Rating: ★★★★½

Battlefield 3: Armoured Kill is the third DLC for 2011′s megahit shooter by DICE and EA, and swears to be the polar opposite to June’s Close Quarters. Whereas CQ offered tight hallways and gun to gun combat, Armoured Kill gives BF3 owners the largest maps ever created for the series, giving us epic jet and tank battles across 64 player, 7 flag battlegrounds. While AK doesn’t have any of the new weapons that CQ and Back to Karkand gave us, it does give us 4 maps, 5 vehicles and few more goodies.

The first of the new maps is Bandar Desert, advertised as the biggest map in Battlefield history. The map features everything from tight building to building fights to massive open warfare. The map is absolutely massive, almost too massive. While it never gets boring, you are often killed from no where and left scratching your head as to what happened. There is a high population of vehicles, which is always good to see. The new Tank Destroyers are very unique indeed. The speed of an LAV mixed with the tank killing power of an MBT, these vehicles are very tricky to take down.

The new ATV’s, or old, depending on whether or not you played Bad Company 2, are so much fun to use. The controls are fine enough except for on the icy terrain of Alborz Mountain, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The ATV’s are like the new jihad jeeps, a perfect Tank Destroyer killer.

The second map I played is BF3′s first snow map, Alborz Mountain. Oh my god. This map rocks. The snow setting is great to see, and this map almost takes the shape of Wake Island. The capture points go right up into the snowy mountains and down into the lush, green valley. The map is based around a peninsula connected by a road bridge, although this zone of the map sees little activity. Up high, however, is most of the good stuff happens. The highest point has roads stretching right through the middle of the map, giving it a feeling of fighting uphill at all times. The only real gripe here is that your vehicle often gets stuck around rocks in the environment, meaning you need to ditch and go on foot.

One of the most hyped up and questioned parts of Armoured Kill was the inclusion of the AC-130 Gunship in multuplayer. It doesn’t seem overpowered at all in Conquest. In fact, quite the opposite. Jets can take it out almost instantly if both pilots are communicating, and it doesn’t have any type of regenerative health like the rest of the vehicles. However, it tends to be problematic for Rush. To me, the easiest solution is to remove it from Rush and buff it’s armour up in Conquest. The Gunship is thrilling to watch though. The massive cannon creates massive dirt clouds and general death where ever it fires, and the angel flares are just too beautiful. They are just so spectacular, much more impressive than the flare clusters from the fighter jets.

The third map I fought across was the second map in Battlefield 3 to feature night gameplay, called Death Valley. It’s pretty standard BF3 fare and doesn’t bring a whole lot of interesting gameplay. The night setting is still overly bright and the moon has sun flaring when you look at it. God knows why. To me it suggests that DICE just reskinned old assets rather than thinking night gameplay through. The map isn’t bad but isn’t all the exciting. It does have a good balance of vehicle and ground combat though, meaning  players will have a blast here.

The final map on the roster is my personal favourite: Armoured Shield. This map is basically Bad Company 2 meets BF3 in that it feels like a classic Bad Company 2 map, but with Battlefield 3′s gameplay. This map is also the only in the pack not to feature jets, however it has heaps of helicopters and the AC-130. The map is gorgeous to look at and DICE have put new details into old assets to make the world feel more believable. Empty buildings now have new colour schemes and have boxes and furniture, giving you the impression that people do live here, and it isn’t just a staged fighting ground. This issue has plagued other Battlefield maps as I often wondered into a building and could not figure out what it was meant to be.

All of the Armoured Kill maps look great, actually. There is more colour here and the frame rate stayed more stable than on older maps like Caspian Border, which is an impressive technical feat. The destruction also looks great, very much like Back to Karkand. The whole set looks great, actually. The maps ooze with detail and look nice overall.

There is also the new Tank Superiority mode. I don’t know what to think, actually. Each match just turns into a stalemate, with evenly balanced teams fighting over one capture point. You constantly find yourself killing an opponent right as you die, meaning you make no progress. Some people swear by the mode but I really hate it.

Let’s go through the vehicles now. I’ve already spoken briefly about the ATV, and my personal favourite addition is the Tank Destroyer vehicle class. Mix an MBT a LAV and you have a Tank destroyer. The massive gun punches through tank armour quickly, but your own armour is quite weak meaning you need to be quick when engaging tanks. There is also new mobile artillery launchers. The reticle is hard to use and doesn’t let you gauge for distance. I’ve never scored a hit with the thing but I’ve seen people do massive streaks so I assume they are good, and that I just suck. And finally, the hyped up AC-130. The gunship is controlled by a capture point on the map, and once capped, your team mates can spawn in the gunner positions. The main gun is great fun to use and causes massive destruction, and the secondary gunner uses a cannon similar to the gunner seat of an attack helicopter. The problem here is the balancing. Jets can take the AC-130 down quite easily in Conquest, yet it is insanely overpowered on Rush. While use of the gunship is solid enough, it’s implementation is ultimately poor.

Armoured Kill is the best Battlefield 3 DLC yet. While it’s a shame that no new weapons were included, we do get the new game mode and some new assignments. And it doesn’t help that these are the best Battlefield 3 maps around, to date at least. Players who hate Battlefield 3 might be turned by the almost Bad Company 2 like vibe to this, and players already hooked will be unable to leave their desks or couch grooves.

 Battlefield 3: Armoured Kill is available to download now.

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This article was first posted on September 16, 2012