Battlefield 3 is a first-person shootervideo game developed by EA DICE and published by Electronic Arts. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise.
The game was released in North America on 25 October 2011 and in Europe on 28 October 2011 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.EA Mobile also confirmed a port for the iOS platform. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release, and received positive reviews from most game reviewers. It is the first game in the series that does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. The PC version is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game. The game's sequel, Battlefield 4, was released on 29 October 2013.
In Battlefield 3's campaign, players take on the personas of several military roles: a U.S. Marine, an F/A-18F Super Hornet weapon systems officer, an M1A2 Abrams tank operator, and a Spetsnaz GRU operative. The campaign takes place in various locations, including Iran and New York City; and follows the stories of Sergeant Henry Blackburn and Dimitri Mayakovsky.
Battlefield 3 features the combined arms battles across single-player, co-operative and multiplayer modes. It reintroduces several elements absent from the Bad Company games, including fighter jets, the prone position and 64-player battles on PC. To accommodate the lower player count on consoles, the ground area is limited for Xbox 360 and PS3, though fly space remains the same.
During an interview with Game Informer, EA stated that Commander Mode is unlikely to be included, which was met with some criticism on the EA forum. The game features maps set in Paris, Tehran (as well as other locations in Iran), Sulaymaniyah, New York City, Wake Island, Oman, Kuwait and other parts of the Persian Gulf. The maps cover urban streets, metropolitan downtown areas, and open landscapes suited to vehicle combat.Battlefield 3 introduces the "Battlelog"; a free cross-platform social service with built-in text messaging, voice communications, game statistics, and the ability to join games that friends are already playing (though both players need to be on the same platform).
A demo featuring the new co-op mode was featured at Gamescom 2011. DICE general manager Karl Magnus Troedsson confirmed that a split screen option will not be available in co-op mode.Battlefield 3's new Battlelog social network, DICE noted, would be tied to all co-op matches, allowing players to try to beat friends' scores and to track their performance. Participating in co-op mode allows the player to collect points that unlock additional content that can be used in multiplayer.
Battlefield 3's multiplayer matches see players take on one of four roles: Assault, Support, Engineer and Recon. The Assault class focuses on assault rifles and healing teammates. The Support class focuses on light machine guns and supplying ammunition. The Engineer class focuses on supporting and destroying vehicles. The Recon class focuses on sniping and spotting enemies. The mechanics of the weapons have been changed to utilize the new engine: compatible weapons may have bipods attached which can then be deployed when in the prone position or near suitable scenery, and provide a significant boost to accuracy and recoil reduction. Suppressive fire from weapons blurs the vision and reduces the accuracy of those under fire, as well as health regeneration. The Recon class can put a radio beacon anywhere on the map and all squad members will be able to spawn on the location of the beacon.
Several game modes are present, including Conquest, Rush, Squad Deathmatch, Squad Rush and for the first time since Battlefield 1942, Team Deathmatch. However, more game modes are available through the purchase of extra downloadable content packs. The PC version of Battlefield 3 is by default launched via a web browser from the Battlelog web site. A server browser is present in console versions of the game, however.
Setting and characters
Battlefield 3's Campaign story is set during the fictional "War of 2014" and covers events that occur over the span of nine months. Most of the story takes place in the Iran–Iraq region. Other locations include the Azerbaijani border; Paris, France; and New York City, New York. Most missions occur as flashbacks on part of the interrogation of Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn, and do not occur in order of events.
The Campaign puts the player in control of four different player characters. For most of the story, the player controls SSgt. Henry "Black" Blackburn (portrayed by Gideon Emery), a member of the U.S. Marine Corps1st Recon Battalion and main protagonist. The player also controls Sgt. Jonathan "Jono" Miller, a M1 Abrams tank operator deployed in Tehran; Lt. Jennifer "Wedge" Colby Hawkins, an F/A-18F Super Hornetweapon systems officer; and Dimitri "Dima" Mayakovsky, a Russian GRU operative. The main antagonist, Solomon, is an overseas asset for the Central Intelligence Agency. Non-player characters include: Misfit 1, Blackburn's squad (including David Montes, Steve Campo, Christian Matkovic, and Cpt. Quinton Cole); Dima's GRU squadmates Vladimir and Kiril; and CIA Agents Gordon and Whistler, who interrogate Blackburn for much of the Campaign.
On 15 March, Sgt. Blackburn's squad, Misfit 1-3, attempted to find and safely return a US squad investigating an improvised explosive device in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, whose last known position was in territory controlled by the PLR (People's Liberation & Resistance), an Iranian paramilitary insurgent group. They find the missing squad, which had been ambushed by the PLR; but before they can escape the city, a massive earthquake wrecks the city. Blackburn, fellow squadmate Montes, and other survivors fight their way out of the ruins of the city. On the same day, the PLR stage a coup d'état in Iran, turning it into a military dictatorship, and the US subsequently invades. Lt. Hawkins takes part in a raid on enemy fighters over Iran and an air strike over Mehrabad Airport. In the aftermath of the air strikes, Misfit 1 was sent into Tehran to perform battle damage assessment and apprehend the leader of the PLR, Faruk Al-Bashir. While investigating an underground bank vault in the target's suspected location, Blackburn and his team learn that the PLR have acquired Russian suitcase nukes, with two of the three devices missing. Being overrun, Misfit requests backup from an M1 Abrams column "Anvil 3", including Sergeant Miller. Miller facilitates Misfit 1's helicopter extraction, but his Abrams tank is disabled and overrun while the crew awaits the arrival of the Quick Reaction Force. Knocked out and taken prisoner, Miller is promptly executed by Solomon and Al-Bashir, with the event being filmed and posted on the Internet.
Later, Misfit 1-3 manages to capture Al-Bashir, who becomes fatally wounded when they cause his escape vehicle to crash. Realizing that he had been betrayed and used, Al-Bashir reveals some of Solomon's plan—to detonate the nukes in Paris and New York City—before succumbing to his wounds. Misfit 1 gets a lead on arms dealer Amir Kaffarov, who was working with Solomon and Al-Bashir. They attempt to capture Kaffarov from his villa on the Caspian Sea coast, near the Azerbaijani border. However, they run into a Russian paratrooper battalion, also after Kaffarov, who engage them with airdropped BMP-2s, with Su-25s providing close air support. In the ensuing chaos, Blackburn's squadmates, Campo and Matkovic, are killed in an enemy strafing run. Meanwhile, a Spetsnaz team led by Dima assaults Kaffarov's villa. Kaffarov tries to bribe his way out, but Dima beats him up nonetheless. Blackburn arrives at the villa and finds Dima and a presumed dead Kaffarov. Dima reveals Solomon's plot to Blackburn, and requests his cooperation to prevent "a war between [their] nations". Meanwhile, Misfit 1's commanding officer Cole arrives, and Blackburn is forced to shoot his superior before he can kill Dima. Blackburn's shooting of his commanding officer results in his eight-hour interrogation by the C.I.A. at Hunters Point, Queens.
During Blackburn's captivity, Dima's Spetsnaz squad attempts to stop the attack in Paris. However, Vladimir is impaled and dies, and the nuke explodes, killing 80,000 people. Meanwhile, the C.I.A. agents do not believe Blackburn's story, since Solomon is a C.I.A. 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 surviving squad member Montes break out of captivity to stop the attack in New York. Evading police, Blackburn manages to break into a hijacked Long Island Rail Road commuter train, full of Solomon's men and explosive charges. He works his way to the front car, where he is ambushed by Solomon. When ambushed by Solomon, Blackburn gains the upper hand by obtaining and activating the detonator, causing the train to crash. Blackburn pursues Solomon through the sewers and 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, Solomon shoots Montes, but Blackburn manages to kill Solomon by bludgeoning him to death with a brick in the ensuing brawl and recovers the nuclear bomb.
In the epilogue, it is revealed that Dima had survived the Paris detonation, albeit suffering radiation poisoning from the blast. He writes about the efforts of both himself and Blackburn to stop Solomon's plan "to set fire to the world". As he finishes, he examines a pistol. A knock comes from his door, the screen cuts to black, and the last sound is that of the pistol being loaded as Dima presumably prepares to defend himself.
Battlefield 3's lead platform was originally the PC until it was switched to consoles midway through development. The Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3 is shipped on two discs due to the disc size limit; however, the PS3 version ships on one Blu-ray Disc.
Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas.
Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body, as well as "drag fallen comrades into safety and mount weapons on almost any part of the terrain".
PlayStation 3 exclusive content
On 6 June 2011, during Sony's E3 2011 press conference, Jack Tretton of Sony Computer Entertainment of America announced that the PlayStation 3 version of the game would be bundled with a free copy of Battlefield 1943, however, at launch, the game wasn't included. EA then said that Battlefield 3 PlayStation 3 owners would receive timed-exclusive DLC for the game instead. On 20 November 2011, Law firm Edelson McGuire took EA to court on behalf of disappointed gamers. The complaint focuses on EA's communication of the change of plan, second proposal with early DLC that had already been announced. Shortly after EA was threatened with being taken to court over its failure to deliver the free game as announced at E3, EA announced they will offer owners of the PlayStation 3 version of Battlefield 3 a free downloadable copy of Battlefield 1943.
Wii U version
On 7 June 2011, during Nintendo's E3 2011 press conference, John Riccitiello of EA games expressed interest in Nintendo's upcoming system, the Wii U. Patrick Liu, the executive producer of Battlefield 3, stated that EA DICE currently have no games in development for the Wii U and a port for the console "probably won't happen".
The open beta commenced on 29 September 2011, for all platforms, and ended on 10 October 2011. 48 hour early access was granted to players who bought the Tier 1 edition of Medal of Honor or pre-ordered the digital version of Battlefield 3: Limited Edition through Origin.
A soundtrack album was released on 24 October 2011, one day before the game was released. It is available on iTunes and Amazon. The music was composed by Johan Skugge and Jukka Rintamäki.
Battlefield 3 and its five DLC packs contain numerous Easter eggs. Hiding in obscure areas of the game are references to other Electronic Arts games and franchises including Mirror's Edge and Mass Effect. Some sources suggested other Easter eggs pointed to future Battlefield games or DLC packs. During the firefight in the mall trying to protect Al-Bashir, the store in which they are defending Al-Bashir has copies of games on the shelf and one game being titled "Frostbite" which references the engine used by Battlefield 3. A wall on the multiplayer map "Wake Island" featuring the number 2143 and a futuristic hovercraft on a different map in the End Game DLC have been said to suggest a follow up to 2006's Battlefield 2142 is in the works. Several dinosaur Easter eggs—such as a flying pterodactyl on the map "Nebandan Flats" and tyrannosaurus skulls or toy statues on various maps—have led others to believe a dinosaur-related game or DLC would be released in the future. The idea of a dinosaur-related minigame originated from fan feedback through social media outlets prior to Battlefield 3's release. Neither of these possible upcoming games has been confirmed by EA.
Marketing and release
Battlefield 3 was revealed on 3 February 2011, by video game magazine Game Informer. The coverage included information on building the game and interviews with DICE, as well as three trailers: a teaser and the first two parts in a series of gameplay from the level "Fault Line". Several other trailers were released showing different aspects of the game, including both single and multiplayer, as well as emphasizing the new engine. On 16 August 2011, co-op gameplay and a "Caspian Border Multiplayer Gameplay Trailer" were shown at Gamescom 2011 illustrating the co-op mode and the first footage of air combat, respectively.
Trailer releases gained momentum in the week before the release of the game. EA released a multiplayer trailer which showed the variety of maps available in multiplayer, with short scenes of actual gameplay. It also featured shots of a map that is included in the "Back to Karkand" downloadable content (DLC). EA released a launch trailer, showing off the various missions in the single-player campaign.
EA CEO John Riccitiello stated that Battlefield 3 is aimed at competing with the Call of Duty series. EA planned on spending over $100 million on a marketing campaign for Battlefield 3. Electronic Arts stated that Battlefield 3 is a "flat out superior" to Call of Duty. EA has said it is going on the "offense" in regards to its marketing on Battlefield 3, saying that it started its campaign early to establish a "beachhead". Anyone who had watched a trailer for the upcoming film Act of Valor through the official Battlefield 3 website could receive free downloadable dogtags for use with any version of the game.
In January 2017, the game was made backwards compatible with the Xbox One (alongside Battlefield: Bad Company 2) and was subsequently added to the EA Access service.
All pre-orders of the Limited Edition grant free access to the "Back to Karkand" DLC pack, a reference to the "Strike at Karkand" map (a popular Battlefield 2 map), to include four maps brought over from Battlefield 2, 10 new weapons, 4 new vehicles, 5 new achievements/trophies, and a new addition to the series, "Assignments". The maps from the expansion pack will be: Strike at Karkand, Gulf of Oman, Wake Island, and Sharqi Peninsula.
Pre-ordering at selected retailers and Origin included the "Physical Warfare Pack", granting access to time-based exclusive weapons and items; including a light machine gun, a sniper rifle accessory, and armor-piercing ammunition. Also included is launch day access to the DAO-12 semi-automatic shotgun, which other players can unlock through game play. Pre-order at select retailers also provide the "SPECACT Kit Upgrade", the "Dog Tag Pack" and Battlefield 3 gear for the player's console avatar. Pre-ordering at Origin gave players a shotgun and beret for Battlefield Play4Free, and 48 hour early access to the Battlefield 3 beta.
Originally the "Physical Warfare Pack" was to be exclusive to pre-orders, but fan reaction to this was negative, causing EA to clarify that it would be made available to all players for free later in the year. On 2 September 2011, a trailer for the Physical Warfare Pack was released on YouTube showing all the content included within the pack in action in-game.
All the content except the "Back to Karkand" pack was available from day one. The pack was released on 6 December 2011 for the PlayStation 3, and a week later for the Xbox 360 and PC.
To access the game's online multiplayer mode on consoles, players need to activate an online pass. New copies of the game include one online pass for the original owner of the game to access the multiplayer; however, if a player buys a used copy or rents the game, they must purchase an online pass separately, or access a 48-hour trial via the official game site. When asked why the developers implemented the pass system, game designer Alan Kertz replied, "because servers cost money, and used games don't make developers any money." Some of the online pass codes were invalid from the time of purchase, which EA responded to by telling affected consumers to ask the retailer for a replacement code.
Back to Karkand
The first pack of downloadable content (DLC), "Back to Karkand", was announced before launch and was released on 13 December 2011 for PC and Xbox 360, while PlayStation 3 owners received it a week earlier. It was priced at US$15 but was free for all users who purchased the limited edition. It features four maps remade from Battlefield 2, three new vehicles and ten new weapons.
At GDC 2012 DICE revealed it would release three more DLCs. The second DLC, "Close Quarters" arrived in June 2012 featuring four new infantry-oriented maps, ten new weapons, HD Destruction, ten new assignments, five unique Dogtags, and a new game mode, Conquest Domination, a Conquest mode adapted for smaller spaces.
The third DLC, "Armored Kill" arrived on 4 September 2012 for premium PlayStation 3 users and 11 September for Xbox 360 and PC users. The DLC was made available for non-premium PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 users on 25 September 2012. Armored Kill included new vehicles, specifically tanks, ATVs, and mobile artillery, as well as new vehicle-oriented maps and what is called "the biggest map in Battlefield history".
A DLC titled "Aftermath" was revealed in a trailer for Battlefield 3 Premium. It was released to PlayStation 3 Premium subscribers on 27 November 2012 and to PC and Xbox 360 Premium subscribers on 4 December 2012. "Aftermath" was released to non-Premium subscribers on PlayStation 3 on 11 December 2012, and on PC and Xbox 360 on 18 December 2012. A video released by DICE games revealed that there would be a crossbow, with customizable scopes and various bolts before its release.
The fifth DLC, "End Game", was released for PlayStation 3 Premium members on 5 March 2013 and to PC and Xbox 360 Premium members on 12 March 2013, then to non-Premium PlayStation 3 players on 19 March 2013 and to PC and Xbox 360 players on 26 March 2013.
Andy McNab penned a tie-in novel called Battlefield 3: The Russian, which follows the story of GRU Spetsnaz commando Dmitri "Dima" Mayakovsky and his involvement against the PLR, as well as his connection to the antagonist, Solomon. McNab also served as the game's consultant on military tactics. The novel was released on 25 October 2011.
Battlefield 3 has received mostly positive reviews. IGN gave it a score of 9.0 out of 10.0 for all platforms, and praised the graphics and multiplayer game. Even though it criticized the single-player campaign story, and the occasional glitches of the game engine, it still gave the game a mostly positive review, "Regardless of the narrative missteps or the occasional glitches, Battlefield 3 offers an unforgettable, world-class multiplayer suite that's sure to excite shooter fans."
Joystiq awarded the game 4.5 out of 5 stars, stating that the campaign was "tactically linear" and that the A.I. within the game were "murderously un-fun to fight". Complaints were also made of the multiplayer aspect, stating that destruction was less than expected: "It's not Bad Company 2, and levels won't start out intact and end looking like the surface of the moon the way they often did in that game." They did, however, praise the multiplayer experience as "unmatched", stating that this should be the sole reason to buy the game.
GameSpot gave Battlefield 3 a score of 8.5 out of 10 across all platforms. They praised the deep multiplayer mode, great variety of vehicles, many well-designed environments, and a great reward system for team play; however, they criticized the campaign for being "dull and disappointing" and using a "familiar formula". The cooperative mode was viewed favorably; the only criticism on the cooperative missions was that "there aren't more of them to keep you busy".
Official Xbox Magazine gave the game 9 out of 10, commending the game for its multiplayer mode, but criticizing the solo campaign. Similarly, Official Xbox Magazine (UK) gave the game 8 out of 10, applauding its multiplayer gaming and calling it "The most expansive, refined Battlefield multiplayer yet" while also criticizing the single-player experience.
Sales and revenue
According to EA, Battlefield 3 garnered 3 million pre-orders by the day of its release. The pre-order total makes it "the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history", according to the publisher. Two days after launch, EA CEO John Riccitiello announced via a conference call to investors that Battlefield 3 has already shipped 10 million units within a week of release, with 3 million of those being pre-orders.Electronic Arts stated that the title sold 5 million units within the first week of availability, easily becoming its fastest-selling game. After one month, EA chief financial officer Eric Brown announced Battlefield 3 had sold 8 million copies, and that the publisher has shipped 12 million copies of the game to retailers, 2 million more than it shipped for launch week. Peter Moore, the high-profile COO of EA, insisted that Battlefield 3 successfully captured a slice of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's market share. On 29 June 2012 EA revealed that the game has sold 15 million copies.
In Japan, Battlefield 3 had sold around 123,379 copies for the PlayStation 3 and 27,723 copies for the Xbox 360 when it was released. In the first week, the game had sold 18,792 copies for the PlayStation 3 for a total of 142,171 copies. The PlayStation 3 version later sold 8,094 copies for a total of 150,265 copies.
A scene in which the player is prompted to kill a rat that is attacking their character was criticized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In a press release issued by the organization's German office, it claimed that the game "treats animals in a sadistic manner". The release also went further on to say that the scene can have "a brutalising effect on the young male target audience".
The reproduction of various scenes in Battlefield 3 are highly accurate of their real-life counterparts such as the Grand Bazaar. Iran has reacted to the scenes set within Iran by banning the sale of the game. As the game had not been officially released in the country, the authorities were strictly enforcing the prevention of the distribution of pirated copies of the game. This comes after Iranian gamers had protested the release of the game and called for an apology.
- Best Shooter, 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
- Best Multiplayer Game, 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
- Best Xbox 360 Shooter, Best of 2011 IGN Award & 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
- Best Xbox 360 Multiplayer Game, Best of 2011 IGN Award & 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
- Best PS3 Shooter, 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
- Best PS3 Multiplayer Game, Best of 2011 IGN Award & 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
- Best PC Shooter, Best of 2011 IGN Award & 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
- Best PC Multiplayer Game, Best of 2011 IGN Award & 2011 IGN People's Choice Award
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This, the third in Battlefield 3's conveyor belt of downloadable content, finds DICE showboating in style. If the developer were a rock star, it'd have its foot on the monitor right now, as the audience held their lighters aloft. Back to Karkand's updated fan favourite maps was the obligatory run through the classic hits from yesteryear while Close Quarters, with its blatant COD tempo, was a punchy, punky cover version thrown into the mix to shake things up. To stretch the stadium rock metaphor to breaking point, Armored Kill is the epic ten-minute blow out, all guitar and drum solos, a ballad of fire and smoke.
This is Battlefield at its biggest. Quite literally, as one of the four new maps - the sprawling Bandar Desert - takes the crown as the largest Battlefield map ever. Over twice the size of Caspian Border, it occupies five square kilometres of digital real estate, taking in a crescent bay front with residential buildings and construction sites dotted around its circumference. Further inland there's an artillery base for the taking, surrounded by an expanse of open desert and rolling dunes and with a highway slicing through the centre. It's all hemmed in with rocky outcrops and cliffs that direct the action down and into this vast crucible of mayhem.
All the new maps can be used in the existing game modes, as well as Tank Superiority.
That's not to say the other maps are slouching. As the name suggests, Alborz Mountains, set in Northern Iran, has a ruddy great big mountain in the middle. The first snow map in the game, this has acres of forestry to provide cover and a large frozen lake for those bold enough to venture into open ground.
Death Valley also earns its name. Set at night in and around a ruined highway overpass, it balances out lots of higher ground - not least on the exposed but strategically useful road bridge - with a rabbit warren of containers, pillars and structures at ground level. Dash into action against an organised team here and you'll be pinned from all sides, trapped in a killing box of your own stupidity.
Finally, there's Armored Shield, the least interesting of the bunch. Set in the Russian countryside, it's mostly fields and dirt tracks with a few pylons scattered around as cover for the hapless soldiers who find themselves traversing it on foot.
And you really don't want to be a pedestrian on these maps. The addition of quad bikes cuts down on wandering time, but quite apart from the sheer scale of the larger maps making it unfeasible to jog to the nearest hot spot in anything less than five minutes, your lifespan is directly related to how much steel you can put between yourself and everyone else. Armored Kill is more than a name. It's an order.
Selling this concept is new game mode, Tank Superiority. The title doesn't leave much room for ambiguity, and it's as simple in execution as it sounds. Two teams, each with access to plenty of tanks, battle it out for control of the sole capture point. The maps are constricted to accommodate this more focussed objective, but that doesn't stop it being one of the most ferocious ways to play an already fearsome game.
"You really don't want to be a pedestrian on these maps... your lifespan is directly related to how much steel you can put between yourself and everyone else. Armored Kill is more than a name. It's an order."
The mountain in the centre of the Alborz map is Damavand Peak, which you should already be familiar with.
It makes sense for DICE to spotlight the tanks, especially since it was that dazzling footage of the single player tank section, Thunder Run, that really established the game as a contender for Call of Duty's throne last year. Not coincidentally, Thunder Run takes place in the same Bandar Desert that now expands Battlefield even further than before. The challenge to COD supremacy may not have been won in terms of sales, but Armored Kill sees Battlefield drawing its line in the sand, confident that no other shooter franchise can pull off the scale on display here.
There are no new tanks here, but there are new vehicles that help provide balance to the shift in emphasis away from infantry combat. Both US and Russian forces get their own anti-tank options - the M1128 for the Americans, or the 2S25 Sprut for Russians - both of which are faster and more agile than their lumbering prey, but less protected. Tactical use of the terrain means they can easily stop the heavier vehicles in their tracks.
Mobile artillery also enters the fray, an option that players in this early access stage for PS3 Premium subscribers are still getting used to. Successful use of these long range bombardment weapons requires both a good understanding of the maps with regard to range and elevation and also a canny touch when it comes to aiming. Right now, most people seem to jump into the gunners seat, loose off a few rounds into the sky, then get bored and go and find a tank for more immediate boom-bang-a-bang action. The player who masters these vehicles, however, will be able to dominate almost any match.
Also dominating is the AC-130 Gunship. Rather unusually, you don't get to actually fly this beast of the air. Instead, you gain access to it by capturing its base. The plane itself circles the map on autopilot, following a preset route. Players can spawn into its gunner seats and absolutely lay waste to whatever is below, as well as operating powerful anti-air turrets to fend off attacking choppers and jets.
You can also use the AC-130 as a persistent spawn point for paratroopers, making it both versatile and a powerful strategic tool. The downside is that it's slow and poorly armoured, and its predictable movement pattern and unmissable size make it an easy target. Even so, between the gunship and the existing helicopters and jets, the majority of the Battlefield action on Armored Kill maps seems to be in the sky.
Perhaps in a nod to Valve's Gnome Chompski, there's a hidden gnome on the Alborz Mountains map.
Get all these elements working in harmony on a Conquest or Rush game and you've got the closest thing to what long serving fans would call the classic Battlefield experience. This is true warfare, not just carefully contained skirmishes, and lone wolf run-and-gunners will get creamed with hilarious regularity. At this size, the maps simply don't lend themselves to the tactics that lead to success in typical deathmatches, and nor are there any obvious spots designed to aid the player.
These aren't maps with pre-defined "bits" to use. These are actual maps, in the Ordnance Survey sense of the word, and it's up to you to make the terrain work to your advantage. Master the dips and peaks of the Bandar Desert dunes to hide a tank or to gain an advantage. Decide in the moment if charging through the trees surrounding the Alborz Mountains is a better bet than taking it slowly around the rocky passages above. What makes sense in one match might be suicide in the next. It's thrillingly organic, and devoid of the sort of generic map design that might as well put up neon signs saying "great sniper spot here!"
The downside, for console players, is that these maps are pushing up against the limits of the maximum lobby size. With up to five capture points, DICE does its usual great job of subtly directing the flow of the match into interesting spaces, but 24 players are easily lost on maps this size. It's also not much fun to wait around at a spawn point for a vehicle, drive all the way to an objective only to be wiped out by an AC-130 and have to do it all over again. PC players, naturally, will have no such concerns - 64 players and seven capture points will fill these maps far more effectively.
That minor annoyance aside, there's not much criticism you can throw at Armored Kill that won't just bounce off its battle-hardened exterior. The maps show DICE at its best, crafting natural looking environments that throw up thrilling possibilities on the fly, and the new vehicles have been shrewdly chosen and balanced to enhance the gameplay while still offering the thrill of the new. For Battlefield fans, this is an essential expansion.