At first glance, Close Quarters might look like both an apology and a compromise. If you’ve seen the recently unveiled time-lapse footage of a new map being completely destroyed (if not, watch it here) there’s a good chance that your first response was to make an internal snipe; about how these impressive dynamics should have been present in the vanilla game, given all that ceaseless pre-release hype. In addition to that, the four new environments in Close Quarters are all structured around a brand new game mode entitled Conquest Domination, which, if you haven’t already guessed, bears a frankly conspicuous resemblance to Call of Duty’s Domination.
EA and DICE’s decision to bundle all upcoming BF3 DLC into “themed” packs rather than offer some kind of variety is an extremely canny move, giving disgruntled fans the ability to bypass Close Quarters altogether, while they wait for this autumn’s much more traditional Armored Kill bundle. However, the ongoing success of Battlefield 3′s less vehicle-centric maps – demonstrated by the prevalence of fan-owned servers that stick to the likes of Operation Metro and Seine Crossing exclusively – means that this cranky sub-section is probably going to be far smaller than you might initially think. Those maps work because the core fundamentals of Battlefield 3 are strong enough to allow them to, and if you’re worried about Close Quarters tarnishing that, don’t.
We played four rounds of Conquest Domination on a new map called Donya Fortress; a raffish, abandoned mansion with three flag locations and countless tight, spindly corridors spider-webbing between them and each other. Given the restrained size of the map, we had initially expected to see nothing but engineers running around brandishing rocket launchers; but this approach was quickly abandoned by almost everyone who tried it, as the breakneck pace of play (and the ubiquity of surprise attacks) meant that healing yourself (and your teammates) was far more beneficial in the long run. In short, it is rather a lot like Domination in CoD, but the tactical options offered up by savvy kit selection (as ever) embellish the experience brilliantly.
With the exception of the large courtyard that sits in the centre of the map’s mid-section, open spaces are difficult to find. Those gardens are essentially a no-go zone anyway; peppered with doorways, balconies and hidden passages, venturing inside its four corners is a surefire way to get yourself killed. You’re also going to be very pleased with Close Quarters if you’re prone to loathing campers, as standing still is something you won’t even do when you’re capturing an objective. Even if you’re going it alone, capturing flags is something that takes little more than 4-5 seconds, and when you couple the tight spaces with the multiple entry points, holding the fort becomes far less preferable to rushing for another location so that you can lock that down too.
The build that we played was pre-alpha, so there were a couple of technical issues. Although the frame-rate was rock solid throughout, the visual sheen of traditional Battlefield 3 wasn’t wholly present yet, and intermittent texture popping was commonplace. Shotguns seemed to be oddly underpowered, and the kill radius of hand grenades seemed far broader than it should have been. And although Conquest Assault only allows you to spawn at random, regardless of which team we were on, we were only ever thrown into one of two areas, which led to one or two instant deaths. Needless to say, these issues are going to be rectified before launch, and on the whole it was very impressive to see something so early feeling so slick and near-complete.
So whilst some might think that Close Quarters looks like Call of Duty, it’s definitely still Battlefield. You may not be able to spawn on objectives or squadmates but in true Battlefield fashion, we were repeatedly creamed by our opponents, who were all combining teamwork and constant conversation much more readily than we were. The destructible environments both create the odd tactical advantage – we lost track of how many times we were killed by an assailant via a hole in a wall – and amplify the sense of spectacle; debris flies everywhere when you’re in battle, and the air is bathed in a dusty haze in the aftermath of burlier skirmishes. Does Close Quarters continue to go above and beyond the call? Undoubtedly.
Battlefield 3 is out now on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. The Close Quarters DLC pack is due for release this June across all platforms.
Watch the latest Close Quarters trailer below: