The lights are on
It’s no secret that EA wants Battlefield to dethrone Call of Duty as the most popular (and profitable) military shooter game. Before Battlefield 3 launched late last year, EA CEO John Riccitiello even quipped that it was “designed to take that game down.” Though it didn’t come close to beating Modern Warfare 3’s astronomical sales figures, Battlefield 3 grew its share of the market considerably thanks to the world-class Frostbite 2 engine, varied map designs, and unique tactical multiplayer that stresses teamwork over lone wolf running and gunning.
In an attempt to woo the Call of Duty faithful and further expand its base, DICE is essentially releasing a Call of Duty map pack as the second Battlefield 3 expansion. Close Quarters has four smaller maps, smaller team sizes, and no vehicles. DICE even tweaked its traditional flag-capping Conquest mode to include random respawn locations and dubbed it “Conquest Domination” to drive the message home for COD fans. Not exactly subtle.
Close Quarters preserves the squad- and class-based structure of the base game, but this is strictly a formality. Many of the class skills are negated by the very nature of these gunfights. You rarely need ammunition boxes because most people don’t live long enough to exhaust their original allotment, the recon class has no purpose in these cramped spaces, and engineers may as well leave their AT-mines and repair tools behind.
The majority of the 16-player Conquest Domination matches I played were chaotic free-for-alls where soldiers raced from flag to flag with abandon, shooting anyone or anything that moves. Teamkill counts were high on Hardcore mode, team tactics were scarce, getting shot in the back was the most common way to die, and many matches were undermined by players spamming claymore mines, rockets, M320 rounds, and C4 in the cramped spaces.
Outside of Conquest Domination, Close Quarters supports the standard team deathmatch, squad deathmatch, and a new mode called Gun Master (think Counter-Strike’s Gun Game) that tasks you with racking up kills to improve your weaponry. Every two kills nets you a more powerful weapon, and a winner is declared once a player reaches the 17th level and becomes the first person to kill an enemy with a knife. The mode awkwardly retains a team structure, though it makes no sense in this context where only one person can be named the winner. If you’d rather play Conquest or Rush, you’re out of luck. None of these new maps support the two most popular Battlefield modes.
With no open spaces to worry about, DICE turned up the destructibility to 11. Bullets rip apart everything in these maps, which include a luxurious high-rise apartment, a multi-level office building, an abandoned Middle Eastern estate, and a vertical industrial complex. The maps are much smaller than the traditional Battlefield maps, but I question why DICE dropped the player count down to 16. Several times I found myself wandering these complexes looking for someone to shoot; adding a few more people might have preserved the high-octane feel of the gunfights they were clearly striving for.
Fans who enjoy concentrated maps and traditional shooter experiences may find something to like about Close Quarters, but if I’m hungry for frantic, lone wolf gameplay I’ll stick the more fast-paced, 60-frames-per-second experience of Call of Duty. When my friends and I pop in Battlefield 3, we’ll ignore Close Quarters and opt for a customized rotation of Rush and Conquest maps that feature more soldiers and vehicles. You know, Battlefield.
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