Battlefield 2142 Review
Pentium M 2GHz CPU
2GB DDR2 RAM
GF Go 7800GTX Video
128MB DX9 Video
Battlefield 2142 is one of those games that, at first, I really wanted to give a low score. Only due to the urging of a friend did I even agree to buy it, mostly because it seemed to me like this is a cash-in from EA on the hugely successful Battlefield franchise, complete with in-game advertising (more on that later). But now that I've given it a good fifteen hours of play, I have to admit it: Battlefield 2142 is a damn good game.
The futuristic setting is what does it. As you can probably guess, the game takes place in the year 2142 after a new ice age has thrown the world into another war. The European Union is now in a war against the Pan Asian Coalition, and they've both got a bunch of cool toys to kill the opposing side with. From helicopters to hovertanks, deadly little buggies to huge mechs, BF2142 takes what makes the series so great and puts it in a totally new setting with great maps and plenty of unlockable weapons and equipment.
One of the first things you'll notice when starting out in 2142 is that there's a new gameplay mode called Titan. It combines the tactical fun of the classic Conquest mode, where you are capturing and holding points on the ground, but gives you a new objective. The "tickets" thing is thrown out, and the points you capture are missile silos. Each team has a huge, floating fortress called a Titan, and the silos you control will fire at the enemy's titan, taking out its shields and eventually destroying the hull. The objective this time around is simple - the first team whose Titan falls are the losers.
Of course, it's not that simple. Each Titan can be boarded once the shields are down, and your enemy can get inside your base and take out a few specific points to get to the reactor core. If they detonate enough explosives in your core, your Titan goes critical and will explode in a matter of seconds. It's up to you and your team to defend your own Titan while attacking the enemy's, and you'll find that in most games it does become a close battle with both Titans usually at a quarter health or lower by the time you get near the end of a match.
And there are plenty of strategies that can be employed - do you just lock down access to a single one of your reactor consoles with tons of turrets and grenades? Have you got an Assault guy to heal and revive your guys? A support guy to resupply you with ammo and grenades? Even the vehicles include new levels of strategy, as now you'll need to use the troop transports to get up onto your enemy's Titan (which is floating a few hundred feet in the air). Ejecting from vehicles doesn't always mean hopping out and hoping your parachute opens in time anymore; most seats in both the ground and air transport vehicles now have an escape pod-like thing that allows you to come in at high speed and still safely land.
Beyond that, there are also new options for squads. A squad leader with the correct unlock now has the option of placing a small beacon on the ground, and his buddies can then spawn on that point instead. Of course, it's not a sci-fi game without some cool effect, so instead of just spawning you actually come down from orbit in one of the drop pods and land nearby. You can even use these beacons to allow your squad to spawn and land directly onto an enemy Titan. There are communications unlocks that let you see enemy positions with a little red diamond, right through walls, as long as someone else who's got the same communications unlock can see that person. Engineers can communicate vehicle positions this way as well when they've got their own unlock.
Commander mode is back in Battlefield 2142, although it seems the effect is smaller this time around. Instead of artillery strikes, you'll find that the Titan itself can be moved around and by taking control of the Titan, players can even fire the Titans' guns down onto the ground. Since the v1.10 patch these are finally working mostly bug-free. And I did promise to mention the advertising again - around each map there are billboards which change occasionally with various banners and the game tracks your viewing of these banners (and only that: despite some early hysterics, this game is not spyware!). So far the only banners I've seen have been for Intel, and it does pull me out of the game enough to break the immersion, so I'm really hoping that next time we at least get a lower price in exchange for the ads.
But getting back to the action: even if you don't want to screw with the Titans, you can still fight an effective and important ground battle. The Walkers (kinda like Mechs) that you can control are two-seaters and have immense firepower, although they are weak to long-range bombardment from tanks and other stationary gun turrets that can be manned. The gunner seat in the Walkers is mostly for anti-air, while the driver's seat can take out land targets easily. And the nice part is that both seats in the Walkers rotate independently, so it is truly a force to be reckoned with - especially if the gunner is an Engineer that can pop out for field repairs.
And speaking of Engineers, DICE has streamlined the playable soldier classes for Battlefield 2142. Now, the Assault class combines the Medic and Assault classes from Battlefield 2, while the Engineer combines the original Engineer and Anti-Tank classes into one. The Recon class combines the Special Forces with Sniper classes and can now set up all kinds of new gadgets to blow up personnel and vehicles with.
Tanks and other land vehicles still play an important role in 2142, though, so it's not all about the heavy machinery. From the engineer's powerful anti-ground and anti-air handheld weapons to the powerful EMP blasts from many turrets, mines, and other guns which can lock up the controls of any vehicle, DICE carefully keeps the power of all vehicles in check and makes sure that someone who's running around without a vehicle still has a chance in the field.
In the air, you'll notice that the jets from Battlefield 2 are gone. I never liked the inclusion of jets in games like this, mostly because the pilots and the rest of the players are kind of playing their own separate games at once, where the people on the ground are just trying to avoid the jets, knowing they can't take them down, and the pilots are racking up dozens of kills on people who were just out in the open at the wrong time. In 2142, you'll find that there are only two hover-choppers on each side. One is a transport with some pretty powerful guns on each side, while the other one is a fighter - the gunner seat brings back the "TV missiles" as well as a second gun that can be fired. Overall, I really like the way air combat has been revamped and simplified from Battlefield 2.
The range of maps you'll have to fight on here cover a lot of Europe and Asia. From the snowy fields of what used to be Russia down to the deserts of the Middle East, there's a decent range of environments in BF2142. The graphics aren't exactly better than BF2, but there are some new special effects related to EMP blasts and the like which spice up the visuals a bit. Load times are definitely improved here, but frame rates are generally about the same. Overall it's obvious that BF2142 still uses the same quirky game engine that Battlefield 2 did, and I'm really hoping that this is the last time we see the engine. Many of the problems with the engine - strange movement and physics, "feel" of the mouse control, and problems with lag making small arms fire difficult to use - all the way back from BF1942 are still here, although they've been minimized somewhat.
I do want to say that getting into games has gotten easier and while the server browser included in 2142 is still missing a few little options here and there, the new buddy system is great. You can message your buddies or join whatever server they're on with one click - this makes it easy for a bunch of guys at a LAN party to all get together on one server. No more yelling out IP addresses across the meeting room or house! I found that many servers, though, have plenty of connection problems and the 2142 client has crashed to desktop more than a couple times on me since the v1.10 patch. Additionally, alt-tabbing out to Windows works, but I wasn't able to tab back over to the game without issues - I had to go to Task Manager and close & restart the game every time.
Finally, one issue I want to mention is one that pervades all of the Battlefield games - no widescreen support. With so many widescreen monitors nowadays, this is getting ridiculous. Sure, you can force a widescreen mode via a command-line parameter, but where's our native support? Even if you do force the widescreen mode, the developers saw fit to take away from your vertical peripheral vision instead of giving you extra horizontal peripheral vision. I've heard justifications for this like "it helps keep the game even" or "giving widescreen users more view would be like cheating", but I ask this - doesn't having a faster PC, fast broadband connection, or a higher resolution monitor overall also give you an unfair advantage? Of course it does - PC gaming is loaded with unfair advantages. Give us widescreen!
Despite my complaints about various technical issues, I still find BF2142 to be DICE's best game yet. There's a lot of complex action and an excellent unlock system with plenty of great toys to use, and the futuristic setting keeps things unique and has allowed the developers to get more creative than in past games. It's a great experience jumping off of an exploding Titan and surviving, knowing it was your DemoPaks that blew up the reactor core. While there's no single player worth even mentioning, the online action here is great and winds up being a surprisingly welcome evolution to the Battlefield series. I didn't expect to be impressed when I bought Battlefield 2142, but it really is a great game.