Review by ChemicalReaper

"Back to Boredom"

For those of you who may have, *ahem*, read my previous review on Battlefield 3, you'd know that I really wasn't impressed with the game. At all. As in, so unimpressed that I gave it a 1/10.

Back to Karkand isn't terrible. I'll start off with that. The problem for me, in reviewing and scoring this add-on, is that it's DLC for an already unplayable game. How do I remain objective? Do I rate Back to Karkand solely as a separate entity or as merely as a part of the whole Battlefield 3 experience?

I'll try to take both into consideration with my review: both it's merits and flaws as a separate entity, and as an expansion to the game.

B2K adds four classic maps from previous Battlefield games: "boldly reimagined in the Frostbite 2 engine," the developers claim. It seems not so much a "bold reimagining" as a "hey guys, EA executives called and said we need to crap out a $15 map pack to make them some quick extra money."

I pre-ordered Battlefield 3, you see, but cancelled that in favor of putting my $60 toward Skyrim (which, I might add, is a decision I do NOT regret in the slightest). But when I eventually bought Battlefield 3, I started getting bored with the default maps quite quickly. So I sprang for B2K. At first, I felt like I was completely ripped off. (And to some degree, I still do.) You see, when Rockstar gives us a $15 expansion, we get an entirely new game (see: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony, and Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare). And, although there are some more goodies than you get in your typical Call of Duty map pack, such as extra weapons and dog tags, there's really nothing substantial here.

The problem is that, if you're fed up with the vanilla maps, Back to Karkand will merely postpone your boredom for a little while. The four maps add some new playgrounds, but again -- it's only four. Since these are mostly just remakes of maps that have already been made in the past, DICE could have done so much more with it. Wake Island, Sharqi Peninsula, Gulf of Oman, and Strike at Karkand (from which the DLC derives its name). Even then, Wake Island's sandy beaches don't really offer much of a change of scenery from the maps that come with the default game: it's still dusty, sandy, tones of grey and brown, with very little in the way of actual island scenery. The other maps are even worse: they're all desert scenes, which eventually just blend into the same brown-on-brown-on-grey-on-brown as the maps that come with the base game.

In terms of challenges, there are some new weapons and corresponding dog tags. These weapons actually make you work a little bit for them: but if you're dedicated to one or two classes like I am, it won't take all that long to unlock the ones you're waiting for.

...I guess it shouldn't really be surprising to learn, then, that these fall into the same "Let's reward the player with overpowered weapons" crap that plagued the main game. The FAMAS is bad enough -- that's just the first of two weapons you'll unlock for the assault class! The L85A2 is terribly overpowered, despite the fact that it's practically a carbon copy of the M16/M4 models.

The Engineer class gets the ridiculously overpowered G53, which is - in real life - Heckler & Koch's upgraded MP5. In Back to Karkand, "upgraded" is interpreted as "fully-automatic sniper rifle with the stopping power of a .50 caliber handgun."

The Support class gets the QBB-95, and some other weapon, which are pretty much the same as the other support weapons. I don't have a problem with these.

Finally, Recon gets the QBU-88 (an absolutely terrible semi-auto rifle that makes the default Mk. 11 MOD-0 look like an exemplary 24k gold-plated rifle of kickassedness) and the L96, which rivals the .33 caliber stopping power of the M98B despite using the exact same standardized NATO round as almost every other sniper rifle in Battlefield 3.

And to add insult to injury, two of the games most insanely overpowered weapons can be unlocked for all classes (if the prerequisites are met). The PP-19 (a supposed 'personal defense weapon' with a firing rate of 900-million-freaking-bullets-per-second and the range of a full-size assault rifle) and the MK3A1, the only weapon that can rival the USAS-12 for the "most ridiculously, stupidly overpowered shotgun" award.

Did I mention that the MK3A1 can be upgraded to have 12G Frag Rounds, just like the USAS? Maybe there's something in the water in Sweden, but it's honestly like they looked at the game and said: "You know what would balance out the problem of shotguns with frag rounds? Another shotgun with frag rounds."

Well done, DICE -- you are the ultimate video game trolls.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 03/20/12

Game Release: Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand (US, 12/13/11)

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