You may not be aware of it but EA just took a 2.7 GB dump on your hard drive. Within the latest patch for Battlefield 3 lies its first expansion Back to Karkand (B2K, brah!) Far less ambitious than the Vietnam expansions of the series’ past, B2K is an effort at mixing some old maps (all taken from Battlefield 2) with some new tech and ideas.
Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: December 6, 2011
MSRP: $14.99 / 1200 Microsoft Points
Rig: Intel i5-2500k @3.30 GHz, 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 560 GPU (SLI)
Assuming you didn't receive the pack for free with your Battlefield 3 Limited Edition purchase, B2K requires an investment on your part. So, you probably want to know if it’s worth it. Well, that depends on a couple things.
I love Battlefield. I loved Battlefield 3. In fact, it’s my fourth favorite game of the year. Yet, I haven’t loaded the game up in a month because things are crazy between school and new releases. From this perspective, B2K offers a welcome reason to jump back into the game. Wake Island and Strike at Karkand are two of the best maps in the series and you won’t be let down with these reimaginings.
Wake Island remains the perfect Battlefield map. The island’s slopes and hills provide vantage points for snipers, areas for ground troops to sneak, and space for tanks to roam. Every match on the map can be tackled in a new way, unlike some of the disappointing corridor crawls that came with Battlefield 3. For all the talk EA made about improved destruction in BF3, it felt like a major step back from Bad Company 2’s destructible multiplayer maps. The maps in the B2K expansion address this issue and give players lots of trees to tear down and bunkers to explode.
Strike at Karkand is a much better close quarters map than most of what Battlefield 3 had to offer, so it’s nice to revisit it in this engine. It’s a much more versatile map that gives players lots of vertical advantages along with hiding areas. Do you take to a rooftop and fire down on a capture point or do you sneak through the alleyways and flank? The map is further improved with detailed buildings. However, I came across a pretty nasty glitch that some players were exploiting. I guess that’s par for the course, isn’t it?
Gulf of Omen feels like a weaker Wake Island. Likewise, Sharqi Peninsula feels like a weaker Strike at Karkand. Both maps are good and keep a balance between large and small scale battles in the expansion, but I’d prefer to see some Bad Company 2 favorites in their place -- perhaps, EA just doesn’t want us to realize how similar these two games really are.
Visually-speaking, B2K is about what you expect. It strips the old maps of their color -- remember when games didn’t look like dogshit? -- and fills them full of tress, buildings, and skyscrapers. Some of these buildings are stunning in their structure and height. As a result, these maps feel a bit smaller than they were in Battlefield 2.
Part of this has to do with the fact that they have so much more detail -- no longer are you looking across a long plain of nothing. Another factor is that draw distance is much improved, these days. Remember the nasty fog most players had to experience in order to run BF2? I give EA the benefit of the doubt that the maps are close to the size of their originals. Even if they aren’t, they feel well tuned for Battlefield 3’s pacing.
Along with four new maps, B2K offers a new multiplayer mode, three new vehicles, and ten new weapons. Well, new to BF3 at least; like the maps, most of this content is taken and updated from BF2.
Conquest Assault is a pretty basic modification of Conquest. The only difference is that one team starts with all the captures points and the other starts with a home base and extra tickets. It certainly makes the beginning of a match more exciting/stressful, but it’s all the same by the match’s end. This mode is only playable on Wake Island and Strike at Karkand.
The vehicles are also slight variations of ones you’ve already controlled in BF3. You get one new tank, jet, and buggy. I didn’t even notice they were new additions until somebody told me, which should tell you everything. It’s a nice addition, nevertheless. The same is true of the weapons that you have to unlock by completing assignments (for example, reviving ten comrades). The glorious PP-19 returns which makes me happy.
There is nothing about B2K that screams must buy. As a whole, this pack fails to give me nostalgia for BF2 which seems like its main purpose. BF3 looks and plays too different to do that, unfortunately. However, Wake Island and Strike at Karkand are fantastic maps for both veterans and newbies. If you want an excuse to jump back into BF3 or you want to play Wake Island again, you should pick up this expansion. You’ll have fun and you’ll give that 2.7 GB of data a purpose to exist on your hard drive.
Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand reviewed by Allistair Pinsof
A solid game that definitely has an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score: The Destructoid Reviews Guide