E3 2012: We jump into one of the maps featured in the Close Quarters DLC.

Fans were surprised at Operation Metro’s debut as the first map that anyone was allowed to play for Battlefield 3. It lacked the traditional strengths of the series–large maps, vehicles, and a level of strategy higher than just man-on-man gunfights. After getting in a good hour on Scrapmetal, the new Close Quarters map being shown at E3, it’s leaving me with the same level of disorientation.

Scrapmetal is a small map consisting of two warehouses linked by a series of enclosed walkways. Flag captures happen much faster than on larger maps, but players can only spawn on squadmates or randomly. I managed to get my hands on most of the new weapons, but the standouts seemed to be the SPAS-12 shotgun and the LSAT light machine gun. The inadequacy of other weapons on the roster became apparent after a few short rounds. The ranges at which firefights are taking place in CQ negate the design of most class-specific guns. Engineers are armed for medium range, assault for long range, support for camping, and recon for super long range.

The main idea of Battlefield 3 is that when any of these classes play outside their role, they are at a disadvantage. When you bring everything into CQB, all weapons do their maximum damage and suffer little from weaknesses like recoil. The result is that all classes are forced into using powerhouses, like shotguns, or weapons with high rates of fire. Having all classes play virtually the same way, instead of inside their individual roles, negates the reason fans chose this franchise over competitors. The new mode Gun Master even appears to be a direct lift of the Gun Game from COD.

I also had time to test HD destruction and was left feeling the claims to be exaggerated. Many strategically placed walls either were indestructible or left an impassable skeleton behind when blasted with C4. At one point I found a good overwatch position overlooking a flag on a walkway. The window available to fire through was too narrow, and I planted C4 to widen the hole. The C4 detonated uselessly, both doing me no good and attracting a lot of enemy attention.

It’s clear that Close Quarters has also affected the vanilla game in ways that might not make sense on larger maps. After an interview with developers, it became apparent that claymores were recently patched to no longer persist after death because it broke the balance of Close Quarters. Unfortunately, there are many larger maps where persistent claymores are both fair and useful.

Battlefield has always been a strategic game with a rock-paper-scissors approach, and Close Quarters seems to be making everyone use scissors. Ultimately the success of Close Quarters will come down to fans’ willingness to stop thinking so strategically and just shoot opponents. It could be fun, but there’s one big question: Is this Battlefield? Operation Metro eventually won over a large fan base, and there’s plenty of room in the game for people who might not like heavy strategy. We plan on getting into the other new maps next week to see if there are more elements in Ziba Tower or Donya Fortress that bring back the strengths of the Battlefield 3 franchise. At the end of the day, Close Quarters has a bit of an identity crisis. Is it actually Battlefield, or Battlefield chasing a competitor’s market share?

By Aaron Sampson