Review by By Neal
July 21, 2005
"Hell is other people"
Multiplayer war games tend to confirm both of
these adages. Having 15 teammates madly bunny-hopping around flags,
camping planes, teamkilling, and jacking rides makes for some
demented gameplay. Battlefield 2, the third in EAís Battlefield
series, tries to craft a workable way to meld a loose association of
far-flung gamers into an effective fighting team. You see, thereís
more to gaming than running down a teammate to get to a plane
firstóthere is indeed a thrill and substantial level of
gratification in assembling a squad of varied soldiers, advancing
toward the enemy, healing, resupplying, laying covering fire,
and winning a flag by assault.
You know the drill, gameplay is essentially
the same as the first Battlefield game. BF2 encompasses present day
warfare with the same overall style and technique as its
predecessors. Three sides at war, the Chinese, a Middle Eastern
coalition, and the USA. Each side has seven soldier types and several
aircraft, armor vehicles, and transport vehicles. I find it
disappointing that the vehicles are so similar and balanced that
thereís no distinct advantage to flying an Super Cobra (where's the Apache?) over a
Chinese "WZ-10" (which apparently is a Chinese rip-off of the Apache). I would prefer giving the vehicles and weapons more
realistic capabilities and balance the gameplay by automatically
limiting the number of players with the best weapons. You would
suppose the US weapons are superior to the Chinese and Middle
Eastern armies, and could be offset by greater numbers or better logistical
advantages. Certainly would add to the strategy and tactics
The game is played on twelve maps and the
fighting takes places in urban locales, the countryside, marshlands,
oil refineries, and a showpiece map featuring a partially
constructed dam. The maps are auto-scaled to match the number of players
so a map for a 64-player game would be larger than the same map for
a 32-player game. Single player is limited to 16-players, I would
consider it as practice mode for brushing up on flying. Where's the
fun capping bots?
The game intro is thrilling with a touch of
humor. Strains of the olí Battlefield 1942 anthem punctuate the
action but thatís about the only music worth mentioning. There is
game loading and after-action music (Chinese banjos?) but it doesnít
fit with the game. Whereas the Battlefield anthem was stirring,
compelling, and martial, the Battlefield 2 themes are not.
The most significant innovations BF2 brings to
the series are the Team Commander mode and Squads. Forming a squad
increase objective awareness and cooperation. I've been in several
squads that operated like a real unit--covering each other,
surrounding a flag, mounting up and racing to the next.
Additionally, the Squad leader serves as a mobile spawn point,
greatly increasing the ability for the squad to pour it on by quick
and close respawning. At the outset of
a battle, a player can apply for the Commander role for his side. The
Commander can use a host of tools and support features to augment
the work of his troops on the ground. He has real-time map info that
can be zoomed down to see individual players. It's like being God,
or a CIA operative somewhere covert. He can issue a scan
and bright red blips pinpoint every enemy soldier, which he can
click on to alert nearby allied troops (if they are paying
attention). He can rain down artillery fire on enemy positions with
devastating effect. Another tool is the UAV (unmanned aerial
vehicle) drone which highlights enemy positions for all the troops
to see. Used intelligently, the Commander role can position a side
to sweep the map.
The old fixed medic and ammo lockers are
goneónow the only way for a player to be healed or get more ammo are
through assistance from the Commander, Medic, and Support soldier.
Medics can dispense healing packs and defibrillate dead comrades
back to life but beware, the life of a Medic is hazardous. Enemy
troops relish taking out the guys with paddles in their mitts.
The Support soldier packs extra ammo which he can share with other
player. Finally, squads can communicate with the Commander and
request resupply which the Commander sends in the form of a crate
dropping in by parachute. The crate heals, repairs, and replenishes
ammo making it the most important function of the Commander.
BF2 awards points for individual effort in
addition to capturing flags. Players who resupply and heal teammates
get additional credit. Get promoted and additional weapons become
available. Victims of teamkillers can choose to punish
the teamkiller, or forgive. All these factors are combined into
player ranking. Even with these enhancements some of the same
frustrations you lived with in BF42 or BF Vietnam still exist. You
still have to put up with planecampers, teamkillers, and guys who
jump in a helo or jeep and race away leaving three or four teammates
to hoof it down the road. It would be ideal if Dice could add a
function that allows servers to reject low ranking players from
joining so you could ensure a server would have more capable and
less idiotic players.
biggest battle a fledgling BF2 player will face are the system
requirements to play the game. Nothing but a top flight graphics
card will even start the game. To the dismay of many older card
owners, the game will not even boot upóit displays the load screen
and then flashes black and youíre back to your desktop with no
explanation. Donít ask, donít tell, indeed. GeForce4 cards donít
even have the option of scaling back the graphics options to play.
The ReadMe cautions that the game requires
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 or ATI Radeon 8500 and up. Ya want the
good-lookin' games, ya gotta bring the goods.
Assuming you have the hardware to run
Battlefield 2, the graphics are outstanding, impressive, and totally
believable. The water textures are spot on and the buildings and
vehicles are great--highly detailed, much closer to photographic
quality than previous Battlefield games. Iím beginning to wonder how
much better computer game graphics can get. The game runs without a
hitch using an nVidia 6600GT with the settings at high. The only
complaint I would register is several maps have too much fog and
visibility restrictions. This is especially annoying when piloting a
Battlefield 2 backs up the graphics with very
good sound effects. The usual explosions, arms fire, jet and helo
engines, and tank sounds envelop the player. Other notable sounds effects
include panting (when you run short of stamina) and the way your
footsteps sound when traversing different types of terrain. Good
attention to detail.
BF2 includes Voice over IP. The only
thing worse than playing with a smacktard is having to listen to
him. Especially if he has an accent you cannot decipher, even more
so if he sounds about 14-years old. If you can get in with a group
of mature players who will use it correctly and sparingly, it could
be fun and useful.
Iíve heard a lot of complaining about the
in-game browser but it does not seem to be a problem with me. There
are times when it appears slow to respond but generally it works.
There are filters that allow you to weed out servers with zero
players, servers using a different version of the game, etc. I would
like to know what happened to the "Favorites" filter, that was
handy. The game takes a good two minutes to load, which I suppose is
slightly less than outright unbearable. Whoís going to argue a
complex game should load faster than is possible. Still, wish it was
BF2 soldiers now have two modes of foot
travelówalking and sprinting. Sprinting really moves you along but
you are limited to how far you can sprint. A stamina meter lets you
know how much energy you have for sprinting. Limited stamina means
the absurd bunny hopping still exists but at a price.
Of all the kits, I found the snipers to have
been the most changed since BF Vietnam. As a sniper, I had little
luck getting one-shot kills on the enemy, even head-shots on
stationary targets. Perhaps it is a critical skill now, that the
"kill zone" is smaller, etc. Perhaps, but it does subtract from the
incentive to be a sniper.
Tanks rule in Battlefield. Mere grenades are no longer a threat to
an Abrams, thank god. The Anti-tank soldier can take out a tank,
especially if he targets the rear of the tank. Tanks sport a warning
system to let you know if an anti-tank missile is pointed your way.
BF2 tanks can survive a frontal hit and have ability to pop
smoke, which is a wonderful addition to the gameplay. The tankís
machine gunner can now crouch and avoid being easily picked off by
lurking infantry, one of the reasons why no one in their right mind
chose to be a gunner in the BF42/BF Vietnam tanks. I find playing as
a tank extremely gratifying. You can count on getting a 5-to-1 kill
ratio using armor properly.
What keeps tanks from devastating the
gameplay? Helos! The Super Cobra and variants can swoop in on a tank and
lay it to waste, provided it is flown by a decent pilot with a
comparable forward gunner. The gunner controls the M230 30-mm cannon
and a TV-guided missile, which is effective but daunting to use
properly. The missile travels so rapidly that getting it to hit the
target is a tough task. The pilot has unguided Hydra missiles (not
Hellfire, to be sure) at his command. Helos are vulnerable to jets
and ground-based anti-aircraft missiles so you will need some
assistance from your infantry. With some aircover from the ground
troops, a skilled helo team can break the opposing team.
As with Battlefield Vietnam, jet aircraft are
not as interesting as the rotary wing craft. Ripping the sky at 750
knots doesnít give you much time to spot ground targets and even on
the largest maps you donít have much room to maneuver at full speed
for dogfights. It does appear that the out-of-game boundaries are
stretched a bit for jetsóI flew into the red zone often without
immediately drawing the "leaving combat" warning. If you get
on the enemyís six
your targeting system will lock, sounding a tone, and you have a
decent chance of taking him down with air-to-air missiles.
Naturally, if he gets a lock on you, you get a warning tone and you
can jink, kick in the afterburners, and throw out flares.
vessels are pretty much limited to a stationary carrier used as a
base and some rubber boats which are useful in the island maps.
There are no Midway or Coral Sea maps, no subs, no destroyers. It
appears the dev team has decided the fast-paced, team-based action
doesnít lend itself well to naval action.
The overall Battlefield experience is good,
very good, but anticlimactic. Upon firing up the game the first time
I should have been blown away and enthralled the way I was when I
played that first BF1942 Wake demo in 2002. Instead, a
Battlefield 1942 mod Desert Combat already stole this spotlight.
Playing BF2 feels like a new version of Desert Combat.
To be sure, EA graciously permitted third-party mods by leaving the
core game open to tweaking. They even encouraged mods. Thatís a good
thing. But one does have to wonder whatís in it for them? With the
high system requirements I imagine a lot of potential BF2 customers
are still playing Desert Combat. If a mod attains the level of
quality that Desert Combat did, nearly two years ago, how can the
sequel to the original game compete? Iím not suggesting that mods
should be outlawed--I loved DC and think highly of EA for permitting
(even encouraging) its existence. The relationship between games
such as Battlefield 2 and mods like Desert Combat raises all sorts
of questions and concerns about the role of mods with the host game.
In any case, save those questions for later
and play now. Weíve come to expect great things from the
Battlefield series and BF2 meets those expectations handily. With
truly superb graphics and more attention to teambuilding, count on
Battlefield 2 to provide many months of great gaming.
BONUS: +3 Squad and Commander features + 3 Continuing support,
Discuss Battlefield 2 in the Subsim
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Windows XP; 1.7 GHz Intel Celeron D /
Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon XP/ Sempron or greater; 512 MB of RAM
or more; 8x or faster CD/DVD drive; 2.3 GB free hard drive
space or more. Video card must have 128 MB or more memory and
one of the following chipsets: NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 or
greater; ATI Radeon 8500 or greater
Tested on: Pentium4 2.4 GHz, 1GB RAM, NVIDIA
6600GT 128MB RAM, Sony DVD+RW DL DRU-710A