Lots of content, but less players. Decisions...
Gone are the days where game developers give out expansion packs and additional maps for free. In a tight market, money talks, and if you want to play the new Battlefield 3 content, Battlefield 3 Premium Pack is what you need. You will be able to buy most of its content separately too, of course, but the bundle is definitely the best option if you think you'll be buying the lot.
If you are willing to shell out the $59.95 for the PC version ($79.95 for the PS3 and 4000 Microsoft points / about $80 on Xbox 360) for the downloadable pack you will get some immediate joy and the promise of more to come: -
Overall this represents 20 new multiplayer maps. In addition to this, the pack promises 20 new weapons, 10+ new vehicles, 4+ new game modes, 30+ assignments, and over 20 new dog tags. It does not end here either; you also get premium-only Camouflage Gear, a one of a kind ACB-90 knife (in the game...), and access to tactical and tutorial videos from the developers. The final carrot is the special double experience point events to level your soldier quicker, and the priority queuing that premium players get.
One of the early criticisms of the original game was the lack of close-in multiplayer maps that were brutal and quick. The new Close Quarters infantry-only pack certainly responds to this and does so in spades.
The scrap metal and tower maps we found particularly challenging; speed and constant movement meant that victory positions were continually changing hands. The Ziba Tower is particularly tight, with combat over three levels of apartments and business offices on top of a city tower.
The maps included in this pack also have enhanced terrain destruction effects. Blasting out huge panes of glass was particularly satisfying, however be aware that what you thought was solid cover can be quickly blown away.
Included in the Close Quarters pack is two new game modes. There is gun master, and conquest domination. The latter revolves around the standard capture the flag, but includes quicker capture rates than normal and random spawning. Gun master - similar to a classic Counter-Strike mod - is a bit quirky, with players starting with pistols and then with multiple kills being rewarded better weapons you finally end up at the last set with a knife. All good, if you are an overachiever, but cannon fodder players need to be aware this is where the big boys play and they play hard!
There is no doubt about it, this is quite a comprehensive pack and, considering the contents, it is priced very reasonably. So should you buy it? Well, if you are a hardcore fan of the game, yes definitely. Your online buddies will be doing the same and, if you want to team up in the future, the new maps are a must have. You also get access to the new content ahead of people who purchase it separately, giving you a key advantage when it comes time to learning the ropes.
But - and this is a big but - the online player base has dropped off considerably from launch, with less and less matches available to play in. If you are anything but a big fan, will this tempt you back into the game? For a lot of people, we are betting no. We could be wrong but our bet is a lot of people have moved on.