OXCGN's Battlefield 3: Aftermath Review
Breaking new ground?by Daniel Geikowski
©2013 Daniel GeikowskiEven after a year of release, DICE's Battlefield 3 continues to maintain a strong and healthy player base. I myself have spent an ungodly amount of time with the game, racked up my fair share of kills, and had some fun times playing together with mates. Personally, I feel that Premium, more precisely the expansions, have been key to the longevity and success of BF3. Sure, the whole concept and execution of Premium has been debated before, and no doubt continues to be a hot topic among online gamers, but this sort of model seems to be the future of DLC map packs and expansions. With that, the fourth and latest expansion for BF3 has been released, titled Aftermath. The new expansion provides new maps, vehicles, as well as a new game mode and weapon for players to experience. It also allows me to make really bad Earthquake-related puns throughout this review.
Feel the earth move
The Aftermath expansion is designed to fit into the campaign of Battlefield 3, with the earthquake being the one the player lives through during the end of the campaign’s second mission, Operation Swordbreaker.
The earthquake’s epicenter occurred just outside of Tehran, Iran, and as such all new maps in Aftermath take place around this area.
The maps themselves look vastly different than the rest of BF3‘s maps, with destroyed buildings scattered throughout the area, piles upon piles of debris litter roads and pathways, with uneven terrain making it a haven for surprise attacks and ambushes.
War doesn’t wait for any one or thing, and Aftermath reflects that. Sure, I’m pretty sure DICE or EA weren’t trying to be all deep and meaningful, but it’s thought-provoking to see that killed enemies take precedence over all else.
The environment itself isn’t the only thing that has suffered; the soldiers on opposing sides have also.
They look as if they’ve been to hell and back.
Having lost their helmets, soldiers look more vulnerable. They are also covered in dirt, blood, cuts and bruises, along with bandages, signs of a quick patch-up after the devastation.
Aftermath, like the other BF3 DLC, features new assignments and Dogtags for players to work through and unlock, in addition to a new game mode titled Scavenger, and a new weapon, the XBOW.
The XBOW is a makeshift crossbow constructed from various parts found in the area, and is the signature weapon of Aftermath.
This weapon is more silent to fire than traditional firearms, making it ideal for more stealthy players.
The trajectory drop in bolts will take a bit to get used to, but once mastered, headshots will be even more satisfying to pull off.
The XBOW comes with standard bolts, but also has another three types to utilise, once unlock from completing specific assignments.
The HE bolt is high explosive, obviously useful when you want to blow something up, namely an enemy (or teammate for the team-killers of you out there). While not as damaging as say C4 or an RPG, the HE bolt is still able to destroy light vehicles and scout helicopters.
The Scan bolt is the Recon player’s best friend. The bolt scans a 10m radius from the point of impact, spotting players within the vicinity, conveniently highlighting them on the radar for you. They deal significantly less damage due to the primarily use of spotting.
Finally there is the Balanced bolt. It is similar to a standard bolt, but modified to fly a greater distance, therefore enhancing range. Great for the snipers out there, players just need to be wary of the damage reduction over the greater distance.
Make Do With What You Have
Scavenger is an infantry-only mode, and as you can tell by the name, involves players scavenging weapons from the battlefield.
It’s a throwback to the deathmatch of old, seen before the loadout-specific competitive multiplayer such as Call of Duty gained popularity.
Due to the earthquake, opposing forces face a shortage of weaponry.
Players start out with a knife, grenade, and a sidearm. They must then traverse the map to find better weaponry.
Weapons spawn in specific locations, each containing limited ammo. Weapon spawns are random, so you won’t find players trying to camp on spot in order to get the best weapons.
Players can’t pick up ammo from defeated enemies, and once they swap out a weapon, the previous one disappears, so they cannot pick it up again if they don’t like the weapon they’ve just acquired.
If a player has a weapon they’d like to keep, and want more ammo for it, they only place they’ll find it is an ammo crate. Fittingly, there is only one to be found on each map, and it’s often situated in an exposed area.
Should you risk running into the open to get more ammo for your favourite weapon? Or take the safer route and pick up something else? This is the question players must answer.
Controlling this weapon crate goes a long way to ensuring your team is victorious, so a sound strategy is to have a few guarding the crate, while the other members of the team go out and capture points.
The conditions for victory in Scavenger are familiar to any Battlefield veteran, capture points in order to drain the enemy’s tickets.
Scavenger adds in a new dynamic to the standard Conquest modes, forcing players to constantly think about their ammo reserves, when typically it has never been an issue due to the Support’s ability to resupply players.
It just comes down to player skill, or the ability to get the jump on opposing players on one of the four new maps.
There are three new vehicles for players to use, all designed to look like they have been patched together with makeshift parts for use in battle.
Firstly, there is the Rhino, a light vehicle that can be used by both RU and US forces. The Rhino is a modified van, containing a mounted machine gun, along with some dodgy armour-plating.
The driver is the only one able to use the machine gun, making it ideal to use for those lone wolf players out there, who love to leave teammates at their deployment, forcing them to walk into battle.
The Rhino has room for three more passengers, who each have the ability to fire out of the van with their weaponry.
Players can have the driver on the gun, with a guy dropping C4 out the back, with and RPG firing out one side, and an LMG out the other. Glorious.
Passengers need to be wary though, as the massive gaps in the van used to shoot out of don’t provide very good cover against incoming fire.
The other two vehicles available are specific to each the US and RU forces.
These vehicles are both light military vehicles, with room for three players. The US force has access to the Phoenix, which is the modified Humvee, and the RU has the Barsuk, being a modified Vodnik.
Both vehicles have a driver position, as well as room for two more passengers, who man either a mounted machine gun or grenade launcher.
While the use of new vehicles might lead players to think they’d dominate enemy players, traversing the environments themselves is a battle in its own right.
Shake The Room
The maps offer a bit of variety for players. Some maps are more infantry focused, others favouring ground-vehicular combat, while others add in some scout helicopters for those who love full-on Conquest action.
Azadi Palace takes place in Tehran, situated around a destroyed parliamentary building, mainly focused on infantry and ground vehicle warfare.
Both sides have access to light vehicles in the form of a Rhino and Phoenix/Barsuk, along Main Battle Tank. Each side also has access to an IFV for use in Conquest Large mode.
This large map provides an even mix for both infantry and vehicles.
There are plenty of destroyed buildings to infantry to fight in and around, with a lot of debris and uneven terrain around for snipers to take up position, or infantry to set up ambushes.
The palace also provides a lot of open space for vehicles to traverse, with the ability to weave between buildings. However, the large amount of debris littered on the road makes it hard to spot mines or C4.
The level also contains barriers which need to be taken out by vehicles or explosives to allow infantry to proceed along the desired path.
Azadi Palace is an all-round favourable map, which caters to many different playstyles.
Talah Market is situated in Yazd, Iran, and contains even more of an infantry focus than Azadi Palace.
Both sides only have access to one Rhino, although the US team do start with an additional Phoenix.
The market features a circular, symmetrical style layout, with the ability to flank and ambush enemies within the centre of the map from any side.
Talah Market also focuses on vertical gunfights, with a lot of rooftops and ledges for players to climb up on to get a good position to take out unknowing bad guys.
The environment is not as damaged or ravaged as other Aftermath maps, making for a different visual aesthetic. It’s doesn’t mean the map is less cluttered though. Stalls and buildings impede players’ views, allowing multiple paths through areas.
The main hook of Talah Market is the buildings themselves. Lots of overhanging structures can be destroyed, with the ability to crush players if they are not careful, making for some epic and humiliating deaths.
The map unsurprisingly also features uneven terrain and debris, perfect for infantry battles, as well as leveling the playing field against vehicles. There is also ample space for tank battles around and in between buildings.
The points around the map are placed so vehicles can’t drive up next to it to capture it without any danger, as most points are surrounded by cover, in which RPG or C4 can rain down on them in a wonderful shower of death.
Thermo Optics are a vehicle’s best friend here, helping them distinguish mines and C4 potentially placed among debris.
The vehicles available are much similar to the other Aftermath maps, with light vehicles, Main Battle Tanks, IFVs, and scout helicopters.
Scout choppers are crucial in Markaz, as it essentially enables snipers to take up position on any rooftop, giving them the advantage of using SOFLAM to target enemy vehicles.
The Aftermath DLC levels the playing field in terms of vehicles, Markaz Monolith especially.
Not only must vehicles watch out for enemies, but the earthquake itself has opened up cracks and holes in the road, which can lead to a careless driver’s downfall if they aren’t careful.
There were a number of times where I was firing on an enemy, only to not pay attention to what was ahead of me, only to drive straight into a hole, get stuck, and promptly get my ass handed to me.
Conquest fans will get the most enjoyment here.
While debris and destroyed structures litter the area, there are underground paths that players can utilise to bypass areas, or ambush unsuspecting enemies.
This underground paths are marked with doors along with a gas bottle out the front, so make sure you’re well clear of the blast, as blowing the door open can kill stupid enemies (or teammates) if they stand too close.
Due to the high level of destruction, driving around in vehicles is tough, and generally not used as much. Only the light modified vehicles are available to each team here, but the vast amount of pitfalls makes driving a hard choice to recommend.
The name of the game here is to once again use the terrain and environment to your advantage, setting traps and ambushes around every corner.
The most exciting thing about Epicenter though, is that it features aftershocks.
This is an interesting mechanic, as during the tremor, steady aiming becomes increasingly difficult.
Players spotting enemies are faced with a choice, wait until it passes, or go for a shaky shot? Sure, they may get away by the time the tremor passes, but you most probably would have alerted them to your position by shooting anyway.
While it doesn’t present you with a wealth of new weapons, vehicles or enormous maps like previous expansions, Aftermath takes a unique theme and ties it in with the campaign.
I feel like DICE could have done more with the whole earthquake gimmick. I would have loved to see the terrain change throughout matches, with buildings collapsing to open new paths, to emphasise the scale of destruction.
With that being said,, the maps, XBOW, vehicles and scavenger mode all fit in nicely with the post-earthquake theme, and the focus on level design and infantry modes offer a nice change of pace coming off the vehicle-heavy Armored Kill.
I have no hesitation in recommending Aftermath, and have no doubt BF3 fans would have not trouble finding some enjoyment in the variety the latest DLC offers.