Battlefield 2
Review 7/21/05

SUBSIM Radio Room Forums

By   Cosmo

Battlefield 2ô"War is hell"

"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 required.

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.

The 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 fast-moving jet.

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 quicker.

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.

Naval 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.

© 2005

Rating:  92

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Stability
Multi- play Mission Editor
14/20 6/10 10/10 10/10 20/20 10/10 10/10 5/5 1/5
 BONUS: +3 Squad and Commander features + 3 Continuing support

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