With DICE’s Aftermath expansion, the studio once again tries to break free from the usual shackles that standard “map packs” have become. Now the question here is, have they succeeded? Read on to find out.
Chances are, if you’re still playing Battlefield 3 up to now, you’re familiar with how DICE handles “map packs.” For those who need a refresher, Aftermath includes four new maps, new Achievements/Trophies, new Assignments, and even a new game mode, too. In short, it’s packed with features that previous expansion buyers have come to expect from DICE’s expansions.
In Aftermath, DICE introduces us to the earthquake-ravaged locales such as: Markaz Monolith, Azadi Palace, Epicenter and Talah Market. If you felt claustrophobic in Close Quarters or thought Armored Kill’s maps were too big for consoles, then Aftermath might just be more your speed. Maps are not that small, but not too big to make things seem barren when people are in duking it out on vehicles.
If you need a reference point, Aftermath is closest to Battlefield 3’s first expansion Back to Karkand – though with a little less emphasis on vehicles and more on verticality. All four maps have structures that will, no doubt, be a sniper’s haven. Of course, each of these said buildings have more than one entry point and its walls devastated by RPGs and other large munitions so there’s no real “safe” zone people can hole out in.
What might be disconcerting or unflattering for people (depending on your point-of-view) is the orange tinge that Aftermath uses. For me, I honestly don’t mind it as it gives the expansion its own personality. But I do understand if people see it more of an annoyance and want it to look similar to other Battlefield 3 levels.
Speaking of levels, out of the four maps, the ones that stood out to me the most are Azadi Palace and Epicenter. The former has sprawling structures that are a sight to see. In particular, one Conquest point in Azadi sees you going up a ton of steps just to cap a flag. It’s certainly better than some of Battlefield 3’s straight line of Conquest points.
Epicenter might be the star of the bunch and one that I see DICE putting the most effort in. Roads are cracked from the earthquakes that ravage the city, structures have fallen down acting as makeshift cover and even the main road has a massive crevice that acts as both a capture point and hotspot.
When it comes to the actual maps, Aftermath does not disappoint and it clearly shows how experienced DICE is in making balanced, well thought out levels for people to engage in.
However, not everything in the expansion hums. For one thing, DICE touted earthquakes happening while you’re fighting on the stage itself. While there are quakes happening as you capture points or arm MCOMs, they are, sadly, not as game-changing as most people would have hoped. The most it can do is make you miss a few shots at someone you’re firing at miles away and if you’re on a vehicle? You can forget it’s even happening.
Another misstep is the Scavenger mode that Aftermath brings to the table. If you’re unfamiliar with the mode, it starts with you (and everyone) armed with nothing but a pistol. Scattered throughout the maps are different weapons that you can pick up to gain an advantage in killing your enemies. Classes don’t matter as you can’t heal or give ammo to your mates. So in effect, it’s like Team Deathmatch but with a twist. While the mode itself is serviceable enough, I don’t see it replacing Conquest or Rush anytime soon and understandably so.
Overall though, Scavenger mode and earthquakes not being tangible enough are just nitpicks in the overall scheme of things. I mean, let’s face it. If you buy Aftermath or have BF3 Premium, chances are you got it for the new maps, new vehicles and new weapons. In that regard, Aftermath delivers in spades. If you felt Close Quarters maps were a little too close, or Armored Kill’s levels were too vast for their own good, Aftermath should be the perfect palate-cleanser.
Out of all the expansions released for Battlefield 3 so far, I’d rank Aftermath at par or just a hair below Back to Karkand but well above Close Quarters and Armored Kill. This just might be Battlefield 3’s best expansion to date, and one that I can see the game’s last expansion – End Game – might just have a problem toppling over. If you plug a lot of hours into Battlefield 3, you owe it to yourself to give the expansion a go just to experience the maps. The new vehicles, weapons, dog tags and other stuff are just a nice bonus.
Disclaimer: A PS3 version of Aftermath was given to us by EA for review. I played through each map in Scavenger, Conquest and Rush modes. Used the Xbow a few times, experienced an earthquake while shooting someone and it made me miss.