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Battlefield 3: Armored Kill
Battlefield 3: Armored Kill

PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Digital Illusions
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date:
September 2012
Battlefield 3: Armored Kill Review
Review By @ 02:17pm 14/09/12
PC
If you haven’t played Battlefield 3 on multiple platforms, you probably don’t realise that there are two very different versions of the game – PC and the rest. At face level they’re both identical, powered by the Carmack-crushing Frostbite 2.0 engine, which effortlessly serves up vast landscapes filled with a massive collection of toys of destruction. However, peer closely through a 4X ACOG scope and you’ll see there’s one difference that makes them worlds apart; today’s crusty consoles limit the maximum players to 24 for fear of their internals bursting into flames, while the PC version almost triples this to a whopping 64. The change in team sizes isn’t a big deal on smaller maps like those in the claustrophobic Close Quarters expansion pack, but it couldn’t be more obvious in the latest DLC, Armored Kill. That’s why we’re giving the PC version its very own dedicated review. With new maps that stretch for several kilometres in length (no exaggeration), the level of enjoyment of the new content is directly proportional to the number of grunts hiding in each sector.



For those who haven’t been crouching under cover, suppressed by an incoming barrage of Armored Kill PR and hype, a quick explanation of this DLC’s focus. Like the two that preceded it, this is more than a mere map pack, with six new vehicles and a shiny new game mode. DICE aims to give each of these mini-expansion packs a unique flavour of carnage, and the latest promises to rekindle the scope of past Battlefields, with the emphasis on vast playgrounds and more armour than a medieval museum.

Given the 24 player limit of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it’s not surprising that console players haven’t given the new content a rousing reception. Even though DICE trimmed the map size and flag count for these versions, most console players have complained that conquest feels like a giant game of weaponised “Ring-around-the-Rosie”, as players leapfrog from one flag to the next without ever seeing a single bad guy. Rush is also horrifically skewed towards the attacking side, as the 12 defenders just don’t have enough feet on the ground to adequately cope with the incoming barrage of mechanised destruction. The good news is that the PC version couldn’t be more different, with the higher player count meaning there’s always a meat target for your weapon of choice just seconds away. Let’s take a look at how each map plays out on the PC.

Bandar Desert
All of the maps in Armored Kill are big; Bandar Desert is ludicrously humungous. According to DICE it’s the biggest map in Battlefield’s history, covering five square kilometres. The huge flat expanse of sand dunes in the middle makes an excellent spot for long range armour duels, which will make this map a favourite with tankers, while the cluster of flags in a small suburb on the coast gives foot soldiers a chance to control half of the map’s flags without needing to call a taxi to get between them. Located about a kilometre away are two more flags positioned next to each other – while they don’t give up as many tickets, one of these is the spawn point for the mighty AC130 gunship, so going out of your way to capture this outpost is highly recommended. Given the size of this map, having a vehicle on standby isn’t a bad idea. If there’s one issue with this map, it’s that the terrifying lag beast will often rear its ugly head, most likely a result of the incredibly long sight lines.



Alborz Mountains
At the centre of this map is a huge mountain, and getting to the top on foot can feel like climbing Mount Everest. Thankfully a couple of narrow mountain passes provide a faster route to the top if you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, but they’re a hotspot for landmines and RPG ambushes. While most of the map centres on the soaring slopes, a large section of forest at its foot provides excellent cover from the circling vultures above. The seven flags on this map are relatively evenly spread out, making it hard to control a cluster for longer periods. It might not be the largest map, but the difficult-to-climb mountain makes it the hardest to navigate without a friendly chopper pilot on call. The open nature of the mountain section will give pilots plenty to smile about, as the ants below have nowhere to hide. This is the other Armored Kill map to suffer from slight warping; fingers crossed DICE squishes this bug the way it did when Tehran Highway exhibited the same problem. We’ve asked EA’s local community guy to find out if DICE has acknowledged the issue, and will update you when we hear anything.

Death Valley
Armored Kill’s token night map really isn’t dark at all thanks to the luminescent full moon, but it’s shady enough that spotting enemies wearing the black Spec Ops camo isn’t easy. This long, narrow map is covered in elevation changes, making it difficult to get off a long range shot, and you’ll often round a corner to find a triple-T90 surprise. The use of extensive cover makes this map a favourite for foot soldiers, while the limited roadways make these vehicle paths a magnet for mines. Once again the flags are evenly placed but this time in a long, narrow line, naturally lending itself to a huge firefight where the two sides of the map butt heads in the middle.

Armored Shield
BFBC2 fans will immediately cast their minds back to happy afternoons spent killing in the sunshine of Harvest Day when they see this stunning rural battleground. Long fields are covered in conveniently placed mounds of Earth, making this the perfect map for launching the new Quad Bike soaring through the air. Several farms and clusters of buildings surround each flag, with a cluster of three towards the centre drawing in players like flies to a still warm corpse. The snaking river delivers a scenic water cruise, but its lack of cover makes wannabe sailors an easy target. The mixture of open areas and clusters of cover makes this the perfect map for any kind of Battlefield player.



Picking a favourite from the four is impossible, as they’re all equally brilliant. DICE has nailed the sensation of exploring real-world locations rather than traipsing through artificial corridors of killing, and finding every nook and cranny of these behemoths is going to take months.

Vehicles
Let’s start with the obvious one, the AC130 Gunship. Yes, it’s stuck on rails, but that doesn’t make manning its 105mm howitzer any less fun. There’s nothing quite like hearing the “PHOOMP” of this cannon firing, then watching the shell arc in towards a squad of enemy troops. Incredibly vulnerable to both air and ground attacks, don’t expect the Gunship to stay airborne for long if the other team remembers to shoot it down, and we think DICE would do well to buff the armour a little.

Next up are the two tank destroyers, and they handle like the bastard offspring of an APC and Tank. Speedy and nimble, they’re able to bring their powerful cannons to bear on unexpected flanks, but their thin armour makes them extremely easy to take out. Long range killers will love the new rocket artillery vehicles, and mastering them will take plenty of practice. A handy tip is to open your map while lobbing in rocket rounds, as the impact point shows up as small splash marks. In the hands of a skilled user, either rocket vehicle can absolutely decimate a flag point.

Last but not least is the quad bike, arguably the most enjoyable vehicle in the collection. This two-seat pocket rocket hoons through the battlefield like a speeder bike, often jumping 30 or 40 metres when lined up perfectly with a ramp. Just don’t drive into a boulder at high speed, as you and your passenger won’t make it out alive.



Tank Superiority and Rush
Just as Close Quarters added the quick-fix Gun Master mode, Armored Kill has also introduced a mode that is good for a quick bout of death and destruction when you’ve only got 20 minutes to kill. Tank Superiority sees both sides fighting over a single flag in the middle of the map, with the inclusion of more armour to get the party started. Surprisingly the flag doesn’t ever move, which seems a tragic oversight given that every other “King of the Hill” mode learnt long ago that moving the flag helps spice up the action. While it’s fun in short bursts, we can’t see Tank Superiority ever taking over from Conquest as the preferred way to play.

Console players have written off Armored Kill’s Rush mode as being hopelessly imbalanced in favour of the attackers, but having 32 rocket-wielding defenders has made a huge difference on the PC version. While attackers have a better chance than other Rush maps, we witnessed an even split in victory between the defending and attacking sides. Taking out the AC130 is absolutely crucial to the defence’s success, and an upcoming nerf to its spawn time will make digging in slightly easier.

Worth the cost of a six pack?
At an expected price of $23.95, those looking for a return to Battlefield’s wide open roots will find the purchase of Armored Kill an absolute no-brainer. The scale of each new map means they’ll take exponentially longer to learn than the shoeboxes of Close Quarters and, despite their infinitely larger size, DICE hasn’t scrimped on the attention to detail, with each square metre packing as much TLC as its smaller offerings. The issue of latency is a bit of a problem right now on certain servers, but knowing DICE it’ll hopefully get patched in the near future with a server update. Those who don’t like the vehicular action in Battlefield should probably go and play Call of Duty instead of even considering Armored Kill, but for the rest of us this expansion pack is as good as Battlefield 3 gets. But please, if you do end up buying the pack, for the love of all things holy, when you get in a vehicle, wait for your fricking team mates before you put your pedal to the metal...
What we liked
  • Finally we get to play on massive maps that make Caspian Border look tiny, and the emphasis on mass mechanised mayhem is a refreshing change of pace
  • Each of the four maps are totally unique, covering icy mountains, open deserts, night scrubland and richly detailed rural landscapes
  • Despite the massive size, performance on our machine was perfect
  • The new vehicles complement the existing set nicely, and the AC130 is our new favourite
What we didn't like
  • Latency/warping is a bit of an issue on certain servers running Bandar Desert and Alborz Mountains
  • The flag in Tank Superiority needs to move around to stop stalemates
  • Armored Kill can bring out the worst in players, who still don’t realise driving off in a five seat vehicle is not a smart move
More
We gave it:
9.0
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
Stalfax
Posted 05:55pm 14/9/12
keen for this
IVY_MiKe
Posted 06:16pm 14/9/12
not keen @ $50 for 'Premium'.
Especially given EA/DICE's track record for 'producing bug riddled junk' on day 1 anyway.
GunSlingerAUS
Posted 08:00pm 14/9/12
Hey Mike

It's not $50, it's $24 - for $50 you get FIVE expansion packs (four, if you've already got B2K). I don't know about you, but for me $24 is incredible value considering I'll easily get 50 hours of fun out of it. These are definitely up there with Battlefield's best maps, and there are very few bugs. Well, except for the new rocket artillery defensive weapon, which knocks off 99% of the driver's health when activated! Dice says it'll be patched this week.
FSCB
Posted 09:16pm 14/9/12
The reality is this sounds great in a review, but doesn't eventuate during play.
Vehicles and anti-vehicle warfare have been the worst part of BF3 to date, they remain the most buggy part of the BF3 experience.
A lot has been tweaked over the past year, but the hard focus on vehicles in the AK expansion just amplifies the affects.

-Random tank damage, you can flank an enemy tank, shoot 3 shots into its rear or rear side, and still not get a kill.
The enemy tank will turn and often destroy you with 2 shots to front of your tank. Almost like BF3 rolls a dice to see who wins tank battles.
-Similarly, sometimes you can shoot with tank at an enemy infantry hidden behind a small boulder or rock outcrop and get 3 or 4 hits before a kill occurs.
-Enemy vehicles which have been "disabled", often drive away at full speed behind the nearest hill etc.
-The range on the AA is still very small, so carrying the stinger/igla is not going to get you many points nor prove an effective deterant against flyers.
-Heaps of tanks and TDs = excellent, but only 2 choppers per map = poor, considering the AA tank is on most maps.
-Jets can often turn in a very small radius even when the jet is coming out of a nosedive, ie has a very high velocity.
-AC130, basically a nothing addition; flies in a set circle, can only protect itself from enemies at higher altitude and has near pissweak AT guns, especially on softcore.
-Jet ramming is still a roll of the dice. Failgamers often ram their jet into other jets/helos and can make it through the other end alive, while the target jet explodes in the air...sometimes the ramming jet will survive even if it has already taken damage, ie has lower "health" than the target jet.
-Multitude of poor gamers who take vehicles without gunners/passengers
-Poor gamers who fly full helos but use them purely as a way to skip walking long distances, leaving the helo to crash land killing all those still inside- yep BF3 vehicles at its best, amplified to 11 in AK.
FSCB
Posted 09:19pm 14/9/12
Oh yeah and 1 more massive one I forgot:

When playing 64 player servers, you will be waiting for vehicles. Most maps only have ~8 tanks and 2 choppers, 1 gunship, 1 artillery for each side.
And with most gamers just taking a tank for themselves and driving off, you will wait and wait with frustration...
or take a quad and go AT infantry.
IVY_MiKe
Posted 09:25pm 14/9/12
^ this is not an alt account I swear.

I agree with everything he just posted tho, does that make me a bad person?
Eds
Posted 11:00pm 14/9/12
-Random tank damage, you can flank an enemy tank, shoot 3 shots into its rear or rear side, and still not get a kill.


Isnt that factually correct tho? That a tank has more armor on its sides and not its front?

GunSlingerAUS
Posted 11:41pm 14/9/12
Hey FCSB

Just wanted to explain some of what you're seeing:

-Random tank damage, you can flank an enemy tank, shoot 3 shots into its rear or rear side, and still not get a kill.
The enemy tank will turn and often destroy you with 2 shots to front of your tank. Almost like BF3 rolls a dice to see who wins tank battles.

Tanks take more damage at the rear, as well as certain "weak spots" on the vehicle such as turret rim, ammo compartment, etc. I believe the angle of the shot also affects the damage - glancing blows do less damage. If you google it you'll find some really deep research done by players showing how complex tank damage is modeled.
-Similarly, sometimes you can shoot with tank at an enemy infantry hidden behind a small boulder or rock outcrop and get 3 or 4 hits before a kill occurs.

See above

-Enemy vehicles which have been "disabled", often drive away at full speed behind the nearest hill etc.

Actually, each vehicle has a specific % of damage where they're disabled, which was changed on some vehicles in the last patch. Again, extensive user testing backs up this claim.

-The range on the AA is still very small, so carrying the stinger/igla is not going to get you many points nor prove an effective deterant against flyers.

400m is the limit, but with the recent disabling of "Below Radar" choppers are now much more vulnerable to Stingers. As an engineer it's made my day

-Heaps of tanks and TDs = excellent, but only 2 choppers per map = poor, considering the AA tank is on most maps.

Most players complain about air being too powerful, so any more than this and we'd have a community crisis.

-Jets can often turn in a very small radius even when the jet is coming out of a nosedive, ie has a very high velocity.

Again, community testing has shown that the optimal speed for turning is around 300 knots. Any faster or slower and you'll have a wider turn radius. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials illustrating this.

-AC130, basically a nothing addition; flies in a set circle, can only protect itself from enemies at higher altitude and has near pissweak AT guns, especially on softcore.

Oh but it's so much fun!

-Jet ramming is still a roll of the dice. Failgamers often ram their jet into other jets/helos and can make it through the other end alive, while the target jet explodes in the air...sometimes the ramming jet will survive even if it has already taken damage, ie has lower "health" than the target jet.

Agreed, this is an issue. Thankfully most pilots don't do this any more, it's a question of honour.

-Multitude of poor gamers who take vehicles without gunners/passengers

Yep, 45% of BF3 players are douchebags, it's a fact. However, they're still much better than most other FPS ;)

-Poor gamers who fly full helos but use them purely as a way to skip walking long distances, leaving the helo to crash land killing all those still inside- yep BF3 vehicles at its best, amplified to 11 in AK.

See above.

Just wanted to point out that what you see as bugs or flaws are actually quite deep systems modeled in the game. It's this depth that has kept me playing for over 250 hours.
Mephz
Posted 08:07am 15/9/12
Isnt that factually correct tho? That a tank has more armor on its sides and not its front?
Nah that's the rear you're thinking of.
Tanks have the most armour at the front, less at the rear. Sides are still heavily armoured almost the same as the front.

You can check up some of the old tanks like the king tigers to see just how many mm of armour they had over each sections. The Tigers were crazy not a wonder they were so powerful
FSCB
Posted 04:27pm 15/9/12
Hi GunSlingerAUS,

I agree that BF3 is an extremely complex game in terms of its physics modelling, as has been with previous BF games.
But even with all these models and physics algorithms they have used to build the game, to me, it still comes across as luck-based and buggy. Almost like it has 80% of the true world physics model, but missing the rest to make it actually feel correct.

I say this because I try to shoot at enemy vehicles where I believe they should be weakest...and often get let down. I don't know, maybe I'm just unlucky!
A simple example, shoot a tank at its wheels. Does what? Standard side damage.
Real life, shooting a 30kg shell at ~800m/s into a 150mm thick steel wheel flange would obliterate the wheel and leave nothing much of the tracks. Engineering calculations can show this and modelling in programs like Solidworks or similar can show this visually. The odd thing is I would have thought programmers of complex modern games, like DICE, would have access to such visual enigneering modelling systems.
However, in their systems they are 'making' the physics to balance the game rather than using real world physics and applying certain conditions depending on choice of weaponry.
This is what I find wrong with BF3 vehicle/anti-vehicle warfare.
badfunkstripe
Posted 04:41pm 15/9/12
I have been finding AK really requires squad work. Which sucks because these team play features are basically non existent in BF3.

BF3 generally didn't need a commander but AK maps definitely do.

When I play with mates chatting on Skype as a squad it's amazing. I have played with a couple dudes just using the chat to co-ordinate and it's been really great. The problem with out VOIP and proper team play tools is that it doesn't encourage people to play in squads. Still too many people trying to lone wolf.

AK works best as a squad capturing and holding an area of the map. This is where a commander to direct squads to different area's would be perfect!


My biggest pet peeve is helicopters. Quite often the really good players who are at that, "how on earth are they so accurate and always know where I am and can fly perfectly" level. Can just dominate. You go to stinger. They just flare, fly away until flares reloaded. Then with the stinger you're useless against tanks. If there was co-ordination with teams, maybe air would fight air more. In a few bad maps of these, i've gotten air, and even though i'm a good player. Air players who are good are way above even a much better than average air player. So you don't have a chance. I personally would like AK maps with a no attack heli option.
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