Battlefield 3: End Game Review

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Battlefield 3: End Game
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: DICE
Publisher: EA

Battlefield 3 was released worldwide on October 25th 2011 with a great selection of maps and multiplayer modes. Players who bought the limited edition were also promised and received access to Back to Karkand, a map pack which was released a few months later. The original game even included single-player and co-op modes which have both been completely neglected in the series of DLC releases. This is no bad thing, as Battlefield has been a multiplayer series from the start and it continues to be the main reason to keep playing in Battlefield 3. Now in 2013 the appropriately titled End Game DLC is the last of the planned downloadable content to be released. And with Battlefield 4 to be unveiled this month, it certainly is a great send off.

I reviewed the last two DLC releases and awarded them respectable scores. Though I could level an entire article’s worth of criticism on this game, it really says a lot when, despite all of its problems, the multiplayer remains a fun and engaging experience for players new and old. And End Game is easily the best of the DLC with four new maps, two new modes, achievements, trophies, dirt bikes… and a pterodactyl.

Yes, a real dinosaur can be found flying around on one of the maps. And no, this did not affect the score.

The four new maps take a seasonal theme: Sabalan Pipeline is set in the winter, Nehbandan Flats the summer, Kiaser Railroad is set in a leafy spring and Operation Riverside is the autumn map, with much of the vegetation losing colour. It’s a nice touch but players have seen these terrains from the franchise before. What really distinguishes them is their design. Sabalan Pipeline is a snowy map with hills, buildings, and a pipeline running through it. Vehicles generally have to follow the roads and there are plenty of places for infantry to hide. Nehbandan flats is the most open of the new maps with most buildings found in the spawns and little cover to infantry and vehicle alike. Operation Riverside is designed very much with bikes in mind, with jumps to find all over the place and a river running through the map, forcing other ground vehicles to take the long road. And Kiaser Railroad is like a smaller day-time version of Armored Kill’s Death Valley with its hilly terrain. All four maps seem designed with the new ‘Capture the Flag’ mode very much in mind, though they all still support the ‘Conquest’ and ‘Rush’ base modes well.

Speaking of design, what would dirt bikes be without ramps to use them on? All four of End Game’s map feature plenty of places to take your ride airborne, with Operation Riverside featuring the best ramps — though all four are great vehicular playgrounds in their own respect. Dirt bikes can handle two players, with the passenger free to take aim at all directions with their current arsenal. The sure way to go is to have at least one engineer on your team toting a javelin, as dirt bikes don’t stand a chance once you lock on. My very first time playing, I got a double and then (somehow) a triple kill using a javelin. Consequently I felt cheap, and changed classes.

The bikes also play a pivotal role in the new ‘Capture the Flag’ mode, with a sneaky team able to drive a bike in to grab the flag and tear out across the map, hopefully avoiding tanks, javelins and any patrolling helicopters along the way. In one game I was able to zip into the enemy base on a bike, grab the flag and zip out just as bullets started flying over my head, bringing on the same sense of giddy fun that I find so unique to the series. But managing a feat like that is more luck than skill, as players have quickly adapted to such tactics, and capture zones are usually littered with mines. And DICE has been liberal with bike spawns; they can usually be heard if not seen, all over the map.

Aside from ‘Capture the Flag’, End Game also features ‘Air Superiority’, a new mode that players familiar with Battlefield 1943 may remember. In this mode, players spawn straight into a jet flying over one of the four new maps. And once in control, you are in control until you die: Unlike in other game modes, there is no ejecting just before a missile or round of machine-gun fire takes out your aircraft. This is a mode that really ought to have been in the initial release, as it gives veteran pilots the perfect playground and beginners a chance to practice with jets — without waiting around at spawns in the ‘Conquest’ and ‘Rush’ modes. The mode is a little different to 1943, in that there are airships which act as airborne capture points. Capturing a base (or airship) is a lot faster, and players who focus only on trying to shoot down other aircraft might find their team losing pretty fast. I’d initially assumed that this mode would be dominated by veterans but I found myself quite high on the scoreboard in the few times that I played, despite being a vanilla pilot. I even managed a few machine gun kills, which is great for someone who relies almost entirely on missiles. This mode is additionally helpful to those who haven’t gained all the aircraft unlocks, and I am getting ever closer to unlocking the last few upgrades as a result.

If you play ‘Conquest’ on any of the four new maps, capturing the central point on the map will give you access to a drop ship similar to the one in Armoured Kill. The new feature here is being able to parachute infantry or an IVF right into the middle of the battlefield. I found this to be mostly a gimmick, but it was certainly a fun one. Watching from first-person as a light armoured vehicle suddenly shoots out of the plane, sometimes landing right in the middle of a fight and onto unsuspecting enemies is exhilerating. Soldiers are also able to spawn in the aircraft and choose a place to parachute, which can help in getting behind enemy lines. As with the AC-130 in Armored Kill, the drop ship is not controllable by any player and is vulnerable to attack.

The only new weapon to be unlocked in this expansion is the M1911 S-TAC pistol variation which was previously only available to DICE developers. Though it isn’t a particularly special gun, it is nice to have all the same, and is accessed by completing the last of the game’s new assignments. The only major criticism I can level against this pack is that there are no other new weapons. But given the twenty additional guns packed into previous DLC, along with the huge amount already available in the main game, it is a small criticism. It’s not surprising that DICE would take this route, especially given the nauseating amount of complaints regarding gun balance that seem to pop up with each update.

End Game is absolutely the best of the five DLC releases for Battlefield 3 and one that should keep the game going along for at least the rest of this year. If you invested in the ‘Premium’ service and have kept playing the game, then End Game certainly makes good on it. Publishers and developers alike take note: robust, high quality content is the only way to justify such a service. And DICE has certainly delivered.

4 Stars

March, 2013

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