It's been over a year since Battlefield 3 came out with guns blazing. Thanks to continuous efforts at EA and DICE we have been receiving new content updates every few months, most of which introduce some fresh and different gameplay. Aftermath is the fourth installment, following up the popular Armored Kill that came out in early September.
Aftermath includes four new earthquake-torn maps set in Iran, a few new vehicles that are modified civilian vans and military vehicles, new assignments, dogtags, achievements and character models with a post-earthquake theme showing off torn clothes and open wounds. The other major additions are the new game mode "Scavenger" and a new crossbow weapon.
While the last expansion had "the largest Battlefield map of all time," the Aftermath maps feel much more thought out and well-designed. They are all phenomenal in infantry combat situations, providing narrow choke points between ravaged buildings for great armored combat and plenty of cover in streets filled with cracks and crevices. All the maps also have decent vertical versatility, featuring lots of rooftops and high-rise buildings with walls torn down for snipers. The overall setting for all four maps look the same, a post-earthquake Iran with heavily damaged buildings and roads, all set in a strong yellow filter. Despite the color imbalance, they look terrific and it's easy to get immersed in the devastated atmosphere. Also look out for those little aftershocks every so often. They tend to bring down some loose rubble, killing anyone underneath.
While the last expansion focused on new types of tanks and heavy machinery, Aftermath focuses on smaller modified vehicles to get around the destroyed urban setting. The new vehicles introduced are heavily modified versions of the Humvee and Vodnik with more armor and an added seat for a grenade launcher, as well as a civilian van outfitted with armor and a machine gun to function a troop transport vehicle.
The new "Scavenger" mode combines the traditional conquest capture the flag style with a post-apocolyptic twist. Instead of choosing a full weapon loadout, you start with just a pistol and have to find (or scavenge) various weapons throughout the map. Weapons are marked with little blue chevrons above them showing a rank from levels one to three when you are close. Level one guns will be the most basic with the least amount of ammunition, while the level three ranked weapons will have more rounds and be well equipped with scopes and attachments. This puts some less-used weapons in some less-experienced hands, giving veterans of the series a breath of fresh air by forcing a new gun on them. These will have limited ammunition, forcing players to constantly think on their feet about where their next weapon will come from while they're fighting for territory. The flag is captured at a much higher rate and you can spawn either on your squad or at a random capture point. The gameplay is frantic and quick since the enemy can spawn just about anywhere randomly, then allow their entire squad to spawn on them. Teamwork is encouraged and is generally the key to victory.
There has been an uptick in popularity for the stringed weapons in movies and games lately, and Battlefield cashed in with their take. The crossbow is unlocked with three Scavenger victories and takes up an equipment slot, not a primary or secondary weapon slot. It's lethal at medium range and has significant drop, making it tough to get used to. There are three bolt unlocks each dealing with a different threat; the high-explosive bolt explodes on impact, dealing explosive damage to vehicles and infantry, the scan bolt will spot enemies in a 10m radius of where the bolt lands and deals the least amount of damage, and finally the the balanced bolt has the longest range and less drop, but also deals less damage than the standard bolt. Overall, it's a fun weapon, but tough to justify using competitvely given its low ammunition and slow reload time.
Aftermath manages to blend the best of what Battlefield has to offer with close urban combat and small vehicle warfare. While the last couple expansions took different combat themes to the extreme (Close Quarters completely being tight combat in maze-like buildings, while Armored Kill encouraged all-out vehicle combat in vast landscapes) there is something here for everyone to enjoy. Aftermath is available now for Premium Members and will be available to everyone else on December 18 for $15.