The Back to Karkand expansion is the first of 5 expansion packs for Battlefield 3. Its primary focus is to bring reworked favourite maps featured in battlefield 2 to the new game. It was originally available as a pre-order bonus for battlefield 3 and was later released as DLC. I’ve been playing B2K for a few weeks now and have thoroughly gone through everything. But the story begins with a tale of troubles I had getting it to run in the first place.
As soon as I started to play the new expansion, I noticed that it was consistently crashing with a frequency that was not only alarming but also as regular and predictable as a German train timetable. My attempts to make the game run stable were met with deep and unyielding resistance, so I turned to the Battlefield forums for assistance. Surely, Dice had some answers, and so it was thus. The first tips were pretty standard. Check you meet the system req’s, check you don’t have hardware faults etc, then it got interesting. Dice recommends if all the above are checked OK that you modify the windows user and kernel space memory partitioning so it favours more user space memory addresses, and this is where my problems really started.
I was running Windows 7 professional x86 with an openSUSE 12.1 secondary partition in a dual boot configuration, but when I tried to enter the commands to set the memory partitioning in the Windows boot loader I was informed that the boot loader could not be found. Personally I blamed GRUB for not doing its job properly so I tried to restore BCD to the boot sector. The commands reported back success and I was happy… for about 10 seconds.
The following reboot showed I had been lied to. How dare my computer LIE to me! So having lost my temper, patience, and my promise of 72 virgins for the profanity that was exiting my mouth, I backed up all my data and grabbed my copy of Windows 7 pro x64. 4 hours later, after a full wipe and reinstatement of everything digital I hold precious (oh and that’s a new personal best), I was ready to download BF3 and try again. Still no joy! Again, with some profanity and my entrance to hell as a VIP now confirmed, I turned to Dice and the Battlefield forums once again. At this point we are at the final troubleshooting step: “update the graphics card bios” now ordinarily I would scoff at such a frankly irresponsible piece of advice, but I felt confident. A couple of hours googling and reading some very informative (but as we are going to discover, wrong) advice I flashed a bios to my beloved 9800 GTX+. This was the second most expensive mistake I have ever made in my life. I won’t tell you what the first is, but it was pretty epic, many thousands of dollars epic. The lesson to be learnt here, boys and girls, is if someone tells you to upgrade the bios on your graphics card as a solution to a problem, they are a blithering idiot, and you have my full permission to smack them in the face and cut off their genitals.
So 3 days and £130 later, we return with a brand new and very un-shinny (the heat sink cover has a matt paint job) EVGA GTX 560. With some fiddling and tweaking of my PC’s bios settings I finally corrected the problem (which was related to overheating RAM), and we were good to go.
So what do you get in Back to Karkand? There are 4 new maps (well I say new, really, they are old), 10 weapons from Battlefield 2, 2 land vehicles, a VTOL jet and a little yellow digger which is the comedy element.
The maps themselves are very urban orientated, and also, all but Gulf of Oman and Sharqi Peninsula are more suited to Rush or Conquest Assault game modes. I also found that none of the maps are all that memorable, aside from a couple of conquest matches I’ve had on Sharqi, which were as epic and amazing as any game I’ve had on Caspian Border (and I love Caspian Border).
The weapons are all very so-so, but if I had to pick a favourite, it would be the Famas. For me, the best addition in Back to Karkand is the F35 VTOL jet. It’s ability to stop and hover over a position and release a torrent of Vulcan cannon rounds on the scared and running enemy below is not only a tactical advantage but also had me laughing manically like I was possessed by Satan himself .
Another addition in B2K is the achievement system, which will be expanded upon in all future expansions and in Battlefield premium. Unlike similar systems in games like Call of Duty, the objectives can mostly be obtained through just playing the game. I particularly liked that the L96 sniper rifle can be unlocked by this very method. All the new weapons are unlocked in this fashion, and I found that being rewarded for just having fun was very satisfying. I also found that the unlock system actually began to encourage me to try different tactics and styles of play, so I could obtain some of the more class or weapons specific tasks.
Overall, is Back to Karkand worth the money? No, not really. At $15 (or £12) it’s too expensive for what you get. Also, with this map pack, Dice have failed to show what the Frostbite 2 engine is really capable of. Combine that with the fact that most of the included maps don’t play very well in Conquest mode – which is the de facto mode for the hard core – and the new vehicles are map specific, you end up with a white elephant of an expansion. Also, with Battlefield premium being launched this week you would be better off purchasing that and getting B2K, Close Quarters and all the premium specific benefits (including all future DLC early and free), but at £40 (or $50) that in itself is very expensive and in my case more than I paid for the game to start with. Although, I can’t bash it too hard, because I do have a premium account but only for the purposes of being able to get reviews early.
Back to Karkand is a disappointment. I regret bugging Editor Kenny to get me a copy and I wouldn’t recommend it to a casual Battlefield player. But, because it is included as part of Battlefield Premium alongside Close Quarters, if you have no desire to spend your cash on anything else, and you play Battlefield to the point where your girlfriend has left you, it will serve as good bragging ammo.