Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: October 17, 2006
We've all been in bad relationships. For some, it's that ex-girlfriend that keeps calling you in the wee hours of the night. For others, it's that lazy husband whose outline is permanently pressed into the sofa. For us first-person shooter fans, it's that Battlefield 2 title and its infernal ability to keep us playing even while we endure the bugs, glitches, and crashes. The good news is that, yes, there is a way out of that hurtful relationship, and its name is Battlefield 2142.
We recently got the chance to pick up our futuristic rifles and storm the limited beta servers to get a taste for what changes Battlefield 2142 has brought to the franchise, and what we found was something a little more substantial than a mere facelift to the series and a few new weapons. For those who haven't been keeping tabs on the title, Battlefield 2142 takes place in, you guessed it, 2142, and in the 100+ years between now and then, mankind has found new and exciting ways to blast the living snot out of one another. Far from the simple matter of the tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) seen on today's battlefields, the war-torn countryside of Battlefield 2142 hosts battles between far more advanced weaponry, such as hover tanks, both ground and flying APCs that feature personal ejection pods, and walking 30-foot tall mechs that are an absolute terror to nearly anything on the battlefield.
The limited beta consists of a single level set in a snowy expanse of countryside that hosts a few small, scattered towns of interest. The mode of play is the Titan mode, in which each side of the conflict has control of massive flying carriers called Titans. The Titans themselves are protected by a powerful shield, and they have player-controlled weapons such as: anti-aircraft guns and ground bombardment weapons, an aircraft deck from which ships can take off, and landing pods to provide a quick means for troops to get down to the ground. To damage the enemy Titan's shields, the team must first capture and secure missile silos that are spread out around the map. While controlling one such area, the silo will periodically reload and fire another missile that streaks towards the enemy Titan and blasts away at its shields. Though tank shells and other such heavy ordnance do deplete a Titan's shields, the best way to succeed in this game type is to control more silos than the other team, thereby doing more damage to their Titan's shields.
Once the enemy Titan's shields are history, there are two options to destroy the Titan and win the game for your team. The first option is to control all of the silos and let the missiles continue to pound away on the Titan's hull and eventually destroy it. The other, quicker, and more fun way is to get your squad together and board the enemy Titan, either by landing on it via aircraft or ejecting from a ground APC and guiding your pod onto its roof. Once inside, the close quarters combat is usually intense, and one must fight through it and attempt to destroy all four of the computer consoles located on both sides of the ship. When all four are up in smoke, the containment doors for the Titan's core opens up, and you can then blow up the Titan from within.
Fighting inside of the Titan isn't the only high point in the gameplay of Battlefield 2142. In and of itself, the ground combat is much more satisfying than it is in Battlefield 2, as you have a much greater feeling of being involved in a real conflict. Starting off on the Titan, you may use one of the landing pods to get your way down to the surface, during the use of which you guide the pod down into a bombed-out alleyway as your character screams bloody murder all the way down (sometimes due to the thrill, other times in sheer terror). Once the pod lands, it automatically explodes around you in a cloud of smoke and debris, and you the must fight alleyway to alleyway against other infantry in a way very dissimilar to the crisp, clean lines of alleyways found in the previous title in the series. No, nearly every house is bombed out and thus is a potential nest of enemy activity.
New to the Battlefield series is the ability to customize your kit down to individual items. Performing well in battle will net you a higher rank, which will, in turn, give you an additional unlock point to spend. Unlock points can be spent in any one of the four classes (Assault, Sniper, Engineer, Support) to unlock items such as personal cloaking fields; grenades; squad spawn beacons; attachments for your weapon, such as rocket pods and under-slung shotguns; and a variety of other add-ons. This allows the player to customize his loadout to nearly exactly what he needs in the situation he plans to send himself into. Of course, better weapons are also unlockable, but only after one spends three other unlock points in a specific class tree.
The vehicles in Battlefield 2142 are a fresh take for the series as well. For recon, you have a nimble little buggy that has the ability to use boosts of speed to get out of or into danger, and it also sports a chaingun on the roof for anti-infantry defense. A little higher up on the tonnage scale, you have APCs and tanks. APCs have EMP grenades that can both temporarily disable vehicles and severely mess with the vision of infantry (due to the heavy use of electronics in their helmets) and the aforementioned ejection pods, in addition to your bread and butter, machine guns. Tanks differ from side to side, with one side of the conflict having more traditional, slower tanks with a heavy cannon, while the other has a nimble hover tank capable of strafing though it is armed with a lighter cannon.
The king of all ground combat, though, is the massive bipedal mech; the beta was limited to only one mech on the battlefield at any given time, and it only spawned in the very middle. Getting one is tough, but the mech is a massive benefit when used properly. One player moves the mech and has access to both a rapid-fire cannon and radar-seeking missiles, while a second player sits behind the first and controls a chaingun turret mounted on the roof and can pivot in a full circle. Granted, the mech is slow and too big for most urban combat, but in the field, it is one of the biggest reasons that you will run scrambling for cover.
Aircraft don't seem to play as high of a role in the combat as they have in previous titles in the series, which seems to be for the better, as it leads to far more visceral combat without forcing the player to enter a vehicle of some type. In the beta, there were two aircraft available, and both were launched from the Titan. The smaller of the two serves as a nimble ground attack craft, while the larger is essentially a flying APC; players leave the ship via ejection pods, which quickly rocket them towards the ground. Both craft fly using hover technology, which means that they can both be as fast as jets, but they're capable of handling like helicopters, making them fairly versatile but not to the point of throwing the game's balance.
Far more than being the attractive younger sister of Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142 advances the series in quite a few unexpected ways. It's a great departure from some of the vehicle-centric gameplay found its predecessors and gives a great deal more power to the infantryman while still giving vehicles a distinct purpose. The game uses the same engine as Battlefield 2, but it's advanced sufficiently enough to qualm any fears of the title being little more than a standalone mod. Even though the title has more expansive countryside and much better effects, the hardware requirements don't seem to be any more taxing than they were in Battlefield 2.
It seems like the development team has taken to heart the Battlefield 2 community's comments about balancing issues, and they have taken great strides in making each class and vehicle in Battlefield 2142 fairly well-balanced. Assuming that the few kinks and bugs in the beta are ironed out before release, Battlefield 2142 is becoming an increasingly attractive opportunity to get out of your hurtful relationship with that other game and get with the hip new hottie.
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