Roll Over, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons! – Battlefield 3: End Game Review
A war, no matter how grand in scale, can only last for so long before reaching the final hours of the conflict. And what lies at the twilight of a battlefield, you might ask? In the last stretch of combat, we have End Game, the latest and last expansion from DICE for Battlefield 3. Set around the four seasons, how does this final piece of DLC stand against the rest of the armies that came before? Well, gather your remaining strength, load your last magazine into your dirty M4A1, and head out onto the field one last time to find out!
As with every expansion to date, End Game features four new maps for gamers to wage war across – each taking the theme of one of the four seasons. First, we have Sabalan Pipeline, our winter wonderland. Here, players battle for control of outposts around an oil refinery – coated by a thick blanket of snow. Combat sees action not only within the central refinery and pump station, but along the opening checkpoint, two small storage areas, and a large warehouse. Access to these locations is granted by plowed roads, or by traversing the tough terrain of the wintry and rocky hills and trees. While Sabalan Pipeline is distinctly unique in its layout, players will notice a feel similar to the Bad Company 2 map: Port Valdez – bringing back familiar and happy memories in a brand new form.
To contrast the nipping cold, we have the scorching heat of Nabanda Flats – set in a blistering summertime desert. Where the previous map was more rounded, this level is a long, bumpy stretch of sand that’s taller than it is wide. While vehicles battle along the barren, open areas, infantry clash within small villages, a gas station, and another large central warehouse. Featuring another building like this may seem repetitive; however, this one has a maze-like inner layout of storage crates making for frantic face-to-face fighting while the vehicle war wages around you.
After the summer comes the fall, alongside the next map: Operation Riverside. This level sees mostly infantry combat along two sides of a shallow river. One side houses a steep cliff coated in trees that are perfect for hiding snipers; the other sees a very large plain dotted with a few key structures, including a large power station. Several transformers and generators are present in this area, creating an urban jungle for chaotic infantry combat. Both sides of this map complement each other well, mixing urban and rural beautifully to make it one of the highlights of the expansion.
Last but not least, spring blooms in the forests of Kiasar Railroad. As the name suggests, railroad tracks stretch down the length of the map, with a trail depot at one end and a small truck stop at the other. Between these two points lies a massive layout of rolling, rocky hills that feature many wooden cottages and a logging facility. Touching off one side of the map is a beautiful lake, creating a stunning vista amidst the woodland – if you can find a moment to stop and smell the pine between being shot at. This map for the lumberjacks is a great tie-off to the season-based theme of End Game, whose maps are wonderful and entertaining additions to the Battlefield 3 roster.
It’s not all about the maps with this expansion though, as some new features and classic game modes drop in as well. Starting with the former, players are now able to para-drop while playing these new maps on the Conquest game mode. In a fashion similar to the AC-130 from the Armored Kill expansion, a certain base will be labeled with an aircraft insignia on your HUD. Taking control of this base will cause a Hercules drop ship to spawn and constantly fly a straight line across the map, resetting once its pass is complete. While this ship is active, players may spawn in it, and jump out when they see fit – deploying their parachute at the optimum time to land anywhere they want. On top of this, a lucky gamer may even drop into battle in an Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) to give some extra firepower – a wild ride, the first time you try it. This presents an obvious advantage to the team who controllers the airbase, as landing troops and IFVs as backup in a hot-zone can turn the tide of a losing battle within seconds.
As mentioned above, two game modes from previous titles make their way into the release: Capture the Flag and the highly asked-for Air Superiority. In Capture the Flag (CTF), each team has its own base on opposite ends of the field, with a flag resting safely within. The goal is to steal said flag and return it to your base, while simultaneously defending your own flag – an easy concept to grasp if you’ve played the game type in any other shooter. However, this can be easier said than done, as your flag must be in its place in order to claim the enemy’s; if it is away, you cannot score. Now, in most games (notably the Halo series) with this gametype, the player holding the flag is severely limited in their arsenal and available actions – which is not the case for End Game. The player who holds the flag is able to undertake any action (or enter/pilot any vehicle) that they could before, keeping them a capable member of the team. However, they will have a flag symbol painted over them on other players’ HUDs, making them a massive target – even if they hide inside a tank.
Of course, the mode that will get a lot of fans’ attention is Air Superiority, returning from 1943. Here, every player spawns in an attack jet and battles for control of the skies. Similar to Conquest, there are three blimps floating stationary, acting as bases to be captured. Simply fly near them to shift their control to your team’s – as long as your side has the most aircrafts in that area. With 24 jets (12 on each side) flying around, players are in for some frantic and adrenaline pumping dogfights. The only issue players will find with this mode is that it feels a bit watered down from its original days in 1943. In its first form, players spawned on an aircraft carrier where they could either get into their plane and take off or man an Anti Air (AA) gun to defend their spawn. Should you find your aircraft damaged in combat, you could also attempt to land it back on the carrier for repairs. In this new iteration of the mode, you simply spawn your jet in the air and fly. No repairs if you’re damaged, no emplacements on the ground, just metal birds of prey fighting for blimps. While it’s an incredibly entertaining experience, it is going to feel incredibly bare if you’re a returning player.
Moving the focus back to land, a few new vehicle variations join the fray – namely the dirt bike and AA jeeps. Both the Humvee and Vodnik have been outfitted to feature both standard fire AA rockets and lock-on missiles, giving gamers a super quick and mobile way to counter enemy aircraft. The dirt bike acts in a similar way to Armored Kill’s ATVs, except they are a bit faster and much more maneuverable. As with the ATVs, a second player may sit on the back of the bike and fire their weapons as they pass – including rocket and grenade launchers for makeshift antitank fire.
Unfortunately, though, End Game only features one new weapon: the S-Tac M1911. This sidearm takes the standard M1911 and fits it with both a silencer and a tac-light, giving you double bang for your buck. While this sidearm is certainly handy for stealth and surprise minded players, it feels like a cheap alternative to giving any real additional firepower. Considering that previous expansions have always given at least one, if not many, new or game-changing weapons (such as the crossbow from Aftermath), a simple pistol seems very under-delivered. The same can be said for the vehicle additions, which are basically beefed up versions of ones already found in the main game and other add-ons. While anything remotely new is welcomed in a shooter that is nearly two years old, these new additions are going to leave some gamers wanting more. It would have been nice to see the last expansion go out with a huge bang, rather than a simple decrescendo.
When the last round is fired, the final breath exhaled from a dying soldier, and ultimate victory declared, any gamer that downloads End Game is going to be quite impressed. With brilliant seasonal themed maps, returning gamemodes, and new para-dropping features, Battlefield 3 certainly starts the end of its lifespan with a hearty “oorah!” While it’s a shame that more could have been fit into the final expansion, it certainly is a great end to an amazing game. If you’ve yet to try End Game out, then get to it, soldier! There is a parachute and a rifle with your name on it!
Final Score: 4.5 / 5.0 and a medal of honor to commemorate great service in the field.
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