Battlefield 3: Armored Kill PC Review
Since Battlefield 3 was released late last year, it's taken hold pretty well on PC, but there sure is a lot of competition out there. From free-to-play shooters like Tribes: Ascend and Team Fortress 2 to Valve's revival of Counter-Strike in this summer's CS: Global Offensive, EA and DICE are having to put some serious work in to their DLC to keep Battlefield 3 players interested. The first DLC focused on close quarters battles, but this new one, Armored Kill, opens it up wide to deliver the biggest maps and most vehicles in any Battlefield game yet. Or at least, that's the intent, so did they make good on that promise?
The answer is yes, but the core game has issues that have been around since BF3 was released, and Armored Kill only makes them more obvious. My favorite Battlefield game of them all wound up being the base version of Bad Company 2, mostly because I spend a lot of time as an Engineer, and the tracer dart pistol gave players a skill-based way to reliably take down tanks and aircraft from a distance. Battlefield 3 lacks that, and it takes a concerted effort from at least two people on the ground to give a skilled pilot of nearly any aircraft even the slightest bit of trouble.
Armored Kill's maps are all large and open, and perfectly suited for the capture point-oriented Conquest mode. On 64-player servers, even these maps feel quite cozy, as you'll be coming across teammates and enemy players constantly. As you can expect, your expertise with the game's gadgets, hard-hitting weapons, and vehicles is the most important thing to bring into Armored Kill, and classes like Assault and Recon have a bit more limited use here. They still have their uses, that's for sure, but it's just slightly reduced.
Some of the most entertaining moments I've had in Battlefield 3 involved me holding some C4 and trying to play cat-and-mouse with tanks, and luckily, that's all back here. Nearly every capture point on every map is surrounded by buildings for players to hide in, and it doesn't take much of a sprint to emerge from a building, stick a couple of C4 bricks on a tank, and run away cackling and mashing the fire button. Unfortunately, though, the higher-tech stuff the engineer class has is still woefully underpowered in my opinion, but if you're an expert tank driver or a solid pilot, you're going to love the freedom that these maps give you.
Battlefield 3 is still one of the best-looking games this generation, especially on PC, and these open map designs offer some of the best vistas that DICE has ever offered. It should be pointed out that while the system requirements for Armored Kill are the same, it really is at its very best with 64 players, and for some low-to-mid-range gaming PCs, that's a real challenge. It's not like stuffing 64 players into that grinder of a map Operation Metro was really any better for a struggling PC, but the point is that that wasn't really the game at its best so it wasn't a must; here, I do feel that you need a PC capable of running acceptably on a 64-player server to get the most out of Armored Kill.
This DLC comes either as a separate addon for $15 or as part of the Premium package that EA sells for $50 and comes with all five of Battlefield 3's already-released and upcoming DLC add-ons. Whichever way you buy it, Armored Kill includes new tanks, ATVs, some really fun mobile artillery, and aircraft along with the unlocks for all of it, four very large maps that support all of BF3's online modes along with a new Tank Superiority mode. At this point, I think it'd be silly to not get Armored Kill buy just buying the BF3 Premium package, and while it's annoying to see those with Premium getting early release dates and priority slots on servers and such, I doubt anything I write will change that. (Still, Armored Kill has, I kid you not, four separate release dates amongst the three platforms and premium vs. non-premium players.)
If you've had issues in the past with the balance in Battlefield 3's larger, more open maps, I don't expect that anything added in Armored Kill will solve anything for you. But if you were happy with it and still play BF3 to this day, then just suck it up and get Premium, because DICE is delivering some great action with these addons, and the new unlocks, vehicles, and weapons included in each of their DLC packs means these are a lot more than just map packs, like you might be getting used to with military-themed FPS games now. Armored Kill doesn't try to vastly expand the scope of Battlefield 3, but it does add more of the exact kind of action that other shooters out there are incapable of giving us.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a Premium upgrade provided by the publisher.