Battlefield 3: End Game
End Game could not be more aptly named. Over the course of the last 15 months, developers DICE have released a steady stream of expansions for their seminal first person shooter, running the gauntlet from tight arena sized combat in Close Quarters to the all out vehicle warfare the series is most renowned for in Armoured Kill. End Game is the culmination of the Premium service, the fifth and final planned expansion, and provides a fitting send off which showcases everything that makes Battlefield 3 great.
As has been the case with previous expansions, End Game features four all new maps, tenuously linked by the fact that each one represents a different season of the year. The first of these is Kiasar Railroad, which is set in the lush green springtime forests of northern Iran. The titular railroad stretches across the far reaches of the map, and provides an obvious focal point for combat. While the railroad itself provides the most direct route to traverse the locale, the ease of crossing is countered by a lack of concealment from enemy forces. The forests and undulating hills of the surrounding area as well as the logging equipment provide ample cover for ground troops to make their way between objectives without being spotted.
Nebandan Flats is a huge open expanse of flat desert, and takes place during the summer months. Aside from a large warehouse and small number of other buildings towards the center of the map, there’s very little in the way of cover. It’s a map where chopper pilots and tank commanders can have a field day with ground forces. Bales of hay dot the landscape but these don’t last long under heavy gunfire.
Operation Riverside is End Game‘s autumn map. Bisected by a small river, the electric power station at its center becomes a massive point of contention, as do either of the bridges crossing the stream. Control of these areas can be vital. The mountainous terrain and many points of cover can mean going on foot can often be the quickest and safest route between points of interest, and the changing verticality of the surrounds lends itself to troop ambushes as well as escaping tense situations.
Sabalan Pipeline’s snow capped terrain make up the fourth and final map. Based around a contested oil refinery in the depths of winter, the narrow roads and hilly expanses mean each individual area needs to be approached with caution, as line of sight is sorely lacking between capture points. These narrow roads also cater for a varied mix of play styles; vehicular combat as well as an infantry approach can be successful here. There’s a lot to be said for the snowy locale, as it provides some of the most stunning settings of any Battlefield 3 arena.
The four maps contained in End Game are solid and well balanced. The capture points and areas of interest are evenly spread, and offer no distinct advantage from either deployment. None of the maps have a single focal point or exploitable feature meaning you’ll need to be at your best to succeed. It also means that the core gameplay can come to the fore. However, it is plain to see that certain placements are catering for the dirt bike that has been pushed front and center of the release, with several obvious jump locations littering each location.
The dirt bike will be a staple of any encounter. Able to carry two people (the driver and one passenger), the bikes are very quick and surprisingly agile. They are without doubt the quickest mode of transport in End Game and are essential in Capture The Flag, one of the two new play modes introduced in the expansion. The aforementioned jumps liberally stretch the laws of physics, and allow for plenty of opportunity to fly through the air. The other vehicles introduced are the HMMVW and Vodnic anti-aircraft jeeps (for the US and Russian forces respectively), both suitable to take on air and ground based weaponry but susceptible to mines and propelled rockets.
Of the two returning modes introduced in End Game, Capture The Flag (last seen in Battlefield 2: Modern Combat) will be where the majority of time is spent. As the name suggests, the objective is to capture the opposing force’s flag whilst at the same time preventing your own from being taken. Yet Battlefield 3 offers its own take on the mode’s standard tropes. A flag capture cannot be scored while the enemy has your flag, meaning that offense can often be the best form of defense. This can lead to some tense stand-offs where both flags have been taken, and teams must weigh up the risks of attempting to recapture their own flag versus leaving the flag carrier undefended. Yet even killing the flag carrier isn’t enough. When dropped, a captured flag has a timer (similar to Conquest) which must fill before the flag is returned. These twists on an already intense mode keep things fresh and entertaining.
Air Superiority is the other mode returning in End Game, having last been included in downloadable title Battlefield 1943. The enjoyment to be gained from it is directly proportional to how proficient one is with jet combat. Playing out much like Conquest, players will vie for control of blimps in much the same way as its sister mode. Put directly into the jet, with no form of ground or other vehicle combat, Air Superiority has the potential to excite and frustrate in equal measure. Those with little skill in aviation combat might want to steer clear, as dying is an all too regular occurrence for inexperienced pilots.
End Game provides a more than fitting conclusion to Battlefield 3. The fifth expansion is on par with, if not surpassing, the other offerings. The four maps each bring the core Battlefield experience to the fore, and the expansion is the better for it. While Air Superiority can be hit or miss, Capture The Flag more than makes the price of admission worthwhile and should continue to keep battle hardened veterans busy for many months to come.