The newly released Battlefield 3 DLC, Armored Kill, aims to give the fans what they want: heavy metal machines of war and sprawling, open maps to blow them up on. In a lot of ways, the new pack is just as singularly focused as the previous Close Quarters DLC was, it's just set on a much larger scale. What this means is that you'll need to employ some DLC-specific strategies or you're just going to get yourself blown up. A lot. All over the place. It won't be pretty.
Fortunately, you can read on to learn from my own mistakes and better prepare yourself for the challenges that await in all of that delicious Battlefield 3: Armored Kill content...
In order to understand how to best approach Armored Kill it's important to first get a handle on exactly what it is. At its core, the DLC pack adds four new multiplayer maps, one new mode, and an assortment of new land and air vehicles to the game, as well as a series of unlocks for each of those vehicles. If there's one keyword that can be used to sum up this content pack, it's "big."
Everything’s on a larger scale. Bandar Desert is the biggest map in Battlefield history, roughly two and a half times the size of the air combat-focused Caspian Border map. The AC-130 gunship introduces the modern military's own flying fortress to the Battlefield proceedings, offering the team that controls it the potential to completely dominate both the ground and the skies. You've also got tank destroyers now to counter tanks, mobile anti-air and artillery units, and the return of the always-fun quad bike.
The four new maps are playable in all modes, but they're all designed with an eye toward supporting the DLC's lone new mode, Tank Superiority. This is essentially a King of the Hill game type in which two teams compete for control of a single point in the center of the map. The control points on each map have been strategically placed in fairly open locations, to encourage as much tank-on-tank action as possible. As if that doesn't make the point loudly enough, vehicles also spawn in quicker than before.
As you've probably figured out already, pretty much everything about Armored Kill favors engineers. The repair tool alone is an invaluable piece of gear for anyone who will be driving or riding along in one of Battlefield 3's machines of death. Roughly 90 percent of your team should be running engineers, always. The other 10 percent should be recon, again, always.
Let's take a closer look. Having your engineer equipped with a repair tool is a no-brainer. It's rare that you'll hop out of your vehicle to repair it in the middle of a tank-to-tank exchange, but if you or your driver can reach a safe, preferably covered area, you can bring the vehicle back up to 100 percent in no time.
For your weapons loadout, bring along whatever your comfortable with at close range. You'll only need to defend yourself on foot when you're out doing repairs, and it'll either be a sniper's bullet that ends you or some suicidal nutjob running up for a close-range kill. Be prepared with a firearm that you can switch to quickly from your repair tool and get the jump in those latter scenarios.
As for your rocket, always bring along the Stinger or IGLA ground-to-air launcher unless you're playing Tank Superiority. The new mode is ground vehicles-only, so you won't need air cover. Start out with your dumb-fire rockets, but if your recon team members are doing their jobs, you'll want to quickly switch to your Javelin.
Let's talk about that recon class. You'd think a frail sniper wouldn't be much help on maps where tanks are duking it out with other tanks, but the recon class has its uses. It's all in the numbers: it doesn't matter if you have too few or too many; if the proportion of engineers-to-snipers isn't right, your team will suffer.
Recon builds have a number of uses in all modes on Armored Kill maps. The most obvious is, of course, your handy sniper rifle. You won't find too many elevated position on the new maps, but there are plenty of craters and forested areas on the fringes of the more open battlegrounds to tuck yourself away in. Set up a nest for yourself near a tank battle and wait for enemy engineers to dip outside to perform repairs, picking them off before they can react. You can score a lot of kills with this tactic if you're a good sniper.
The recon class also has another tool that is tremendously helpful in Armored Kill. The SOFLAM is a laser designator that allows you to provide valuable intel to your team as well as "paint" armored targets for troops equipped with guided missile weapons to take advantage of. This is where we come back to the Javelin recommendation.
A SOFLAM-painted target takes increased damage from your team, and Javelin fire will automatically be guided to a designated target. This one-two punch combination can be devastating if team members are communicating well. The SOFLAM can also "paint" airborne targets, something that the Javelin wouldn't otherwise be able to lock onto. Even in non-Tank Superiority matches, you might want to leave your Stinger/IGLA behind in favor of a Javelin if you end up having effective recon builds on your team.
The Gears Of War
Class loadouts are only half of the equation in Armored Kill, given the heavy focus on vehicle warfare. The most popular pick for many right now seems to be the new mobile artillery unit, which allows you to deploy a long-range, unguided gun and sit on the fringes of the battlefield, raining fire down from above.
Artillery can be tricky to get a handle on, though it's helpful to think of it as a giant mortar. If you don't have someone on the other end who can communicate intel and help you walk in your shots, it's best to set up the artillery vehicle somewhere that gives you a clear view of the battleground you're looking to shell. Simply watch where your shot lands and adjust your aim accordingly.
Battlefield 3 had heavily armored tanks pretty well covered, but Armored Kill introduces an effective counter to their lumbering might with its tank destroyers. These are wheeled vehicles rather than treaded ones, giving them greater acceleration and maneuverability than their heavier cousins, at the cost of armor. Your best bet is to use them to run circles around battle tanks, always moving and always firing.
Quads can be devastating against tanks as well if you use them in a similar manner. The driver has just one goal: keep moving, always. The rear-facing passenger should have dumb-fire rockets equipped and ready to go. The quad's maneuverability makes it a tough target for slow firing battle tanks, though the more nimble tank destroyers can be a problem.
Just rocket the crap out of any tank you cruise by, running circles around it until it's destroyed. Be careful of machine gun turrets and passengers though; the main gun might not be able to draw a bead, but small-arms fire will chew up both your quad and its riders.
Now let's talk about the AC-130. This is a unique vehicle within the Battlefield series as it's not one that you can directly control. Instead, you can spawn into one of four turret seats: two anti-air point defenses, one air-to-ground machine gun, and one air-to-ground M102 cannon. The anti-air seats also take responsibility for firing off flares. The gunship flies on its own, weaving a slow circle around each map and offering a juicy airborne target for everyone to shoot at.
Only one team can control the AC-130 at a time. In Conquest matches, this is based on whichever team holds the control point marked with a little gunship icon. That location is always the same on each map, and it's generally the location that both teams will try to take possession of first. In Rush mode, the gunship always belongs to the attacking team.
As powerful as the flying fortress is, it's not all-powerful. It's a large target in the sky and it's not heavily armored. The new mobile anti-air ground unit is especially helpful as a counter to the AC-130, since its machine gun fire can't be confused when flares go out. The gunship is also very easy to ram with jets, though you'll find that many rent-a-server admins having a standing rule against the use of "jet darts."
You've got four maps in the Armored Kill pack, and while each one is undeniably unique they're all designed with an eye toward vehicle-based action. Bandar Desert and Armored Shield are the more open of the four maps. Maintaining air superiority is essential in these locations, especially during Conquest matches when the AC-130 can change hands. With so little cover, it's very easy for friendly forces to be caught out in the open and left at the mercy of hovering choppers or the flying fortress's powerful guns.
Alborz Mountains and Death Valley are a bit more mazelike. Both of them are marked by rocky, mountainous terrain, with more buildings than the other two maps and a few forested areas that you can rely on for cover. There's still value in controlling the skies, but you'll find that recon builds are less useful in these two locations. In spite of the advice given in the previous section, you may want to occasionally switch to dumb-fire rockets if the vehicle-to-vehicle fighting becomes particularly intense in one area, since it's much easier to get to safety, either on foot or riding on the back of a quad bike.