As we reported, the infantry-focused Battlefield 3 DLC pack "Close Quarters" arrives this June. I got a chance to try out one of the four maps planned for the expansion at its announcement event. An upscale modern residential condo, the layout of its many rooms covered a few thousand square feet as opposed to the eponymous sprawling battlefields where the fighting has taken place up to now. Running through its halls felt immediately familiar and not at all unlike a match of Modern Warfare, Battlefield's rival in the online shooter space. That feeling wore off, though, as I spent more time with it and the Battlefield in the game started to come through.
Make no mistake, Close Quarters brings the faster paced, soldier-on-soldier style combat decided by a few rounds administered through your favorite firearms. This has been the domain of Call of Duty games for the past few years, and there's no avoiding some sense of having been here before. I initially fell right into that, circulating the floor plan hoping to find the winning route through the kitchen, living and dining rooms, pool patio, and kitchen that get me the drop on members of the other team. I found some opportunistic spots where people tended to be unaware of their exposure, but none of them seemed to duplicate that effect with enough regularity to be reliable.
As time in the match wore on, a noticeable shift in the game took shape; it slowed down. Everyone started to play with at a little more thoughtful pace. Now, that could be a function of wanting to look around and consider how the game was working in the smaller spaces. I think a couple of other factors had more to do with it. The first was the need to better play to the strengths of a chosen weapon to be successful.
Knowing its lethality in Call of Duty and Modern Warfare, I grabbed a submachine gun first, and it was effective right off the bat. But it didn't prove to be an "I win" gun as it can be in those other games. In the sweet spot of a room or so away, but not more than two, its ability to put a lot of rounds on a target made for a quick kill. Further out, though, assault rifles tore me to shreds--as they should. The whole idea of effective range as it related to damage balance just felt like it figured more into the equation here, making all the hardware in the armory a potential toy if I could put it to good use.
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The destructibility of most everything in the world also changed things up as the interior became increasingly wrecked. Cover became less of a sure thing in common places, and the degree of carnage in an area started to tipoff spaces where I needed to have my guard up if I wanted to go through, or that might be a good place to keep an eye on as there'd been a lot of fighting there already. I found myself creeping around a little more cautiously, paying more attention to where I wanted to engage people, and thinking about how to best take advantage of my weapon.
How well these distinguishing features hold up when Close Quarters goes into heavy rotation will be interesting to see. They would potentially help keep the action Battlefield-like, but played in numbers, such tactical subtleties may fall by the wayside. If the goal is to pull the run-and-gun crowd away from Modern Warfare, that might even be the desired outcome.