Battlefield 3: Close Quarters preview: Scaling Ziba Tower

Electronic Arts laid out a rough roadmap for the future of Battlefield 3‘s multiplayer mode last week at the 2012 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. Three DLC packs are planned for release in the days ahead, with the first of them being the Close Quarters map pack. That one’s set for a June release; Armored Kill and End Game will follow.

DICE is taking a themed approach with each of the content releases. End Game, set for a “winter” release — that could mean late this year or early next — is still something of a mystery, but Armored Kill is a vehicle-centric offering of multiplayer maps while Close Quarters serves up tighter quarters for its infantry-only showdowns. EA and DICE gave members of the press an opportunity to check out one of the Close Quarters maps — Ziba Tower — at a GDC party last week.

It should be mentioned right here at the outset that the team deathmatch lobbies that we were tossed into during the event aren’t representative of the full “Ziba Tower” map. The space you have to work with apparently grows in Conquest and Rush match-ups.

The TDM version of “Ziba Tower” is quite small overall. It’s set on the top stories of a skyscraping luxury hotel, with a large, open outdoor pool area walled in on three sides by two stories worth of interiors. A balcony circles the pool area from above, offering plenty of sniping opportunities for both down below and across the way.

Of course, if you’re toting around a sniper rifle on the “Ziba Tower” map, then you’re doing it wrong. Snipers need some serious backup in the form of close-range support fire, since the interior’s tight hallways and small rooms will more often than not suddenly put you face to face with a member of the opposing team. Shotguns and SMGs are much more the order of the day here, or a big, beefy LMG that you can use to spray bullets across an entire room.

I enjoyed running around the “Ziba Tower” map, even if it did feel like it would be more at home in a Call of Duty game. The team deathmatch-only lobbies certainly didn’t help. You definitely lose a sense of the epic scale that you get in BF3‘s other maps, but the frantic gameplay in Ziba is bolstered considerably by the insanely destructible environments. Bullets will chew through both furniture and walls inside the building, opening up sightlines on the interior for longer-range shooters as each match wears on.

“Ziba Tower” is just one of the four maps included in the Close Quarters pack, which also adds 10 new weapons (the AUG is one of them), 10 new Assignments and five new dog tags to the game. EA and DICE made an odd choice here, building the first newly announced BF3 map pack release around tighter quarters. The epic scale is traded away for more intense action; fans of the infantry-only “Operation Metro” map will probably love “Ziba Tower” and the other three maps that accompany it.

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