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Battlefield 3 June 15, 2012 4

Battlefield 3: Close Quarters Review

The Verdict on Battlefield 3

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For those who have Battlefield Premium, you most likely have had the new Close Quarters DLC for at least a few days now. Non-Premium users will have a little bit longer to wait, but don’t worry. The rest of us users will be the guinea pigs to make sure everything is ironed out and ready to go by the time you get to drop $15 for the latest expansion. Close Quarters’ title says it all really; the expansion comes with four considerably small maps (by Battlefield standards), ten new weapons and some new game modes that support close quarters combat (CQC). If you are a Premium member, you’ll also get some new dog tags, weapon and soldier camos and an exclusive knife.

While blowing walls apart changes the pace of the game, it doesn’t change the structure of the map much.Now, just because the maps are smaller by Battlefield standards, doesn’t mean they are necessarily small. What they lose in horizontal gameplay, they make up for in verticality. All of the new maps (Scrapmetal, Ziba Tower, Donya Fortress, and Operation 925) contain at least three vastly different levels that are broken into sections that vary between indoor and outdoor settings. One of the most advertised features of these maps is “HD destruction”. What HD destruction means exactly is a little beyond me, but what the maps offer is the ability to shred through thin walls, tear apart scenery and chip away cover. It’s essentially the type of destruction we’ve seen in the vanilla maps, just more abundant and without the grandiose of  the Back to Karkand maps.

Over the course of a match, the maps do change in appearance dramatically and walls that get shredded apart by explosives or a fleet of bullets diminish hiding spots, making a camper’s life a living Hell. The wall destruction seems to offer the most change in the overall gameplay match after match, seeing as everything else is either cosmetic or involves vehicles that blow up and kill anyone oblivious enough to stand nearby. While blowing walls apart changes the pace of the game, it doesn’t change the structure of the map much. The ability to destroy dividers and topple small buildings in the rest of the multiplayer (and don’t get me started on the awesomely massive destruction in Bad Company 2) forces people to avoid certain areas and allows others a new path in which to travel.

…the maps are generally SMG/shotgun friendly, but Scrapmetal has a great mix of open and close areas…In Close Quarters, tearing a wall apart doesn’t necessarily mean that the wall is gone, it just means you can clearly see behind it and annihilate anyone who hasn’t noticed that their hiding place has been revealed. It doesn’t allow for new pathways to be generated to offer teammates a new way to get to a flag or get yourself out of a tight spot. While the destruction is wonderful and has a very noticeable impact on the gameplay, it would be nice to see it offer the same kind of impact we find in the rest of the game; albeit on a smaller scale of course.

The maps themselves are generally well designed, the only one I have any real qualm with is Donya Fortress. The map is almost totally devoid of any color except gray, so spotting an enemy amongst a fairly bland backdrop can be a little challenging. It is often difficult to know where you’re being shot from because, frankly, you can’t see where the little bastard is until just before death…..or the kill cam pops up. Other than that, the maps are generally SMG/shotgun friendly, which is obvious, but Scrapmetal has a great mix of open and close areas so virtually any loadout is worth using. You can argue that Donya Fortress is also relatively diverse, but the map is much more fast paced than Scrapmetal, so an SMG is probably the absolute best choice. But everybody’s different I suppose.

Gun Master is exactly what you think it sounds like…Gun Game, welcome to Battlefield!The two actually new gamemodes are Conquest Domination and Gun Master. Domination is your standard conquest scenario; the team with the most flags bleeds the opposing team dry. The only differences are that the amount of time it takes to capture a flag is greatly reduced, thankfully. Without it, people would die before the flag was ever neutralized. So in hindsight, this is a good move on Dice’s part. The other change is that you cannot spawn at a captured flag nor are there any team bases. Instead, it uses the same random spawnpoint system from team deathmatch. It’s a little strange for a conquest gamemode, but considering that it’s close quarters, it might make things a little more balanced. Having people spawn at a flag that has just started to be captured by an enemy would most likely lead to a tremendous amount of spawn killing. Unfortunately, the random spawnpoints don’t cure that either.

Close Quarters’ maps only have a handful of spawnpoints for each team and often don’t vary between these points enough, so you find yourself spawning at the same exact spot at least a few times in a row. What’s even worse, the game doesn’t care if an enemy is near that spawnpoint or not, so you’ll most likely end up getting killed in your first few seconds of life anyways. I’m not kidding here, I once spawned and literally one second later an enemy spawned just a few yards away from me and blew me away before I could even believe what I had just seen. It’s understandable (though equally annoying) to see this happen when spawning on a squadmate, because then that’s either bad luck or your own damn fault. When selecting a map generated spawnpoint, you trust the game to put you in a relatively safe area so you can last more than fifteen seconds. Irritating doesn’t even begin to explain the general feeling one may feel.

Gun Master is exactly what you think it sounds like (assuming you’re familiar with the competitive PC gaming community). It is based on the old Counter-Strike mod, Gun Game; also known as Arms Race in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Gun Master does run a little differently, however. Each player starts out with a 9mm pistol and progresses up to a machine pistol, high caliber pistol, SMGs, Carbines, Shotguns, Assault Rifles, at this point you start to get the idea, and then end with a knife. In theory, this system makes it sound like the game starts out fairly tame and then progressively gets more intense. In a way that’s true, but only if roughly everyone progresses at a similar rate. What ultimately happens is the first seven or eight people, out of roughly sixteen to twenty-four, to get kills (you get “promoted” every two kills) get to the more powerful weapons first and manage to pick off the unfortunate pistol users from a distance. And when I say powerful, I mean POWERFUL. One word: Jackhammer. That’s right, the MK3A1 auto-shotgun is part of the lineup and no it is not the last weapon before you get to the knife. The AUG, M417 and M320 LVG are in there as well.

Sometimes, doing the exact opposite doesn’t lead to something that makes sense.Sure, the gamemode is skill based and yes it is an acquired taste, but it doesn’t seem to progress logically. Since it’s based on Gun Game, I guess it’s fair to make comparisons; in Gun Game, everyone starts out with a fairly decent weapon and then progresses to weaker/less manageable weapons and concludes with the knife. Progressing up and ending on the knife means that people jumping into the match after it has started are almost guaranteed to not progress very far at all. What is most annoying of all is that if someone kills you with a knife (even though you end on a knife, you have one throughout the whole game anyways) you are automatically demoted by one kill. This is INSANELY annoying and not because it means you have to be on your toes, that’s fine. It’s because progressing is already quite difficult as it is, ESPECIALLY if you jump in after the game has started and already have to go up against 12 gauge shotguns and insanely accurate battle rifles.

I get that the designers simply loved Gun Game and wanted to build a mode around that idea without copying its exact formula, but simply going in the near opposite direction isn’t necessarily the best idea. If the game was structured as it is now, but has it so everyone progresses to a new weapon every X amount of minutes and allow those with the most kills each round the ability to customize those weapons and/or give them a grenade or a gadget as a reward might’ve been worth trying out. We could sit here and rattle off alternative ideas all day, but the point is doing the complete opposite of something good doesn’t always end up with something that makes sense. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a cool idea; I always liked Gun Game and I also suck at it big time. Therefore, I also suck at Gun Master, but I’m not totally biased here. Gun Master does allow players the chance to mess with weapons they may not have unlocked yet in the regular game, but this progression just seems illogical and doesn’t allow those jumping in late to have a remotely fun time. Unlike virtually every other gamemode in Battlefield.

Sorry Operation Metro, Close Quarters = double kills galore!Up to this point, Operation Metro was considered to be the “meat grinder”, the map that you play conquest on because you simply want to rank up. Now, the choice is Close Quarters; the only difference being that the new maps have a more balanced design. Seriously, even if you’re terrible these maps are double kills galore. But you’ll still die a minimum of ten times, certainly. Between how quick it is to capture flags and how easy it can be to get kills (especially on Ziba Tower), it’s no surprise to see how almost everyone gets a minimum of 2000 points per game, if you started half way in. It also makes completing the already pretty simple assignments a breeze. That itself is a little surprising; the assignments from Back to Karkand actually required a lengthy amount of play to achieve, especially since more than one of them required at least two hours of play on certain maps on top of various other requirements. I’m still working on the first batch of assignments (though I tend to go through long periods of not really wanting to deal with them), but I’ve completed over half of the new ones in just a few days. That being said, the new weapons are pretty fun to use, for the most part (I’m really digging the ACW-R).

But it just wouldn’t be a Battlefield review if you didn’t mention anything about bugs. There are PLENTY of bugs in Close Quarters, from little aesthetic errors to thoroughly aggravating game stoppers. Occasionally, the scoreboard will not show large portions of your team which is annoying, but doesn’t necessarily stop your from playing the game. On the more severe side, some servers seem to be pretty laggy, but they just opened up so that’s to be expected. After respawning, sometimes, it will take several seconds before you are able to draw your weapon which is even worse considering the already troubling spawn system. And the creme de la creme of the bugs that I’ve noticed so far is the occasional “stick on the environment until you jump a few times or shoot the ground” bug. Seriously, how could  you miss that one?

It has a load of problems, but at its core is a great game and a nice change of pace for Battlefield fans.It would have been nice for EA to have allowed for more QA testing, because it makes those of us Premium members feel like we paid for a beta test instead of early access. Bugs in a multiplayer game are to be expected and you shouldn’t base the quality of a game on the fact that it has bugs. All games have bugs, it’s nothing new. But when you hype something up, you had better make sure that anything that royally screws up the overall experience gets fixed before its official release. However, this technically isn’t the official release. That’s later in the month, which is likely when a patch for the expansion is to be released or at the very least a patch will be released shortly after non-Premium Xbox and PC users get access (sorry, I get the feeling that PS3 users will have to suffer a little bit. It seems that’s the price for early access these days). It should be noted that this review is based on the PC version of Close Quarters and cannot speak for the quality of the console versions of the game.

Despite the overall tone and insane length of this review, Close Quarters is not actually bad. It has a load of problems, but at its core is a great game and a nice change of pace for Battlefield fans. Sure, the hardest of the hardcore may not find small maps and CQC as appealing as the large, open maps that made the game so popular; but for those fans who love Battlefield’s mechanics yet want something a little faster and more to the point, so to speak, Close Quarters is a nice treat. For me, Ziba Tower and Scrapmetal cover both sides of the CQB spectrum (fast paced yet a little openness here and there) and are probably the best designed. Sometimes I do extremely well, other times I feel like a bullet magnet (I’m looking at you Donya Fortress) and have to respawn virtually every thirty seconds. I don’t know if that’s due to balancing issues, bugs or I flat out just suck, but I can still have fun regardless.

That’s the ultimate sign of a decent game: despite doing poorly and dying every time you turn around, you still have fun. It’s unfortunate that the bugs get in the way of seeing the true quality, but if Close Quarters follows the order of previous Battlefield releases: the worst of the bugs will be patched, weapons will be rebalanced, maps will be tweaked and game rules will be adjusted for pacing reasons. That being the case, it may not be a good idea to recommend Close Quarters for a day one release. If you have a friend who is a Premium member or like to hover over the Battlelog forums, find out when the game gets patched and then drop the money for the expansion or the Premium service if you’re confident that you’ll end up getting all of the expansions regardless. That way you’ll know that you’ll be getting the true Close Quarters experience or at least something really close to it. In short: thank you Dice, shame on you EA, now onto Armored Kill!

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