Battlefield 3: Armored Kill comes packed with four new maps, six new vehicles, four new assignments, five new achievements/trophies and one brand new game mode. On paper, the actual number of pieces of content tallies slightly less than what the previously released expansion Close Quarters had to offer with its eight weapons and eight assignments. So, how does this new offering manage to feel bigger and better than any previous Battlefield 3 DLC to date?
Quite simply, Battlefield 3: Armored Kill brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘epic’.
To start, the maps alone would challenge the exploration skills of Skyrim’s mighty Dragonborn himself. While developers at DICE were able to reach impressive levels of depth and vastness in each of the four new locations, the attention to detail remains in-tact and has even seen some major improvements. Draw distances go on for miles and miles while flowers, twigs, tree bark and bushes remain as detailed as ever. While the PC will be able to squeeze every ounce of beauty out of these gorgeous vistas, the consoles hold up miraculously and are sure to impress. The sounds are also worth mentioning as the creaking wood, chirping birds and other small animal noises will transform your mood to a more peaceful state of being. Too bad your job is to destroy everything and blow stuff up. The roosters and pigeon are a nice touch as well. From the snowy peaks of Alborz Mountain to the dry emptiness of Bandar Desert, let’s take a look at some of the beautiful landscapes that will so quickly become the burning aftermath of armored death.
All maps are playable across all vanilla Battlefield 3 modes (CQ, RUSH, TDM, SQDM and SQRUSH) including Tank Superiority. All feature 5-flag CQ minimum on all platforms.
Originally inspired by Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s Atacama Desert, Bandar Desert is quite simply Battlefield’s biggest map ever – 1,900 meters from the U.S. deployment to the Russian deployment, to be exact. When you grab an ATV to make your way to one of the five capture points in Conquest, particularly to the base that houses the AC130 Gunship, you’ll immediately understand the size and scale you’re working with here. I’m happy to report that Rush plays out a lot like it did on Atacama Desert with a good mix of cover and open desert areas. The map itself is fairly flat and even, featuring a vast, open desert area giving plenty of room for tanks, jets and choppers to battle it out, as well as a beach town/resort where one can catch a few drinks to a spectacular ocean view, should you tire of battle. But really, the ocean-side villas offer some good-old building-to-building combat for those close quarters junkies. In fact, it just so happens that TDM takes place in this quarter of the map.
Alborz Mountain is quite literally the opposite of Bandar Desert in terms of both setting and layout. This battlefield takes on a much more vertical approach with objectives at the base of the mountain, as well as hidden atop the snowy peaks. Feet away from the frozen lake lie fishing huts and outposts amongst the lush, green pine trees. Following any of the winding, narrow mountain paths will have you traversing up the mountain side avoiding gun fire from any who hold the elevated positions. It’s neat to see the green alpine flora slowly turn to bright white snow as you ascend the cliffside. The highest point on the mountain holds a communication tower that overlooks almost all of the bases in Conquest. If you’re a good shot, you can rack up some pretty crazy marksman bonuses from atop the tower. Rush works remarkable well here. As an attacker, pushing enemy forces all the way up the mountain to the very top of that communication tower proves to be a truly satisfying and epic experience. Visually, this map is the most stunning out of the four, to my eyes, and would have the Dragonborn feeling right at home amongst the Skyrim-like landscape.
This map happens to bring back some fond memories of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 in full force, in particular, Harvest Day on Rush. (Edit: with hints of Heavy Metal on Conquest). I was immediately reminded of it when attacking the enemy MCOM from across the expansive fields. Also, the fact that DICE included a small canal that can be traversed with a Rhib Boat also screams Bad Company 2. Armored Shield offers a good mix of open, vehicular-based combat among the central fields, as well as some tighter, infantry-based combat at each of the bases in Conquest. The landscape rises and dips in a few areas giving plenty of cover for tanks and other land vehicles. Make sure to take those ATVs for a spin here as well. You’re sure to catch some sick air off those small mounds scattered throughout the map.
One of the more interesting maps, Death Valley sets a different tone as players engage in combat under a bright moon and star-y sky. The map itself is divided into two halves by a central bridge that runs across the width of its layout. In Conquest, a wide-open central field allows for intense vehicular combat as players battle it out for control over the central flag which houses the AC130 while the outskirts provide more cover for flanking routes. I had some particularly cool moments here dropping to prone in the tall, shady grass as a Tank Destroyer that quickly appeared over a ridge roared on by without noticing. You may love or hate TDM here as it primarily revolves around fighting over good positioning atop the central tower via paradropping.
Tanks in Skyrim?
Next up: Vehicles. While the sum of the newly introduced vehicles comes in at less than the number of new weapons Close Quarters introduced last July, these four new vehicle classes do, however, provide entirely new ways to take out enemies and significantly alter Battlefield 3’s gameplay. There are also a number of new vehicle unlocks and specializations to explore.
Six new vehicles are introduced through four different vehicle classes: Tank Destroyers, Mobile Arillery, Transport Vehicles and Gunships.
- M1128 (US Tank Destroyer)
- 2S25 Sprut-SD (Russian Tank Destroyer)
The name really says it all. These guys are meant to deal heavy damage to the standard armored tanks that already populate Battlefield 3. While much more lightly armored, these destroyers are quick and pack a real punch – taking out most tanks in three, quickly placed blasts from the main cannon. These units also serve as a decent transport vehicle as they can carry up to five soldiers including the driver.
- HIMARS H142 (US Artillery Vehicle)
- BM-23 (Russian Artillery Vehicle)
These units provide support by raining down artillery on opposing forces. While the ideal way to utilize the mobile artillery is to soften up a base or objective before assaulting on foot or in other vehicles, it can be rather difficult to actually land those shots. It’s extremely hard to tell exactly where your shells are landing and to make adjustments. Not much to this particular vehicle other than finding a good hiding spot and firing away. While you might survive on the receiving end, the constant barrage does tend to drop the frame rate significantly on consoles. Not to worry too much, these units can be taken out rather quickly as they are only lightly armored.
The AC130 Gunship is a deadly beast that adds a whole new layer to the war that is Battlefield 3. Not only can it take out ground units with either of its two cannons from the skies above, it can also defend itself from aerial attacks with it’s dual AA cannons and flares. Only two soldiers can hitch a ride in the AC130 at a time, though any soldier respawing on the controlling team has the option to paradrop from its position. To claim ownership, one must simply capture the Conquest base that houses it – usually indicated on the mini-map. Should the opposing force overthrow that base, the ship will simply blow up and respawn into the enemy’s hands. Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about the AC-130. It’s not a lot of fun to be enjoying the scenery of Alborz Mountain only to spontaneously blow up without warning. On the flip-side, I’m having the time of my life being the gunner in one of these bad boys, whenever I’m not taken out within the first 30 seconds, that is. I could see the addition of some VO or some sort of indication letting me know when I’m being targeted quite helpful.
ATV Transport Vehicle
The introduction of the ATV was simply a must considering how big these new maps really are. It was imperative that players had way to quickly traverse the long stretches of open land and allow a more vulnerable yet nimble approach to infiltrating the objective. In Conquest, they allow up to two soldiers per quad bike to swiftly capture those important bases housing the AC130 gunship, effectively turning the tide of battle early on. Of course, with this enhanced mobility comes the C4 buggy 2.0. Personally, I don’t think something this nimble should be capable of such firepower. For the most part, being blown up by a high-speed ATV strapped to the teeth with C4 is mostly unavoidable, frustrating and a waste of a perfectly good transport vehicle. Hopefully this is something that DICE can look into in the near future.
Catching some air on Armored Shield
One of the more important additions that comes along with Armored Kill is the brand new game mode, Tank Superiority – similar to Battlefield: 1943’s Air Superiority.
Tank Superiority is only playable on Armored Kill maps.
Tank Superiority pits two tank platoons against each other to capture one central flag. Think of it as 1-flag Conquest but in tanks. Of course, you don’t have to use the vehicles if you choose not to. Engineers can provide support on foot by repairing friendly tanks while recon players can utilize their SOFLAMs. In conjunction with another engineer’s Javelin, this tactic can become quite deadly, maybe even too deadly. I often found it much too easy to simply spam Javelin fire and frustrating while on the other end of it. Tank Superiority, in general, can be a hit and a miss. While it’s a fun and interesting new way to play Battlefield 3, I can see it getting old fairly quickly.
In addition to the new maps, vehicles and game mode, Armored Kill also packs in a whole new set of assignments with new dog tag rewards as well as some brand new achievements for those Xbox 360 players or Trophies for those PS3 users. Remember, Armored Kill’s assignments also reward you with in-game specializations for either the Tank Destroyer or Mobile Artillery classes. If you’d like to learn more, follow these links below.
Though Armored Kill is one of the more satisfying expansion packs to date, there’s a chance it might not be for you. If you’ve come to solely enjoy Battlefield 3’s infantry, gun-on-gun gameplay, you might find these vehicle-based battles to be slower paced, especially on servers with lower player counts. Armored Kill does play well on consoles with a player count of only 24, but don’t expect to rack up a large number of kills, if that’s your thing. I can also see newcomers to the Battlefield series being quite frustrated with this expansion pack. Gameplay can be quite overwhelming if you don’t have a good grasp of vehicular warfare. This could also prove frustrating to veterans who can’t stand the sight of a perfectly good jet or chopper going to waste. In turn, players who are aren’t as adept might not feel as welcome or capable on this particular battlefield.
That said, if you’re looking for that classic Battlefield experience, look no further. In fact, having most of my previous Battlefield experience being based on Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I really feel at home in Armored Kill. Rush, especially, tends to play out exactly the way it did in Bad Company 2, and that’s a great thing, as Battlefield 3 vanilla lacked some good Rush maps.
Though you’re technically getting the same amount of content, if not a little bit less, than the previously released Battlefield 3 expansion pack Close Quarters or even Back to Karkand, Armored Kill manages to satisfy beyond any DLC to date and will leave you more than content with your purchase. Vehicles offer brand new ways to get creative and add a whole new dimension to the game play while the large, sandbox-style maps will have you revisiting over and over again.
If you’re a Premium member, then you are already enjoying the new content as we speak. For those contemplating on making the purchase in the coming weeks and are looking for that classic Battlefield experience (aside from a few vehicular-frustrations), I can confidently say that you won’t be disappointed should you decide to unleash the armored fury.
4 / 5
Already been sinking some good time into Armored Kill? Let us know what you think in the comments below!