Battlefield 3 Squeezed Into A Hallway? Not Bad!

This June legions of Battlefield fans, quite frankly, won't be surprised in the least with the release of Battlefield 3: Close Quarters. The DLC title says it all. And the trailer released several weeks ago reveals everything you need to know.

But a lack of surprise doesn't mean you won't love it. (And, hey, we've got a new trailer to look at.)

Ditching the large-scale, vehicle-trodden landscapes filled with tanks and jeeps and jet planes and helicopters thrashing about dusty roads and sunny skies, developer DICE has decided to make everything, shall we say, intimate. In Close Quarters — due in June for PC and Xbox 360 for $US14.99, with PS3 players it one week earlier — they'll experience a popcorn festival of tightly-knit maps designed for face stabs, shotguns blasts to the chest, and obliterating missile strikes in narrow corridors.

In short, it's a powder keg of claustrophobic fun.

During EA's event held in San Francisco last week (where Crysis 3 was also demoed), I sat down and played several dozen games on the PlayStation 3 and experienced a different kind of Battlefield; one that made me shout, talk crap to my opponents, and laugh. (Normally, I just shout and talk crap.)

The laughter was due to the power of the first unlockable weapon, the shotgun. Once I held it in my virtual hands, I ran screaming across the map, blasting the heck out of everything that moved. The result was hilarious and rewarding. Inside the myriad hallways, the shotgun blew opponents backward, decisively, to their death; the sound was powerful and ear-splitting. The physical impact was very satisfying. I admit, the first few folks playing weren't very good, but after weeks of going online and finding just how talented ordinary players are, the pleasure was all mine.

EA revealed the first Close Quarters map in March, a skyscraper level called Zeba Towers. That map focuses on a mixture of outdoor skyscraper environments, with close knit hallways and lobbies. I played the second revealed map, Donya Fortress. And for this map, EA revealed the new gameplay mode, Conquest Domination, which is essentially a micro-scale, accelerated version of Conquest. The goal is for one team to hold three key points for the longest time. Because the maps are smaller, the time it takes to secure a flag and the play period are both shorter, condensing the experience. It's worth noting that the flag points are always in the same places.

There are immediate similarities between the Zeba Towers and Donya Fortress, including the fact that they literally contain close quarters. Both levels feature vertical design and the dozens of interlocking rooms play a part in the experience. Apart, these elements don't seem terribly exciting, but together they create a densely-packed, highly-concentrated feel.

The differences are slight but discernible. Donya Fortress is a Southern-style military establishment. Large water fountains key the centrepieces of the white, stone courtyards. Third-story balconies offer a small amount of protection from opposing second-story walkways, and both look down on additional ground-level courts and gardens. The open nature here forces players not only to be aware of activity from the front and sides but also from above. And for some unknown reason that doesn't really matter, blown-out tunnels run underground, providing additional paths through which to move.

The game's close-knit nature immediately makes you feel like Han Solo sprinting through the Death Star chasing a bunch of Storm Troopers while screaming at the top of your lungs

But, really, the first thing you'll find yourself doing is literally running — everywhere. The game's close-knit nature immediately makes you feel like Han Solo sprinting through the Death Star chasing a bunch of Storm Troopers while screaming at the top of your lungs. You'll hear your boots clomping through the environment, but you'll also hear the reverberation of everyone else's, too. Everyone else in the game — that's 15 others — is also sprinting.

The audio effects are an interesting element all their own. The sounds of aeroplanes and helicopters flying by comprise a kind of occasional white noise, but what really intensifies the game is the constant, heavy sounds of shelling. While there are 10 new weapons offered in this DLC, from the MTAR, SPAZ 12, and LSAT to name a few, it's the C4 and missile launchers that create the unrelenting cacophony of blasts.

The "Destruction HD" feature — EA's marketing term for the already-available destructible environment — means that everyone can tear the place to pieces. This map sounded like a war was going on in someone's living room.

When the level was full of players, the walls were exploding left and right, and sizeable chunks of plaster bits and glass would fly across my face. The wall structures — the heavy beams and framework — remained in place, but everything else turns to powder. In the same way that Infinity Ward upped the level of audio production and quality in the Call of Duty series, DICE has ramped up the sound production here, but compounds the intensity by being indoors.

And so, when one gets into a killing spree, an uninterrupted rhythm of successful kills, the otherwise distracting chaos of echoing footsteps and death screams and exploding walls feels strangely serene, even soothing. Wow, taken out of context, I guess that sounds pretty messed up. But in context all of the game's elements — the pace, sound, and intensity — it can come together just short of genius.

Douglass C Perry, former EIC at IGN, is a freelance writer and journalist. You can tweet him @douginsano.


Comments

    Sounds good, but I can't help but notice Dice is charging for map packs now.

      Well they include weapons and vehicles, so they're not just map packs, but it is hard to see them as much else, because really, most people are buying these for the maps.

      Unfortunately yeah. It used to be a case of free maps as long as we had paid for the pass (in the case of BC2), but i guess with the success the Vietnam expansion, EA built on this model to put $$$ on it. It's getting harder to draw the line where it's acceptable to pay for map packs and where it should be free, without resulting into biased opinions.

    No thanks. My soldier stays in retirement a while longer.

    This is just gonna be a r.p.g. and auto shotgun cluster F&%k.
    Cant wait.

    Having played ALOT (over 300 hours) of BF3 on my xbox, I'm not exactly excited about this.

    There's the obvious rant of "Derrrr they're making it like COD Derrrrrr" but I'll leave that out.

    I feel like the charm of the Battlefield games has been that you could literally end up anywhere fighting against the enemy. There could be an Intense battle in a building between two squads but then next minute (sorry) we're in a field or thicket or canyon.

    The fact the battlefield changed so much as it was the players choice almost as to where they fought that was great. This
    New DLC takes that away. It's DICE saying no, you will fight in close quarters.

    I'm trying to not give off the whingey BF3 player vibe here but yeah, I'm lowering my expectations for this.

      300 aint that much, dont play the maps, wait for the next one.

      Thats what i plan to do

    I won't be picking this up but there will be 2 more packs before Xmas including a tank fest on the biggest outdoor map ever made by dice... Both of which I'll be picking up.

    "Battlefield 3 Squeezed Into A Hallway?"

    I think they call that "Call of Duty".

      Sorry mate, wasn't aware you could destroy the environment in COD... oh wait... never mind........

    When judgding this as a an attempt to turn BF3 into COD please realise that there are 2 more planned expansion packs (DLC) Armoured Kill and End Game. I'm not sure what End Game is about, but Armoured kill will be the opposite of Close Quarters. Think more like Caspinan Border with more vehicles, or large multi tank battles.
    I think by the time all the DLC comes out, we will have a massive well rounded game with tons of content to suit any type of player, whether you like dog fights, tank battles or CoD style close combat.
    Also the destructible environment looks awesome for small indoor maps

    God forbid DICE mix up the game a little, yes it's close quarters but it's also an optional map pack made to appeal to players that like that kind of game play. There is two more map packs on the way with different content , if you don't want to play these kind of maps, it's pretty easy to avoid it. I personally think they will be awesome maps for some 4 on 4 and 8 on 8 squad death match.

    As for player choice Woods, is this not player choice? Maybe people like the indoor battles over the outdoor battles but don't want to be left with playing cod as there only option for that kind of game- play. I know you're worried about them ruining Battlefield but if any thing the diversity that this DLC brings can only the strengthen the game over all.

    Ew paid DLC. Just turns me off companies when they start doing this. Feels as if they dont care about the consumer and only about the quarterly statement. Yes i understand they are a business but i always feel its removes customer loyalty.

      I am sick of people charging for things that used to be free. I feel like an idiot for buying this game.

      Its not really that optional either as the amount of servers only playing vanilla content drop each time this stuff comes out.

      The only non Karkand servers now are all either 24/7 Metro or Flight School maps.

      The community is only going to get more segmented.

    Ill pass I'm not paying $15 for a few maps I won't like and a couple of weapons and stuff.
    EA have screwed up big time with this game.
    Probably not the worst company in the US but definitely the worst game company.

    The popularity of close quarters combat is evident by the huge number of 64 player 24/7 Metro servers.
    Bring it on.

    Not sure how to feel about this yet, I really despise Metro conquest - it always ends up being a 20 minute fight over the ticket booth chokepoint. If they find a way to make the maps close quarters while reducing choke-points, I'll be happy.

    But I already don't like Grand Bazaar. I don't want more CQC.

    If only there was a patch that made some maps have dynamic changes in the environment. An example would be an earth quake causing a sky scraper to fall and you must blow a hole in it to reach the objective. One can only dream....

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