Battlefield 2 Walkthrough

Battlefield 2 is arguably the biggest PC game of the year, and GameSpot is here to give you a in-depth look at the game. Learn about kits, vehicles, maps, and more in our exclusive Walkthrough.

By Matthew Rorie
Design by Collin Oguro

It's hard to believe that it's been almost three years since the release of Battlefield 1942. Anyone who was playing online games in 2002 probably remembers having quite a few all-night sessions of DiCE's original battlefield simulation game, which pitted teams of players against each other for control of those precious, precious flags. With airplanes, tanks, jeeps, submarines, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and five different infantry classes, Battlefield 1942 was an astonishingly full-featured game that keeps gamers of all stripes glued to their computer screens to this day.

A warmly-received followup game, Battlefield: Vietnam, followed in 2004, but apart from a new setting and new weapons, it didn't fiddle with the series' core gameplay very much. Battlefield 2, though, the brand-new, full-fledged sequel to the original Battlefield 1942, brings a whole lot of new additions in its wake. The most notable change, and the one that's had PC gamers wagging their tongues in anticipation over the past year, are the graphics; this is one of the most graphically impressive multiplayer games ever released. In addition to the gee-whiz graphics and rag-doll physics, though, Battlefield 2 actually has a number of gameplay changes, as well, such as the elimination of health and ammo stations from the gameworld, the inclusion of a new commander mode, and an emphasis on squad-based combat and voice communications to keep each team running smoothly.

GameSpot's Game Guide to Battlefield 2 is your guide to one of the biggest PC gaming releases of the year. We've got details, facts, figures, tidbits, factoids, and even some actual information in here for your reading pleasure. What's more, we'll be updating this guide in the coming days to include new information that the multiplayer community discovers, so if you stumble across something you think is worth including, feel free to hit up the Feedback link in the table of contents and send it along. Otherwise, enjoy!

Significant Changes

Players familiar with Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield: Vietnam will likely be daunted by the new additions and tweaks to the gameplay formula that made the series so popular. DiCE definitely didn't rehash the same old game mechanics for their third exploration into the Battlefield universe, and actually introduced some pretty drastic new changes to what's come before. This checklist is just an introduction to these changes; you can expect more details on them in the different chapters of the guide.

No More Spawn Waves

One of the annoying aspects of the last two Battlefield games was the inclusion of the notorious "spawn wave" mechanic, where all dead players on a side would pop back into play simultaneously. If you died, you could be five seconds from respawning, or you could be 30 seconds or a minute away, depending on how long the server respawn time was. If you happened to run into a base and killed a bunch of people with a hand grenade before hunkering down beside a flag to capture it, then you would sometimes be surprised by the reappearance of all of your victims just seconds later. These spawn waves were an inconsistent force in the game and made for some unpredictable flag assaults.

Even after the worst of accidents, you can rest assured that you'll be back in the fight 15 seconds later.

Luckily, the spawn system in Battlefield 2 is much more simple: when you die, you'll respawn 15 seconds later, every time. This affects everyone on the battlefield, making spawn waves essentially a thing of the past. (If you kill six people in an APC with a single tank shell, though, then of course they'll all spawn at the same time, fifteen seconds later.) This helps make flag capturing a bit more manageable.

No More Health or Ammo Boxes

There aren't any health boxes or ammo cabinets in Battlefield 2. In previous Battlefield games, players could return to a health box to patch themselves up when wounded, or grab more ammo from an ammo box when they were running low, which was especially helpful when you consider that reloading will essentially discard any ammo left in your clip. It also gave rise to some cheese tactics, such as lying beside an ammo box and chucking out an infinite number of grenades all over the place.

Anyway, Battlefield 2 contains neither ammo nor medical boxes, unless you count the Commander's supply drop. Instead of grabbing supplies from boxes, then, you'll need to rely on medic characters to restore your health and support characters to resupply your ammo. These characters are noted by icons when you spot them in the game, so if you need a certain item, head towards a relevant character and use the Q text menu to let them know of your need.

Squad-Based Tactics

A good squad greatly eases the process of capturing flags.

If you want to run off as a lone wolf, then of course you'll still be able to do so in Battlefield 2, but gamers looking to get organized will find the squad system helpful in staying organized. Squads can be formed of up to six players, with an assigned leader, who can communicate with a team's commander (see below), and organize his squad's movements by commanding them around the battlefield. The most important part of a squad leader, though, is his ability to act as a mobile spawn point for his soldiers. Even if five members of the squad die, they can all still pop back to life on top of the squad leader if he manages to stay in a safe spot. There's a special Squad chapter elsewhere in the guide that will have more information on this feature.

Commander Mode

In addition to the new squad abilities, each team in Battlefield 2 will be able to elect a single commander to lead their efforts. This commander mode will give this player the ability to call down artillery, point out enemy locations to their teammates, and send down supply drops to replenish friendly players in tight spots. We have an entire section dedicated to the Commander Mode, so check it out for more information on this unique new addition to the game.

The Basics

If you've played a previous Battlefield game before picking up Battlefield 2, then you should be right at home. The rarely-played game types, like CTF and Deathmatch, have been removed from the package, leaving only the Conquest gametype and its variations. If you haven't played previous Battlefield games, though, then this section is for you; we'll go over the rules of the game and tell you what you need to know to become an effective soldier.

First off, Battlefield 2 is a team-based game, pitting the United States Marine Corps against either the fictional Middle East Coalition army or the Chinese People's Liberation Army. When you first join a server, you'll automatically be assigned to one of the two forces; you can switch sides by clicking on the tabs in the upper left corner of the kit selection screen. (Switching sides too often is somewhat rude, though, especially when you're attempting to switch from the losing to the winning team.) Each of the sides is comparable in technology and equipment, so you're never going to be disadvantaged if you choose one side over another, although they do have different weapons and vehicles, so you may notice some differences in your equipment when you switch from side to side.

After you join a game and get assigned to a team, you'll need to select a kit, which is essentially the same as a "class." Each kit has different weapons and abilities, and your team is going to need a good variety of kits in order to succeed on the battlefield. See the Kits chapter for more information on each of the seven kits in the game.

When you have a team and a kit loaded out, then you'll need to select a spawn point. All available options will appear as a small white dot on your map. If you left click on one of them, then you'll be able to spawn there as soon as you leave the map screen (by pressing Enter). And then you're on the ground and running!

The key thing here is that spawn points can be captured and taken over by the other team, and indeed this will be happening with some frequency throughout the game, as the entire point of the game is to run towards enemy flags and take them over. While you're on the ground, you'll be asked to move towards enemy flags and enter the small control zone that exists around them. When you're in this control zone, you'll see a small flag meter appear just underneath your minimap, which will indicate just how long it'll take you to capture the flag for your team. If you're attempting to capture it by yourself, then it'll take a while to do so; if you have a few teammates along for the ride, though, you'll be able to capture it much more quickly. You don't need to do anything special while capturing a flag; just staying inside the small zone that exists around it is all you need. Of course, while the flag remains in the hands of your enemy, they can still spawn there, so you may find yourself fighting off enemies that pop in out of thin air.

When you're near a flag, you'll note a control indicator under your minimap. Move it all the way to your team's side to capture the flag.

The point of capturing flags and killing enemies lies in the game's ticket structure. In the upper right corner of your screen, on either side of the minimap, you'll notice two numbers. The number in blue is the number of tickets remaining for your team, while the number in red is the number of tickets remaining for your opponents. (Unlike in previous games, these colors aren't assigned to a specific side; you can be MEC or USMC, and your tickets will always be blue.) The ultimate goal of the game is to reduce your opponent's tickets to zero, with the most efficient method of doing so to just kill them a lot while not dying. Each time you kill an opponent, you'll reduce a ticket from his or her team's total. The key to capturing flags, though, is that in most game types, you can cause the opposing team's tickets to automatically drain or "bleed" by controlling more than half of the flags on the map. Doing so will not only cause a steady loss of tickets, but will force your opponents to spawn in a fewer number of locations and will reduce the number of vehicles available to them, making it harder for them to take over other flags. By the same token, though, the more flags under your control, the more spread out you'll be, so you'll need to watch the flags behind the front lines to ensure that no enemies parachute into an undefended base and start capturing it.

In addition to capturable flags, there are also some flags that are noncapturable; these appear on the minimap with a red line through them. Even if you get up close to a noncapturable flag of your enemy's, you won't be able to take it over, although you may be able to get some cheap kills when people spawn there. (This is considered to be in bad form, though, so don't be surprised if you get kicked or banned from a server if you do it too often.)

There are three main types of games in Battlefield 2, each a subset of the main Conquest game. In Conquest: Head-On mode, the most popular one, your primary goal is to reduce the enemy's tickets to zero. Controlling over half of the flags on the map will cause your opponent to bleed.

Conquest: Assault is a bit different; in most of these maps, one team will begin with almost all of the flags under their control, while the opposing team will have a single flag and will be bleeding tickets at the beginning of the map. The assaulting team will have to head off into enemy territory and begin taking over enemy flags in order to stop the bleeding. What's interesting here is that bleeding isn't a result of controlling over half of the flags; in order to make the opposing team bleed, you'll need to hold all of the contestable flags. This generally results in longer games, since it's more difficult to force your opponents into bleeding mode.

Conquest: Double Assault is the last mode of gameplay, and the name is somewhat misleading: this is actually just Head-On with a twist. If you control more than half of the flags on a map, your opponent will bleed tickets, but if you control all of them, you win the game outright. All of the flags on these maps are capturable, but each team will usually have one starting base with a flag that requires a longer amount of time to capture than the other flags will.

Kits

As mentioned, there are seven kits in the game, each with its own particular strengths and weaknesses.

Assault

The assault class is going to be your standard killing machine, and any given team's primary assault infantry class. While not the most powerful class, assault troopers combine good ammo reserves, body armor, and secondary weapons into a general anti-infantry kit.

The assault class's grenade launcher makes quick work of enemies that clump together, as these poor fools are about to find out.

Unlike some of the more support-oriented classes, like the medic and engineer, assault players get a suit of body armor that will protect them from some of the fire coming their way. You won't be able to stand up to a machinegun for very long, but it will enable you to live just a bit longer while you're taking fire. In addition, all assault players get a weapon-mounted grenade launcher to go along with their automatic or semi-automatic weapon, which will let them fire explosives at a much longer range than will be possible for most classes, although using these appropriately can be difficult. They're great for use against enemy soldiers, and you can sometimes rack up multiple kills by landing one on an enemy fast attack vehicle. Still, they take a few seconds to reload, so you won't want to have to use grenades while engaged in a one-on-one duel; normal weapon fire will be a better choice for most close-range assaults. If you can get the drop on someone, then launching a grenade at them will usually kill them in one shot, but doing so will leave you without the ability to fire for a couple of seconds, so be careful!

In addition to their assault weapons and grenade launchers, assault troopers also get a single smoke grenade as part of their kit, which can be useful to cover up an assault, especially when you're about to bring a whole squad into the area around a flag. Sometimes its best to just use them as a diversion, though, and intentionally mis-throw them into an area you have no intention of entering just to divert your enemy's attention long enough for you to overrun them.

Sniper

The ghillie-suited sniper is going to be both a welcome and feared sight, sometimes inspiring both responses at once, even from your own teammates. While being a sniper in Battlefield 2 is easier than ever (thanks to the total elimination of scope drift), sniping is still a task best left to the professionals, and you should carefully monitor the population of snipers on your team before deciding to become one yourself.

First off, though, it's worth considering the role of a sniper in a game. As in most titles, snipers in Battlefield 2 are long-distance killers, capable of headshotting opponents from a good distance away. They have a harder time going up against enemies at close range, though, due to the fact that the sniper rifle doesn't have a crosshair when aimed from the hip, and due to the fact that their only sidearm is a pistol; the closer your enemy gets to you, then, the more likely it is that you'll die. You should thus not only try to stay a good distance away from your enemies, but also conceal yourself from their view as best as possible. Whether this takes the form of melding into a shadow, crouching under a bush, firing from the windows of a building, or what have you, you're going to need to be as close to invisible as possible if you want to avoid getting punked by the first assault trooper to come along. Since there's no scope drift, as mentioned, you have more options here than you used to; you can actually stand up at a window's edge and fire with near-perfect accuracy, allowing you to pick off soldiers as they come down the street.

Hitting targets from this far away is going to be difficult unless you've mastered the art of sniping.

That said, sniping isn't necessarily going to translate into a massive number of kills for you, even if you manage to find a perfect spot from which to blast away. For one thing, a sniper round won't instantly kill a healthy target unless you hit them in the head. Many players of the demo are reporting that it can sometimes take two or three hits, and that it's difficult to accurately hit enemies, even at relatively short ranges, due to the fact that bullets actually drop as they travel horizontally across the battlefield. If you're good at getting headshots, then bully for you, but most snipers will require at least two hits before their target goes down. The complicating factor here is player movement; smart players will start sprinting for the nearest wall or cover as soon as they get hit by the first bullet. While good snipers are capable of landing shots on moving opponents, the new sprint maneuver is going to allow players to temporarily double their movement speed, which will be difficult to adjust to, even for the talented snipers out there.

What's more, even if you are an excellent sniper and can take people down from long range with good consistency, the dark side of the class is that it rarely has a huge impact on the flow of a game. Snipers, by nature, tend to stay away from the densest portions of a map, which usually wind up being the flag spots. That, compounded with their inability to go toe-to-toe with enemy infantry, means that they'll usually have to avoid getting close to flag spots, even if they spot one that's being undefended by enemy infantry. Since capturing flags is the entire point of the game, and snipers are often going to be the worst class at doing so, choosing to be one is often more about personal glory and big kill totals than helping your team.

Of course, there's exceptions to every rule, and when you can integrate your role as a sniper with the needs of your team, then you can be an effective anti-infantry force or a fantastic spotter. Snipers aren't really needed in squads, so you'd be best avoiding them if possible, or even make your own, one-man squad to enable you to call for supplies or artillery when needed, while giving you a direct voice pipeline to the commander. If you're flying solo, then you can try to take up a position in a central location and keep an eye on enemy locations; since you can use your Q menu while zoomed out, you should be able to spot enemies and call them out to your teammates from a good distance away. If you stay away from the well-worn sniping spots and find a place a bit off the beaten path, then you should be able to remain alive for a while, or at least until the sound of your shooting clues someone in on your position.

Lastly, it's worth noting that even good snipers will eventually be killed. Although the deathcam of Battlefield 1942, where a dead player would immediately zoom in on the location of the player that killed him, has been eliminated, it's still a relatively simple matter for enemy commanders to ferret you out with scans or UAVs, allowing enemy players to track you down. Artillery is also a fine sniper-killer, at least in smaller games, since snipers often enjoy getting up on top of cranes and tall buildings, which are unprotected from the shells. It's difficult to survive for the length of time needed to rack up a large number of kills here, and even if you do get a large body count, you're still not going to be contributing as much to your team's success as the grunts that are capturing flags will be. Still, sniping can be an entertaining diversion if you're just looking to take down a few enemies rather than get caught up in the hustle and bustle of quotidian running and gunning.

Medic

Every squad is going to want to have a medic or two (or three) standing by, as they're the only source of healing in the game, and can revive critically wounded players to full health with their shock paddles, without charging your team a ticket. A team that can manage to revive dead players instead of waiting for them to respawn, then, will have a significant ticket advantage over the course of a long game.

Luckily, medics are quite able to roll with the big dogs in combat; they'll receive the same kind of assault rifle as assault troops do. This will let them deal a good amount of damage while firing, but it'll be their only real form of offense. Medics don't get the grenade launcher attachment that assault troops do, and they also do get frag grenades that can be thrown. These won't explode on impact like the grenade launcher's will, though. What's more, they also don't pack the body armor that an assault kit would normally wear, but this is somewhat balanced by their ability to heal themselves.

When defending a base, hide medkits inside bushes to prevent enemies from seeing them. Your teammates will still see their icons easily.

One new feature of the medic class in Battlefield 2 is their ability to drop medkits on the ground, which friendly players can then pick up to heal themselves. Previously you had to be within a certain small distance of your target in order to heal them; now you can just drop a few medkits near a camping soldier and run off, entrusting him to heal himself as necessary. You can, of course, still run up to a player and heal him or her manually, and this works just as well as it ever did. In fact, you can actually increase the radius of your healing abilities by healing from inside a vehicle, for some reason. Now someone just needs to mod in some Red Cross vehicles...

As mentioned, medics can revive critically wounded teammates. In Battlefield 2, you can't choose to automatically respawn when you die; instead, you'll have to wait 15 seconds or so (the exact length of time depends on the server, but 15 seconds is the default), then you'll automatically return to your spawn point and get back into the game, which will reduce your team's tickets by one. If there's a medic nearby, though, they can whip out their handy defibrillator paddles, kneel over your body, and shock you back to full health instantly, which will prevent you from having to wait the full 15 seconds, and will also eliminate the ticket charge resulting from your death. You have to be close enough to get into contact with the paddles, so if your dead teammate is lying prone, you'll want to either lie prone yourself, or at least kneel down; if you attempt to revive while standing up, you'll likely miss and will have to wait a few seconds before your shock paddles recharge before trying again, during which time your teammate may just respawn back at his normal location.

So, reviving dead allies is just obviously a good thing; you can keep soldiers around on the front lines rather than having them spawn at a friendly base, and you'll prevent your team from losing the tickets that normally result from their deaths. Of course the caveat here is that, to revive your teammate, you'll have to enter a portion of the battlefield that hosted some form of deadly threat within the last fifteen seconds; proceeding recklessly in the direction of dead allies will generally result in you getting yourself shot up along with your friend. Sometimes you just have to accept that your teammate is gone, and that attempting to revive them will simply net your enemies another easy kill; this is especially true when your teammate gets taken down in the middle of an open area, such as a street or desert. Attempting to run out and revive them will give whomever killed them a free shot at you.

That said, there are ways to gauge the safety of reviving a teammate, the most obvious of which is to just take a peek around the corner; if you see a swarm of enemy infantry around your friend's body, then it'd be a bad idea to go and try to rescue him. Alternately, if you can track the text in the upper-left corner of the screen, then you should be able to see who killed your teammate and what weapon that they used to do so. For instance, if your friend's name was Abel, and you see the text "Cain [M1A2] Abel" pop up in the upper left corner of the screen after he dies, then you'll know that an opposing player named Cain killed him off with an M1A2 tank, and that the area in which he died is going to be exceedingly deadly for you for the next few minutes. However, you can use these messages to see specifically whether or not the enemy in the area was subsequently killed. If the sequence goes something like:

Cain [AK101] Abel
Adam [M4] Cain

Then you'll know that an enemy killed your teammate Abel, but then one of your other teammates, Adam, killed Cain in return. If Adam manages to stay alive for a couple of seconds after killing Cain, then, in the absence of other information, you can probably assume that the area around Abel's body is clear of enemy troops, and can head out to revive him. Although this sounds like it'll take a while to parse through the feedback text and make your decisions, it actually becomes second nature after a while. Of course, if you're running in a squad with voice support, then your information gathering procedures will be much simpler, and you can wait for your teammates to let you know what killed them and where the threat is.

Note also that the shock paddles are quite capable of killing enemies if you happen to hit them while in melee range. A full charge from the defibrillators will generally kill an enemy, even if he's at full health, but of course you have to be right on top of them before you can use them. If you can sneak up behind an enemy, though, the serverwide notice that they got killed by shock paddles is likely to generate a few chuckles.

Engineer

The engineer kit is one of the least-appreciated classes in any Battlefield game, and is perhaps going to be more so in Battlefield 2 than in either of the previous titles in the series. While the engineer kit brings some unique abilities to the table, it also has some specific weaknesses that make it a drawback to use in combat.

The most unique aspect of the engineer is his ability to repair damaged vehicles and structures with his trusty wrench. When you have the wrench out and in your hand, you can walk up to a damaged vehicle and start "firing" the wrench at it to repair damage; you'll get a readout of how much health the vehicle has left, which will start to slowly creep up as you hold down the button. You can't repair vehicles that have been completely destroyed, but you can repair structures such as artillery guns and UAV huts that have been blown up by your foes. These repairs are somewhat slow, so you won't want to do them while a bunch of enemies are hanging around, but if you enter a tank, run around for a bit, take a bit of damage, then manage to find a quiet part of the map, then feel free to jump out and repair your tank up to full health, if you think that you can avoid taking damage in the meantime.

One of the first things to remember about repairing things is to keep moving. If you hop out of a tank and start to repair it, then rotate around it while continuing to repair it; don't just stand still. Moving will prevent enemy snipers from getting a bead on you, and also make it more difficult for an enemy to surprise you with a knife attack or something similar. If you do start taking damage, then immediately jump back into the tank, regardless of its state of repair; you're almost always more likely to survive while inside an armored vehicle than when you're outside. The same goes for repairing commander equipment in your base; you should pretty much always assume that there's someone watching you while you repair stuff, because as soon as you think you're safe and stop moving, you'll be ripe for a headshot.

Repairing, as with medical repairs and ammo replenishment, can also be accomplished from inside a vehicle, but only for other vehicles. That is, if you're an engineer and are running around inside a tank, then you'll automatically repair vehicles that get close to your tank, but your own tank won't be repaired unless you hop out and do it yourself, or, alternately, get another engineer in another vehicle to come up alongside you and have both of you repair each other. Repairing while inside a vehicle is slow, however, at least when compared with doing it with a wrench, so if you need a speedy repair, you might want to just hop out and do it the old-fashioned way.

Mining roads is a bit safer than in BF1942, since your teammates can now actually see the mines on their HUD.

In addition to their repairing prowess, engineers also pack anti-vehicle mines. AV mines are much, much easier to use in Battlefield 2 than they have been in previous Battlefield games, thanks to the fact that they're easily visible to your teammates, which will help prevent accidental team kills. You still need to be careful not to lay them in areas that are going to be well-traveled by your teammates; it may seem keen to lay a bunch of mines in one of the entrances to a base you're defending, but if a tank spawns in the base, then you may have just prevented it from ever leaving. It's better to try and find locations for mines that are going to be traveled by your enemies, and not by your team. As a specific example, in the multiplayer demo, there's a Hotel control point, where the flag is at the top of a ramp, near a pool. All of the vehicles at this flag spawn at the bottom of the ramp, so if you're defending it, the ramp itself is a good spot to place mines; you don't block off your teammates from escaping, but enemy vehicles will find it very difficult to get to the flag without climbing one of the hills to the north or east.

Unfortunately, engineers lag behind most other classes when it comes to actual ground combat. Although some people enjoy using shotguns (which engineers are restricted to), we find them to be fairly difficult to use well. Obviously, you're going to have to be right up close to your enemy for them to be usable, almost to the point where you're within knife range; anything much farther than ten yards or so, and the bulk of your pellets will miss your target. So you'll need to get as close as possible to your target before opening up; in a lot of cases, this means that you'll have to either sneak around to get close to your opponent before firing, or just sprint behind some cover, turn around, and hope they follow you. The good news is that most automatic shotguns in the game are going to outclass just about anything when fired at point-blank range, so you should be able to get plenty of kills if you can adequately pick your moments. The exception to this is the default American shotgun, the Remington 11-87. While it's purportedly more powerful than the other nation's shotguns, the fact that it requires a couple of seconds of downtime between shots makes it difficult to kill with even in the best of circumstances. If possible, you'll want to play around as an engineer by staying inside vehicles until you unlock the upgraded, automatic shotgun that you'll eventually earn.

Antitank

Since there's going to be roughly two vehicles on a map for every five players, it's a relatively sure bet that your squad is going to face off against a tank or other vehicle if you play together for more than a minute or so at a time. Although you'll be able to shoot and kill passengers and gunners in some vehicles, such as the Hummer and the FAAV, most infantry won't be able to do much to hurt armored vehicles save throw grenades at them. Anyone who played Battlefield 1942 or Vietnam will remember how futile these efforts often were, though; grenades can damage tanks, but will rarely be able to kill them unless you manage to throw a good dozen or so at a time.

This is where the antitank kit comes into play. In addition to the usual submachinegun for anti-infantry attacks, antitank troopers will pack a personal anti-armor guided missile. These missile launchers will allow you to, well, fire away at armored vehicles and destroy them. When you bring up a missile launcher, you'll be able to fire it either from the hip or from a zoomed mode. Whichever mode you choose, you'll have a moderate amount of control over your rocket after you fire it; moving your mouse to the left while the rocket is in midair will move its course slightly to the left, and so on. This isn't like firing a rocket launcher in Half-Life 2, though; you only have a very mild amount of control over the missile, so if a FAAV is moving perpendicular to you, it's unlikely that you'll be able to track it. If a tank is heading roughly away from you, though, you can use the mouse controls to get a bit of fine control to zero in on it if it attempts to maneuver away from your missile. Keep in mind that tanks have less armor on their rear sides, so, if possible, hit them from behind. Also note that you can hit hovering helicopters with your missile if you're a decent shot; they can only take one or two hits before they go down for the count.

As mentioned, though, a tank and even an APC won't be destroyed by a single missile, so you'll need to hit them multiple times with missiles before they go down. Unfortunately tanks will get damage location markers after being hit, so it's often not too difficult for them to figure out where your shots are coming from; if possible, try to move a bit between shots. It's better to just spawn as an anti-tank troop if you notice a tank rolling up to a base that's otherwise undefended; with three or four AT troopers wailing away at a vehicle, it'll go down quickly. At spawn points with plenty of places to hide, this tactic can make it essentially impossible for a single tank to capture a point.

Support

The support class is a new addition to the BF2 universe, and fills the heavy weapons role in battle. These guys aren't content with just shooting enemy soldiers; they want to totally rip them apart, and thus have some hardcore weapons with which to play. The U.S. support class, for instance, can use the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), which is a full-on machine gun capable of firing extremely rapidly, and which has a 200-round magazine. In addition, the support class packs body armor, but they're incapable of sprinting for as long as other classes can.

The thing about the SAW and the other support weapons is that they're horrifically inaccurate in most firing situations. If you're standing up, for instance, then you can essentially forget about killing anyone with your main weapon, unless you're standing right on top of them. These weapons are really intended to be used while lying prone and aiming, but even then the spread of bullets is going to be fierce, so you'll need to be quite close to your target in order to safely hit them. This is something of the opposite problem as that found in Battlefield Vietnam, where the M60 was capable of firing in tight circles at long range, and was so overpowered that it eventually got nerfed in a patch; the poor accuracy of the support weapons in BF2 is likely a reaction to this. Hopefully they'll be tightened up a bit in a future patch. For the moment, lying prone, zooming in, and firing in short bursts are the best solutions to the accuracy problems of these weapons.

At close range, a support kit's machinegun can kill enemies in less than a second.

As it is, though, the support weapons here are notable mainly for their huge ammo reserves; some of them can fire up to 200 rounds without reloading. Since you have to get up close and personal, you may find that these weapons are best used for defending a flag; if you can find a nice, quiet spot that's defensible and looks out over a flag capture area, you can lay prone, zoom in on the flag...and wait. When someone comes along and thinks that the flag is up for grabs, you can show them the error of their ways by popping them from your hideyhole.

In addition to raw combat skills, the Support class can also give ammunition to other nearby players to restore their ammo reserves. Since there aren't any ammo boxes in the game world anymore, you will eventually run out of ammo completely if you don't find a support soldier to fill you back up or call for supplies from your commander. Unfortunately, support soldiers don't get any grenades because of this; otherwise they'd just be able to launch grenades from cover, resupply themselves, then repeat. BF1942 players have fond memories of attempting to overtake a flag populated by a bunch of guys sitting around an ammo box throwing out an infinite number of grenades, so it appears as though the developers eliminated the ability for support classes to do that by themselves by eliminating their grenade-carrying capabilities. You can get nearly infinite grenades by teaming up a grenade-wielding class with a support player, but this is somewhat unwieldy.

Special Forces

One of the new classes in Battlefield 2 is the Special Forces class, which is something of a behind-enemy-lines operative. The emphasis here is on speed and stealth, and not outright killing power, although special forces players will have a lightweight automatic weapon that's decent in firefights. The main difference between the Special Forces class is the inclusion of C4 as a weapon for them; these sticky bits of high explosives will let you destroy bridges, artillery, enemy equipment, and so on.

What's more, you can attach C4 to almost anything, including vehicles, which makes for some devious tactics. Players of BF1942 will remember awkward (but very fun) attempts to pile dynamite into the back of a jeep to make a makeshift carbomb; in Battlefield 2 this process should be a lot easier, due to the C4's ability to stick to vehicles. All you have to do is attach the C4 to a Hummer, hop in, ride towards a group of enemies, then hop out and detonate the explosives for a bit of suicidal fun. You can also attach C4 to enemy vehicles as well, so if you spot an enemy making a beeline for a helicopter, feel free to attach C4 to it, then detonate it after he's gone airborne. C4 can also be used to destroy certain bridges and other destructible hotspots in certain maps.

The primary point behind C4, though, is to allow you to destroy enemy artillery, UAV trailers, and scan huts, which are normally (but not always) near the enemy's rearmost base at the beginning of a round. If an enemy has an uncapturable flag, then their commander equipment will almost certainly be somewhere nearby. If you can reach their base, perhaps by taking a boat or a quick FAV behind enemy lines, then most of your opponent's equipment can be destroyed with your C4 packs. Most enemy equipment, such as UAV trailers and artillery guns, will require two packages of C4 to detonate. Since you only carry five packs at a time, you may have to radio your commander for supplies in order to finish demolishing an enemy base. Since equipment destruction messages are relayed to all members of a team, though, they'll likely come looking for you as soon as you blow something up. You will earn points for destroying enemy equipment as of the game's 1.3 patch.

Attaching C4 to enemy tanks is perhaps a bit more popular use of the explosives, though, and one that is going to give plenty of tank drivers nightmares. Realistically, if you're in a tank near an enemy base and hear someone running next to you, then you're probably already dead; when a special forces soldier gets in close enough to plant their charges, there's little you can do to prevent them from going off. Of course, if you manage to shoot them before they pull the trigger, then the C4 will quickly disappear, leaving you safe and sound, but in most situations you're pretty much finished as soon as it gets planted. As a special forces operative, the key here is to remain undetected until the tank turret is facing away from you, then run up, plant two charges on the tank (or perhaps just one if the vehicle is already smoking), sprint away, then blow the mess.

Squads

A major addition to the Battlefield formula is the ability for players to organize them into small strike teams, known as squads. This can be done after entering a game by hitting the Capslock key and selecting a squad to join. Each squad can consist of up to six members, and will have some built-in communication advantages over just running around by yourself, especially if you're using voice chat. Each squad consists of a leader and squad members. It'll be the leader's job to take orders from the commander and relay them to the team, while it'll be the squad members' jobs to actually put their lives on the line and get the job done, whatever it may be.

Squad Leader

If you're a squad leader, then you'll have the ability to speak and hear both the commander and your own squad members over the built-in voicechat utility, if you happen to have a voice headset. Your commander can issue you orders either verbally or through the commander interface. Most of the time they'll come through the commander interface, which will pop up your objective on the minimap; accepting these orders will automatically transmit the orders to each of your squad members. The most common task is to attack an enemy flag; if you accept one of these missions, then you'd better have a sizable squad along for the ride.

As a squad leader, you'll also have the option to request command support via the T menu. When you hold down T, you'll get a pop-up menu along the lines of the Q menu, giving you options to request a UAV, supplies, or artillery on the spot at which you're aiming. These are just requests; your commander may choose to ignore your request, or may not have the capability to fulfill it due to equipment destruction or due to his need to wait for a timer to refresh. Still, this is a quick and easy way to let him know of your needs.

The other aspect of leadership that is critical to get a handle on is the fact that you're generally not going to want to be in the thick of battle, and will instead be better off letting your teammates head for a flag and capture it. The reason for this is that you act like a mobile spawn point while you're a squad leader; all of your followers will be able to spawn at your position when they die. When you're assaulting a flag, then, it's wise to find some place near the flag, but not within view of the defenders, so that you can send your team ahead to take it over. If they happen to die in their initial assault, then they can constantly respawn on your location and try again, and again, and again, until you guys either give up or someone comes around to kill you yourself, which will force your squad members to spawn elsewhere.

Try and keep your squad spread out a bit if you're a squad leader - otherwise they'll be easily wiped out when a tank happens across them.

Since you're going to be hanging out of battles, for the most part, you'll want to pick a kit that will enable you to still contribute. We find that either support or special forces are good choices for squad leaders. As a support trooper, you can lay prone a distance from the action and attempt to pick off enemies while they're occupied with your teammates. As a special forces trooper, you can destroy bridges or

Squad Member

Your role as a squad member is fairly straightforward; stick close to your squad leader, spawning on his location whenever possible, and follow his commands to the letter. These are part of the implicit responsibilities you take on when you join a squad, so try to be a good team player. If you don't like the way your squad leader is running things - if he leads you towards uncapturable flags just to harass the enemy, say, or doesn't issue commands - then just leave the squad and join another. It's not worth causing a scene when you disagree with what someone's doing, unless you're of the gung-ho "this is a real war we're fighting here!" persuasion.

Beyond that, try to coordinate with your squadmates to pick a necessary kit. In general, squads are going to want at least two medics, two assault or special forces kits, and probably a support and an anti-tank trooper to round out the package. Your squad leader may ask you to change kits if needed; defensive squads, for instance, will want another anti-tank soldier to take down incoming vehicles. If you're asked to change kits, do so in the capslock menu, and when you die, you'll switch over. Snipers and engineers are often not going to mesh well with an infantry squad, having more specialized roles that aren't emphasized in most assault-this-flag/defend-that-flag maneuvers.

Commander Position

One of the biggest new additions to Battlefield 2 is its inclusion of a commander system, where a single player is able to get a bird's-eye-view of the battlefield and order squads to certain hotspots on the map. Having a commander in a match is optional, but it'll probably be pretty helpful in most situations, as commanders have a number of options available to them to help support and command their team.

When you join or begin a match, you can attempt to elect yourself as your team's commander, but there are some restrictions to this class. The first is that, when multiple people want to become the commander, the game will default to the player who has the highest rank, so if you're a Lieutenant, and there's a General who wants to become the commander, then you'll probably have to defer to their judgement. The second is that, if a commander is performing poorly, the players underneath him can mutiny and attempt to elect a new commander to replace him.

The commander screen is somewhat daunting at first, but is fairly easy to get used to after a bit of play.

Lastly, commanders do exist on the game map as soldiers, and since the commander screen will prevent them from actually seeing any of the game world while they use it, they can wind up being sitting ducks for enemies that happen to spot them. You can raise and lower the commander's screen as you like, and can run around and shoot people if you wish, but most dedicated commanders will want to find a nice, quiet, out of the way hiding spot, lie prone behind a box, and use their commander's screen to help all of their teammates instead of seeking out personal glory.

The commander's screen, as mentioned, will get you a bird's-eye view of the entire game map, which you can use to zoom in and out on the game map. Your maximum zoom will take you down to around 1,000 feet of elevation, which will let you spot tanks with ease, but which will make it difficult for you to spot enemy infantry, unless they're moving or unless you've used your Scan ability . With this view of the playing field, you'll be able to cue in your teammates as to enemy locations, tell them which flags need attention, and use your special moves to support the ground forces.

Support Options

Commanders have the ability to use four special support options to help their teammates. Each of these options works on its own unique timer, so after you use a support option, you'll have to wait a minute or two before you can use them again.

Scan

When you hit the Scan button, you'll get an instant snapshot of all enemy locations on the map. This information will quickly become outdated, as enemies move and die, but it'll still help you get a bead on enemies near your unprotected flags, snipers that are picking off your troops, and so on. Information is power, after all.

After you scan the battlefield, take note of enemy positions and use the info to clue in your squad leaders and soldiers to the location of enemies, especially those close to your flags. If a single enemy is heading towards a flag, then use the right-click menu to issue a Spotted command, and reroute the nearest squad to take him out. If the opposing forces are coming in force, then you might want to risk a teamkill and start an artillery strike centered directly on the flag they're headed for; this will give your troops ten seconds or so before the enemy gets near the flag, as they'll usually spot the artillery and hold off on the perimeter before heading in.

A Scan command can't distinguish between types of enemies; all you'll get are a bunch of red dots, each of which might be anything from an infantry unit to a tank. You have a few ways of identifying units based on scan data: you can check on each dot by right-clicking it and issuing a Spotted command, which will identify the type of unit; you can zoom in on its location and get a visual ID; or you can attempt to gauge its speed. The slowest-moving units are generally going to be infantry, while the fastest will be jets. Everything in between will be some sort of vehicle.

Note that opposing Special Forces units won't appear on scans, so even if you think your base is clear of enemies, it may not be.

Artillery

When you want to effect some punishment for those pesky enemies of yours, you'll be able to call down artillery strikes on them. Although powerful, these strikes are relatively inaccurate, take a while to hit after being called for, and will impact nearby obstacles, such as buildings and structures, meaning that not all of them will actually hit the ground that you're aiming at. Still, the explosive radius on each shell is large, making this an effective anti-infantry ability, especially if you have a target that insists on camping out-of-doors, such as a sniper up in the hills. It can also be used on tanks, although you will usually need more than one direct hit to kill off a fully-armored vehicle. Still, though, when something's sitting still, a little artillery fire can go a long way to letting them know that you'd appreciate it if they moved.

Artillery fire can also be used to clear a path for your infantry or vehicles as they attempt to maneuver towards a defended flag. Laying down artillery fire will, if not kill the defenders, at least weaken them and force them to go to ground for a moment, giving your teammates a perfect opportunity to run in, finish them off, and capture the position. This requires some pretty close coordination, obviously, but is perfectly doable, especially if you're coordinating yourselves via voice communication.

Don't forget to zoom in on the map to witness the splendors of your artillery for yourself.

You can also fire artillery as a defensive measure, when enemies are attempting to overrun an undefended flag of yours. The flag capture radius is fairly close in Battlefield 2, meaning that most enemies will have to be within ten meters or so of a flag before they're able to convert it, which is well within the explosive range of an artillery barrage.

Lastly, artillery can sometimes be used as a deterrent, when a single foe is being a pain. This is especially true of snipers, who'll often sit atop large buildings and go to town; if you can spot them, then artillery should be able to finish them off without requiring you to call out an airplane or counter-sniper.

Note that it takes 10-15 seconds after calling for artillery for it to actually start hitting the ground, so you shouldn't expect immediate results from it. Hitting moving enemies is quite difficult; it's more useful for pounding the snot out of enemies when you know precisely where they'll be, which most often occurs around flags.

Predator UAV Deployment

When you need real-time surveillance of an area, then the UAV option is your best bet. Instead of a simple satellite scan, this option will send down an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to a location that you click to, and give you eyes on everything that occurs in that location for a certain length of time. UAVs can't be seen by players, so they can't be shot down, but they don't last forever, so take advantage of the information that they give you while it lasts. What's more, enemy locations ferreted out by UAVs will be relayed to all players on your team, so that everyone on the ground will get the benefit of your intel.

UAVs are, obviously, best used in the area around a contested flag, whether you're attempting to capture it or defend it. Most flags in Battlefield 2 are going to have a number of buildings or other hiding spots nearby, and a UAV scan can clue your players into the location of enemy snipers or incoming armor far better than verbal notes that have to be passed down the chain of command. UAV scans will also distinguish between infantry, armor, APCs, helicopters, and planes, giving each kind of vehicle its own icon on the minimap, which is something that the normal Scan command can't do.

In general, you want to have a UAV up at all times. They last for around 50 seconds and have a respawn time of 60 seconds, so you'll be able to launch another one quite quickly after the previous one runs low on fuel. If you can't find a hotspot to lay one down, ask your squad leaders if they need one somewhere, or just plop one over an undefended base to see if there are any foes around.

Supplies

Another important aspect of the commander screen is its ability to let you drop supplies almost anywhere on the map. This parachute pack of vital supplies will let your teammates heal themselves, restock their ammo supplies, or even repair their vehicles. No effort is required on the part of your teammates to gain the benefit of these boxes; all they need to do is run up next to them and they'll automatically be healed and restocked. Unfortunately, supply packs are destructible, so if your enemies spot them falling from the sky, you can expect them to attempt to shoot them after they land, or even while they're still falling down.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell where to drop supplies, especially since your enemies can gain the full benefit of supply boxes; if you're overly cautious, just let your players know that you won't drop supplies unless a squad leader requests them. If you feel bad about not dropping them, then a great place to plop them is onto flags that your team is attempting to hold in the face of an enemy onslaught; they'll let your anti-tank troops restock themselves and let all of your soldiers start spamming out grenades with reckless abandon.

Another good point for supply drops, since they refresh fairly quickly, is in support of single powerful units, such as snipers or lone tanks. When a sniper is perched atop a roof, they can sometimes blow through ammo rather quickly if they're in a target-rich environment, and they'll also take occasional damage from infantry that spots them and zooms in for some potshots. If you drop a supply kit next to them, they'll be able to heal and restore their ammo and fight again. Likewise, a lone tank defending an open area can withstand anti-tank rounds much longer than normal if it's constantly being healed by a supply drop; two or more anti-tank soldiers will still be able to eventually take it out, but a constantly healed tank will usually be able to repair itself between rounds from one anti-tank soldier.

One intriguing aspect of supply drops is that they don't require any kind of equipment to be used, so they'll always be available, even if your opponent manages to capture your base and destroy all the rest of your commander equipment. This is important because (drumroll)...supply drops can actually repair commander equipment that's been destroyed. If your enemy comes along and destroys your artillery, then, you can just drop a supply crate on top of it and it will eventually be repaired thanks to the magical power of automatic replenishment! This is a very slow-acting repair, however, so it will take a while for it to work - much longer than it would take a real engineer, at any rate - and you may be inadvertently resupplying enemy special forces agents with more C4 while you're at it.

Issuing Commands

As a commander, you can issue commands. Go figure! You can only order about your squad leaders; they're the ones that will have to transmit your commands to their squad members. Doing so is fairly easy, however. If you want to issue a command, open up your commander screen, select a squad on the left side, then right click on the map and select one of the commands there. (You can also right-click on the squad bars to the left to give them individual text messages, such as "Follow orders!" or "Move! Artillery!") You have six orders in all.

Move: If you want to have one of your squads intercept a tank or incoming vehicle, order them to move to a location on the road along which it's travelling.

Attack: Attack is probably going to be your most-used command; with it, you can designate flags that are poorly defended and order your troops to take them over.

Defend: If a flag is undefended and you spot enemies coming towards it, tell a nearby squad to defend it. Even if they get there after the enemies do, they might still be able to prevent them from taking it over.

The next three commands are going to be rarely used. If you have an engineer in a squad, then you can order them to Repair a destroyed piece of commander equipment or a road, or Mine a road if you happen to see incoming tanks. If there's a special forces soldier near a piece of equipment or a road, then you can order his squad to Destroy it.

Squad leaders can choose to accept or deny your orders as they see fit, although they'll usually assume that you know what you're doing and go along with it. If they happen to turn down your orders, or if the order times out, check out their situation on the map; they could be in trouble. If they're just ignoring you, though, then you can feel free to offer constructive criticism via the right-click menu over their toolbar, or just refuse to give them supplies or UAV support. Obviously, a lack of harmony between commanders and squad leaders isn't going to be a good thing for your team, but hey - it's the Internet. There are bound to be a few bad eggs on any given server. There's not much you can do about poor team players except ignore them and hope they don't frustrate your efforts too badly. And if they do, then you can always just switch servers - it's not like there's a shortage of them, ranked or otherwise.

Vehicles

Land Vehicles

There are a bevy of land vehicles for each side of battle, with most sides obtaining relatively equivalent equipment to bring into the fight. Each side will have a main battle tank, an anti-aircraft vehicle, and so on. We're not going to describe every single vehicle in the game, obviously, especially since there are only minor differences between, say, the American M1A2 tank and the MEC T-90 tank. We will describe each vehicle type in general, however.

Main Battle Tanks

M1A2 / T-90 / Type 98

Main battle tanks are going to be the most fiercesome vehicles on the battlefield in most instances, capable of taking down almost any other land vehicles and of pounding infantry into the dust if they're caught on open ground. The main shells fired from a tank will do a severe amount of damage to anything they hit; most APCs will require only a couple of hits to be destroyed, while opposing tanks will require either three or four, depending on whether you hit them from the front or the side/rear. Most smaller vehicles, like FAAVs or HMMWVs, will be blown away in a single shot.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to having this kind of firepower at your fingertips, the most notable of which is the long reloading time between each shot. The reloading here seems to be a bit longer than that for the tanks in Battlefield 1942, but as a counterbalance, the arc of the shells is less severe than it has been in previous games, meaning that you'll be able to hit further objects without having to aim too high above them. There is still a bit of shell dropping, though, so you'll need to account for that when firing at anything more than a hundred yards or so away. In addition to the main turret, tanks also possess fiercely accurate machineguns that are locked to the driver's secondary fire key, giving them an excellent method of cutting down infantry that happen to expose themselves to fire.

Although tanks are primarily intended to destroy other vehicles and infantry, decent drivers can get into a little anti-air activities if they're good. You can hit planes with your machinegun if you're decent at leading them, but where tanks really come in handy is in battles against helicopters, which move a bit more slowly than do planes. Hitting them with machineguns is fairly easy due to their slow movement, but it's perhaps more fun to try and knock them with shells from your main turret. This requires a lot of practice, due to the arc through which shells travel, which will force you to aim in front of and above your target when a helicopter is moving, but it's perfectly doable, at least at relatively short ranges.

If you see an enemy tank before it spots you, try to maneuver into a position that'll let you hit it from the side or the rear.

Tanks also have a seat for a single passenger, who'll ride up top and man a second machinegun atop the main turret. The good news here is that the machinegun here will rip through infantry that come into view relatively easily, but the gunner up here is going to be fairly exposed to fire, especially from opposing vehicles and infantry that happen to get close without being spotted. If you find yourself taking fire while in the gunner position, try dropping down by using the crouch key; you'll duck into the hole in the turret and be able to avoid most gunfire coming your way. Luckily, the turret gunner is no longer tied to the movement of the tank turret, so you can rotate your view as much as you like without having to adjust for the panning of the main tank driver.

In addition to all these offensive features, tanks also possess smoke grenades that they can drop, which will shroud them in smoke through which it'll be impossible to see. These are mostly useful as a defensive measure, when you have antitank forces gunning for you, but the smoke cover isn't exactly huge, and anyone aiming an anti-tank rocket at the middle of it will still probably hit you. Still, they can be handy to obscure a distant opponent's view of you, such as during long-range tank-on-tank combat.

Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs)

LAV-25 / Wuzhuang Zhisheng 551 / BTR-90

APCs are designed to rapidly transport large numbers of infantry across open areas of the battlefield. To that end, they have an armored shell that encloses all of the passengers, ensuring that none of them are exposed to enemy fire. Although APCs are somewhat ponderous in motion, they can move at a pretty good clip when traveling straight ahead, although they're still ripe targets for enemy tanks, who'll be looking to rack up a bunch of kills by taking out a fully-loaded APC.

Luckily, APCs are fairly handy offensively, in that they pack a driver-controlled cannon that can take down infantry in just a hit or two, and which can penetrate tank armor and take down helicopters if fired long enough. (It'll usually overheat before you can destroy a healthy armored target, though, so be sure not to just hold down the button.) There's also an alt-fire TOW missile at the driver's control which can be adjusted in mid-flight. This seems to do slightly less damage than an anti-tank rocket, and takes a good ten seconds or so to reload, but can be useful when you come up behind a tank before they notice your presence. In addition, there are side and rear guns that can be fired by extra passengers.

Anti-Aircraft Vehicles

M6 Bradley Linebacker / Type 95 / Tunguska M1

On most maps with aircraft and helicopters, you're going to find anti-aircraft vehicles available for manning. These vehicles pack a double threat, with Vulcan cannons capable of spitting out flak backing up SAM missiles that can rip through most aerial threats without a problem. These work quite similarly to the stationary SAM sites that are scattered around most maps; wait until an enemy airplane comes over head, aim at it, wait for the tone that indicates that you're locked on, and fire away. AA vehicles are undeniably more powerful than the stationary sites, though, since they can fire more missiles in succession, and can be moved around the map to provide for attacks from unorthodox locations.

The flak that's shot here can also be aimed fairly low when compared to the AA vehicles in the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942; it's no longer necessary to park your rear end on an incline in order to hit incoming vehicles, for instance. The tradeoff, though, is that this flak does fairly low damage against armored vehicles, and will likely overheat before you're able to destroy even an APC. It also has a fairly wide spread when fired at medium range, which is somewhat helpful when dealing with quick-moving aircraft, but which can make it difficult to hit incoming troops. Still, though, a load of flak in the face of an opposing infantryman is going to teach them a lesson that they won't soon forget, and indeed AA vehicles can make decent anti-infantry tools in the absence of tanks or APCs. AA vehicles are lightly armored, and are enclosed, so you will be protected from small arms fire while you're inside one.

Medium Transport Vehicles

HMMWV / Nanjing 2046 / GAZ 39371 Vodnik

Medium transport vehicles include the American Hummer-like HMMWV and corresponding vehicles on the MEC and Chinese sides. These typically seat at least three players, and will usually have a machinegun mounted atop them. They're not exceptionally fast, but will usually be quicker than APCs or tanks, allowing them to sometimes jet past heavier vehicles before they get shot up. These are only lightly armored, if at all, and any passengers inside will be open to fire from exterior threats, so you're much more likely to die while running around in a medium transport than you are if you happen to be in an APC. Still, their speed and availability will sometimes make them useful for darting behind enemy lines.

Fast Attack Vehicles

FAAV / FAV

Fast Attack Vehicles are essentially just buggies, which offer little protection from outside fire, but which make up for that with pure speed. All three sides pack more or less identical FAVs, so there aren't any structural differences to note between the three; each will have a driver slot and two passenger slots. The passengers can't use their own equipment, but will both have access to a machinegun while riding.

In most cases, though, you don't want to bring an FAV into the middle of a battle. Since there's no armor and precious little actual cover from fire, you're going to get shredded if you slow down long enough to actually hit something. FAVs are much more useful for transporting squads behind enemy lines to capture enemy bases; if you load up three guys into an FAV and park it near a flag, you should be able to switch it to neutral in just a few seconds and capture it for your team shortly thereafter. (It's usually best to get out of the vehicle, though, as they're fragile and can be destroyed by a single round from an Assault player's grenade launcher, for instance.) If your chosen flag happens to be populated, then take advantage of your vehicle's speed and just jet past any threats.

In combat, as mentioned, FAVs aren't overly powerful; they're natural targets for enemy infantry and tanks, since everyone knows how fragile they are. They can, however, be immensely fun when used as simple distractions. Due to their speed, they're pretty tough to hit, so if you can find an open area where combat is ongoing, you can just speed around in an FAV, running circles around enemy tanks, attempting to run over enemy infantry. If you can avoid getting immediately blown away, then you should be able to grab the attention of the enemy forces in the area, which will prevent them from attempting to overrun the next base down the line. If you spot an enemy lying prone, then line up with them and run them down. Just driving around like a spaz can be one of the most entertaining aspects of using the FAV, especially in relatively open areas, like on some of the islands in the Zatar Wetlands.

Air Vehicles

Attack Helicopters

AH-1Z Super Cobra / Wuzhuang Zhisheng-10 / Mi-28 Havok

Attack choppers are going to be devastating forces on most battlefields, especially when they have both a primary and secondary gunner aboard. While difficult to control, attack choppers possess a number of threats that make them feared among both infantry and vehicle soldiers. The pilot will have at his disposal armor-piercing missiles that fly straight ahead of the chopper; these need to be aimed a bit below your target when you're flying forward, to account for your movement. It only takes a few of them to blow up a tank, however.

Having an able secondary gunner, however, can transform the attack choppers into pure death-dealers, thanks to the rotating turret that's put under their control. This large-caliber machinegun can kill most infantry troopers in one or two shots, and the tv-guided missiles, albeit difficult to aim properly when a helicopter is moving fast, are essentially one-hit kills on anything they hit, including tanks. Of course, attack choppers are a bit more prone to getting hit by anti-air assets than jets air, and can even be taken out by anti-tank rounds if you happen to hover in place for too long. As you pass over a battlefield, you can expect enemy infantry to be calling your position out with a good amount of frequency, so keep an ear out for the lockon sound, and be prepared to launch chaff to throw off incoming missiles. Enemy fighters can rather quickly destroy you with either their AA missiles or their frontal guns, so keep moving if possible.

Transport Helicopters

HH-60H Seahawk / Zhisheng-8 / Mi-17 Hip

Transport Choppers are intended to shuttle men around the battlefield at top speeds. You can fit a lot of men into a transport chopper, which make them ideal for getting an entire squad out of the base at the beginning of a round. The main drawbacks to transport choppers is that they're rather cumbersome, making them an easy target for enemy anti-aircraft, and the pilot possesses no weapons. The only offensive capabilities here come from the miniguns mounted on either side, which are perfect for striking down enemy infantry and light vehicles that you happen to spot. Aiming these can be difficult when the helicopter is moving rapidly, however.

Soldiers inside the helicopter can also use their weapons and equipment if they're not in one of the minigun slots. If you're hovering low over an enemy-controlled base, then feel free to chuck out your grenades or C4 while you're still in the relative safety of the helicopter. We say "relative" because you can, in fact, be killed by enemy fire that enters the hold of a helicopter while riding in it. Also note that if you happen to be an engineer, you can hop into one of the rear seats of a helicopter and repair it in mid-air by aiming your wrench at the floor.

Jets

Jets are perhaps a bit easier to handle than helicopters, although flying them well is much, much easier if you happen to have a joystick with a throttle on it as opposed to using a mouse and keyboard. They're not impossible to fly with a mouse and keyboard, but you'll have to constantly lift your mouse and reposition it to achieve 180-degree turns unless you crank the sensitivity way up, and if you crank the sensitivity way up it'll be more difficult to line up for bombing runs. If you plan on being my wingman anytime, then, you'd be well advised to pick up a cheap joystick and practice with it on singleplayer Operation Clean Sweep matches.

Jets can be deadly in the right hands, but you won't help your team if you jump into a machine you can't handle.

There are usually going to be two variations of jets to choose from, at least on the larger maps. There are air superiority fighters, which possess six air-to-air missiles and two ground-target bombs, and versatile jets, which usually pack four AA missiles and five bombs. The versatile jets are generally more coveted, as you can rack up some insane kills by bombing enemy bases, but even the two bombs equipped on the fighters are enough to get your kill count up, since you can easily reload your bombs by flying over a friendly airstrip.

Bombing requires a bit of skill, however, mostly due to the fact that you have to compensate for your forward momentum by dropping the bombs before you pass over the target area, which takes practice to get used to. If you don't want to have to lead so much, you can try divebombing, which has you come in high and swoop down low over your target, reducing the amount of lead time required before you drop the bombs, and allowing you to drop them in a more concentrated area, but which will require more time than just dropping them from a level flying altitude.

Sea Vehicles

Well, when we say sea vehicles, we really mean sea vehicle; the only boat you're going to be running around in anytime soon will be a fast insertion boat, capable of holding a half dozen men, but only containing a single machinegun for offense and only lightly armored. There are aircraft carriers in the game, but they can't be moved from their default positions. (Which is probably a good thing, given the propensity for poor players to beach them in BF1942.) The rigid inflatable boats, however, can be useful on maps with water, since they'll allow you to skirt the main roads and head behind enemy lines, as many players discovered on the Gulf of Oman map in the demo.

Point System

Players of Battlefield 1942 will remember its point system, which ranked players on each server according to certain actions that they took during the game. Killing players, converting or capturing flags, and the like would all add to your personal score, allowing you to see where you ranked among the other players in the game. Battlefield 2 adds to and enhances this system. The ultimate goal in a game is still to beat the enemy by converting the most flags for the longest amount of time, but since your personal score is going to contribute to your ranking, you'll want to fight with maximum efficiency, at least on ranked servers, to increase your score and hopefully earn yourself higher ranks.

With that in mind, here are some of the changes and additions to the point system in Battlefield 2. The biggest change is to the points scored for killing and capturing flags, and to the penalties for team-killing, but there've been a lot of minor additions to the point totals as well.

Action Point Reward or Penalty
Kill an enemy+2 points
Change an enemy flag to neutral +2 points
Convert a neutral flag to your side +2 points
Flag assist +1 point (note 1)
Kill assist +1 point (note 2)
Flag defend +1 point (note 3)
Driver assist+1 point (note 4)
Heal 100 points of damage (other players only)+1 point
Revive a player+2 points
Give ammunition to player or vehicle (other players only)+1 point
Repair a vehicle +1 point
Team damage (take off 50% of a teammate's total health) -2 points
Team vehicle damage (deal 50% damage to a vehicle controlled by a friendly player)-2 points
Team kill -4 points (note 5)

Note 1: Flag assisting and flag capturing points all work together to form a comprehensive reward system. Assume that you and a couple of teammates are heading towards a flag owned by the enemy. The first player into the flag capture zone is considered to be the primary converter, and will earn two points for converting the flag to neutral, then another two points for converting it to your side. The two players that come in afterwards are considered to be assisting the primary flag capper, and will get one point for neutralizing the flag, then another point for converting it to your side. This is intended to reward players who risk their lives to go after flags that are in the hands of the enemy. If all players enter the flag capture zone simultaneously, such as by entering while they're all in a vehicle, then they'll all gain the full capturing points.

Note 2: Kill assists will reward players for dealing a good amount of damage to an enemy, but who aren't quite capable of finishing the job. If you deal more than 50% damage to an enemy, but one of your teammates finishes him off later, then your teammate will get the two points for the kill, but you'll still get a one point kill assist bonus.

Note 3: If a player is attempting to capture one of your flags, and you kill them, then you'll gain the two points for the kill, as well as a one point flag defense bonus. Sometimes it pays to guard the homestead!

Note 4: You earn a driver assist for each kill that a passenger in your vehicle obtains. If you're in a vehicle with a mounted turret that someone else is using, then you'll gain one point for each kill that they pull off.

Note 5: All of the annoying bastards who love to team-kill will hopefully have to find another game to ruin, as DiCE seems pretty serious about penalizing players for going after their teammates. You get a two-point penalty for dealing 50% damage to a teammate, then another four points for actually killing them, so you'll earn an eight-point penalty for killing a perfectly healthy teammate. (This is what it theoretically should be, but in most cases you wind up getting -6; apparently everyone takes a small amount of damage while spawning. You only get the minimum -4 points, however, for killing a teammate instantly, such as with a shotgun blast to the head or by running them over with a vehicle.) These penalties apply to teammates in vehicles, as well, so if you "accidentally" blow up a fully-loaded APC or helicopter, you can expect to take some massive penalties. What's more, server operators can set their servers to automatically kick players when they earn a set number of negative points, so you'll want to check your targets on servers with friendly fire turned on, which we expect will be almost every ranked server out there.

Maps

Obviously enough, strategies for specific maps are going to evolve over time, as people figure out every nook and cranny of a location and start to use them with maximum effectiveness. These strategies here aren't intended to be the be-all-and-end-all of BF2 strategies, then, but should help you get started with the strange and wondrous locations in Battlefield 2.

Dalian Plant

The fight for the Dalian nuclear plant will be a fairly intimate one, with the 16 and 32 player maps rotating around a mere four controllable points, and the 64 player version expanding out to only six contestable flags, as opposed to, say, the ten contestable flags of the 64-player Dragon Valley. The relative concentration of flags is going to result in some pretty intense ground combat here, especially in the smallest version; the 32 and 64 player versions will each expand a bit to include air assets for each side of the battle.

However, we usually find this map to be a contest between armored vehicles and anti-armor infantry forces, whether they take the form of anti-tank kits or of infantry manning stationary TOW missiles. All of the flags are on flat ground that can be easily reached by vehicles, although some, like the southern Support Building flag, are perfect for anti-vehicle mine or defensive C4 placements due to their narrow approaches. Many of them will also either be enclosed or be near sturdy buildings, allowing defenders to take cover from aerial strikes if they happen to be camping the flag. There's also plenty of open sightlines between the various flags, allowing vehicle drivers to spot and converge on enemy infantry if they attempt to move out in the open.

Your focus here is going to depend on your style of play and the size of the map. In the 16-player version, the only air support available is an attack chopper which will spawn at the easternmost Reactors flag, which is initially neutral. Obtaining it will definitely give your team an edge, if you can stay alive in it; the tightness of the map's confines will make you a juicy target for ground-based anti-aircraft. On this smaller map, you'll also have to be careful of enemy soldiers wrapping around the sides of the map and attempting to strike at your commander equipment. Since all of the flags can be captured, though, including the two starting flags, you may want to be more vigilant when guarding against enemies coming in frontally. The U.S. base is perhaps a bit harder to defend than the Chinese base, thanks to its multi-story construction site layout; taking over the Chinese base will usually require someone to sit out in the open until it shifts to neutral.

The map is opened up a bit in the 32 and 64 player versions, with the central four-flag structure expanded a bit and with both sides gaining the use of an airstrip. Neither side will start the round with control of any of the central flags, so you'll have to rush from your rear base in order to capture them quickly. The Chinese will want to hop into a FAV to get going, while the U.S. forces will be forced to either take a boat or load up one of the transport choppers to make landfall.

One thing you'll definitely have to be careful of here as an infantryman is snipers; there are a few spots for them around the map, such as the crane system near the eastern beach and the large smokestack near the power plant. There are also less-likely hiding spots, such as the tufts of grass near the reactors or atop some of the buildings away from the flag points, so be mindful of your path and try not to move in straight lines.

Daqing Oilfields

These intimate maps are going to be the site of plenty of cutthroat infantry combat, especially on the smallest, 16-player map. The central flag point in all of these maps, the Oil Cisterns, is only capturable by infantry, in fact, due to the flag's location in the middle of an enclosed building. It is possible to enter the flag radius by driving a vehicle up to the side of the wall, but you'll usually just wind up getting blown away by an anti-tank soldier on top of the building. There are also anti-air and machinegun positions on top of the building, so before you attempt to overtake it, you'll likely want to pelt it with artillery or a few airplane bombs.

As the map expands, the gameplay becomes a bit more open, but still retains the fairly fast-paced aspect of the smaller map. It's not going to be quite as quick as on a map like Gulf of Oman or Strike at Karkand, due to the fact that most of the flags are separated by hills or buildings, making it difficult to see enemies or defenders as you approach a point, and the maps are large enough to make it difficult to travel from point to point on foot. This leads to a lot of smaller skirmishes in most cases, rather than one huge battle, although the central Oil Cisterns flag can still be a focal point of combat. Since vehicles will typically be sticking to the roads engineers can sometimes rack up some cheap kills by laying anti-vehicle mines out in the no-man's land between bases. Just be ready for some friendly kills due to players not looking straight ahead if you do so, though.

Because of the spread-out nature of the map, it can be tempting to just run around in vehicles and shoot at whatever comes into sight. If you're of a defensive bent, though, you may just want to hang back and defend a point that your team has already captured. Anti-tank or special forces classes are great for base defense, with their rocket launchers and C4 being quite capable of taking down numerous enemies at once.

Dragon Valley

This large map is going to see some of the most drastic changes of any map when it expands in size, going from four flags in the 16-player map all the way up to 11 flags in the 64-player map. It's big, open, and quite a bit of fun to run around in, with air power usually being one of the deciding factors in who wins and who loses.

On the smallest map, you'll have a fairly simple back-and-forth battle for control of four flags. The water here can restrict mobility a bit, but the map is small enough to make getting from point to point a relatively easy task. It's on the 32 and 64-player maps that things start to open up a bit; both of these are going to feature uncapturable US bases, while the Chinese forces are going to have to defend their base, which is capturable. If you're planning on stopping your opponents, then you'll have to make sure that the anti-aircraft vehicles at your flags are manned and operational, or you're going to find yourself getting pounded by bombers.

Beyond that, the most pitched battles here will likely be for the Chinese base, which is capturable and which will cause them to lose most of their air support should it fall. It's difficult for the US forces to penetrate all the way back there without getting noticed by numerous Chinese troops, but there is a good amount of leeway along either side of the map which transport choppers can take advantage of if you want to avoid the central river and the anti-air assets there; just load up a chopper, stick close to the ground near the red zone, and circle around to land in the Chinese base and hope that there aren't a bunch of people running around waiting for planes. Of course, if you get spotted, you'll probably be shot down by a jet, but risk equals reward.

Infantry will have a fun time here, as the flags around the central river are going to change hands fairly often. Anti-tank kits will be important, as most flags will have one or two vehicle spawns nearby; you'll also need to watch for snipers who take advantage of the empty space on the hills above the valley. Just don't stand still for too long, and point them out if you happen to see them up there; one of your bombers can likely finish them off.

FuShe Pass

FuShe Pass is somewhat similar to Dragon Valley, featuring USMC and Chinese forces battling it out for control of a long valley. The smallest map here is going to be one of the most constraining of the 16-player maps, with only three total flags, including the two bases.

On the larger maps, the destructible bridges over the water and the narrowness of the valley itself will start to come into play. On the 64-player map, a lot of the flags are paired off, with two of them being side by side, or at least relatively close together, so if you happen to control one of them but not the other, your first priority should be to assault the closest flag and try to wrap up control of as many pairs as possible.

Although there's plenty of air support available to both sides, especially on the 64-player map, each side will still need to get on the ground to capture the flags. Because the flags are relatively spread out, you can expect vehicle combat to be a relatively central aspect of battles here, so engineer, anti-tank, and special forces kits are going to be important. Special forces soldiers may also want to try to pick off the bridges overrunning the map, especially if you're attempting to defend a base by yourself, but this can wind up hurting your own team just as much as the enemy.

Gulf of Oman

This level, originally featured in the game's demo, appears in the full version of the game with both of its 16 and 32-player versions intact, and also includes a 64-player version. It takes place on the shores of a large beach, with numerous beach fortifications ripe for the taking - by either side.

In its smallest version, though, the Gulf features no water, and is a straightforward bash between two opposing forces over a relatively small patch of land. Each side is going to have at least three vehicles available to it, including one tank apiece, so anti-tanking will still be required if you want to slow down the enemy's advance. The map generally slopes downward from the MEC city to the USMC's beachfront property, giving the MEC an advantage when it comes to sniping and just in terms of their general view of the battlefield, especially when they can get someone to spot from atop one of the buildings near their initial spawn point, or even the large crane there. If you're USMC then you'll need to be on the lookout for opposing snipers, because they'll probably have a great view of your approach to the northern half of the map.

On the larger maps, things tend to become a bit less concentrated, but hectic nonetheless. The lower three or four fortification points, along the edges of the beach, are going to be the center of the action in most games, and they'll shift back and forth multiple times as a match plays out. The Rock and Olive Hill fortifications are going to be the critical points here, and the most difficult to capture, due to the small ramps leading up to the flags. This will prevent vehicles, especially tanks, from getting close to the flags while still retaining mobility and field of view; parking a tank on one of these ramps just to get close to the flag is essentially asking for the other team to blow you away with C4.

You can hop onto these barrels of concrete and fire over them to defend the beach bases while exposing a minimum of body area to your enemies.

The "rear" flags, for lack of a better word, consist of the a hotel, a construction site, and another site across the river from the construction site, although this latter only appears in the 64-player version. These are often going to be slightly less busy than the other sites, mostly due to the relatively winding paths required to reach them with vehicles, so it can be tempting to leave them undefended while you head out for the beaches. If you're a defensive player, though, you may find it handy to just find a nice spot to lay prone and watch for intruders.

But really, the beaches are where the bulk of the action is going to be taking place, whether it's squads, bombing, tank assaults, or what have you. The sightlines afforded by the openness of the area will give players plenty of warning of incoming forces, and thus plenty of time to call out targets and request backup, leading to some pretty hectic situations. You won't live long if you choose to run around on the beaches, especially if you're infantry, so try not to expose yourself overmuch. It's important to note that the USMC artillery is situated on the beaches near the River Fortification, which makes that point relatively vital to both sides. If the MEC forces overcome it and begin spawning there, you can expect the USMC artillery to be blown away shortly thereafter.

Kubra Dam

Kubra Dam is only available in multiplayer; you can't run singleplayer bot matches here. That said, it's likely going to wind up being one of the most popular multiplayer maps, due to its iconic namesake dam, which dominates the smaller maps and still acts as a focal point when the map is expanded out to 64 people.

In the smallest version of this map, verticality becomes an important concept, since your foes may just as likely be above or below as they are to be across the dam from you; the dam itself has a number of walkways, stairs, and sniper's roosts on top of it, making it a fully three-dimensional battleground. The upper flag is likely going to be the center of the early fighting, due to its relatively easy-to-access position with regards to the starting bases of both sides, but it can also be difficult to hold due to the fact that vehicles will quickly be blocked off to it. This is where the whole bridge-destroying mechanic really comes into play, since the dam road on either side of the flag can be blown away by special forces soldiers; doing so will prevent enemy vehicles from accessing the flag. Enemy infantry will still be able to skirt along one side of the destroyed roadway, however, and the bridges can be repaired by engineers, so you'll need to keep a pretty strong anti-infantry force around the flag itself.

The lower flag is going to be a bit more open, although it will be protected from the artillery of both sides due to the fact that it's underneath the dam itself. Vehicles and infantry will have an easy time approaching it, but if you're driving down from the side bases, you'll have to follow some pretty lengthy paths. It may be quicker just to hitch a ride to the upper-central flag, then parachute off the back of the dam to fall down to the lower flag.

The 32 and 64-player versions of the map are almost identical, with the 64-player version featuring only a single extra flag in the northern end of the map. In these versions of the map, the USMC forces will only have a couple of spawn points at the beginning of the map, and will be tasked with overtaking the MEC bases throughout the rest of the map. The map is so large and spread out, though, especially on the 32 player version, that strike forces coming out in small vehicles or parachuting from planes or helicopters ought to be able to grab one of the side flags and start working their way into enemy territory. If you're a USMC player, then you may want to risk heading into enemy territory and capturing their rear airfield base; doing so will prevent them from summoning in air support, but you can expect a dedicated counterattack if you do actually manage to hold this spot.

Mashtuur City

The city of Mashtuur is going to be the scene of some pretty hardcore infantry battles. This online-only map (you can't run bot matches here) revolves around the proper use of squads and the battle for the dominance of the town's rooftops. Almost every building here has a ladder attached to it, so you can expect this to be a vertical battle as much as a battle of horizontal distance. Keep your heads up, in other words.

The main strategic decision here will revolve around whether or not you should blow the two central bridges here. Doing so will prevent enemy vehicles and infantry from crossing the river without making a lengthy end-around down the streambed. Blowing the bridges can help slow down the pace of a battle that's going against you, akin to a basketball coach calling a timeout when the other team goes on a hot streak. It won't help much unless you control both of the flags on your side of the map, though, obviously enough.

On the largest version of the map, you can expect the transport helicopters to be pretty fiercesome opponents. Neither side gets an attack chopper, but the miniguns on either side of the transport choppers will make them deadly to go up against as an infantryman. You can expect to get hit by turrets or anti-air shots if you spend too much time in the air, but banking over the town will let your gunners spot enemies on rooftops and call them out to your friendly soldiers.

You'll also need to beware enemies coming after your base on the 64-player map. There are bridges that can be blown to prevent unfettered access along the roads leading around the edges of the map, but it's still easy to focus too much on the town itself and leave your base undefended. Base defense can be a fairly boring task if your enemies never attempt to rush your base, but it can be a vital job when you're faced with extinction. If you're getting pushed around in the city itself, you can expect your enemies to try and close the vise by capturing your base before wiping you out in the city below.

Operation Clean Sweep

Operation Clean Sweep is probably the most aircraft-intensive map in the entire game; even on the 16-player version of the map, you're going to have jets swooping around overhead and choppers shuttling players around the map, and there'll also be anti-aircraft vehicles attempting to take you down from the ground. Most of the map points are going to be exposed to bombing runs, too, so you'd better hope your fighter pilots are better than those of the other team, or you're going to get pelted over and over again. If worst comes to worst, look for one of the anti-aircraft vehicles scattered around the map and start popping.

Although the map is dominated by water, it's not overly difficult to get from flag to flag, thanks to bridges and the occasional spit of shallow water. That said, you can definitely put a crimp in the movement of your enemies by bombing the bridges between flags that they control; a good USMC special forces soldier can even parachute out of a plane at the beginning of the round and go behind enemy lines to segregate their forward bases from rear support, making the job of capturing the first couple of bases a mite easier.

As a MEC defender, you can't assume that your opponents are going to make a straight charge to the southeast; you can expect enterprising squads to grab boats or transport choppers and capture some of your rearward bases. Information is key here; if you're the commander, constantly scan for anomalous blips in the middle of the water, and if you're up in a chopper or jet, be on the look for boats and radio their locations to your teammates. If you're overly worried about boat incursions, you might want to grab an APC and float it out into the water somewhere near the US base and pelt anyone that attempts to encroach on your territorial waters.

Sharqi Peninsula

The Sharqi Peninsula is going to be one of the more intense maps in the game, but does a great job of invoking a sense of desperate defense, especially on the part of the USMC marines. This is an urban map, with flags that are going to be difficult for armor to hold, thanks to the tight streets and TOW missiles. Like it or not, battles here are going to be decided primarily by infantry combat, so get into a squad and get ready to fight.

Sharqi plays quite a bit differently in its 16-player state than it does in its larger variants, since the MEC forces only have one permanent spawn point. Since they only have so many ways to reach the upper level of the map, where the USMC bases are, they can sometimes get boxed by enemy forces and have a hard time escaping from the abattoir. The primary task for the MEC here, at least at the beginning of the round, is to get up the hill and take one of the flags, and then hold it. It's probably best to try heading up via the western road, as the tank from the eastern USMC base will likely be found on the eastern road. If you jeep your way up the road, you can often get back to the northern base, which is usually poorly defended.

The central base is usually the scene of the most intense infantry fights, since the flag here is raised up onto the roof of one of the construction sites. You can reach it by either climbing the stairs up from below, or climbing the stairs in the building to the west and sprintjumping across the small gap between them. There aren't a lot of spots to hide while you're attempting to capture this flag, with the small corner between the wall and the crates being the obvious spot. You can expect that to be the first place for enemies to look if they come after you, so stay on your guard.

Watch for enemy infantry that attempt to get on top of these buildings, especially if you're on the USMC side.

The 32 and 64-player versions of this map are an entirely different beast altogether. The primary difference is that the MEC forces will have not one but three different uncapturable bases from which to attack, meaning that you'll never, ever be able to box them into a corner or know precisely where they'll attack from next. You're not going to find many more challenging maps than this if you're playing as a USMC squad against a decent MEC enemy. The key point is to be absolutely sure to keep control of your easternmost flag, which houses your artillery and commander equipment; your artillery, especially, is going to be critical in your efforts to effect punitive measures on the MEC forces when they're attempting to capture one of your flags. Losing the UAV is going to be just as troubling, due to all the buildings on which enemies can climb. If you enjoy playing defensively, then you may want to sit back as a special forces character and lay C4 on the ramp, blowing it when enemies appear.

Besides that, the USMC forces here are going to have to scramble to keep control of as many of the flags as they possibly can. It's almost impossible to hold all of the flags and keep the MEC forces bleeding, since they'll usually get a flag or two fairly early. Since they'll likely begin with more tickets than you will, you'll just have to wage a battle of attrition and hope that your teammates can kill more quickly than the enemy can.

Assault kits are probably your best bet for sustained lethality here. The grenade launchers are fantastic at taking down enemy infantry, which will be the bulk of your targets on this map, and you can always use your primary weapon to snipe across the medium-range encounters that you come across.

Songhua Stalemate

Like a few other of the Chinese maps, Songhua sees the USMC and Chinese forces going toe-to-toe in a valley, but here, it's not the length of the valley that makes for a challenge, it's the width. The center of the map consists of numerous spits of territory connected by land bridges, some of which are actually partially submerged. Unless you're in an amphibious APC, there are only going to be one or two ways to move from point to point, which can make it easier for engineers and special forces to restrict the travels of vehicles.

On the two larger versions of the map, each flag is going to be a relatively self-contained battleground; with the difficulties involved in quickly getting from point to point, and the copious amounts of bamboo around to reduce your sightlines (and your framerate), you can't count on a quick rescue if you see enemy troops pouring in to an undefended flag. If you're comfortable with running in a smaller squad, then it can be helpful to mount up in a three-man FAV and using it to travel from point to point, with the squad leader dropping off soldiers outside a base, then waiting for them to gauge its defenses before heading in himself. If the soldiers get wiped out, they can respawn in the FAV; if not, you can capture the base and move on to the next.

The critical bases here are likely going to be the flags that start out underneath the control of the USMC and Chinese forces, on top of the hills to the east and west of the central battlegrounds. Getting to these bases is quite difficult if you're attempting to approach in a vehicle, thanks to the large hills leading up to them; you can sometimes find your APC or tank just stalling out entirely thanks to the grade. If you can manage to scale the hills, though, and succeed in capping the base and holding it, then you should have a distinct vehicular advantage over your opponents. If you're concerned with defending your base, then you may want to try lining the paths up to it and just take your vehicles straight down the hill. They'll probably take damage from the jostling, but you'll be able to rest a bit more easily knowing that any enemies that come along will likely be blown away by your explosive treats.

Strike at Karkand

Strike at Karkand is an intimate city map, without a single aerial vehicle located on it at any size. Land vehicles will be important here, but this is really going to be an infantry battle, as there are dozens of rooftops for sneaky players to snipe from, and the tight city streets make it relatively easy to mine and C4 vehicles to death.

At its smallest level, this is going to be a difficult map for the MEC forces to win, as the USMC players will be able to pick their choice of flags to attack by flanking around the city and avoiding the frontal Hotel point. In most cases, though, the USMC will just charge straight ahead; if you're the MEC, try to get down the road leading from their base and mining it before they can roll up in their tanks. One the USMC get a foothold, though, this map largely becomes a battle of attrition, with infantry tactics and squad coordination becoming the most important aspect of holding and taking flags. There's really no reason not to be in a squad here unless you're sniping; there are plenty of alleys and hiding spots near each flag for squad leaders to hide in.

If you get boxed in on the larger versions of the map, do your best to get past your enemy and capture one of their rear flags.

On the larger versions of the map, it expands to include the northeastern island in the fun. When you're facing off against a tough USMC opponent, the bridge leading from the main city to the northeast is often going to be a focal point in the fighting, and if you're about to get locked out of the city, then you'll definitely want to blow the bridge to prevent the US from crossing over and rolling into your base, at least on the 32-player map. There is a land bridge to the south a bit, so you'll want to mine that fairly well if you're establishing the island as a purely defensive position; you don't want to totally isolate yourself, though, because the USMC players will often start spawning almost exclusively at the river point, allowing you to take a jeep or APC across the riverbed and capture one of the rear points, giving your team another spawn point. You can expect enemy infantry to try and cross the river by swimming, as well, so beware that lovely little tactic. Keep in mind that swimmers are defenseless, so pop them while they're in the water for some easy kills.

On the 64-player version of the map, the map zone is expanded even further to include three more flags on the eastern section, and also expands the AWOL zone to allow players to swim around to the southern side of the map, letting them go around the critical bridges if they wish.

Zatar Wetlands

If you're a fan of long-range battles, then the Zatar Wetlands is going to be right up your alley. Each of the contestable flags here is going to be on its own discrete island, connected to the others by at least one destructible bridge and one land bridge, but the funnest aspect of the map is that there aren't really many obstacles between the islands besides the water, letting you snipe away at distant foes or fire tank shells at a vehicle you spot moving off in the distance. Although it can be difficult to get from island to island, especially when the bridges get blown by special forces, you can never assume that you're safe from fire just because you happen to not see any nearby enemies; it's when you get complacent that you'll be killed by a tank shell from the next island over. If you're in a tank or APC, keep an eye out for distant targets and fire away.

Still, the smaller versions of these maps will mostly consist of discrete firefights for the individual flags. There isn't a lot of cover around each flag, so they can be difficult for infantry to hold in the face of tanks and airplane assaults, especially since the buildings around most of the flags are boarded up and unenterable. If you are defending, then take note of TOW missile stations and vehicles that spawn when you capture a flag, as you'll likely need them to successfully hold the flags that you've taken. The key here is to hold the center flag and protect the flags closer to your base; holding and defending the center flag will make it more difficult for the enemy to successfully get past you and capture your rear defenses, and should let you hold half the flags, at least on the 32-player map.

One of the odder features of the 64-player version of this map is the inclusion of an unclaimed airfield. What's more odd is that this airfield is right next to the already uncapturable USMC bases, which includes an aircraft carrier. Control of this airfield will be tough to manage for MEC forces, so if you're playing as a MEC soldier, you can expect to have the air a bit more hostile than on other maps. Man those AA guns and keep your eyes on the sky.

Tips

Get Rid of the Splash Movies

Regrettably enough, most game publishers enjoy putting unskippable splash screens in their games, which play each time the game starts. These are, to put it mildly, annoying, but luckily for you, you can get rid of them and get right into the game within seconds after clicking your shortcut.

To do so, go to this directory:

C:\Program Files\EA GAMES\Battlefield 2\mods\bf2\Movies

And either delete or move the movies there to another folder, leaving only menu.bik and menu_loggedin.bik behind. With the files not in the directory, the game won't be able to play them when it starts up, so it'll just skip past them.

Some users, however, report problems connecting to servers or getting kicked from them when moving these files out of the directory; if you're worried about this, you might want to create a blank Notepad document and rename it to match the name of the files that were previously there. You can do so in Windows by going to the folder, right-clicking, then selecting "New Text Document" from the popup menu and renaming it after it's created. For instance, after moving the 135 megabyte "Intro.bik" file to another directory, you could return to the \movies folder, right click, make a new text document, and name it "Intro.bik." This new file would be zero bytes in size, but may prevent the game's anticheat protection from detecting that you've messed around with the movies. If that still results in you getting Punkbusted, then you may want to try simply renaming the files, adding text to them just before the .bik extension, e.g. renaming intro.bik to something like intro1.bik.

Running Alternate Resolutions

If you want to run Battlefield 2 in a resolution not supported by the in-game video options, you can adjust your startup shortcut by rightclicking on it and changing the pointer to something like this:

C:\Program Files\EA GAMES\Battlefield 2 Demo\BF2.exe" +menu 1 +fullscreen 1 +szx 1280 +szy 1024

This would launch it in 1280x1024 resolution. You can change these numbers to anything you wish, such as 1680x1050 for widescreen monitors.

Rebind Those Keys

One of the more frustrating aspects of Battlefield 2 is its key rebinding system. If you want to change the keys available to you, you're going to find that it's not exactly the most user-friendly system on the market. It will spit out a lot of errors when you attempt to rebind a key with another key that's already bound, without telling you precisely where the error is coming from. What's more, some keys, such as left Alt, just can't be bound for one reason or another. Sometimes you may just want to get around the system by going straight to the source and editing the config files themselves.

To do so, go to the My Documents folder on your hard drive, then open up the Battlefield 2/Profiles folder. There should be a couple of folders here, along with a couple of files, one of which will be named "Global.con." To open this file, right click on it, select Open or Open With..., then select Notepad. Inside, you'll find a text string denoting which folder here is the default user; it'll either be "Default," or something like "0001," "0002," or something similar. When you find out what it is, go back to the Profiles folder and open the folder referenced in the Global.con file.

Inside this folder, find the Controls.con folder and open it in the same manner as the Global.con folder. You're going to find a long string of control settings for each of your different vehicle types. Interpreting the syntax here will take a bit of work, but with a little work you should be able to figure out how the game denotes actions and the keys bound to them. For instance, this line:

ControlMap.addKeyToTriggerMapping c_PIAltFire IDFKeyboard IDKey_LeftShift 0 0

Indicates that the command for your alternate fire is bound to the Left Shift key on your keyboard. If you wanted to manually change this to another key, say the W key, you'd simply give it a minor edit:

ControlMap.addKeyToTriggerMapping c_PIAltFire IDFKeyboard IDKey_W 0 0

If you map a key, be sure to check the rest of the lines in the same section (infantry, air, whatever) to ensure that it's not bound to two separate actions. The in-game remapping system won't let you do this, so it's probably not a good idea to do it by accident in the .con files themselves.

This is going to come in especially handy if you're attempting to bind joystick controls, as the game just seems to be kind of wonky when it comes to pretending that unbound joystick axes and buttons are actually bound. Unfortunately, it can be a task to figure out precisely what to type to bind an action to your joystick. The syntax seems to depend on whether or not you're trying to bind an axis of movement on the stick itself, e.g.:

ControlMap.addAxisToAxisMapping c_PIPitch IDFGameController_0 IDAxis_1 1 0

Or one of the buttons on the joystick:

ControlMap.addButtonToTriggerMapping c_PIFire IDFGameController_0 IDButton_0 0 0

Of course, the problem is actually figuring out which button " IDButton_0" corresponds to on your joystick. A bit of experimentation will likely be required to figure out what button or axis designation is the one you're looking for. You may want to create a new profile in the game, attempt to map all of your buttons and axes to specific actions, note them, then match them up in the profile's folder to see what's what.

When you're done making your changes, save the file and boot up the game to enjoy your new bindings. If you have multiple profiles in-game, you can copy and paste the controls.con to all of the folders in your Profiles folder to theoretically make all of them unified.

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