When DICE dropped Close Quarters into the Battlefield 3 mix, it went a vastly different direction than fans were used to. Instead of maps balancing a mix of tight situations and sprawling lengths of terrain, Close Quarters focused solely on the former. Aptly named, it was all close quarters and left some fans feeling suffocated by kids with C4 and shotguns.
Armored Kill takes the complete opposite approach. With what seems like miles of landscape sprinkled with buildings here and there, this expansion delivers some of the largest maps DICE has designed (one in particular is THE largest map ever developed by DICE). For those same fans that felt abandoned with the last expansion, Armored Kill is what you have been waiting for. But for those players that prefer a strong mix of infantry and vehicular combat, you may not want to play in Armored Kill-only servers.
Maps aside, this expansion adds new vehicles and (as usual) assignments. Vehicles are noteworthy for the sole fact that you rely on them so much while playing these large maps. However, unlike the general tanks in the rest of the game, some of these new vehicles (like the M1128, part of the new “Tank Destroyer” class) blend other vehicles classes to make interesting hybrids. I loved the mobility of this new class, and it certainly had some punch in its weaponary. Sadly, these new vehicles/upgrades via assignments don’t carry over to other content in the game. It’s all packaged nice and neat into the Armored Kill maps. Weapons unlocked from Close Quarters and Back to Karkand could at least be used in the full map set, which was a major perk for those that didn’t particularly care for the maps themselves.
The new maps you’ll get to throw into your rotation of play are Alborz Mountains, Death Valley, Armored Shield, and Bandar Desert. Bandar Desert holds the title of “Oh Crap! Biggest Map By DICE Ever!” and when you make your first run to an objective in Conquest, it certainly lived up to the name. Spread over a vast desert, Bandar on Conquest puts five flags on the playing field (seven for the larger PC variant). These points are generally located in small clusters of buildings, but getting from one to the other either requires a vehicle or a lot of running.
Conquest in general on these maps leaves me grasping for something to do. I like a good mix of infantry combat even when I am in the mood for massively-destructive vehicles. I only found enjoyment playing these maps on Rush, in which case Bandar Desert is still a massive map but I can still hoof it to the MCOM stations on foot and get there in a reasonable amount of time.
Death Valley is the night map of the bunch. Most of my experience with this map was playing Team Deathmatch (which doesn’t fit the game to begin with, and these maps make an awkward attempt at translating into TDM variants) and Tank Superiority. Running around on foot is a little easier thanks to both the dark setting and varied levels of terrain. Tank Superiority has you fighting over a flag centered around a bridge, a fantastic spot for infantry to fight for and rain rockets down on the other team from.
Alborz Mountains can be fun on Conquest, though. The first snow map in Battlefield 3, Alborz Mountains has you fighting your way up (and down, if you are playing Conquest) a mountain. This particular map is my personal favorite- perhaps because I haven’t seen snow in Battlefield 3 and it was a theme for quite a few maps in Bad Company 2. Playing Rush, there’s a memorable MCOM station in a tall, three or four-story tower. If attackers don’t get this one early, it’s easy to fend off as the defenders (see below video).
Armored Shield is a wide-open field much like Bandar Desert, just not quite as big. Spacious maps like this are fun to race around on quad bikes, and I will admit I have spent a good chunk of time doing just that. Jumping craters on Armored Shield and dunes in Bandar Desert is quite amusing. Like Bandar Desert, Conquest has some clumps of buildings scattered about, but most of your time will be in a vehicle or running like a madman trying to avoid the newly-implemented AC-130.
Yes, a whole new aspect was added to Conquest and Rush game modes on these maps: a gunship. Whichever team has “x point” on any given map in Conquest is awarded with a flying fortress doing an on-rails circle of the perimeter. Two soldiers can man this automated destroyer-of-all-things, but it also has a health meter so it needs to be defended from choppers, Stingers and jets. During the Rush mode, the attackers have a swift upper-hand as they get a respawning gunship that rains terror from the skies. It feels a bit cheap in Rush, and I wish they would remove it, but it is still playable (and you can win against it, as I have several times defending).
The last bit of content is a new game mode: Tank Superiority. Exactly as it sounds, it is the equivalent of a tank version of TDM. Tanks are emphasized so much, in fact, that when you want to spawn on your squad mates, you can’t. Instead, you get to either wait at the main base for a vehicles to appear (which can take quite a while, mind you) or hoof it down to the action. It spoils what could be a lot of fun, because no one wants to be on foot surrounded by half a dozen angry mechanized weapons armed only with puny rocket launchers.
While the maps are designed well and with vehicles in mind, Armored Kill doesn’t add anything to the base game for players that don’t want to rely on vehicles to get the job done. This expansion does exactly what it aims to do: add larger maps into people’s map rotations. People that didn’t like Close Quarters could at least carry those new guns into other maps, Armored Kill doesn’t have that luxury. If you have Premium, you have Armored Kill no whether you want it or not, but hardcore Battlefield vets who love the large, vehicle-centric maps are going to want to pick it up regardless. Since it doesn’t offer anything outside of the expansion, people who don’t want to rely on tanks and quad bikes to get around are going to want to pass on this one.