I've been playing Battlefield 3 for a year now, and so far have really enjoyed my stay on the game. Even the extreme disappointment of Armoured Kill and the underwhelming Close Quarters/Call of Duty Quarters DLC's couldn't sway my view that the core BF3 multiplayer is probably my favourite of all games. It makes you feel like a real soldier, with team work and objectives, where you don't mind going negative 500 in your kill/death ratio, as long as you blow up that final MCOM station. But I have been wanting a great piece of DLC to add to the maps I already play. Sure you could add maps from Armoured Kill like Alborz Mountains or Armoured Shield to your conquest rotation (if you don't mind the limited gameplay seeing as the console version is so sparsely populated and frustrating at times), but you certainly can't add them to your rush rotations, and you definitely cannot add any maps from Close Quarters to your server due to the limited amount of players allowed to play on them.
Then came Aftermath. After annoying downloading the 2 gig update last week, and then seeing another 2 gigs worth of maps waiting in the DLC, I almost shuddered at the near-20 gigabyte space BF3 takes up on my 360 hard drive and wondered if the maps were worth it. Boy am I glad I continued. Aftermath is, without a doubt, the BEST DLC the game has so far. Period.
I luckily had a couple of friends who were equally crazy about BF3 as I was downloading the maps at the same time. We entered a hardcore server, and from the first time you enter, you go "Wow..." and your mouth hangs open and perhaps a little bit of drool leaks out. Maybe an orgasm. Definitely some illegible ecstasy grunts. The maps look gorgeous. Unlike Armoured Kill, where it seems DICE just plonked default clusters of houses into open areas, the maps of Aftermath hark back to the lived in and realistic scenery of classic maps such as Operation Metro and Damavand Peak. There are massive highrises, tunnels, breath-taking mosques and palaces and just so many pathways through the urban terrain.
The first impression I got was that I was fighting in what could only be the love child of Fallout 3 and Battlefield 3. Being paradropped from a helicopter onto a crumbling highrise and picking off engineers making their way through the scrambled streets below, it really did feel like I was in a resistance or guerrilla force trying to hold a post-nuclear city. The maps are all designed to look like they've been hit by a massive earthquake (in line with the game's storyline), although in the map Epicentre, the earthquakes are still rolling! I'm not sure if they can topple buildings etc seeing as we were only on the map for a short time (we handily defeated the opposition in quick-smart time) but every so often, an earthquake will stop the hectic fighting, everyone will stand around and watch as objects and vehicles bobble around, undoubtedly saying to themselves "Damn! That was freaking awesome!" There are huge cracks in the ground and crumbled decay everywhere. It truly is urband warfare at its finest. The choke points and intense firefights are back, but don't discount vehicular manslaughter! One of the maps, which recreates a maze of markets, doesn't have vehicles (at least not for the game modes I played with), but the rest have vehicles and various difficulties of driving through the map with them; some are so cramped that driving a jeep through the centre of the map is tantamount to suicide, while others allow armour to dominate and makes for a frightening experience for ground troops who turn a corner and find themselves face to face with a tank!
The ruins and decay also make for great vantage points and nooks. So much so, that it almost makes other maps from the original rotations seem limited in their options to hide and set up traps. There are ledges, walkways, windows, roofs, tunnels, balconies... the list goes on and you feel like you could play on a map for hours and still end up finding new places to hide, new routes to take and new tactics to employ. With so many routes, games of conquest are frantic, with flags being exposed to multiple entry points, while still allowing an intense fight if you have a decent squad. Rush, although on a couple of the maps it feels a bit smaller in scale, is still a viable option and really showcases some of the best scenery of the maps as you push through to new areas. Conquest is perfect for the Aftermath DLC, and so is team/squad deathmatch. Unlike the Close Quarters DLC, the new maps retain enough size and Battlefield-feel to avoid seeming like a Call of Duty-wannabe, but still really place an emphasis on infantry/light vehicle based play.
The new Scavenger mode is a weird sort. Imagine a cross between Gun Master and Close Quarter's Domination modes. You start with a pistol and must search the surrounding area for better guns. At the same time, you must capture flags around the map, which basically determines if you win or not. I'm not sure if it's based on kills or how many flags you control, but over time you begin to see better guns on the map (the have level 1,2 ,3 etc above them). I'm also not sure if the gun spawn points are random, or if they're predetermined, but it's fun to search every nook and cranny for that great gun which will give you the edge. If you're lucky, you might even find the crossbow on the map (usually you have to complete a series of assignments before you can unlock it and its parts in full). The crossbow is a strange weapon (following a similar strange feel as the modified vehicles you can find and drive). I'm fairly sure it's a one-shot kill, but it takes a long time to reload and feels very strange and light in hand, probably due to the lack of recoil and sound as you fire. So it is unclear how useful it will be compared to sniper rifles, but with the upgrades ranging from high explosives to sniper bolts and the like, you can help but go "It's a friggin' crossbow. In a Battlefield game. AWESOME!"
So if you pick up one piece of DLC for Battlefield 3, make it Aftermath. It has everything going for it. New weapons, new vehicles, new modes, new maps, new achievements, new assignments. The maps look fantastic. Probably the best I've seen in an online shooter. The flow and choke points and pace of the maps is perfect. They offer something for everyone. For the sniper who likes to camp, to the run and gun sort, to the vehicular master, you will love the new maps. And finally, I can add to my server four new maps that can be played on any game mode. Excellent. Aftermath is a cool, hard 10/10.