A few years ago, a little something called Battlefield 1942 invaded our PCs with massive multiplayer online warfare. With fighter planes, boats, jeeps and tanks, it was a hit. However, due to the sheer size of the game and the world, most of the focus was on the graphical aspects. While enjoyable, the world and players certainly needed room for improvement.
We got an upgrade with the more recent Battlefield Vietnam about a year ago. We were introduced to jungle warfare, helicopters and jet planes, in addition to refinements to the existing vehicles and world. The lush jungle environments were rendered impressively, but were still limited in comparison to the mainstream engines of today.
Now, in 2005, we're introduced to a new contender, Battlefield 2. Modern aircraft and combat tactics are today's M.O. on this battlefield. Welcome to duty, soldier.
Battlefield 2 has some very impressive graphical elements, to say the least. My favorites are the character models. Each class has its own unique look, from the lightly armored Special Forces Soldier, with small details such as a headset, to the Sniper with a gillie suit, to the Medic with a defibrillator, to the Engineer with his land mines.
As the soldiers sprint, equipment dangles from their waists, bouncing along in a realistic manner—this is fun to watch. Characters also wear the proper equipment. For example, when flying in a Black Hawk, both gunners and the pilot don helmets, while the rest of the team piles in for the ride.
Idle animations are the most impressive. Characters inspect their weapons, blink, examine the world, and seem nothing like the soldiers of 1942. Battlefield 2’s soldiers seem like real, living squad members, not just expendable characters. And, each team (Chinese People's Liberation Army, Middle Eastern Coalition, and the United States Marine Corps) has their own variants on the kits to boot. How's that for a slice of fried gold?
That's not to say the world isn't detailed either. While not quite up to the visual quality of The Source and Unreal engines, the game's scale is quite impressive. Minor details like moving grass and birds will captivate you into the world, and can also provide you with great cover, or used as a distraction for the enemy— that moving object off in the distance might just be some shrubs blowing in the wind. Likewise, each map has its own style and setting, whether you're battling it out through the streets of Karkand in an urban warfare setting, or you're flying across the Chinese mountains in the FuShe pass. Each point to capture is visually interesting, although sometimes a little repetitive (some of the same buildings are used across multiple maps).
I'm proud to report that Battlefield 2 contains quite a lot of play time. The new statistics tracking system and ranked servers are a good way to gain practice and earn some benefits and awards as well—characters are awarded medals, ribbons, and badges for their proficiency and competency in the heat of battle. But the stats tracking is small compared to some of the major game enhancements that have been made. First, notably, is the command system. At the start of each round, players apply to be the Commander. Based on your stats ranking (Lance Corporal outranks a Private for example) the Commander position is selected and appointed. At the disposal of the Commander are supply drops, for refueling and repairing squads when a support soldier or engineer cannot reach them, artillery strikes, which unleash a devastating hail of mortar fire on a selected point, and two types
of ways to detect enemies. These include a radar scan to determine where concentrations of enemies are, or a UAV scan which deploys a drone to scan the area (useful to clear out capture points and make sure no more enemies are around).
In addition to these extra features, the Commander has a Voice Over IP channel to address each of the squad leaders, if the server supports it. This is helpful for communicating orders to individual squads to effectively capture points. The Commander can also issue standard orders such as Repair or Move to the squads (using a right-click interface on a map with the Commander Interface Screen, or using the "Commo Rose," another new feature). To the enjoyment of Battlefield fans, you no longer need to utilize the F-keys to transmit orders or enemy locations. Instead, you use an intuitive button menu brought up with the Q key.
All of this brings me to a new topic— squads! Teams are split into individual squads of up to 6 people. One member of each team is appointed Squad Leader. The Squad Leader can issue orders to the rest of the squad, and intercept orders from the Commander. He can also request artillery strikes from the Commander or other forms of support (radar, UAV drones and supplies).
Helicopters and aircraft execute air strikes and assaults on targets, while jeeps and DPVs assault ground targets on foot and tire. Tanks and LAVs are damaging in Urban Warfare, until the Anti-Tank soldier shows up. And all the while, bullets whiz by you, sniper fire has you pinned down in a corner, and a medic is trying to revive the guy next to you. A tank is spotted nearby on the radar by the UAV drone, and things aren't looking good. That is, until the airstrike is called in.
The entire capture the flag course has changed. By destroying the tank and anything in its vicinity, your team has just enough time to capture the flag and open up a new re-spawn point, as well as reduce your enemy's ticket control rate. The feel and pace of the battles in Battlefield 2 are tense and quick—even sniper duels can turn hectic and speedy when someone tries to sneak up on you with the shock paddles.
Each class is unique and is equipped with its own kit. The Special Operations Soldier is equipped with plastic explosive, as well as the standard knife and grenades. He has an assault rifle which is lower-power than the Assault class, but still gets the job done. His specialty is taking out vehicles and equipment, like enemy artillery. There is the Sniper, whose gillie suit conceals him pretty well in most environments. He can pick off the enemy with the hard-hitting sniper rifle from a distance. There's the standard Assault class. He is equipped with body armor, assault rifle with grenade launcher and smoke grenades. He is sort of a jack of all trades, not specific in what role he plays. This is a perfect class for beginners to get accustomed to the game and find their place in a squad. Like the demolitions with the grenades? You might enjoy the Anti-Tank class, who is equipped with a SRAW or Eryx rocket to destroy enemy vehicles. Do you like using the smoke grenades and assisting your team with capture points? You might like a Support or Medic class, in which you can earn points by healing and reviving team mates or providing them with extra ammo. Lastly is the Engineer, who's definitely an integral class to any successful squad —anti-tank mines and the wrench ensure that enemy vehicles are destroyed and that yours stay in good fighting condition.
Of course, the world isn't perfect. And some players refuse to work as a team, trying to get the most points for themselves. This is usually a laughable attempt compared to the swift effectiveness of the squad system. Likewise, commanders do not always respond to squad leaders' requests. However, it's to be expected, and if you don't like the Commander or Squad Leader, you can start a mutiny vote or make a new squad. This is usually a minor hitch in gameplay. Also, at the time of this writing, most ranked servers were laggy and full. Linux servers also crashed on game completion. But with the current released patch, these bugs can be improved or fixed.
Sound and Ambience: 10/10
Shells whiz by you and each weapon has its own distinct noise so you can usually tell who's firing— the sound effects in Battlefield 2 are most impressive. It's fun to trick people by stealing the opposition's kit and using it against them. All of the weaponry and vehicle sounds are clear and accurate. There are even birds chattering in the morning, the sound of approaching storms, and radio chatter.
While single player is limited, the Battlefield franchise isn’t really about single player. The meat is in Multiplayer, and it will have you hooked for hours. Some of the highest rankings are Corporals, with ranks reaching as high as the coveted Battlefield Commander. Weapon unlockables, badges, ribbons and medals to collect are abound. And the addictive gameplay is something rarely found in games of this caliber.
DICE and EA have nailed it with Battlefield 2. I'm hooked, and you should be too. It's got the standard Battlefield quirkiness we've come to expect from the series, yet is gripping and intense at the same time. Whether you're a casual FPS gamer or someone who's a hardcore gaming addict, this game will appeal to both audiences and has suitable play options for each. This much fun under the $50 price tag isn't something that's common these days. And, the stats and rankings are something that will keep you occupied far after your chest is full of medals and ribbons as the Battlefield Commander.
Carry on, soldier—you have your orders.