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Battlefield 3 DLC Close Quarters: too close to Call of Duty for comfort?

Putting Battlefield 3's flexibility to the test

Battlefield. A shooter of wide-open expanses, of epic and occasionally spectacular vehicular combat. A game that lets you take a deep breath, fill your lungs with the dust of war, before getting lamped in the face by an aircraft. Well, forget that. This is Close Quarters. Chuck that sniper rifle right out.

If Back to Karkand was a wide-open game of horizons, Close Quarters could be seen as DICE proving the flexibility of their shooter. There are no vehicles at all - they'll be coming in the next DLC pack, in autumn. Instead, we've got a claustrophiliac's wet dream - tense, high-proximity combat with a fast respawn rate and heavy paranoia.

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The map we played was Donya Fortress, set around the courtyard of a palace. While blazing sunlight makes white tiles of the hub feel perilously exposed, as you're dashing from one side to the other, but the main battles will take place in the bombed-out two-story wreckage that surrounds it.

The smaller maps of Close Quarters mean that enemies players are never more than a gnat's handbag away from you, and to add to the oppressive atmosphere, the walls of the Donya Fortress are all around you. Don't expect to see many horizons in Close Quarters.

Adding to the pressure is the new mode, Conquest Domination. It's no game - tweaks is the most demeaning, but appropriate word. But they're tweaks that have been made to suit the more intimate teamwork. Control points are much more fickle, neutralised easily and swapping allegiances in seconds flat, which led to a chaotic back and forth until the shape of the map became clearer.

The three control points in Donya are all inside, with the courtyard a short cut that's open to fire from the bombed-out walls of the second floor that surrounds it. One point is on the second floor, with limited access from a walkway making it a solid place to dig in and defend. It's a tactic that's considerably less nerve-wracking than constantly checking your back in the darker corridors, but there's very little room for manoeuvre. Watch out for grenades.

Another point is in the basement under the courtyard, and another is tucked away on the ground floor, easily accessible from the courtyard. Both of these are tough to defend, so don't - move on, get another, and return when it's getting taken. Let the other team do the defending.

There's destruction, of course - and the pillars and tiles, and selected walls of the Fortress soon go the way of the rest of the building. Chipped, rubbled, and ruined. It seemed like a matter of visual spectacle on a map that's otherwise quite bland to look at, rather than a huge tactical point. But with some proper play, emergent tactics are bound to... erm, emerge.

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Close Quarters might be a world apart from the field-appeal of Battlefield, and closer to the Call of Duty run-and-gun, but it's refreshing enough once your purist gland stops throbbing. And besides, one thing that Close Quarters doesn't change is the need for teamwork. There's chaos as everyone gets used the the tweaked rules, the faster point captures, the respawn rules and the ever-present enemy, but new strategies quickly coagulate. The half-hour verdict is positive.

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