X360A Review: Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand
Written Wednesday, December 14, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
DICE proved with Bad Company 2 that there was definitely a market for reskinning and tweaking classic maps to fit their new engines, and with Back to Karkand the trend continues for the Swedish developer. Taking 4 classic Battlefield 2 maps - some of which feature in other titles - Back to Karkand brings back four fan-favourites and gives them the Frostbite 2 treatment. The end result, four maps that are probably better than any four that you’ll find in the main game. Yes, they are that good.
The namesake map, “Strike at Karkand,” is perhaps the most enjoyable for various different reasons. It’s a multi-faceted level, especially in Rush, where players will be tasked with long-distance combat, vehicular chaos and a finale, or should we say, last showdown, that puts the Battle of the Alamo to shame. This does have tanks though, so that’s a given.
Sharqi Peninsula and Gulf of Oman are iconic for very different reasons. Sharqi relies on its tight-knit infantry combat and urban warfare to showcase the Frostbite 2 engine, while Gulf of Oman swaps the towering construction sites for more vehicle-based, long-distance showdowns amidst the dusty streets of the desert town. Each map in Rush, like Karkand too, finishes with an epic face-off at the foot of two fairly unique buildings – fighting in and around the pool at the Hotel Oman is something that can get a little chaotic, especially with the slew of vehicles that the attacking team get. You do have to wonder what DICE’s fascination with construction sites is though, as both use rather large construction structures that litter the streets. In fact, it’s something DICE has always done. More originality next time, please.
Last, but not least, is Wake Island, a map that many will be familiar with. However, that said, it may be Wake Island in just name for the most part as the map seems much bigger this time too, as well as being much more open. It’s a much darker state of affairs here, so it’s a map that differs from the others ever-so-slightly, which can only be a good thing. In fact, it rounds off the map pack in the best possible way. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Considering that all these maps were originally designed for Conquest, the fact that they work so well in Rush is a testament to DICE’s long-standing map design prowess. Yes, some of the new vehicles may only be found in Conquest, like the I-can-hover-craft, the VTOL jet, which you’ll find on the Gulf of Oman as well as Wake Island in the return of the Conquest variation, Conquest Assault, but that doesn’t make Rush any less of a mode. If I’m being perfectly honest, the fact that there are no jets there probably improves the mode – it definitely dilutes the numbers in Caspian Border, for instance.
Back to Karkand also sees 10 new weapons – which are unlocked by completing “assignments” like getting 10 revives and 10 heals – thrown into the fray, 3 new vehicles (a buggy, an APC and the aforementioned VTOL), oh, and 5 new achievements, which are going to not only take you a while, but involve some skill as well – not necessarily getting a kill with the skid loader, but in getting a kill with an assault rifle, a tank and a jet in one life will. They’re interesting though and when the achievement pops for jumping in the Hotel Oman swimming pool, you almost certainly will raise a smile.
If Back to Karkand is an example of what we can expect from DICE and Battlefield 3 as far as DLC goes, then we’re in for a treat. The improved destruction may not be on par from a macro level like in Bad Company 2, but it’s vastly improved from Battlefield 3’s other maps and does give it much more of an edge over them. The micro destruction is still fantastic, of course, and for 4 maps, which provide an infinite amount of fun and intense combat, Back to Karkand is a no-brainer. If you got it with a pre-order or the Limited Edition, then superb, you’ll have a blast. If not, get your wallet out, you’re not going to want to miss these. Whether we’ll saunter back to the original 9 maps anytime soon remains to be seen because Back to Karkand somehow manages to improve on Battlefield 3’s already stellar multiplayer with 4 maps that really put the 'umph' in 'triumphant return'. Still, we miss the sound of those creaking buildings that more often than not turned us into a nice flat ol' pancake. Did we tell you we love pancakes?