There's a pleasing finality to calling a DLC pack "End Game". It's been well over a year since Battlefield 3 was released, and we can now look back over five expansion packs and truly appreciate how that core game has evolved and expanded. It's a view as impressive as anything conjured up by the Frostbite 2 engine over the last 16 months.
End Game is an appropriate swansong, showcasing DICE's open warfare at its best. As always there are four new maps, but the connection between them is less obvious than in previous packs. Rather than being linked by the implied narrative of an earthquake, as in Aftermath, or by nostalgia, as in Back to Karkand, this quartet follows a broad seasonal theme.
Kiasar Railroad is the spring offering, an undulating plot of land with - as the name suggests - a railway line cutting through it. A road slices through in the other direction creating a simple but effective crossroad layout. There's a lot of gentle verticality in the terrain here, with a forest and mountain feel sloping down towards a coastal area. Capture points for Conquest take advantage of the various features dotted around, such as a waterside canoe centre, a gas station and a cargo area. Each offers plentiful cover with small building interiors for soldiers in need of a more sturdy hiding place.
Most shooter map packs take a pick-and-mix approach, offering up a variety of layout types, locations and styles in order to make you feel better about handing over your money. DICE has been doing something different with Battlefield 3, however, by designing each add-on around a specific theme or gameplay style.
Back to Karkand was the retro pack, bringing popular maps of old into the new rotation. Close Quarters was a blatantly obvious two-finger salute to Call of Duty, ditching the epic scope expected from Battlefield maps and instead offering a tight, fast, headshot-centric experience. Armored Kill was all about the tanks, baby.
Aftermath is the most thematically focused yet, feeling like it should come in a cardboard box with a crinkly plastic window and the words Tehran Earthquake Playset emblazoned across the front. This is a collection of four maps all based around the devastating Iranian tremor that played an important role in the game's campaign mode - a bold idea, and one that is sometimes as limiting as it is inspired.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the folks at Infinity Ward and Treyarch must be feeling pretty special right now. In retooling DICE's military multiplayer favourite as a direct competitor to reigning heavyweight champ Call of Duty, EA has constructed a package that echoes its rival in so many ways it's downright eerie. If Call of Duty is Bridget Fonda, then Battlefield just became Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the single-player campaign, which rather appropriately occupies a disc all to itself on the 360. Only tangentially related to the multiplayer side of the game, and more concerned with the sort of Hollywood heroics that propelled Activision's franchise to the top of the tree, it's remarkable just how badly it sells the Battlefield brand.
It opens, ominously enough, with a quick-time event. Press A to jump onto a train. Press the right trigger to display a non-interactive animation of our hero, disgraced marine Sgt Blackburn, beating up an enemy. Press B to dive out of the train window, then hammer A to climb onto the roof. And so on.