Treading different ground in 'Battlefield 3's' 'Armored Kill'

Battlefield 3's "Armored Kill" DLC experiments with superior firepower, but will infantry get left behind?

Battlefield 3 has always focused on vehicles. They've been a defining element of the series forever, they affect infantry in profound ways unrelated to high-speed projectiles, and they serve as a foil and a target for ordinance. But the upcoming "Armored Kill" DLC is more than focused — it's almost pornographically fixated on motorized death machines. It results in something that feels quite a bit different than previous Battlefield 3 DLC.

It might take a few minutes of careening over hills in tanks and armored vehicles to understand the basic strategic differences that "Armored Kill's" new mode, Tank Superiority, brings to Battlefield 3. It's only when an infantry player (possibly relegated to such because their teammates stole all the damned tanks from the spawn point) tries to fulfill the support roles on the new map in "Armored Kill" that the changed dynamics become apparent.

In a distinct shift from previous maps, Armored Shield is shaped somewhat like a fishbowl. Structures are downplayed and hills and craters break the otherwise smooth slope inward toward a single control point. Of course, there are some cover points where players on foot can cower in the face of the mechanized onslaught or get caught up in small scale firefights with the other team, but the real action happens at the bottom of the bowl around the sole, lonely flag.

Tank Superiority is basically Conquest mode from a rule perspective — each team has a set amount of tickets at the start of a match, a kill reduces the enemy's ticket count, and when one team holds the flag, the other team's score ticks downward. The thing is, Conquest mode forces a constant back and forth across the map between three points. Tank Superiority focuses up to 24 players around one point that never moves. The result is chaos.

Tank Superiority mode is chaos.

That chaos comes at a price. The pandemonium can be great, don't get me wrong. The constant explosions, the tank carnage, the carcasses of less agile, less fortunate vehicles strewn around the field, it more than lives up to the concept. But it unbalances the vehicle/infantry relationship that defines Battlefield.

Engineers in particular are set off-balance. The open, wide nature of the map leaves them at the mercy of enemy recon and vehicle fire from every direction should they try to, you know, do their job. Occasionally I was able to get a bead at a distance on an enemy tank separated from the pack, nail it with a rocket, and rush in to destroy it with my repair tool or kill the fleeing driver. But all of this happened away from the main fighting, mitigating any impact it could have had on the overall outcome of the match.

But Tank Superiority's differences do make for something a little different amidst a number of Battlefield 3 content releases that feel mostly the same from a pure play perspective. The fast death and constant fighting make for short matches that feel arcadey in comparison to Conquest or Rush. It's not the meal that other modes are, sure. But an appetizer or time-killer waiting for friends to jump on, well, maybe that's something Battlefield 3 could use.

"Armored Kill" will be out this September.

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