Battlefield 2: Special Forces Review (PC)

Battlefield 2 gets an expansion

This review originally posted at MentalGamers –

I won’t go into too much detail here – I’ve already covered a lot in the original BF2 review and as this is an expansion there are a lot of things the same. I’ll just be covering what’s new, not rehashing everything. There’s not much point in me telling you all about the stunning graphics as they are the same stunning graphics as before.

So what’s new…?

Firstly there are 8 new maps to learn from a spaceship launch site in the desert, the usual urban environments, an airport, submarine pen, and more. You can even take part in an assault on the USS Essex and roam the innards of the ship and some of the maps even take place at night. The maps are now a lot more infantry-based, but that doesn’t mean there are no vehicles… In addition to the standard BF2 vehicles we now have a whole host of new vehicles to choose from, although you can tell they are geared towards the infantry combat side of things. We now have jet skis, quads, ATV’s, cars, pickup trucks – you can even jump in a forklift and take off for where the action is happening. There are also 2 new helicopters – the Apache and the Hind.

In addition to new maps and new vehicles, there are also 6 new forces for you to play. They are: British SAS, US Navy Seals, Russian Spetznaz, MEC Special Forces, Insurgents, and Rebels. These forces are pitched against each other on the 8 new maps, which sadly means that you don’t really get to see that much of any one of them as the forces used on each map are fixed. The character classes are the same as in “vanilla” BF2. You still have spec-ops, assault, medic, etc. but there are now a few more weapons and tools.

I already mentioned that some of the maps are night-based. Well don’t worry – you now have your trusty night-vision bathing the landscape in a soft green and letting you pick out your enemies much more easily. Just make sure you turn it off every now and then to recharge the batteries, and don’t look at any bright lights or you won’t be able to see a thing. Another new addition is the flash-bang grenade to stun your enemy, and the tear gas canister which is used for much the same effect. The flash-bang grenades will turn your screen almost completely white and leave your ears ringing much like shell shock, while the tear gas has a very impressive effect that leaves you staggering around as if drunk. Unless of course you spot it coming and put on your new gas mask… But best of all certain classes now have either a grappling hook or a zip line. This adds a whole new dimension to the game as you can scale walls to get on to rooftops, or traverse valleys quickly by pulling out your crossbow and firing a zip line across before clipping on and sliding down.

Now that the focus has been placed firmly on infantry, you will need teamwork more than ever before. This is especially true when you consider that only certain classes carry flash bangs, zip lines, and grappling hooks. You will need to coordinate with your squad to work effectively. Of course VOIP is still included, so if you find a squad that is using it you’re in for a great time.

Special Forces continues with the “persistent character growth” seen in BF2. You log in to the same account as before and all your stats, awards, and weapon unlocks are still there, and providing you play on official ranked servers you will continue to add to your points. Something I didn’t realise before going online for a test was that there are also new awards for you to win. One of the things I loved about BF2 was the feeling you get when you hear the drum roll and “You’ve been ed for an award”, so I was very impressed when I started racking up more awards that are specific to Special Forces. Apart from the new weapons for the different forces, there are 5 new unlockable weapons for various classes in Special Forces that are considered to be “tier 2” unlocks. That is to say that you must have already unlocked that the alternative weapon for that class before you can unlock the new weapons. For example the Assault class unlock in Special Forces is the F2000, a particularly impressive carbine with a grenade launcher. To unlock it though, you need to have already unlocked the first Assault unlock – The G3.

Even better though, is that owners of Special Forces can still play with regular BF2 players if they join a “vanilla” server, and will still have their special forces unlocks available. This is actually a good way of checking out the unlocks, as not all the new forces can use them, while the old forces can. Many people are complaining that this unbalances the game, but to be honest I think that is nonsense. As with the previous unlocks, they are not “better” – just different. You simply have more to choose from, and some people find certain weapons easier to use. And if you still feel that you are being cheated, kill me and take my kit! You will then have my “better” gun until you get killed.

So far this has been a very positive review and while I’d like it to stay that way unfortunately there are a few downers. Although the same graphics engine is used, the smaller maps combined with large numbers of players has a detrimental effect on the frame rate. I now notice a lot of places where my frame rate s considerably, especially when there is a fierce battle in a confined space. Also the loading times for maps have not got any better, and if playing on punkbuster-enabled servers you still have to wait a long time for the verification phase. Another point worth noting is that you must have 3GB of free space on your system drive (i.e. C:/) or Special Forces will not install. This is extremely annoying as I have my games on a separate hard drive which has plenty of space, but my C: drive is nearly full so I had to do a lot of cleaning/moving to get the game installed. You will also need to instantly patch the game to v1.12 with a 280MB patch, and if you had previously updated BF2 to v1.12 you will need to re-patch it after installing Special Forces.

Overall however this is well worth a look. I am completely addicted to this game with the new life the expansion has injected. Like before, we need some patching, but I now see a lot more teamwork and that is very satisfying to see. The gameplay has gone up to another level and I love it. In case you are wondering why the graphics score is now lower when the game uses the same engine, it?s because of the frame rate s I experienced. Also note you can get this expansion for around £15 if you look in the right places, and in my eyes this is great value for the added features.

Please note that this is an EXPANSION PACK – you NEED the original Battlefield 2 installed in order to play Special Forces.

The Good: More maps, More weapons, More vehicles, Night combat
The Bad: FPS stutters, long load times

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Gold Y AwardGold Y Award
4.5 4.5 / 5

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