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Battlefield 2 Review

publisher: EA
developer: Digital Illusions
genre: Shooters

PIV-1700, 512MB RAM, 128MB video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Jun 21, 05
» All About Battlefield 2 on ActionTrip

When Battlefield 1942 came out several years ago, it managed to do something that only one other game (well, mod really) accomplished (you know I'm talking about Counter-Strike, right?), and that is to offer a unique abbreviation of the standard online shooter gameplay. Literally over night, the game became a huge hit as people started getting hooked on the versatile combat that was presented in DICE's now legendary PC title. While the original game had a rocky start in terms of server support and the stability of the net code, EA had the foresight to help out financially, and this allowed DICE enough incentive to fine-tune the original game to perfection.

Then EA, as you know, did what EA does (Evil things? -Ed.)- they created a bunch of expansion packs. Some were good and some were not so good, but the core gameplay remained as fun as ever. Then came the first 'sequel' ... or was it really a sequel? Battlefield: Vietnam was developed by DICE Canada, and while it wasn't a bad game (far from it), it didn't click with the Battlefield community all that well. Being a good friend of some seriously hardcore Battlefield fanatics, I can tell you that most decided to just stick with the original.

Then somewhere along the way, DICE was bought by EA, and then EA bought Trauma Studios, the guys behind the insanely popular Battlefield 1942 mod, set in modern-day and centered around the Gulf War conflict. The title of the mod is Desert Combat (I'm sure some of you have heard of it), and you might call it a close relative of Battlefield 2.

Right after the work on Battlefield 2 was done (by DICE Sweden mind you), EA decided to shut down Trauma Studios. You can always say that that's just a coincidence, but if we take into account EA's past history of business practices, one would have to think otherwise.

But then, not all of this has to do with my job at hand, and that is to review the first proper sequel to Battlefield 1942 ... or at least that's how the EA PR machine hails Battlefield 2 anyway.

Unlike Desert Combat, Battlefield 2 centers on a fictitious conflict where three military superpowers, the US, the Middle Eastern Coalition (MEC), and China are pitted against each other in an all-out struggle for supremacy and world domination.

I could go into details in regards to the game's basics and how it all plays, but suffice it to say, if you've ever played a game of Battlefield in your life, you'll feel right at home with Battlefield 2. The interface might seem a bit swankier and the tunes slightly different, but the core remains the same.

So let's concentrate on the important stuff instead. What is the important stuff? On the surface, Battlefield 2 might not seem at all different from previous BF games. So in essence, if you're expecting that the sequel will revolutionize the sub-genre in the way that Battlefield 1942 revolutionized the shooter field when it came out, you might as well give up on that idea right now. It did not happen.

*However* that is not to say (far from it in fact) that Battlefield 2 doesn't advance the franchise in any way, or that DICE Sweden should be blamed for not revolutionizing it enough. The new graphics engine they've created especially for this game, along with the awesome new sound engine, are certainly a major step forward for the franchise. As far as the gameplay goes, let me ask you this: Why fix something that isn't broken? Essentially, it all boils down to this question. They did improve the gameplay with great (albeit subtle) touches, but they did not mess with the skeleton, they didn't touch the core gameplay.

I for one don't blame them for this. For someone who hasn't played much of Desert Combat, I can tell you that the modern weapons and machines of war were a refreshment over the propeller planes and slow, clanking tanks of WWII.

Of the two new classes that were introduced in the game (Special Forces, and Support Class), I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that DICE Sweden hit the Jackpot with the former. I absolutely loved playing the Special Forces class, being very maneuverable and with a gun that combines the rate of fire of an SMG and the penetration power of an assault rifle. Not to mention, of course, that I could mark targets and best of all, rig tanks, artillery installations, and radars with remotely detonated C4 explosives. The maneuverability of the Special Forces class offers many possibilities for the player. He can defend command posts well by cornering tanks and rigging them with C4 before they knew what hit them, or play as a saboteur and go behind enemy lines to deal damage to enemy's military infrastructure. The Support Class also has its uses but I didn't find it as fun to play as the Special Forces.

Another thing about the Special Forces class is that it closely ties in to the new sprint option. You sprint by double tapping the forward key (usually the 'W' key) and by doing so your stamina bar goes down. Well, the thing about the Special Forces is that they can run long and fast, making a skilful foot soldier very viable on the battlefield. Not to mention that the sprint option and the intuitive way it was handled will be irreplaceable when the action heats up.

Another noticeable improvement over the old game is the addition of a much more intuitive communication system that naturally complements the voice over IP option that's been implemented in the game. By pressing the 'Q' key and selecting an option from the on-screen menu, you can warn your squad mates of incoming hostiles, have the medic patch you up, get your armor repaired by an engineer, etc. The system is conceived so that it works well on the fly, while you're fighting the enemy, and it does its job perfectly.

Then there is the option to apply for the commander position. Another great addition to the game that ties in with the new RPG-like character progression system that lets you advance through the ranks and gain notoriety on ranked game servers. After each match, the commander of the winning team will get twice as many points. In return, he'll be in charge of issuing orders, calling for artillery strikes as well as supply crates and UAVs. I applied a couple of times and got the position of Commander for reviewing purposes and I can tell you that I didn't fare so well. It was hard for me to keep track of things, as I didn't find the mini-map visual indicators clear enough. Being a Commander is definitely not easy and it takes practice to be one. If you're really lousy at it, the other players can initiate a mutiny and vote you off the position.

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9.0   Excellent

A refined version of the original game - the devil is in the details, fun to play, great new graphics and audio engines;

Single player in general, no real breakthroughs in gameplay, initial map loading takes too long, choppers are a bitch to fly, minor visual glitches with the shadows.


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