Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand Impressions

If you seriously enjoyed Battlefield 3 multiplayer, you should seriously be playing the Back to Karkand maps.

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Earlier this month, the Back to Karkand downloadable content for Battlefield 3 arrived on the Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3. The pack includes four maps (remastered from their Battlefield 2 incarnations), three new vehicles, a handful of new guns, and a new gimmick for unlocking said guns. Any BF3 owner who bought (or buys) the Limited Edition of the game (which costs the same as the non-limited edition and is still available) is entitled to download Back to Karkand for free. Anyone else hoping to play these maps will have to pony up about $15 for the privilege, but if you're still interested in Battlefield 3 multiplayer, it's a good buy. Read on to find out more about Back to Karkand and see if you agree.

The main selling point of Back to Karkand is the maps. Wake Island, Gulf of Oman, Sharqi Peninsula, and Strike at Karkand all appeared in Battlefield 2, and while they are all easily recognizable to those who knew them well, each has received a significant visual overhaul for Back to Karkand. Wake Island, for example, ditches the saturated colors of its appearance in Battlefield 1943, offering instead a more washed-out, war-ravaged setting for battle. Though the maps all look good, visual appeal isn't the reason you'll keep coming back.

That distinction belongs to the environmental design. With the exception of the fairly barren Wake Island, the urban spaces in each map create superb venues for firefights of all sizes. The narrow streets and alleys of Strike at Karkand offer close-quarters building-to-building combat, and taking a light vehicle or tank through the streets is both dangerous and deadly. One-third of the city is at a lower elevation than the rest, so ramps and stairwells are key to navigation. A low-lying marketplace feels similar to Grand Bazaar, but Strike at Karkand outclasses that map in both size and complexity.

Gulf of Oman is another large map with dense urban combat opportunities, but a wide freeway running through it gives it a more open feeling. This feeling is augmented by the surrounding desert, which provides a quick way to flank your enemies if you are willing to leave yourself and your passengers exposed. The desert buggy vehicle has speed enough to make such runs feasible, though gunners will find the restricted turret movement limits their effectiveness. Large matches on Gulf of Oman are also great places to hop into the STOVL fighter jet and try your hand at hovering.

Sharqi Peninsula also boasts urban combat areas, including a few multistory buildings without any walls, which afford a greater field of view at the expense of cover. Sharqi even goes so far as to place some capture points above ground level, making the approach to the TV station perched on a hill even more perilous. And as anyone who watched our Now Playing for Back to Karkand on the PS3 knows, Sharqi's hotel pool is a hazard drivers would do well to avoid.

Wake Island's lack of tall buildings and flanking aircraft carriers make air combat particularly fierce, especially on big Conquest matches. Back to Karkand also includes the Conquest Assault mode, which is a variation on Conquest with fewer capture points. Furthermore, one team starts with control of every point (and the ability to spawn at each one), while the other starts with more respawn tickets. This twist drastically changes the initial conflict in a match; rather than everyone scrambling to grab points, you have an attacking force trying to oust entrenched defenders. It's a great variation, though it may make you yearn for the larger scale of Conquest.

None of the new guns are real game-changers, but some folks will no doubt be delighted to see the FAMAS and PP-19 back in action. To unlock the new weapons, however, you'll have to target your battlefield efforts more specifically. There are 10 assignments divided into five pairs; you must complete one to make the other available. Tier one conditions are generally lighter (for example, perform 10 heals and 10 revives) while tier two conditions are more time-consuming (for example, 100 kills with light machine guns, 50 suppression assists, and 50 ammo resupplies). Tying unlocks to specific feats is uncharacteristic of the Battlefield series, but it's nice to have something to strive for even after you've played a ton of multiplayer.

Fifteen bucks may seem like a lot for four maps and a few other new bits, but the high quality of the maps makes it a reasonable proposition. Each one offers a great diversity of combat spaces that makes them feel more replayable than the original BF3 maps, so if you're itching to get into some excellent multiplayer action, Back to Karkand is a good bet.

Discussion

28 comments
doom-day
doom-day

Too bad this blog doesnt get updated anymore

Brean24
Brean24

They posted this 3 months ago, but still havent released a review...

chris010000
chris010000

@100proofsoco mine missed the shelf and wen't strait back to the store

GodOfSyn
GodOfSyn

@mad-at-nintendo You missed out on those maps back in 04, those were the bomb dude.

100proofsoco
100proofsoco

I love the fact that i bought this new on day 1 and they rewarded me with free stuff. I also bought MW3 on day 1 and got nothing free. Gee, what a shocker there. Guess which one is collecting dust on the shelf.

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

@systemgo baddie with sh1t comp. this game is a masterpiece and probably a one-in-a-lifetime experience as military games. nothing comes closer to reality than this, graphics are unbelivably beautiful and realistic. GAMEPLAY is amazing theyve put in every single details and omg 64players conquest games are a pure blast of fun and action. If you hate on this game you're deff not a man.

mad-at-nintendo
mad-at-nintendo

i have not played BF2, so i got 4 brand new maps for free. suck it old people!

vecryn
vecryn

from what I saw, the standard edition and limited edition were the same price. So if you have the standard edition when you could have gotten the limited for the same price then who's fault is that and what right do you have to complain about it?

foxglove1313
foxglove1313

sorry muzza93, but I have the standard edition, it does exist. I've also got a problem paying for something that should have been included in the over priced game in the first place. whine whine, etc etc.

muzza93
muzza93

Stop whining! There is no standard editions of BF3, they dont exist. They only sell limited edition, so these are free.

Agent-M
Agent-M

They need to take the time to redo some of the original maps that BF3 came with, some are just really awful. The maps are so huge but the control points are way too close to one another. Am I do only one is still wondering where the destructible environment the BF3 devs promised us is?

Sgthombre
Sgthombre

@kais112 Again, I'll pass on paying for maps I've already played to death.

kais112
kais112

@Sgthombre Yes but it's not just a copy and paste job it is a full remake only basic design is still the same.

gameking5000
gameking5000

$15 dollars for 4 old maps is a high price so I feel for those who didn't buy the limited edition.

kerrman
kerrman

I preordered BF3 and I still didn't get the Limited Edition. My EB was sold out, so don't know why everyone is saying well if you bought it day one blah blah blah.. Anyways, best map pack I've bought for any game ever, it's awesome stuff!

muzza93
muzza93

i havnt even seen the non-limited edition BF3 in shops, ever.

Rovelius
Rovelius

CoD offers you 5 maps, BF3 offers you 4 but with huge detail crammed in. I'd say they're even. However, $15 is still too much imo.

megakick
megakick

Expensive? It's free. You must have bought MW3 and skipped the BF3 day one purchse, your loss.

hasancakir
hasancakir

Actually 15 bucks is not a cheap price for a dlc even though add-ons and new maps are great. But if you bought the limited edition like me, it's a superb deal :)

Zumzier
Zumzier

Honestly it's a pretty good deal if you play the multiplayer, considering that CoD charges the same for JUST maps while in BF3 you get weapons, vehicles AND maps.

100proofsoco
100proofsoco

DLC like this should be free. Expansion Packs should be paid for.

maverick_76
maverick_76

Not liking that this is so expensive, would have been awesome if this was free for everyone.

Mar044
Mar044

i lost all hope i love bf series but sadly hacks and cheats are rampent and makes the game ruined, so i actually went back to single player. otherwise the maps were great, i like playing the classics, reminds me of better days of bf2

Nekromenos
Nekromenos

@Sgthombre Actually, the dlc includes: 1. 4 maps 2. 10 Assignments - basically achievements, each one unlocking you a new weapon. That totals 10 new weapons. 3. 3 new vehicles - STOVL jet, APC and a buggy 4. Various new dog-tags to show off with :) Free for those that bought the Limited Edition. $15 for the rest. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Sgthombre
Sgthombre

@mad_krips Thanks, but I'll pass on paying for four maps I have already played to death.

PayneKiller
PayneKiller

@Sgthombre yup that's exactly it, apparently. Call of Duty is rehashed but Back to Karkand I've heard is "what you call real DLC".

Sgthombre
Sgthombre

So when Activision charged $15 for five maps, a lot people were saying that they were over charging. But when EA charges $15 for four maps that are not at all new, people are fine with it? Haters keep hating.

SystemsGO
SystemsGO

Has anyone else been severely disappointed with this game? I played a good 10-15 hours at best, and still uninterested. I'm going to play the new maps, but I still feel disappointed, perhaps they're great.