Games have always been around because of their ability to supply a variety of roles – they are, at turns, exciting, challenging, noisy, and generally distracting from whatever else is going on in life. The more gripping the better (or worse depending on who you ask) but there is little doubt that the Battlefield series is one of the most entertaining and absorbing ones out on the market.
Electronic Arts, publisher of the Battlefield series, has allowed us to pit virtual soldiers from different time periods and countries against one another, in campaigns that brought us into contact with people all across the country and, indeed, all over the world. For the latest installment in the series, EA has teamed up with the Swedish game designer DICE (Digital Illusions CE) to take us into the next stage of conflict with Battlefield 2142. MyGamer had the opportunity to participate in the soon-to-be-released title's beta recently, and we're happy to bring back this report from the front lines. FPS fans, rejoice! No, really, it's all right. Strut your stuff.
Guns, guns, guns!
Battlefield 2142 plays much as the same as its predecessors; EA has left the controls untouched so that previous players of the game, or of any FPS, will have little difficulty in adapting to the control scheme. Naturally, though, you can always change them to whatever combination you prefer, but it was nice to be able to settle into the game so easily.
Unlike Battlefield 2 which had three in-game factions (the Chinese, the Middle Eastern Coalition, and the Americans), there are only two sides featured in Battlefield 2142: the European Union and the Pan-Asian Coalition. Things are bad out there – a new ice age has crept up on the planet, severely limiting the amount of food the planet can produce and, by consequence, cutting down Earth's population drastically. Make sure you've got your "will fight for food" sign ready because you might need it.
The soldier types you can use seem to have been reduced from the previous games, from five types to four. Unit types we observed were Recon (which corresponds to Sniper), Engineer, Assualt, and Support. These templates allow players to assume whatever function suits them best at the moment. The weapons, though, are similar in function but different in style. All the weapons have a futuristic look, but not all are the high-tech beam weapons you might expect; projectile weapons still play a major part in this grim future. Each of these player types has a separate function that can be utilized by clicking the right mouse button. Support gunners, for instance, can toss boxes of ammo around for friendlies to pick up and engineers can plant mines (which, I can tell you, are very lethal – I was accidentally blown up by about five of them when the engineer I was standing next to hit the wrong button). "The only thing more dangerous than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire", indeed.
The game's vehicles, from what we've seen, have all received a major facelift. Look for dropships that you can fly (that look a lot like the ones used in the film Aliens), heavy tanks, scout cars, APCs, floating anti-grav support tanks, and the thing that no futuristic war game can be without: the mech. The maps where mech-based battles are played out are known as Titan battles. Each side has a command vessel, known as a Titan, that can provide additional fire support and has a landing area for two dropships. Most of the vehicles drive the same way as the ones in Battlefield 2, but there are some that are more difficult to control then others. The hovertank, for example, is the most difficult to control because, not actually having any wheels, it takes a while to figure out how to make it steer. The mech can also prove a challenge since the walker shifts from side to side slightly as it moves forward. In addition, you can get turned around easily, since the mech's turret can rotate 360 degrees without actually needing to shift the mech's body around.
No,this isn't a screenshot from one of those "Mechwarrior" games – this time, Battlefield's tanks can float and walk about…
Another vehicular twist is the fact that wheeled armor personnel carriers can launch a player high into the air in some kind of pod, which can then be steered using A,W,S,D keys toward a certain location. Once the pod crashes down, it will open and you will pop out and be allowed to cause havoc. It's a bit like the headcrab missiles from Half Life 2 actually.
Scatted about the map are five above-ground missile stations that, depending on which side controls them, will fire missiles at that other side's Titans, weakening their shields, and letting them eventually get blown to smithereens. Or, for those who favor the direct approach, you can board the ship once the shields are down and destroy the ship's reactor which will then cause the ship to go boom in a spectacular fashion.
The command structure from Battlefield 2 has also been slid neatly into this latest version. Each side has a commander who can control the overall play while individual players can come together to form squads which are also commanded by a leader that can order the squad members to take or defend an objective or establish a meeting point which will be indicated by a glowing yellow marker on the ground.
As you engage in more battles, your character will eventually gain higher awards, medals, and from time to time you will be able to unlock new equipment that your soldier can equip. For instance, my support gunner has a piece of equipment that reduces the amount of damage my avatar receives from small arms fire. All this is nice, but what'd be really nice is a piece of gear that would help me out when I turn the corner and find an enemy tank sitting there.
There are also two ways for the in-game soldier to communicate. First, there are the text only methods of communication that let the player talk to your squad, your army, and everyone on the map. On the other hand, though, for those players who happen to have a microphone the game setup will let you determine the settings of it so that you can talk to your squad mates which makes it easier for everyone around to communicate, increases response times, and would allow you to let everyone hear you humming The Ride of The Valkyries. Modern technology is wonderful. On the other hand, if you are not much of a mood to do things either, there are a number of preset voice commands that range from alerting your colleagues to the presence of enemy vehicles, asking for a variety of things(a ride, ammunition, backup, etc) and also signaling your temporary termination by a loud scream.
"Death from above", Battlefield-style… yeah, baby!
I like sci-fi stuff in this latest Battlefield title as much as anyone else – I like huge support ships wrapped in their shimmering cocoon of defensive shields; I like tanks that don't actually have to touch the ground, etc. I'm not certain, however, that keeping the game more or less grounded in what might actually be possible is a detriment or a benefit. I mean, this is a video game, and many others in the sci-fi genre are distinguished by the utter impossibility of their weapons and vehicles. After thinking about it though, I think that making weapons that the arms industry might actually build one day helps add to the game's believability and realism.
Battlefield 2142 is slated for release on the 17th of October, 2006, but if the beta is any indication, the finished product will be more then worth the wait. The information EA is providing at the moment is scarce, but if you'd like a look just visit EA's web site or go direct to developer DICE's site. Just try not to drool on your keyboard…
Nick McCavitt at firstname.lastname@example.org