"An explosion rings in your ears, and the flaming shell of a light assault vehicle is catapulted into the air. Rounds of suppressing fire spark off everywhere. It is war. A few milliseconds later you are in control of a rocket-toting engineer. You fire off a rocket… Suddenly, you are in control of a tank. Advancing through the burning rubble, you rotate the cannon and fire at a shroud of advancing enemies… Another explosion and you are in control of a sniper, high above the battle. A few of the o..."
An explosion rings in your ears, and the flaming shell of a light assault vehicle is catapulted into the air. Rounds of suppressing fire spark off everywhere. It is war. A few milliseconds later you are in control of a rocket-toting engineer. You fire off a rocket… Suddenly, you are in control of a tank. Advancing through the burning rubble, you rotate the cannon and fire at a shroud of advancing enemies… Another explosion and you are in control of a sniper, high above the battle. A few of the opposing forces are in fierce combat with some of your troops; you steady your aim and begin firing…
This is the supremely intuitive new first-person shooter feature – “Hotswapping”. As the battle rages on all around, you can take command of any type of ally currently involved at the click of a button. After dispatching a few troops as a sniper, simply target an allied tank, press the button and you’ll be whisked through the battle to take control of the unit inside the tank. This feature adds a whole new dimension and sense of tactic to the genre meaning no longer does this type of game equate to hour after hour of senseless shooting and quite ridiculous “respawning”; now every unit is controllable.
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is the second in the line of Battlefield games, originally for the PC, and the first game to use this fantastic feature. Now free of the restraints that are evident with first-person shooters of the past, the developers had the ability to mould the entire game from scratch, creating a true allied feel – you really have the feeling you are in control of an army, from the tactics to vehicles, a touch of a button can take you there.
This fluid, fast-paced element of gameplay means you won’t have a second to stop and catch your breath. Battlefield 2 teaches the gamer to become a quick and practical thinker, a skill which is a definite prerequisite to getting anywhere in the game. You’ll only have a split second to make a decision in most cases, and many of the choices you make could influence the outcome of the battle; namely life or death.
This makes the gameplay hard-edged, thrilling stuff and you’ll need nerves of steel to get through a thick battle. Becoming accustomed to the constant bombardment of explosions and ricocheting gunfire is something that’ll take a while to achieve, but there is no parallel that I have experienced in the gaming front that is as exhilarating as running headlong into masses of bullets, rockets and projectiles. There are also very little breaks in the action, as the hotswapping feature means the inevitability of death which was always a minor flaw in the blueprint of older first-person shooter is now all but eradicated.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the game is a slouch, however, or you’ll be dispatched quick as a blink. The AI has been completely revamped to constantly adjust to varying battle conditions and properties. The opposing forces will take cover from snipers, call in reinforcements, abandon doomed helicopters and every unit is adapted for versatility, meaning an expert pilot won’t be a slouch on the ground. The opponents are merciless and will rip you to shreds given half a chance, and unlike older games running into areas all guns blazing will end up with another member to the mortuary, and that’s a fact.
The challenge the opposition pose is a visceral one, and you’ll need to be on your toes to overcome it. The AI is finely tuned so they will adopt realistic human warfare approaches – it all adds to the atmosphere and true sense that you are really participating in a full-blown epic war. The game prides itself on its AI but with good reason; it really shines in that department.
Battlefield 2 shines in physical form as well; it is by far one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I’ve seen. The futuristic weaponry, vehicles and structures are all wonderfully realised in some quite beautiful environments, and this all multiplies the believability and realism of the settings to levels I have rarely experienced. You would be forgiven in stopping dead mid-battle just to admire the surroundings. Mind you, nine times out of ten you’ll become cannon fodder if you do so.
The environments starkly contrast as you journey through the single-player campaign. You’ll battle in large wintry towns, snow adding that final effect to the environment to make it stunning. You’ll hotswap in barren wastelands populated with crumbling, age-old structures and villages. Lush green forestry waits as the battle commences in the jungle environs, complete with visually astounding trees and marshes. You could spend hours just exploring the depths of the canyons you’ll face, entering every building you fight on top of and admiring the stunning sunlight streaming through the forestry. The Emotion Engine is dead? No one told these developers.
Accompanying the impressive visuals is some of the most accomplished war music pieces and they do a fantastic job of heightening tension, creating atmosphere and pumping the adrenaline. The pieces used are a mixture of natural ambience, which complement the stunning forested sections very well indeed; soft rock, used strategically during open-air confrontations and light techno beats, well-placed in the claustrophobic, cramped indoor sections.
Guns make noise; they scream, rattle, recoil and explode as they unload their fiery death upon unsuspecting foes, so you would expect this game to feature sound effects by the heave – it does. There is nothing like the varying noises of guns in war, and the developers have went to extraordinary lengths to ensure every gun sounds completely different from the last; the result is a barrage on your senses but it is really something to behold.
Another unparalleled element this game possesses is its terrific single-player campaign. Most first-person shooters are sadly lacking in this category; in fact, few games actually equal the multiplayer options they offer, resulting in a game enjoyable with friends, but a soulless, empty affair alone. This is not the case with Battlefield 2, as it balances the single and multi-player equator quite easily and, as a result, we get a quality package on every front.
The story is a gripping, almost faultlessly explained war shrouded in propaganda and lies. The game is set in a unique perspective; it is told (and you command) both sides of the story, namely NATO and the Chinese. The layout of the campaign consists of a few missions for each side alternately until the final mission, in which you choose the side you are most comfortable with.
What is a first-person shooter without multiplayer features? Distinctly average, to be frank. Luckily Battlefield 2 has multiplayer features by the bucket load. You can choose any one of a multitude of maps; some you have used in the campaign some entirely new ones. A variety of game modes are then available which all exude quality. The classic Death match is there, which pits you against a friend in a battle of the fates that is infinitely satisfying. Capture the Bag is here too, with a great “Live or Let Die” feeling to it that helps it stand out from the (large) crowd.
Battlefield 2’s qualities do not stem in the somewhat underwhelming PS2 online mode, and the tide of quality keeps flowing as the developers have made a real attempt to knock SOCOM’s crown off its head with a well-placed sniper bullet, but misses by mere inches. The online mode is expansive and vastly improved from its predecessor on the PC. The PS2 caters for the game surprisingly well, and you’ll be up and running with it in next to no time at all.
The gameplay qualities keep on coming in the online mode, and you’ll find the servers are teeming with hundreds of players in classic Death match modes, as well as Capture the Bag and Assault. All of the modes are enjoyable, but this great concept seems somewhat underused online. Undecided I still am about whether that is because of the average PS2 online mode or the game itself, but there is a strange sense of unfulfilled potential there and, unfortunately, this puts a black mark on an otherwise awesome technological achievement.
An army would get torn to pieces if it weren’t for their equipment, and the war zones in Battlefield 2 are no different. Every soldier is bound to a particular class – each with radically different positives and negatives in every field of battle – and has a certain arsenal of weaponry in their repertoire. This adds depth and another layer of strategy to the game – you must quickly assess the battle state, properties and finally decide who the best class for the job is. This makes every battle completely different, something that can (and will) draw any first-person shooter fanatic in until they have explored every possible route in the game.
Helicopters are beautiful pieces of engineering in capable hands, and there is nothing like soaring over a raging battle… Suddenly, you are struck with a rocket. You abandon the craft… what? You find yourself floating through space, apparently underground, with white nothingness for… well… ever. Then you are dead. Quick as a flash, you’ve been destroyed by nothing by white.
You have just stumbled across one of the game’s few glitches. They are few in number - albeit they are present – but they always seem to initiate at the worst times. They are most common during very violent, loud, busy scenes, and mainly where there is a lot of vehicular movement. The glitches usually consist of this “white hell”; something you most certainly won’t enjoy, but is passable. A few glitches have also occurred mid-battle with weaponry also; these glitches are harmless but usually consist of constant fire for a period of time - particularly if you have been firing for a while – and gun jamming; this usually happens when you have been using the same gun for a long time. These glitches are irritating, there is no doubt about that, but they do little do hamper this game.
Battlefield 2 is a marvel. It’s something you will have to see to believe, and is one of the most impressive games I have played on the PlayStation 2 to date. The competition is heating up in the first-person shooter genre; it will have be an awesome achievement to take this accomplished shooter’s crown. With a little more care, this could have the perfect first-person shooter, and if they can iron out the glitches then… Roll on Battlefield 3!
Community review by timmyvermicelli (April 08, 2006)
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