According to both EA and DICE, Close Quarters isn’t a map pack. Instead it’s a “themed expansion” pack, and that shorthand actually does a worthy job of explaining where Close Quarters actually fits into the world of Battlefield 3. In short, it doesn’t; designed merely to be an entertaining, part-time diversion, it’s several miles away from the game-changing re-skin that some people suspected it was going to be. And even if you think that Battlefield + CoD is a nightmarish proposition, closer inspection will probably sway you.
Because although it’s initially disorientating, Close Quarters does develop a personality of its own rather quickly. The pack’s primary mode is Conquest Domination which, depending on how you look at it, is either Conquest on amphetamines or a blatant rip-off of CoD’s Domination mode. The random spawn points, zippy capture times and fast restarts have all been pinched from the latter, but there’s none of CoD’s mirrored neatness in the map design, and the core fundamentals of “proper” Battlefield are still in place.
So you can still heal your injured teammates with a med pack, but because time is precious, you’ll have to make sure that the pack is already on the ground waiting for them when they take a few rounds. The maps are so small (though only in comparison the ones found in Conquest or Rush) that you’re lucky if ten seconds pass without a gunfight, and if you’re strategising, healing yourself (and your teammates) is far more beneficial in the long run than running around brandishing an RPG, say. 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.
Conquest Domination is fantastically frantic and dizzying – much like CoD when it’s at its finest – and it’s also a massive XP festival. Matches last less than half as long as a brisk game of Rush, but you’re capturing and/or killing enemies constantly throughout it, and CQ-only servers are at their most popular during one of DICE’s newly implemented double-XP weekends. The rabid nature of Close Quarters may have little to do with the Battlefield that you know and love, but it’s going to be great to have it loitering in the sidelines; a few brief matches are a great starter en route to the banquet offered up by Conquest and Rush.
The fact that kit loadouts and equipment haven’t been altered could have led to innumerable frustrations, but DICE have thoughtfully rectified two very important things in the most recent title update; the blast radius caused by RPG rounds has been significantly diminished and shotguns have been dulled slightly. Needless to say, grenades are a very valuable commodity in Close Quarters (especially when an enemy side become overly fond of planting C4 on bases to score cheap kills) and the destructible interiors are eye-popping regardless of which format you’re playing on.
Gun Master is a riff on Black Ops’ excellent Gun Game, and despite the fact that it’s team-based for no apparent reason, it’s a welcome diversion. The weapons in Battlefield 3 aren’t really distinctive enough for there to be the same nervy tension that was always present in Gun Game – where part of the fun involved knowing how far ahead of you your opponents were – but the larger maps and increased player count remedy this ably. Map design is superb – it’s DICE, after all – and one environment (Scrapmetal) may even be a classic. Close Quarters isn’t quite essential, but it’s really not far off.
Battlefield 3: Close Quarters is available now on PS3, and from tomorrow, June 26th on Xbox 360 and PC. All players who’ve signed up to EA’s Battlefield Premium service are able to access Close Quarters now, regardless of format.
To read our interview with Niklas Fagraeus, lead designer of Close Quarters, click here.
Watch the launch trailer for Battlefield 3: Close Quarters below: