a bare bones version of conquest or domination, but you start with a pistol of your choice and one grenade. Laying around the map are guns in one of three ranks; rank one guns are obviously the lower-tier weapons, with rank three guns being the cream of the crop. The kicker is that even if you pick up an SKS sniper rifle equipped with a 4x scope, you only have a handful of bullets (usually two clips worth), so you still have to pick your shots wisely and scavenge guns on a regular basis. It’s not a game mode I would play constantly, but, like Gun Master, it’s a nice change of pace when it pops up in a server rotation.
It was hard for me to recommend Armored Kill to everyone, and I had the same problem with Close Quarters (though the latter was a better designed package all-in-all), but Aftermath can be enjoyed by all types of soldiers. Whether you are a sniper who likes range or a close-quarters, shotgun-toting maniac, these maps bring a variety of styles together. And I can’t forget that crossbow, designed to show off a whole new skill set. Aftermath is a great reason to dig back into Battlefield 3.