Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand DLC Hands-On Impressions -- Good to be BackBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Nov 09, 2011
Just when I was impressed with the remakes of the fan-favorite maps of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, here comes EA DICE with their own ideas of re-imagining maps from the Battlefield series. While this upcoming Battlefield 3 DLC features four classic maps, our 2.5 hour hands-on session only presented us with two of the locales: Strike at Karkand and Gulf of Oman.
That might sound a tad repetitive but at least this session gave us a reintroduction of Conquest Assault, which will be familiar to fans of Battlefield 2142. It’s an engrossing twist on Conquest where the game starts with one side having pre-secured all the control points. It adds a bit of a Rush mode feel, at least in the early minutes of the battle.
Old timers familiar with the original Karkand will certainly recognize many of the structures, including the inclined stretch of road and the hotel capture point. Its multi-level design adds an extra challenge for both teams, especially when each area of contention in Conquest Assualt is on a different level. Not that I’m complaining, but I think that the map could have benefited from opening up more of the buildings’ inner floors for added close quarters engagements.
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I simply enjoyed Strike at Karkand for dialing down the pervasive brown dust from the Battlefield 2 version. Actually, the visibility is pretty darn clear, making it one of the more sniper-friendly maps in BF3. In fact, I must’ve spent a combined 20 minutes as a sniper, trying out every kind of elevation from five stories up to ground level. It came to the point where I was toying with frustrated tank drivers who made the most of the Frostbite 2 engine in trying to expose me by taking down half of whatever building I was based in. And yes, like all other urban areas of Battlefield 3, Frostbite 2 pulls off building destruction in these areas like a champ and can turn a once-protected capture point into an exposed, highly contested piece of territory.
The new rendition of the Gulf of Oman map clears out a lot of grass from the original version in favor of just more pale dirt. For the few grassy spots on the map, the vegetation is tall enough to make it a viable ground level sniping position and a good excuse to optimize your outfit for camouflage. For traditionalists who like to hoof it, the map features a solid mix of two-story structures and construction sites; both cater well to on-foot surgical assaults.
Aside from the tank, the return of the nimble Desert Patrol Vehicle makes for a fine deviation over on-foot gameplay. I must’ve spent at least five minutes in a match being both a fast-moving distraction and a means of mowing down unsuspecting enemies who are out in the open. It’s maneuverable enough that you have a chance at running over someone even if their standing next to a building, and the DPV is pretty good at getting upright if you happen to flip over after making a wicked jump. What they’re not good at is sustaining RPG hits, for obvious reasons. If you’re going to use the DPV as a two-man transport for dashing to control points, be sure not to get too close to the flag as maneuverability around those areas tends to be tight.
It had been such a long time since playing Gulf of Oman that it took me a few rounds before remembering that it featured a very high crane, an obvious prime spot for sniping. There are two challenges in making use of the crane: 1) having to be a sitting duck as you spend 30 seconds climbing up the crane and 2) being able to protect that space from snipers in a nearby building and opponents making their way up the crane as well. Like Strike at Karkand, Gulf of Oman is a moderately large map that is both asymmetrical as it is vertical in parts. The inclusion of an overpass and accessibility to the level below the overpass adds a welcomed dimension to gunfights and the possibility of taking cover for healing.
It’s a credit to Battlefield 3 that these locales do not feel out of place within the overall BF3 map playlist. It certainly would have been nice to try out other modes, as well as the Wake Island and Sharqi Peninsula maps. If EA is going with the popular “I.V. drip” approach to preview coverage, we just might have another crack at Back to Karkand before it launches in December.