Looking more like a Pop idol contestant than the person responsible for a niulti-million dollar franchise of sanctioned murder simulations, Marcus Nilsson, the senior producer for Battlefield 2142, is not your typical high-ranking game developer. Despite seeming slightly uncomfortable at having to enthuse in front of a bunch of dour UK journalists, he talks a lot and at pace. He's also very apologetic and aware of the minor, though not insignificant, flaws that have coloured expectations of the Battlefield series as it enters its fourth iteration. Though it's slightly tricky to follow what lie's talking about - he veers from Star Wars to server code in one breath - (thank the lord for recording devices), it's clear he isn't one to paper over cracks. "I'm sorry about the carpet/' lie says out of the blue, moving all eyes to witness the scuffed wooden floor. "Were moving office."
To a nicer part of town, obviously, since Digital Illusions are awash with cash after selling 300 billion copies, more or less, of Battlefield product. Pretty much entirely owned (some might say 'p4wned') by EA. Digital Illusions are no longer the little-guy developer the hardcore used to rally around. Instead, they have slowly become a developer to be reviled by corporateloathing EA-phobes for pumping out sequels, wafer-thin (albeit cheap) miniexpansions and recycling old technology. Young Will Porter said as much a few issues ago; that 2142, the futuristic sequel to BF2's contemporary vision, was a kind of updated mod - as was Battlefield Vietnam to BF1942. It's a comparison that's perhaps unfair, since Vietnam was, relative to its predecessor, reliably off-kilter. Here in 2006, having played the latest Battlefield shortly after having to sit through a series of 'we're doing this better' presentations from various Digital Illusions luminaries, we can confidently predict that players will be enjoying not just a vastly improved game, but a more polished and smoother Battlefield experience - just as soon as the carpets go down in the new DICE HQ.
Let Them Eat Quake
As is the tendency with most sequels, Battlefield 2142 offers an evolutionary advance, where gameplay has been refined and the scale expanded since the original BF1942. Maps have become more elaborate; vehicles more varied and having exhausted all previous wars that would reliably fit the template, it seemed obvious that the future was the way to go.
This time however, Digital Illusions will have quite a fight for the market share. By making the game faster-paced - or rather, by helping players stay alive longer - and with vehicles edging closer to the Aliens/Starship Troopers mould, the game seems to be encroaching on enemy territory, in a very literal sense. Quake Wars looks to be doing much the same thing and, of course, Unreal pitched its flag in this future arena years ago. Both games would on first impressions appear to be offering a more focused and accessible FPS experience. Battlefield's trump card, however, is its scale. Its go-anywhere, do-anything (within reason) approach has always been initially frustrating, increasingly so with each passing game, but that's countered by the many and varied approaches to victory that can be discovered and perfected. As bewilderment turns to mild addiction, each Battlefield has become a behemoth of replayability that no other FPS can touch.
Mech It So
Nowhere is the scale of 2142 bettered than in the much trumpeted Titan mode, where two hovering gargantua must be taken down by the opposing sides, by controlling missile silos on the surface below. With shields down the Titans can be boarded, from which should spring tense firefights down sinuous corridors, until eventually the flying brick erupts and heralds victory for its attackers. Nilsson enthusiastically equates Titan assaults with the memorable boarding scene from Star Wars: A New Hope, where the rebels waited for the stormtroopers to pour in.
It's an admirable and evocative objective, but after an hour of playing the game before being herded into a room to eat salad, it was difficult to judge how much of that tension will be felt: most of us in attendance were happy to continue our BF2 revelry and duke it out on terra firma (such is the way of things when half of the combatants have little clue as to what's going on).
If the jury's still out on the new Titan mode, it didn't take long to offer a verdict on the new vehicles. Aircraft are slower than BF2s jets and easier to fly, armour battles are more interesting thanks to the temporary immobility caused by EMP weapons - and the so-called combat walkers are easily the most intimidating sight to behold. These veritable trousers-of-ownage are bristling with weapons that can take on man or machine quite happily. Of course, tliey're equipped with an Achilles heel (or, rather, knee), but their presence alone can lie enough to swiftly rearrange a front line.
Let's Stick Together
Even if they're a touch too contemporary in their design to fit with the chronology, the vehicles certainly feel more useful than in previous games. Generally, up until now, APCs have been treated like second-rate tanks by Battlefield players, who would rather hop into a jeep to get anywhere fast or heavy armour to cause maximum damage. In 2142, APCs and transport VTOLs are a vital piece of kit, since without them the only way to get aboard an enemy Titan is to spawn alongside your squad leader. APCs house turrets that with a right-click can be ejected into the sky and guided towards the launch bay of the enemy mothership. To be launched skyward in these pods is an unexpectedly stomach-churning experience (a fun one too. since you can use your pod as a guided bomb - although that feature is likely to be nerfed quite heavily). In slrort, Digital Illusions are ramping up the teamplay requirements.
"We don't want to turn away the lone-wolf players," says Nilsson. "In fact, that lias always been part of our philosophy; to allow yon to do pretty much what you want. The idea is to further reward those who play as a team. Nilsson explains the game's system of awarding teams with what he calls "field upgrades"; temporary unlocks that may present a particularly altruistic medic with more effective healing abilities. Squads will also be able to share information on their heads-up displays, so that troops in the same unit will be able to detect the same enemy units, and depending on their rank, may even be able to discern certain unit types rather than seeing the standard red blob on the edge of their visors.
Ranking is certainly one aspect in which Digital Illusions are looking to expand the Battlefield experience. Rather ambiguously we're told the game will have 43 ranks for players to attain, three of which will be reserved for the top 200 players across the globe. Ranks, apart from inferring bragging rights, will further unlock over 40 items that you'll be able to customise your kit with, from new weapons and better ammo to all sorts of upgrades like scopes and stablisers. It's all about customisation and persistence, both features Digital Illusions are borrowing from an unlikely source: World Of Warcraft.
Is This Fantasy?
Bet you didn't see that coming. The thinking goes that by cutting the player classes down to four (see 'And Then There Were Four', above) and then allowing players to customise their equipment, you feel you are more unique in the world. The theory certainly holds up, and although Digital Illusions have no intention of dishing out magic spells or populating the servers with vermin in order to facilitate the levelling-up process, as a mechanic designed to pull players back into the fray time and time again, it's one that's worked phenomenally well already. But will the whole thing work? There's no doubt that the graphics will be topnotch - seeing the mechs stomping about is worth the entrance price alone. The evolution of the gameplay, albeit faint, is also unlikely to disappoint, unless of course you've already tired of Battlefield's trademark capture-and-hold mechanic. No, the issue many people have is with bugs, and on that front Nilsson is bullish.
"We're building on existing technology; the visual quality is higher, the rendering is faster, the server-browsing code will be a lot better and the whole front-end is totally redone. I can guarantee that the launch of this product is going to be much less buggy than it was in BF2. We're taking quality very seriously."
Well that's good to know, although bugs are rarely an issue when the game itself is so engrossing. While we have our doubts about Titan mode (what's wrong with just the one Titan?), we're also aware than an hour playing one map in an alpha build is no measure of quality. Battlefield has established itself as the premier multiplayer FPS for very good reason and there's little to suggest that Digital Illusions are about to muck things up. Not on their nice new carpet anyway.
It beta be good
Sign up for the 2142 bug hunt
Not that we're suggesting for one moment that BF2142 requires urgent gameplay attention, but as has been the case in MMOG land since the likes of 'EverCrack' was first shot through the eyeballs of the world's gamers, game makers have realised that if anyone's likely to knock a game into shape, it's the paying customer. To that end, Battlefield 2142 will enjoy a short but intense period of public beta testing this very month - August How long the testing will last is undecided, but should you choose to enlist, always remember you'll be playing to search for bugs, not to have fun, OK?
Having Poured Every recent waking hour into Battlefield 2142 (and some hours in which I was only partially conscious), I can safely say that while it's not an enormous leap for the series, this futuristic sequel is by no means a standalone mod. Calling it Battlefield 2.5 would be a mite too harsh, whereas calling it part of a new generation of online shooters would be an accolade not entirely deserved. You could say it's doing to Battlefield 2 what BF: Vietnam did to Battlefield1942, though this game works far better than DICE'S previous attempt to extend tlie life of a Battlefield engine. Instead, BF2142 is a brilliant rethink of the Battlefield armoury, a refreshing new way of playing a classic game, with one undeniably fantastic new game mode.
Interface The Facts
Let's start with exactly what happens when you double-click the Battlefield 2142 desktop shortcut you've probably placed, like a minesweeper flag, on the bit of your Jessica Alba wallpaper where you guessed her nipple would be, because it's right after booting up Battlefield 2142 tliat the first changes become apparent. The server list which once refused to acknowledge any of your requests while it took an age to update has been replaced by a silky-smooth and far more usable server list. Logging in is painless, and the time between clicking a menu button and something happening onscreen lias been reduced from days to fractions of a second. It's taken 136 years, but finally it all just works.
How bizarre is it that we have to start a review of this game by saying that the menu system actually works? It still takes a moment to load the menu screen when you hit the escape key during a game, but we'll let tlie developers off on tliat count.
The year is two thousand, one hundred and forty-two, and things have changed since you first flew a Spitfire into a control point on Wake Island 200 years ago. The world is being overrun with terrorist glaciers as a new ice age dawns. Two factions, the EU and the Pan Asian Coalition, both of which are distinctly not American (not a sign of the US anywliere in fact), fight for control of the only unfrozen bits of planet left.
Somewhere along the timeline, scientists have made some very important decisions - namely that some tanks should be allowed to hover, planes should have fewer wings and be more hover-y, and absolutely massive airships should hover high above the battlefields. (Can you spot the theme?) Other decisions made by these scientists suggest they've been watching lots of great sci-fi movies. So, guns are bulkier and give off bluish muzzle flashes, while Recon soldiers can use cloaking systems to turn invisible - but only for a while, and only as long as they hold down a button. Also, giant bipedal tanks dominate the playing field. Welcome to the future, soldier.
Meehs, walkers, great stomping metal Ijastards, whatever you want to call them: driving one is empowering, like riding a giant mechanical T-Rex. The disturbing sight of an Engineer running between your legs to launch something, anything, at your crotch (yes. that's actually your weak spot), or to stick bombs to your precious legs is something that no other vehicle in the series has provided.
Long-range combat with tanks is another danger, and particular attention needs to be paid to the skies, as a well-aimed missile attack from above will put an end to your 20ft adventures. Your secondary weapon, however, is a payload of anti-aircraft EMP missiles, so justice flies in two directions where walkers are concerned.
Walkers are easily the most impressive and devastating force against both ground and air units in Battlefield 2142. At close range they're damn near unstoppable, requiring more than a simple tow-rope around the legs to put them out of commission. Engineers carry the sort of anti-vehicle weaponry a walker pilot should fear (we've settled on calling them walkers, after the crisps), but first the massive future-tanks need to be disabled with EMP grenades, EMP mines, EMP rockets, or generally something with EMP at the start of it. That's an ElectroMagnetic Pulse by the way, the sort that knocks out all electronic systems within a certain radius - you may remember them from such plot devices as the bit in The Matrix where they kill the squid bots.
In BF2142 however, an EMP puts a walker, or indeed any vehicle, to sleep for a few vital seconds - time enough for a disciplined squad to blast off both its legs with C4, or for an Engineer to make that all-important rocket attack.
Tlie futuristic setting has allowed DICE to better integrate their rock, paper, scissors approach towards vehicle design too. The PAC army (whose logo bears a striking resemblance to that of a leading sports clothing brand) has a highly manoeuvrable hover tank that can strafe but cannot rotate its turret, and APCs are no longer treated as B-grade tanks.
Instead, they play a huge role in allowing troops to launch themselves massive distances from the on-board launch pods, either up to the massive Titan motherships in Titan mode, or just across the map in Conquest mode. Each army has their own version of the APC, as well as a light fighter gunship for aerial attacks, a troop transport aircraft, a tank, an all-terrain buggy for moving quickly around the map, and the infamous walker.
The fine balance between soldier combat and vehicle combat has been tuned too, meaning you feel slightly less useless when you're not sitting inside a machine.
Remember The Titans
The collaborative efforts required of a squad to take down a walker highlights one of Battlefield 2142's new staples, or rather an old staple, rebuffed and made distractingly shiny: teamplay. Whereas lone wolves could survive admirably in Battlefield 2, such unco-ordinated endeavours won't lead to as many victory screens as before. In fact, without some degree of order-following, victory in Titan mode becomes almost impossible.
Titan mode is the biggest departure from the Battlefield formula, and definitely the most exciting and refreshing feature of Battlefield 2142. It can be played on five of the game's ten maps (all ten maps are playable in standard Conquest mode) and puts each team in possession of an airship 'the size of a footliall field', to use the National Geographic scale of measurement.
This skyborne behemoth is your base of operations. Not only can you spawn there, but it's also where both your ficjhter aircraft and your transport aircraft are spawned. There are powerful, player-controlled gun turrets that launch barrages of something dangerous and explosive at nearby ground units, making the Titan itself a staggeringly destructive weapon.
Touching down on terra firma is achieved in a variety of ways too. You either fly, if somebody else hasn't already nicked the aircraft, or you can hop into a launch pod. These man-sized pods blast you from the side of the Titan, allowing you to land anywhere within a certain radius of it You even get to control the pod slightly as you arc through the air - hell, if you're good enough you can land right on an enemy soldier! It's the new defib kill.
Once on the ground, there are five missile silos to capture and direct at the enemy Titan. These work almost exactly like standard control point flags from Conquest mode - the more of you at a missile silo, the quicker you disarm it and redirect it. Move too far away from the silo and you lose your connection to it, forcing you to start again.
Tilings which might make you want to move away from the silo include but are not limited to: orbital strikes raining hell from the heavens, a really big tank and angry men with guns. The old tactic of hovering right above a control point to capture it isn't advised either, as that's generally the path missiles are intending to take. Once these missile silos have destroyed the enemy Titan's shield, you're free to board it.
OK, still with us? This is where Titan mode becomes interesting. After either hopping into a pod and launching across from your own Titan to the enemy's (if it's close enough - the team commander can move their Titan slowly about the map), or launching yourself upwards from an APC far below (the most fun way by far), or just landing on the rear deck with your aircraft like a wasp to a piece of jam whose shields you've just destroyed, you're ready to start bringing down the beast.
This is the pail of the Titan game mode which everybody thought would be a horrible experience reminiscent of PlanetSide's repetitive interiors. Anybody who's run about the inside of the aircraft carrier in Battlefield 2 will know that previously, the engine handled indoor areas as well as a coma victim handles juggling balls. It was bland, glitchy, and if you ever had the misfortune of coming across an enemy in there, you'd both just nod knowingly before taking your differences outside. Inside the guts of the Titan is a different story, however. It's polished, detailed and seamless. It's no more or less enjoyable than fighting outside, but it's not broken. Thank god, it's actually not broken.
Combat inside the Titan is fast-paced and lethal. Soldiers of the Support class can deploy turrets to defend corridors, anti-personnel mines reign supreme, and snipers draw the short straw as closequarters combat becomes the norm. Once you've destroyed four strategically placed control panels, the Titan rolls over (metaphorically that is) and exposes its reactor core - then it's pretty much just a matter of shooting at that or loading it with explosives until it (eventually) blows up. Perhaps the cleverer game designers went home early that day.
Finally, as the Titan literally begins to explode around you. you've got a few moments to escape with your life. The quickest way down is a mad dash back to the rear deck and a sky dive over the edge as the crippled Titan puts on an impressive fireworks display behind you. And yes, it really is as much fun as you're imagining it is.
Tliis brings ns back to the issue of teamplay. Titan mode encourages it to the extreme; so much so that it's an awkward experience if you're not in a squad, and worse if you don't have a decent commander. It's like spinning plates - you need a team on the ground keeping those missile silos pointed at the enemy Titan, you need a team in your own Titan to defend it from invading forces, and finally you need a team on the enemy Titan to take it down. It's a triangle of responsibility, and if it's not equilateral it begins to form a liorrible isosceles triangle, or even worse, a scalene triangle of irresponsibility (a phrase I'm officially coining).
Titan is designed exclusively for team players who are prepared to do what they're told. It's not like DICE are oblivious to this either. In fact, they've bolstered the incentives to play in a squad by introducing squad points, which are awarded for dutifully following your leader's orders. Tliese points count towards unlockables for squad leaders, including such delights as deployable spawn points and autosentry turrets. Plus, of course, when you're in a squad, enemies that your team-mates can see show up on your HUD - exactly like Advanced Warfighter's CrossCom system. (Except DICE have called it NetBat. Ubisoft must feel very flattered.)
Outside of squad upgrades, Battlefield 2142 boasts even more persistent player features than its predecessor. Unlocks and ranks were and still are a massively popular feature of Battlefield 2, and Battlefield 2742 doesn't shy away from giving players something to work for. The classes have been reduced from seven to four, but now offer the option of customising your kit to your own preference. As you play, you earn points which can be used to buy new items for certain classes, with two separate branches of unlocks leading to two different weapons. Coupled with the ranking system, and the ability to win medals and awards for fulfilling certain quotas (and now pins for achievements within a round), these features put Battlefield 2142's character system almost in the realm of 'RPG-lite'. OK, so it's hardly going to start attracting the World Of Warcraft players, but it's nudging the genre in exactly the right direction.
Battlefield 2142 isn't the sequel many were hoping for. If you prefer the solitude of modern warfare, you might prefer to stick with the old version; but the gaming elite, the clan memljers and team players of the Internet should usher in the new with enthusiasm. It's certainly not going to supersede the increasingly popular Battlefield 2, as most of its merits are merely held over from its predecessor, but nevertheless it's a brilliant evolution of one of the greatest online shooters ever made. And it's got giant walking tanks.
Money money money! Rargli feed us money!
Battlefield2142 will be the first game in which EA are implementing their new dynamic advertising scheme, something which means lower game prices for us customers. OH WAIT, NO! It actually means more cash for EA, exactly the same game prices for customers, and contemporary, indestructible, suspension-of-disbelief-destroying advertising on billboards throughout the game. As one EA representative (who may or may not have been wearing a jewel-encrusted crown) put it the customers will benefit in the long run because the money EA consumes from lucrative advertising deals will be used for future EA sequels and booster packs FOR US TO BUY. All of this decided no doubt by men in boardrooms in the sky who haven't played a videogame since they accidentally fell on a joystick attached to a Pac-Man arcade cabinet and struggled for a moment to free themselves from it Thanks capitalism!
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode