Well, it’s finally here. The culmination of DICE and EA’s downloadable content schedule for Battlefield 3 has recently para-dropped into our laps. End Game brings with it four new maps, two new game modes and new vehicles, which include the ridiculously fast dirt bike.
End Game really is a whole lot of fun, and is definitely more in keeping with the traditional values of Battlefield than some of the more questionable DLC packs so far (I’m looking at you Close Quarters). The four new maps are large, open and varied enough to be distinct from each other, while also providing plenty of opportunity for the sort of tactical madness that makes Battlefield so special. The new vehicle additions in this expansion are the dirt bike, AA Jeep and the drop ship, and they all play their part in making this one of the best Battlefield 3 expansions yet.
The map sizes in End Game are comparable to those of the ‘Armored Kill’ expansion, but thankfully the inclusion of the dirt bike has made getting from A to B that much simpler. In Armored Kill – especially on consoles with their limited player count – getting between locations was a massive hassle due to the limited number of quad bikes on the map. In End Game there tends to be at least two dirt bikes at every base which re-spawn frequently enough that getting around the map is never really a problem.
The new AA Jeep adds some welcome mobile AA defence to Battlefield 3, meaning that you don’t always have to die and come back with a stinger launcher to take care of those pesky helicopters. The drop ship simply takes up the role of a mobile spawn point for whichever team controls it. It also has the ability to para-drop a light anti-infantry tank right into the middle of the battlefield. Needless to say fun times ensue when you drop a tank on top of the unsuspecting enemy. These new toys are all great fun to use on the new maps.
The first map – Kaisar Railroad – is a lush springtime forest area. Sitting by the coast line, this map’s main feature is unsurprisingly the rail road track running through it. The tracks provide easy access to each end of the map, but getting from one side to the other alive is not always so simple, while on the rail road you are left exposed on high ground. Of course you could always make use of the maps rolling hills to creep your way between the objectives or even hop in a helicopter. The contrast of high and low ground provides some great opportunities for sniping.
The next map – Nebandan Flats – has no such high ground. This arid desert is flat and full of vehicles, and you’ll need to use all of them to survive. Most of the action takes place around a large central warehouse, with the other locations being smaller outlying fuel stations and equipment depots. The warehouse, with its high walkways and cramped maze of supply crates, provides plenty of opportunity for infantry versus infantry combat. Outside, it’s all about those vehicles. Jet pilots roar overhead doing their thing whilst helicopters rain death onto unsuspecting ground targets. Due to the flat nature of the map and long lines of sight the tanks can be devastating in the right hands.
The next map – Operation Riverside – is a hilly autumn paradise. The action here centres around a large hydro power station. Another forest type map, this time in the muted browns, reds and oranges of autumn. Surrounding the power station are hilly areas that provide the perfect vantage point for launching sneak attacks on objectives, or for some sniping. Tanks and infantry fight it out on the ground while helicopters and the new AA Jeep duke it out for control of the skies. The lack of jets make the helicopters a particularly powerful tool, so keeping them in check is a necessity.
Finally we come to Sabalan Pipeline – a winter themed industrial playground. Every vehicle comes out to play on this mountainous map. Having the greatest variation of verticality means there are limited lines of sight. The central point of the map is a large fuel refinery which provides the highest vantage point for those willing to climb to the top. That’s not to say that you’re safe once you get up there though. There is a high hill right next to the main base from which attacks can be launched. In this map in particular there are some sweet jumps possible on the dirt bike, one even allowing for a sneak attack straight up onto the objective in the refinery.
In what has become a tradition for BF3’s DLC the new maps also come with new game modes. In addition to all the traditional game modes such as Rush, Conquest, and Team Deathmatch, there are two new ones – Air Superiority and Capture The Flag. In Air Superiority, you spawn straight into the air so there is no need to take off. Aerial carnage ensues with the main objective being the capture of several flying objectives. These blimps take the place of the flags in Conquest mode. Air Superiority is a great way to practice your jet skills and unlock some upgrades, but due to the lock on missiles of modern aircraft, the dog fights don’t have quite the same allure that they do in Battlefield 1942.
Capture The Flag, on the other hand, is a fantastic new addition to the Battlefield formula. The rules are simple: grab the enemy flag and make your way back to your home base to score. The challenge is that your teams’ flag also needs to be there to score. This makes for some frantic back and forth, with both attacking and defending being equally rewarding. What makes this mode different from most games with CTF are the trademark Battlefield vehicles. You need to be on foot to grab the flag in the first place, but after that you can jump into any vehicle as the driver or a passenger. This includes Helicopters! There is a specific achievement/trophy for picking up the flag carrier with an air vehicle – genius!
End Game is my favourite piece of Battlefield 3 DLC. The maps really feel like Battlefield. They are large, open and brimming with vehicles and tactical options. They also look and feel unique, which is something that cannot be said for the very similar looking maps of the previous Aftermath DLC.
The new vehicles all slot nicely into the existing BF3 mechanics, all filling their particular roles effectively. Air superiority may not be up to much, but for those who love their jets or want some practice it does have its place. Capture The Flag really is the big surprise for me. It’s fast, frantic and most importantly, plays differently from the other game modes. My only complaint is that it’s taken DICE this long to release new maps and additional modes of this calibre, however, late is definitely better than never.
9 Battlefield moments out of 10