Cast your mind back to playing Battlefield 3's single-player campaign, if you can. Remember the bit with the earthquake? That's the starting point for Battlefield 3's latest downloadable multiplayer expansion, which adds a whole array of new stuff including a variety of maps set among the rubble and debris in the wake of Battlefield 3's shattering earthquake. “This is our way of bringing the single-player fiction into Battlefield 3 multiplayer,” says EA's rep as he sets up the first multiplayer session. “You'll notice that the characters are bloodied, injured and so on.”
Kicking off on the Epicenter map, we engage in some Conquest action, battling to raise our flags as we weave through the fissures carved through the streets and the huge lumps of concrete. There are three new vehicles coming with the Aftermath DLC, all of which have a 'Road Warrior' vibe to them, with modifications for the rough terrain and ragtag bands of soldiers fighting through the ruined urban cityscape in Tehran. On this map, we find little evidence of the “vertical urban combat” promised in the Aftermath press release, with the fight instead unfolding primarily at ground level. It's at ground level where we get run over by a Rhino – a modified civilian van that's been transformed into a troop transport with a big-ass machine gun turret.
Conquest is all well and good, but the main event for this hands-on demo is the new Scavenger mode, which takes us to the Markaz Market map that revolves around the central landmark Markaz Monolith tower block. In Scavenger mode you start with only a pistol, and have to pick through the map for the best guns that are divided into three different levels. A level one gun might be something a bit weedy, whereas level two and three weapons will be something far meatier like a DOW shotgun or a SCAR rifle. You can see the weapon's level on your HUD, but the frugal approach is to snap up whatever gun you can, swapping for something better should the opportunity arise. You only have the ammunition in the weapon you pick up, so picking your targets and economising your shots to save bullets is vital.
Scavenger is a classless game mode, which doesn't mean it's uncouth and unrefined. It simply means that choosing to be recon, assault, medic or support is essentially meaningless, as you'll always begin with a pistol and have to make do with whatever weapons you can find. It's a game mode that suits the post-disaster situation and environments perfectly, as well as the new character skins with bandaged heads and torn dusty clothing. The mode centres around a faster-paced version of Conquest with quicker capture times, which means the objective still involves taking control of and defending each flag point as usual, amid a chaotic scramble for the best guns. A beefy shotgun is always great at close-quarters, but is all the sweeter when you manage to find one and nab a kill in Scavenger mode.
In total, Battlefield 3: Aftermath will include four maps, three new vehicles including the aforementioned Rhino, Phoenix and Barsuk, which is a modified GAZ-3937 Vodnik with a grenade launcher and an open top machine gun turret. The Phoenix is very similar, with the same weapon attachments as the Barsuk. As far as new weapons go, Aftermath has only one, but it's a doozy: the humble crossbow. Upsettingly however, we're not given the chance to give it a go, but we're not sure how DICE could possibly get a crossbow wrong. We expect it'll be great fun to use, especially when you take into account its four different tips. A standard crossbow bolt tip does what it says on the tin, while the balanced bolt will travel much further with greater accuracy. A scan bolt detects targets within your proximity and an explosive bolt is again, self-explanatory. It goes boom.
The Aftermath DLC is rounded off with ten new assignments and ten new dog tags to earn, which ought to keep you embroiled in Battlefield 3's multiplayer wonders for a while longer. Each map is pretty damn expansive too, though not nearly as vast as some of Battlefield 3's bigger maps. Blowing up doors grants access to networks of hidden tunnels, and on the Markaz Market map we found that the vertical urban combat really comes into play, with exposed rooftop areas ideal for snipers. You might need to adjust your aim when the tremors and aftershocks hit though. Battlefield 3: Aftermath is more of the BF multiplayer action you know and love then, with some great new stuff to discover and get swept up in. The maps are characteristically sandy, war torn and destructible, the vehicles have a neat post-apocalyptic look, Scavenger mode is a riotous blast and the crossbow is bound to rock. What more could you possibly ask for?
Battlefield 3: Aftermath is coming to BF 3: Premium subscribers on December 4th, before heading to non-subscribers on December 18th for 1200 Microsoft Points.
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