With Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike, EA and DICE continue the trend of adding "booster packs" to their popular multiplayer action franchise. Booster packs aren't large enough to be traditional expansion packs, but these relatively inexpensive ($9.99) downloadable additions offer up a small collection of maps and goodies to an audience that's usually voracious for new content. Northern Strike represents the first Battlefield 2142 booster (Battlefield 2 had two), and its three new maps, added vehicles, and one brand-new gameplay mode are a welcome addition to the core game.
In the setting of Battlefield 2142, the onset of a new ice age sparks a fierce war between the European Union (EU) and the Russian-centric Pan Asian Coalition (PAC) as they attempt to flee the cold and resettle in North Africa. The Northern Strike maps are all set in the frigid climes of Northern Europe, offering some cool geography and gameplay dynamics.
Perhaps the best of the new maps is Port Bavaria, which combines a desperate vertical assault up a cliff with intense fighting at the base atop the cliff. Attackers have different routes up the cliff, but they face withering fire from the defenders above. However, another way up is to park an armored personnel carrier at the bottom and take an assault pod up to the top. Then there's Bridge at Remagen, which is in homage to the famous World War II battle where the US Army captured a key strategic bridge over the Rhine River. This map is defined by its soaring, narrow bridge, which serves as an excellent choke point. And then there's Liberation of Leipzig, a warren of alleyways and narrow streets that offers brutal urban warfare.
While Leipzig and Remagen can be used for Battlefield 2142's fun titan mode, Northern Strike also offers up a new gameplay mode called assault lines. This is basically a variation of Battlefield's traditional conquest mode, where both sides battle for a series of control points on the map. The twist is that the PAC, the defenders in the story, have one control point that the EU, the attackers, cannot seize until it controls all other points on the map. This increases the challenge considerably because the EU needs to concentrate its forces to seize the final flag while defending the other flags from capture.
In addition to the new maps, Northern Strike introduces a couple of new vehicles. The new PAC Hachimoto is a fast hover vehicle that's a bit tricky to control (it feels like it's slipping on ice), but it's got a nice combination of speed and firepower. Then there's the dreaded EU Goliath, which is basically a land-based Titan. Ponderously slow, the Goliath is armed with multiple turrets and features regenerating armor, which makes it difficult to kill. The only way to take it down is to first destroy the seven glowing panels on the vehicle, which neutralize its regenerating capability. This makes the Goliath a powerful centerpiece that walkers and other units can support, though its glacial speed balances things out for the opposing team.
When you throw in the new medals and unlocks, the Northern Strike booster pack is a relatively inexpensive, must-have addition for anyone who likes to play Battlefield 2142 regularly. There's a lot of good content, and the new maps are some of the best yet for Battlefield 2142. The only thing we could wish for is some kind of graphical upgrade because the engine (based on 2005's Battlefield 2) is starting to look its age. And it's too bad that EA doesn't simply rely on the in-game advertising to offer this booster pack for free to the community. But at approximately $3.33 per new map, it's a reasonable price for the rich gameplay that you will find in the booster pack.