Battlefield 2142 PC Review - 24/10/2006

Battlefield 2142 seems like the game everyone has been waiting for. A chance for EA to release an updated, bug/cheat free update to Battlefield 2, with the new innovative Titan mode and futuristic weaponry – but does it manage it?

Firstly, I want to say that although the demo was bugged to the degree of an anthill in midsummer, I had no problems running the full game providing I didn’t push the graphical slider up to high. You will no doubt have heard bad things from the moaners on forums and messageboards about disconnecting in game, but in my view, that horrid problem is now gone from EA’s servers.

2142 brings new life to Battlefield 2, if it needed it, as well as a sense of stability, and fixes some of the possible cheats and exploits that the engine provided back then. You get a plethora of futuristic weaponry, customisable kits, and the ability to take command of the field, as well as the uber-hyped Titan mode. Firstly, it is probably proper to say that the game has not changed graphically. On our ‘rig’ we were fully expecting to play it on full settings, but had to turn it down as hitches were encountered. Not lag or framerate issues, but more in the way of bugs and errors – still, on medium it looks very nice, and runs as smoothly as anything.

Thankfully, the new weapons added to the hugely (not massively) multiplayer first person shooter do not fire lasers, but bullets, meaning you get the same satisfaction from shotgunning someone at close range as you ever have done, without the dull laser dweebs (the best summary of the noise) that placate the otherwise rampant atmosphere in a game like Halo for example. To a Battlefield 2 player, the guns have not changed much. While in appearance they are all obviously different, you will quickly develop favourites, and the classes are balanced much like before.

New to the game however is the ability to customise your class. This comes from progressing through the ranks and unlocking new weapons and objects. Unlike before, you now pick your unlock and can use it straight away, without having to restart the game. The upgrades range from an improved sniper scope, to grenades. The game defines an order for certain items, so new players aren’t given the best guns until after decent amount of playtime. By our reckoning it takes five to six maps to earn your first rank upgrade (killing a decent amount of enemies on each) and in turn, an unlock.

The kits are still essentially the same, with Recon, Assault, Engineer and Support the classes. If you’re like me and run around with only one kit, very occasionally switching to the Sniper (Recon) for some revenge on long range enemies, then you can choose to unlock a kit specific item. There are however also some kit wide unlocks, squad leader unlocks, and player abilities, such as extra ammo capacity, and increased stamina. Some of the best come in the Support class, arguably one of the weaker before. They can now employ a sentry gun, active camouflage and a portable shield that can be placed for quick protection. You get the feeling that Dice have used the unlocks to balance the play a bit more, and give the previously weaker classes weapons wise, some great gadgets to play with. In the end, you have about three guns per kit to choose from, creating a really diverse playing field. While in Counter Strike (as an example), the best players get the best guns, and a vicious circle occurs whereby the weaker players are at a severe disadvantage in many ways, the weapons are not so good that you get killed because someone has a certain variant over yours, skill is still the main factor involved.

One problem with the future, is that everything looks the same. There are only a few different types of land vehicle, and two aircraft. In Battlefield 2 you have fighter jets and helicopters, both wildly different, but 2142 has two pretty similar looking craft. The maps are also not particularly memorable, although you will get some, such as the Suez Canal level with its Bridge Too Far like bottleneck that sticks in the mind.

The new ‘class’ or gameplay position is the Commander. The Commander is voted in depending on the highest ranked player, and has the ability to give a serious advantage to his or her team. They can order a supply drop, call an EMP strike, request two different satellite scans of the game map and of smaller, more detailed areas, as well as asking for an Orbital strike, which is just 2142’s version of artillery. The Commander can also order ‘squads’ around the map and giver certain context sensitive commands, both in a 3D map, and in the game world itself.

The teams are created by enterprising players at the start of the game, and you can join it at your discretion, or go it alone. Various advantages to being in a squad include field upgrades, whereby you can temporarily unlock the previously mentioned upgrades if you do well for your squad, healing them, repairing vehicles and so on. As a Squad Leader you can order your group, and request assistance from the almighty Commander. You also receive orders from him, and can use special unlocks, such as a drone that can fire on the enemy, and be used for recon, and the brilliant Squad Leader Spawn Beacon, which allows members of your squad to spawn at the beacon, rather than in the your team’s bases.

While the squads are perhaps underused by players, the Commander plays a big part, especially in the Titan mode, and it’s a great buzz to hear that Bravo team is coming to your position after you requested help. The order screen is now called the Commo Rose, which is basically a transparent menu that pops up when you press Q, and allows you to choose a command or request by moving the mouse in a certain direction. This means you can do it while in cover, or standing still, but after a few games it only takes a couple of seconds to ask for a pickup, or ammo supplies.

All of this creates a nice chatter in the background, and many humorous moments too, as I’m sure you can imagine.

The Titan mode, which is perhaps the most advertised feature of 2142 involves your team taking control of missile launchers across the map. These launchers just take the place of the regular bases that are used in the Conquest mode, and once captured they will fire missiles at the enemy’s Titan. A Titan is a monolithic mothership, which houses a team’s aircraft, as well as the key to winning the level. As the enemy, your task is to capture as many ground bases/missile silos as possible, thus launching a barrage of missiles on a timed basis, damaging the Titan. Eventually, once the shield is down, you can either get picked up via airship and fly to land in the enemy Titan’s cargo hold, or get in an Armoured Personnel Carrier, and launch from one of its escape pods, when in range, to shoot up onto the Titan. The pods are insanely good fun to use, once you work out how, and play a big part in the game.

The Commander of your team can also manoeuvre your Titan to be in range of certain missile silos or even the enemy Titan. From there, you can spawn in the cargo hold and parachute, use a ship, or escape pods to get to the ground fast – and even board the enemy Titan that way. There are lots of possibilities. Once aboard the enemy ship, you have to destroy four security points, which will then deactivate the shields around the main core, allowing you to blow that up as well. Done that? Then it’s time for a frantic run off the Titan, although you only don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of making it off if you were the one to blow the core.

In terms of defence, you can hide in the corridors of the Titan to eliminate the boarders as the computer warns you of any enemy coming on to the ship. You could set up a drone gun, mines, or mount one of the Titan’s cannons and attack airships or ground units – although the guns are not shielded, so using them you are likely to get them destroyed – fortunately however, it doesn’t kill you.

There’s also the Conquest mode to play in, as well as Co-op conquest. These are the more traditional Battlefield game types, where you have to capture and hold as many territories as possible, until the opposition’s ‘tickets’ run out. Co-op in this sense means you work with humans against the AI, or with the AI against the humans. The actual offline gameplay runs really well, and you can turn your graphic settings up much further, although there are only ever 16 players. You also can’t play Titan in this mode, but ultimately, if you want offline Battlefield, get it on the consoles.

One problem with the Titan is that it’s not particularly friendly to computer systems. The high-res textures and detailed routines involved means that when aboard, or even in the vicinity of it on the ground, your PC may well chug along, unless you’ve got the settings reduced to a suitable point. It won’t affect everyone, but you may well struggle to get the options right for a while before it runs completely smoothly. Oh, and download the patch as your first priority.

Nothing can compete with the sheer joy involved with playing a Battlefield game, and 2142 is no different. You can however ask questions about whether this is just a mod that EA are charging 34.99 for. It is disappointing in that sense as there’s no dramatic changes, and with all the adverts and spyware (although this has been blown out of all proportion by the EA community) bundled with the game, you would expect the price to be lower. As well of course as the price of having to hire your own servers from EA if the standard ones are full. Still, Dice are never to blame, only ever EA by people, and I’ve fully argued EA’s cause before for their huge array of games on all formats, be they new, old, or dead (Gamecube).

Battlefield 2142 is a good addition to the series, and makes the step that Battlefield Vietnam did from 1942, although much more successfully in this case. The customisation and upgrades are really, really nice, and the Commander mode and Squads really add another depth of tactics to the gameplay, and while you will still get people who go off in a tank to get as many kills as possible, there are far more medics and engineers online to fight your team’s cause this time round.

Once more maps and mods get released the game will break away from the slightly repetitive feel you get after a few hours play that’s bound to occur with only two real modes. There’s lots of new stuff for the tactician, and overall, we can’t recommend this highly enough.

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