Games

Battlefield 3: Aftermath

There's a certain rhythm that permeates a well-designed Battlefield 3 level.


Battlefield 3: Aftermath

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 2-64
Price: $14.99
Platform: XBox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
ESRB Rating: Mature
Developer: EA DICE
Release Date: 2012-12-18
URL

There's a certain rhythm that permeates a well-designed Battlefield 3 level. What the game designers realized early in the development process was that the gunplay was the easy part to get right. The Call of Duty series has been getting it right for half of a decade, but what those games never accomplished was a feeling of truth in its environments. Battlefield 3's original set of maps were some of the most dynamic, realistic, and geographically diverse levels ever created in modern first-person shooters, but the subsequent map packs have been a mixed bag.

First up was a redesign of Battlefield 2's maps, which went as well as you would imagine, but the subsequent release -- Close Quarters -- was Battlefield 3's attempt to garner some of the Call of Duty crowd. Thematically, the levels were the same close-range combat that has typified the Modern Warfare releases. The Battlefield faithful were unimpressed, even in spite of the impressive graphical upgrades that came with the newly accessible processing power that is otherwise dedicated to tanks, jets, and helicopters on bigger levels. The third map pack -- Armored Kill -- trended too far in the opposite direction. Levels were so large that for console players, you went long periods without engaging anyone from the opposition. With the release of Aftermath, the Battlefield 3 designers have found their groove again.

Set in [Random Middle Eastern City], the four new environments have been shaken and destroyed by a recent earthquake. Culturally, these levels are standard fare: desert settings with shattered buildings, mountainous backdrops, and a war-torn feel. And aside from Epicenter, which features in-game aftershock rumbling, the inclusion of piles of rubble strewn about the levels doesn't scream “earthquake”. These maps may have just as well been cities that had experienced significant shelling or uprisings but that doesn't detract from their overall feel.

The map pack's greatest achievement is Talah Market, an urban combat level that features narrow corridors with plenty of verticality for ambushes and vantage points. The objectives being placed in the shape of a + throughout the level creates circular, constant movement, and the internal design of the alleys and courtyards provides ample flanking opportunities. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Epicenter, nominally the release's centerpiece, shows what happens when designers try too hard to make an interesting level. Most of the environment has been gorged by the earthquake, but it feels too serendipitous: good thing that giant crevice is just wide and deep enough for me to drive this van through. Previous Battlefield maps excelled at not featuring regions that you couldn't access due to artificial means, but Epicenter breaks that tradition, blocking off lines of sight and vantage points with strategically placed fallen rubble.

The other two maps are the most visually stunning: Markaz Monolith and Azadi Palace. The centerpiece of Markaz Monolith is a crumbling shopping mall. With escalators extending four floors high and the exterior facade mostly demolished, the building acts as a sniper's paradise and vertical nightmare for anyone trying to fight through it. On the Azadi Palace map, there are two primary battlegrounds: a crumbling palace and its outlying urban area. This map offers more variety than any of the others and requires a truly balanced team of close-range and long-distance attackers.

The inclusion of three “new” vehicles is ultimately negligible. They're upgraded, urban versions of previous land vehicles and don't offer any new tactical capabilities aside from improved firepower. The only meaningful addition to the arsenal is the inconsistent crossbow. Built as a catchall, class-independent tool, the crossbow features explosive, scan, and long-range arrows, all of which can be interchanged during a match. That versatility is a nice thought but ineffective when actually implemented.

Perhaps the expansion pack's greatest attribute is the way that it conforms to all of the different game types: Conquest, Rush, Gun Master, Team Deathmatch, and the newest edition, Scavenger. In the past, it was evident which levels were designed with Conquest in mind but didn't cater to the Rush crowd or vice versa. The design of the Aftermath levels all feel cognizant of these varying approaches to playing the game, allowing players to move between game modes without sacrificing playability.

For fans of Battlefield 3 this expansion pack was always going to be a necessity, but the way in which the designers have returned to their wheelhouse is encouraging for all players. With only one more expansion pack planned, this release of the game's best downloadable content to date gives hope that the final installment will be just as pristine.

9

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image