The curiously named Battlefield 2 is actually the third game in the Battlefield series and by far the best yet. Providing both a tactically satisfying and fast paced game Battlefield 2 provides one of the few experiences where the player can truly feel like they’re going to war on a large battlefield with the opportunity to drive planes, helicopters, tanks, APCs, and engage in infantry firefights all in one game. Both figuratively and literally Battlefield 2 is a blast. Fans of the original Battlefield games could be forgiven for wondering how good Battlefield 2 really is. Battlefield 1942 was provided a unique experience but wasn’t without some issues. Battlefield Vietnam was released with a lot of promise but technical issues and some severe balance issues rained on that parade regularly over the life of the game. Toss in some fantastic looking screen shots released of Battlefield 2 and there was plenty of reason to wonder if Battlefield 2 would be all it was hyped up to be. Fortunately for skeptics and true believers alike Battlefield 2 comes through with its promises in spades. The core game play of Battlefield 2 remains the same as the previous games. Two teams face off over a large map containing various bases / spawn points. Each side tries to capture and defend as many bases as possible. Meanwhile both sides also have a large pool of tickets from which each player draws on when they spawn back into the game after being killed. Alternately the opposing teams can reduce the number of available tickets by capturing all the available bases thus causing the opposing team’s ticket pool to slowly begin counting down. Adding to the fun the players can utilize vehicles such as apcs, tanks, lighter vehicles ground vehicles, attack and transport helicopters, and jets to both fight from and traverse the battlefield with. In past Battlefield games the battles often resembled two angry mobs randomly gunning each other down rather than organized armies meeting on a battlefield. While Battlefield 2 doesn’t turn public servers into the same experience that you might have when playing with friends, Battlefield 2 does introduce some interesting new systems that tangibly improve the multiplayer experience. The first addition that affects teamwork is the new squad system. In the same menu you choose your spawn point you can choose to join a squad with up to six members in each squad. Doing so provides you with some benefits. First is that you can actually spawn at the location of your squad leader. Second is that your squad mates will appear in green on your map making it easier to identify where your squad is. The third benefit is that upon joining a squad your squad is given its own private voice channel in order to communicate. Considering that most of the people joining squads want to work together and that the voice communication software is built right into Battlefield 2, the squad system makes hooking up with and communicating with players who want to work with each other exceptionally easy. Another addition to enhance teamwork is that of the commander position. Depending on your score in previous games you may elect to become the commander of your entire team. Having attained that position you then have the power to call in powerful air strikes, deploy drones that reveal the location of enemy units in a limited area to your entire team, can airdrop supplies to your allies, and give orders to the various squads on your team. While the commander can’t dominate a game, they certainly can tip the balance in a close game with a timely artillery bombardment on an enemy base before an assault, and on a particularly cooperative server a good commander can be invaluable. In addition to the squad and commander systems the communication amongst all players a team has been improved as well. When a player spots an enemy solider or unit all a player needs to do to notify his or her teammates is press and hold the Q key, place his crosshairs on what he has spotted, and click the left mouse button. The player then automatically will call out to his teammates with what he saw. In addition an enemy icon representing that enemy soldier or unit will appear on the map for a short time for the entire opposing team to see. Such spotting is so easy even the greenest players can do it, and doing often brings the appropriate cooperation from teammates even on some of the least cooperative servers. The various classes of solider you can choose before spawning in Battlefield 2 have once again been changed, this time for the better. Each class has some advantages and disadvantages. Unlike some previous battlefield games there doesn’t seem to be a dominate class and you’ll find a variety solders on the field. Balance between classes is so good that no one class is totally at the mercy of another. Even a mediocre player has a good chance of taking out any opponent regardless of what class either plays. This balance should provide Battlefield 2 with even more longevity as it can be great fun to play as anyone of the classes. The only exception might be the lowly engineer whose shotgun is only marginally useful and other weapons such as mines don’t provide for much action. A few classes have had some major changes made to them. Snipers will find that as a sniper they don’t have as big an impact as in previous games as they will likely need to take at least two shots to bring down an opponent in Battlefield 2. While might not seem like a huge change on the surface, it does seem to prevent snipers from dominating the game as much as they did in the past and prevent some of the sniper wars that seemed t make for relatively unrealistic and slow games compared to what the Battlefield games seemed to intend. Support classes such as engineers and medics no longer need to actively repair units and fellow solders in the same way they did in the past. Both are granted a small radius effect where if they are near a vehicle or solider in need of repair the repair will automatically take place (provided they are holding the right tool or are in a vehicle) and both classes can earn points for such repairs. Medics can also drop a few med kits on the field that heal solders that are in need. In addition medics now have a defibrillator that when used on an ally shortly after being killed can revive that ally. In a fun twist the defibrillator can also be used to kill opponents provided you can get close enough to them. Toss in the fact that medics also now carry an assault rifle and the medic class becomes one of the most fun classes to play. While it could be argued that medics score a lot of points easily because they can revive fellow players and act offensively, it should be noted that they also have to take the risk of running across a battlefield and working to revive an ally with no defense while doing so. In fact in many games you’ll see medics inexplicably running through a firefight with a defibrillator or med kit in order to save an ally, and it should only take a few friendly medics to revive a player in order to convince them of the value of rewarding such brave acts. The sound in Battlefield 2 is quite good. The individual weapons all have distinctive sounds and many players will find that the sound of an enemy weapon will give away their position and they will find that they’ll want keep their own ears open and be selective when they choose to open fire when on offense. Some interesting effects such as a distinct jet engine sound heard over the radio when a pilot reports, and a ringing ears effect that takes place when a large explosion takes place round out a good auditory experience. The vehicles in Battlefield 2 are much the same as in past games. You’ll have the slower heavy vehicles such as tanks and APCs, and lighter faster vehicles such as a Humvee. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and like the past games vehicles are an important part of the game, but they do not dominate the game. Driving directly into an enemy base might seem like a good way to capture it but if you’re alone you won’t last long. The air units in Battlefield 2 also haven’t changed a whole lot. Jets and helicopters certainly can inflict some serious damage on the ground but they won’t win the battle alone. Also many bases are now equipped with their own fixed surface to air missiles positions meaning that any solider can potentially take down air units. While not defenseless (equipped with flares) a few SAM missiles can do a good job of dispersing or destroying an enemy air attack. The graphics in Battlefield 2 are stellar, especially considering the size of the maps you play on. The lighting provides for interesting opportunities for cover and look great, and the textures provide a great sense of the natural surfaces. Each building and piece of cover looks sufficiently unique so that it’s not hard to figure where you are. These graphics do come with the price of some fairly high system requirements. Provided you have a relatively new video card you should be in good shape, but beyond that you may want to consider an upgrade. The Battlefield 2 series has always been a primarily multiplayer experience and there have been additions improvements made just for multiplayer games as well. To play multiplayer the player first needs to login to the Gamespy network, in turn Battlefield 2 now track of a number of stats from a each player’s multiplayer games and as players play they can advance in rank (making their bid to be commander more successful) and unlock some weapons. The concept of a persistent identity in a multiplayer game isn’t entirely new but few FPSs have tried it and it seems to work well with Battlefield 2. The single player game of Battlefield 2 shouldn’t be over looked as well. In past Battlefield games the single player AI was something the equivalent of a particularly unintelligent puppy, but Battlefield 2 has made great strides in this area. While the AI isn’t anything revolutionary it certainly is sufficient for some training, a quick game here or there, and it even can surprise you from time to time. Being a multiplayer game one of Battlefield 2’s biggest issues may come as a surprise. The in game server browser is only barely adequate. While it won’t totally prevent a player from finding a game, it also doesn’t seem to help much and can be a source of great frustration. The browser is exceptionally slow in responding to requests to sort based on even the most simple of criteria such as ping, server population, etc. and even when it does respond it doesn’t always seem to sort properly. How a game that loads huge maps and looks as good as it does can perform so well, but can’t sort a list of servers is downright dumfounding. In addition there are some other miscellaneous issues with Battlefield 2. One of those issues is that the auto team balance occasionally fails to work. At times the game will inexplicably add new players to teams who already outnumber their opponents by double digits. This might be a bigger issue if the maps were smaller but the game supports up to 64 players total and with such large maps a few extra players don’t make that big a difference as they do on servers with fewer players. Another issue is that the menu system in the game seems excessively complex. Just a couple menu choices could cover most of the options, rather the game has numerous menus causing the gamer to needlessly have to hunt through the menus for the option they’re looking for. The last apparent issue is with some of the maps shipped with the final product. While some maps seem have been well designed and polished to provide for numerous tactics and experiences, other maps seem a great deal more random and limited. On some maps bases are well designed with numerous points that could be attacked, and yet were still reasonably defensible with a handful of skilled solders. On other maps bases are simply a flag with a small structure and are ridiculously exposed, or are placed amidst such complex structures that it would be impossible to defend without engaging nearly all the teams’ forces. While a mix of bases and maps is nice some of the more random maps seem to make teamwork much more difficult and cause the whole battle to breakdown into chaos as most players ignore the exceptionally exposed bases and focus on those they have a chance to hold. Of course any criticism of the maps must be taken with a grain of salt this early on as the Battlefield 2 community will no doubt evolve. Perhaps some as yet undiscovered strategies will be developed to tame some of the more chaotic maps. Fortunately none of these issues are deal breakers and they would seem to be fairly easy to fixes to make with a patch. Nearly three years, two games, and handful of expansion packs and mods after the release of the original Battlefield game the series has taken a big leap forward with Battlefield 2 and it seems almost all of it is for the better. The originally chaotic and wildly fun game now has a big dose of tactics thrown in as well. It is still fun enough to hop in for a quick run and gun battle, and at the same time capable of handling some highly tactical and challenging battles. Provided you’ve got PC powerful enough to run it, Battlefield 2 is a game that should not be missed by any multiplayer FPS fan.
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