The Battlefield series continues
This review originally posted at MentalGamers – www.mentalgamers.com/game_reviews.php?r=4
Battlefield 2 is the third instalment in the hugely successful Battlefield series, and so has been one of the most anticipated games of the year. It is set in the near future with 3 countries thrashing it out on the battlefield: The US, China, and the fictitious MEC or Middle Eastern Coalition.
The first thing to mention is that this game WILL test your system. It has high hardware requirements and you will need to check that your video card is compatible, as the game requires pixel shaders 1.4 and that your card is compatible with DirectX 9. What this basically means is that if you have a GeForce 4 or older you will not be able to play this game.
The second point I should mention is that Battlefield 2 is still a buggy game. At the time of writing there have been two patches: The “withdrawn” 1.01 patch and the “hotfix” 1.02 patch to fix the broken 1.01 patch. The good news is that at least we are getting patches.
It may at this point sound like this is a bad game, but that is definitely not the case. Yes there are bugs due to the inevitable rush to release the game, but thankfully Battlefield 2 was released in a more than playable state for most people. In fact I only have two real complaints at the moment:
1. The truly awful game browser – there is no favourites list, and no form of buddy tracking, it has a tendency to crash, and (for me at least) will not refresh after clearing the name filter.
2. You have to log on to the EA account server to use your profile, whether you want to play online or not. There have now been a few occasions where I was unable to play online due to the account servers being down, yet I was also unable to play single player as it still required me to log in…
Moving on… Battlefield 2 brings in some great new features:
1. Commander mode – At the beginning of a round you are able to apply to be the commander of your team. As commander you can still run about the battlefield taking on the enemy, but you have a much more important role. You must coordinate and resupply your squads, scan for hostiles, and respond to artillery requests from squad leaders. This is all done from a command map with a fairly simple point-and-click procedure, and while it will probably take a few goes to get the hang of it, it is a very rewarding experience when you command your team to victory.
2. Squads – You can either join an existing squad or create your own and be the squad leader. As a squad member you will receive orders from the squad leader, and as a squad leader you will receive orders from the commander and choose whether or not you will obey. If you accept your orders they will be relayed to your squad. The squad leader can also choose to create their own orders using the same style command map as the commander has, as well as being able to request artillery, supplies, reinforcements etc from the commander.
3. VOIP – The integrated voice-over-IP lets the commander talk to squad leaders, squad leaders talk to the commander on one channel and their squad on another, and of course, the squad can talk to their squad leader.
4. Ranks/Unlocks – There are two types of Battlefield 2 server: Ranked and Unranked. On an unranked server you can just go in and play for fun. Ranked servers however, will collect stats and award players points for certain actions. Collect enough points and you will be promoted, keep getting promoted and you will begin to be able to choose new weapons to unlock. Higher ranked players will also have preference when applying to be commander.
5. Awards – on ranked servers, your actions may be rewarded with combat badges or ribbons. Been a good medic? You could find yourself ed for a First Aid Badge. Good pilot? Maybe you will be awarded the Aerial Service Ribbon. These awards are given to you during the round, and are a great way to boost your ego as well as show what you are good at.
The game certainly looks impressive – even with all settings on medium in my case – and the maps are huge and in a few cases quite stunning, but as with the other Battlefield titles there are numerous vehicles on hand to get you around. The map sizes are also tailored to the number of players, so on a smaller server the map will not have as many control points as a larger server, and will have a slightly smaller area of combat. This seems to work well and I have rarely been stuck for a ride, although when you get a few selfish players on who jump in the only vehicle for miles and roar off, it can be a long and lonely walk to the front line. However like I mentioned, I have rarely had this happen – the main problem I experienced with vehicles was when the server allowed 64 players with a map size of 32, and had the USMC spawning on an island in “Operation Clean Sweep”. Unfortunately the map size meant there were only enough vehicles for half the number of USMC than were actually there, leaving the other half swimming, and making the map impossible to get a foot-in. This is certainly not typical though, and with a little trial and error I was able to filter out this type of server with a custom All Seeing Eye filter…
The maps in general are very good, and will require different gameplay techniques according to the situation, There are a good mix of maps including urban scenarios as well as desert and industrial settings etc, and some even allow for a bit of base jumping with the parachute in your kit. Due to the detail in the maps, you will need to learn the quickest ways to the hotspots, as there are many cliffs and winding roads if you take a wrong turn, but this too adds to the gameplay as it creates natural choke points on the way to the control points where you can lie in wait with a batch of C4, or plant a row of anti-tank mines. The features of the map also work well with the game physics – you can’t run properly in water, and steep hills will slow your tank to a crawl, and barrelling down a hill in a vehicle is likely to result in damage to your vehicle when you hit the bottom.
Another point of note is the fantastic sounds in this game. The sound of artillery churning up the ground around you is enough to almost literally blow you away, and in urban environments the gunfire zipping around your head can be truly frightening, making you want to duck under your desk until it is over.
Battlefield 2 is very team-driven. A good commander can make or break the battle, in fact when there is no commander the team is more or less destined to fail. As a commander you almost need to forget about being a soldier at all, and hide yourself away with the command screen open permanently – giving orders to attack or defend, granting requests for artillery or supplies, scanning for hostiles and relaying the positions to your squads, and generally micro-managing the whole battle. To be a good commander takes time, and I certainly don’t consider myself to be a good one yet (although I haven’t lost a round as commander yet) – so just a little request from me: although its frustrating to have a bad commander, if he looks like he’s trying give him some leeway, like me he could still be learning. The worst commander is the one that does nothing at all… Of course no commander can get anywhere without good squad leaders who will follow orders and get the job done, and in turn, no squad leader is anything without their squad to back them up…
My final comment unfortunately is regarding the one problem suffered by all online games: cheaters and exploiters. So far I have been lucky enough to avoid any obvious hackers, but exploiting is getting to be a big problem due to the inherent flaws in the points system. Obviously I’m not going to say how, but it is possible to exploit the classes and get a few friends and notch up silly numbers of points without contribu
ting to the rest of the team at all. However EA have promised to reset the accounts of people they find doing this, and luckily it is very easy to spot them, so hopefully people will learn that this is not an acceptable practice.
So in conclusion:
Despite the fact that (like all games these days) Battlefield 2 was rushed out and that we are effectively doing the beta testing for them, the game does stand up on its own, and is more than playable. With a few more patches this game will absolutely blow you away. It is innovative and completely team-oriented, and has the added bonus of being incredibly rewarding, especially when you finally get to unlock that new weapon, or when halfway through a round you hear that drum roll and the message telling you that you have awarded a commendation for being an outstanding squad leader, pilot, or commander. All in all, this could easily be the best FPS of this year, if not the best FPS to-date.