When the Earth Quakes – Battlefield 3: Aftermath Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360
Lock and load your favourite guns, Battlefield 3 fans, as the latest expansion has rocked its way into the warzone. Entitled Aftermath, the DLC is based around the… well, aftermath of a violent earthquake. Does the latest from DICE have what it takes to keep the fight going, or will it be buried under the falling rumble?
Aftermath, like its other Battlefield 3 predecessors, features four new post-disaster maps for the survivors to battle across. The first of which is Azadi Palace, which starts in an open urban setting, full of collapsing high-rise buildings for players to navigate. Progressing on, gamers are brought to the map’s highlight: the palace. Here, each faction will be fighting in large rooms throughout the two-story building, while their long-range teammates take shots at the palace from the ruins on either side. Ending the level is a crowded construction area, littered with chunks of crashed structures and building materials, providing a lot of cover for both sides.
Contrasting the moderately open spaces of Azadi Palace are the tight and narrow corridors of Talah Market. Gamers will be fighting through the various hallways of the bazaar’s outdoor shops, before moving into the maze-like sections within the building. Once you make your way outside again, you find yourself on a long, narrow street, with the objectives on both ends, causing frantic fighting as that attacking team branches off. Players are going to be favouring shotguns and SMGs in this close-quarters map.
Up next, we have Markaz Monolith, the largest of the four maps. Starting in another collapsing construction area just outside of a section of high-rises, our map eventually moves into its signature area: a ruined, half-collapsed multi-story apartment complex. It’s here that fighting gets really intense, as defenders can set up their defenses across the many available floors overlooking the objectives; however, the missing walls also allow snipers to pick players off one by one. When you’re done there, the fighting heads to narrow alleyways and small buildings before coming to a wide road with buildings on either side – each containing the objectives that the attackers seek.
Last but definitely not least, we have Epicenter, the highlight of the chaotic maps. Beginning in the streets and lower foundations of an under-construction high-rise, combat eventually moves into the once busy city streets. Here, the previously flat, multi-laned road has been torn apart by the quake, creating several trenches, hills, and broken pipes for players to navigate. Once finished here, the battle flows into a nearby hotel, with enemies either attacking head-on or traveling through one of the underground passages. To complete the whole ensemble, Epicenter is occasionally the victim of aftershocks, rocking the gamers’ screen, making it very difficult to aim. This occurrence brings that battlefield realism that Battlefield is known for to the next level, and it’s a terrible shame that this feature is absent from the other maps.
Regardless of which map you’re on, you’ll see the highlights of playing in a post-earthquake environment. Thanks to the earthquake’s destruction, passages exist where they never could before (such as Epicenter’s torn up road), and players can use fallen pieces or missing walls to make hold-out areas. Even gamers’ characters get in on the theme, appearing battered, bloody, and bruised – as opposed to their usual full military attire. Aftermath takes the ideas of a natural disaster and shapes them into some clever map designs.
However, not everything works out so well for the expansion’s maps, as they carry issues – the first of which you may have already noticed, and that’s reoccurring themes. Each map has either an area surrounded by high-rise apartments or an area devoted to construction pre-quake, and while these areas usually vary in the amount of space or number of buildings (such as fighting in half-built houses versus the foundations of a future multi-story tower), their constant appearance will cause some players to get bored of them very fast. While it’s understandable that since the expansion takes place within a city there are going to be reoccurring themes, the overall design just feels so borrowed and copied from itself, there will be moments you may actually forget which map you’re on. Even the visuals start to betray themselves. Sure, from a technical standpoint they’re beautiful, just like the rest of the game, but the overall colours and shapes start to dull. Once you play a few rounds on each map, your eyes start to get tired of all the earthy browns/grays and the repeated styling of buildings. After testing out the new features of the expansion and its maps, I personally found myself switching back to other expansions as I found them greatly more entertaining.
To further bury the settings in a proverbial pile of rubble (since you apparently can’t do it literally) is the lack of destructibility in the environments. With destruction being a key component of the Frostbite engine, and buildings already being structurally weak, one would think that a rocket to a wall would do more than create a hole in the wall – but in this instance not even that occurs. So very little of the new maps is breakable that it’s to the point that one questions if it’s even a feature. Sure, a few small houses here and there can be wrecked, but many key structures can’t even have pieces chipped off of them. Aftermath misses out on some important chances to really push the limits of Frostbite 2.0 and create something phenomenal with crashing buildings or further destruction of ruined structures. Instead, it provides a decent set of levels that never really live up to their potential.
Not all additions can be harped on though, as Aftermath brings a fun new game type based around the chaotic theme: Scavenge. In Scavenge mode, players play a Conquest-styled round, except that they only spawn with their sidearm of choice. No small arms, no gadgets, nothing – just you and your pistol. Instead, various weapons can be found lying around in wait on the map and can be used to help get an advantage on your foes. These hidden gems each have a rank from one to three, with ‘one’ being a base weapon and ‘two’ or ‘three’ being outfitted with specific attachments. Be careful with your aim though, as each pickup only comes with one or two magazines, meaning you’ll have to pick up new guns as you battle for control of the flags. Scavenge mode is quite fun if you’re looking for something fresh, and it helps breathe some life into the post-quake nightmare.
As with every new expansion, Aftermath comes equipped with some new Assignments, most of which are designed around the new weapon: the crossbow. This silent, one-hit-kill weapon can be outfitted with several attachments, including rifle scopes, explosive bolts, and surveillance devices – allowing it to fit into multiple roles. What makes it unique is that it is classified as a gadget, not a primary firearm. This allows any class to equip it and still carry normal weapons. The crossbow brings a whole new element to Battlefield 3, especially when carried over to the older maps.
One other issue bares its ugly head, and that’s some connectivity and saving issues. When I say “connectivity,” I don’t mean connection quality, but connecting to stats. Several times since launch, I’ve been unable to get into the My Soldier area of the main menu, with my game citing a failure to connect to server. This meant I had to get into a round before I could customize any of my weapons or classes, wasting valuable match time. On top of this, when I have been able to get into my settings, they don’t seem to be saving. Having spent several hours playing Aftermath, I’ve left my console and returned to find out that my progress hasn’t moved an inch and my attachments have returned back to a previous setting – even though I spent a long time perfecting them and even leveled up the last round. Regardless of what’s causing these occurrences, losing your progressions is a serious problem, as it renders the hours you’ve spent playing the game meaningless – whether it’s just happening to a handful of people or is a worldwide problem.
So in the end, is Aftermath a worthwhile expansion? Well, that depends. At its core, it’s very fun and has some intense moments, but digging a little deeper, you’ll see that it’s not as substantial or as diverse as other expansions. Its map design is great (though repetitive), Scavenge mode is an absolute blast, and the Crossbow changes up gameplay a fair amount. It’s not without its issues, however, as it’s somewhat less entertaining than previous releases. It has very limited destruction, dull and repetitious aesthetics, and connection issues that can drive the player away. Should you get it? Well, it depends on who you are. If you’re a Premium member: yes (if you haven’t already, what are you doing?). A non-Premium fan: eventually, when you have spare points. Someone looking to get their first expansion for the game: look towards the others first; they’ll give you much more bang for your buck.
Final Score: 3.75 / 5.0 and an earthquake to match my heartache.
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