A recent post on the Battlefield blog has outlined five of the nine maps that will ship with Battlefield 3 when it's released next week. As well as the now familiar 64-player Caspian Border map, Kharg Island introduces some massive desert environments and Grand Bazaar stages a tight infantry fight in the streets of central Tehran.
Read on for an overview of each map along with a few screens. For the sake of completeness I've thrown in the other four maps previous detailed by DICE, which includes a mountainous arena that lets attackers base jump onto defenders half a kilometre below.
Grand Bazaar(opens in new tab)
"Shotguns tend to be favoured" in this tight map sent in a Tehran shattered by two weeks of warfare, say DICE. It's a very short range map that's unlikely to support many (or any vehicles). The layout should be roughly symmetrical, however, which could make this a good map to start with. Like all of the multiplayer maps, the background fiction has US and Russian forces battling for control of the ancient city.
Seine Crossing(opens in new tab)
This map is split in two by the great river Seine, and will provide violent close quarter combat in the stairways and alleys that link the major roads, which themselves will be patrolled by tanks and, no doubt, snipers. DICE say that third floor buildings will be accessible to infantry, but the facades of each building can be brought down by concentrated explosive fire. That should be a fantastic showcase for Frostbite 2's destructible terrain tech. The final stage of the Rush version of Seine Crossing will take place in a bank, the largest indoor environment of the map, say DICE.
Noshahr Canals(opens in new tab)
The Noshahr Canals could prove to be the bleakest of Battlefield 3's nine maps, set as it is in a heavily industrialised harbour area, packed with cranes and shipping crates. It could be an interesting one for attackers, especially in Rush, when offensive forces start out on a boat, and must leverage a sense of suicidal bravery to attack the harbour using a fleet of smaller boats. DICE say the map expands as you play to feature "a mix of infantry, land vehicle, and boat" action.
Kharg Island(opens in new tab)
Kharg Island (or "Khaaaaarg!" if you prefer), is one of the few Battlefield 3 maps with boats. The island itself is a small, industrialised blob of earth off the coast of Iran. Rush battles will have attackers securing a beach on the mainland ahead of a wider assault on the island itself. The worst thing about coastline maps in Bad Company 2 were the snipers who crouched neck deep in the shallows like well-armed crocodiles, shooting players on islands hundreds of metres away with cold , lizardy dispassion. I'd expect more of the same in Battlefield 3. Snipers never change.
Caspian Border opened up to everyone for a weekend as part of the open beta recently, so many of you will have already sampled the strange feeling of being lost beneath dogfighting jets, and then occasionally killing the odd man you happen across. The size of the map is almost overwhelming, initially, but really shows the sense of scale the Frostbite 2 engine can manage. "Caspian Border is one of the obvious map choices if you are after the full vehicle experience, as base distances are generally too long to cover by foot," say DICE. It's sound advice. You can find yourself running for an age on a map that size.
Beta testers will be familiar with every inch of this tight, urban map set in the centre of Paris (including all those blank grey bits several metres under the floor). Operation Metro has many players worried that Battlefield 3 will lack the scale of Battlefield 2's maps. The frenzied grassy knolls of the opening section and the claustrophobic concrete metro sections felt too scrappy and opportunistic at times, though the the final areas in the wide open inner-city streets of the Paris Stock Exchange, were much stronger.
Tehran Highway(opens in new tab)
A night-time map set in the approach to Tehran, Rush encounters will start in the wide open hills, with plenty of vehicles, but grow gradually tighter as the fighting moves deeper into the city. Expect flashlights to play a big part of the inner-city fighting, while no doubt they'll only be good for attracting snipers on the long inward approach. The constant barrage of rockets firing across the sky should make for some spectacular views.
One of Battlefield 3's biggest maps. DICE boast that it's three times the size of Battlefield: Bad Company 2's biggest map, Atacama Desert. It's a sprawling desert arena set in the burning oil fields of Iran, full of construction sites and a crane that acts as a perfect perch for snipers. Skilled jet pilots should be able to take out these elevated campers with a well aimed strafing run. The video above from IGN gives us a good sense of the map's ridiculous scale, though it looks easier to navigate than the Caspian Border's leafy forests. DICE also mention that there's a sandcastle hidden away in one of these multiplayer maps. As the sandiest candidate, it could well be Operation Firestorm.
Damavand Peak(opens in new tab)
A mountainous map with the highest elevations to be found in any Battlefield map so far, say DICE. In Rush, attackers start at a peak overlooking a mining installation. A 500 metre descent is required to reach the lower structures, where fierce infantry fighting in the mining tunnel network will be complimented by an increasing number of vehicles in the external areas, which promise to widen up as the fight progresses.