I’ll admit, I haven’t played Battlefield 3 solidly since launch. Annoyed with the port and depth and scale of the original maps, I had a bitter taste in my mouth having my most cynical estimations proved true. Karkand did a lot to remedy this, with larger, more spaced out maps and increased balance in vehicular combat, so whilst BF3 began to grow on me, it still hadn’t proved itself.

Following the announcement of Battlefield Premium, it became clear that DICE and EA were willing to patch in aspects of the game that gamers felt were missing. Is Close Quaters one of those aspects? Perhaps not… I mean… not exactly. The thing is, Battlefield 3 plays insanely differently on each different platform. The console versions require different tactics in smaller teams, and since aiming with a gamepad is a different experience, balancing guns within themselves is also pushed further to balance between PC and console; a change made on one system might not react well with the other, and so on (I am not implying cross platform gameplay).

This map looked pretty, but was a bit of a free-for-all. 

Close Quaters is a good example of this cross-platform balancing. A much smaller – albeit no less frantic – expansion, gamers would be forgiven for thinking Close Quaters is ‘console DLC’ where Karkand was ‘PC DLC’. I’m not going to get into that argument so much, but what I can say is that Close Quaters flat out doesn’t work with 64 players. Spawn: die. Spawn: die. Rinse, repeat. It’s chaos. Then again, that might be your idea of fun – but it isn’t mine.

That said, playing Close Quaters with 16 players, 8 each side, works really nicely. The maps are large with many different passageways. They’re very square and rounded, much like a good Call of Duty map – unlike the Medal of Honor reboots layout. And that really hits the nail on the head when it comes to Close Quaters: It’s a better Call of Duty than Call of Duty is, and I suppose that’s what it’s there for.

The ability to see clearly will be a later DLC package

Featuring only 3 maps, one of which is an industrial mess, DICE take us back to the days when we weren’t rushing for the closest vehicle to hitch or ditch a ride; this potentially skill based, intimate experience is really only as good as the server you’re on, with the players you face.

The problem is, Battlefield 3 is prone to some very unsporting trends. Too many claymores in the narrow corridors to get easy kills; too many RPG’s firing down hallways. Too many people playing Engineer. Why play anything else? The engineer is a one man army, equipped with all the weapons to basically dominate the map. That’s the problem with Close Quaters, Battlefield 3 wasn’t created for this kind of game-play… it isn’t balanced for it.

There are some who will argue that you can over-come anything with skill, but it’s still anyone to be constantly hit with cheap kills – and if you do well there’s a high chance you’ll just be accused and banned for hacking. It’s a very odd place indeed, Battlefield 3.

That English only thing never did go away…

That said, Close Quaters played right is immensely fun. I put on some Motörhead, got a cup of tea ready, and set out to work – to kill people and cap points. When everyone’s playing ball, going for the skill shots, Close Quaters nearly manages to pull itself off. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll always feel like you’re playing a bizarre, scaled down and quaintly half-assed effort to appease console Call of Duty fans, but there’s something to be said for facing man to man, gun to gun, without having to worry about running for ages or getting blown up by an Apache. The problem, as stated, is you still have to worry about all the other crap.

Second to that, the Battlefield 3 team have painstakingly appeased the demographic, balancing guns to a point where they really don’t feel or shoot any differently, at least not in any meaningful way. In literally close quarters, all you have to do is face them and shoot; I got an “Accuracy Ribon” for literally doing just that: running in, blind, shooting everyone.

The maps aren’t very varied but they are very pretty. There’s not nearly as much destruction as the promos pointed out, with most of it cosmetic, and by the end of the game the entire place looks torn apart to an almost ridiculous degree. It feels mindless, and the only way to fix that is to play on smaller servers, with more tactical players.

“Own more with Battlefield 3 Premium”

I have to wonder if they mean own as in materialistically own, or own as in dominate – because the only perks given to you actually seem to indicate the former. You get more content, but nothing that will give you a tactical advantage (a good thing I guess). When you kill someone, they see that you have a Battlefield 3 Premium key because it says it under your name, to make you feel special. It doesn’t really work though, as nearly everyone seems to have it.

There are clearly perks, though, such as saving money on the DLC – and whilst I didn’t seem too enthusiastic for Close Quaters, it’s because it wasn’t really for us. If you haven’t bought Karkand, and you want the other 4 eventual expansions, then there’s clearly money to be saved. It’s a good investment for those of you who feel you’ll be playing Battlefield 3 for a long time.

The key features top selling point is obviously early access to all five expansions, but some of the others aren’t exactly useful. For instance, the ominous “powerful new features” isn’t powerful in any way that’d make you more powerful, they’re just some tweaks to Battlelog. The exclusive Online Double XP Events are also useless unless you want to run your diary by EA, and the Insider Tactics are videos designed to teach you how to play – but we already know how to play Battlefield 3, put an IR scope on an RPG and fire claymores into the eyes of the enemy from a shotgun, right? Something like that.

^Internet celebrity right there. Check out that sick Premium bar.

In reality, what you’re looking at with Battlefield 3 Premium is bragging rights which don’t really exist, since it’s not exactly hard to come by (all you do is spend money, it’s like bragging about a loaf of bread) and, of course, all of the expansions.

Let’s be totally fair, though – the expansions are large and varied and each one will introduce new weapons, vehicles etc. Sure, Close Quaters was a kind of sucky one-off, Armored Kill looks fantastic, and if Aftermath and End Game are even half as good, you’ll be happy to have paid up front almost a full year in advance, watching your account bloat and your wallet not shy away with more Battlefield goodness.

The full Premium Features chart is pasted below: