Battlefield 4's first genuinely new expansion arrives today (if you're a BF Premium member, that is...) but I've been lucky enough to sample all four maps ahead of time. In fact, I captured a bunch of footage at the event, and edited it into a kill montage to give you a flavour of each map. So, here's gameplay from all kinds of modes on Altai Range, Dragon Pass, Silk Road and Guilin Peaks. Take a look.
How are the maps? Well, Silk Road is the pick of the bunch. On tighter modes like Domination and Team Deathmatch the base area that you fight in is well designed; full of blind corners and open firing lines. It's a lethal, meat-grinder of a map. On larger modes like Conquest, it really opens up letting you drive tanks and ride quad-bikes across undulating sand dunes. Visually, it's very different to other BF4 maps too, which makes it a stand-out.
Guilin Peaks is great for close-quarters combat (it's a pair of mountains, shot-through with twisting cave areas), but doesn't work as well on a larger scale. It really is all about the caves... Dragon Pass is a reimagining of the BF2 classic Dragon Valley, and works well on larger-scale modes. There's a great mix of open jungle, close-quarters, and even river-based action. The smaller map, though, is a fairly ordinary base area that isn't as well designed as Zavod 311.
Finally, Altai Range is a massive open map, set on top of a rubble-strewn mountain. It's fun for aerial combat, and the size will appeal to snipers, but it's too difficult to traverse on foot. The small version sees players fighting over a central observatory, and it's... fine. The problem with Altai Range is that it's too grey--both in terms of colour palette and personality. For me, it's the least accomplished of the new maps.
China Rising is out now for Battlefield 4 Premium subscribers, and 17 December for everyone else.