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Platform: PC
Developer: Digital Illusions, CE (DICE)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: October 2006
Availability: Online via the EA Downloader, retail stores (Electronics Boutique/EB Games, Kmart)
Genre: Multiplayer, First Person Shooter, Driving, Realistic
ESRB Rating: T - Teen. Advisory: "Violence"
PEGI Rating: 15+ (Finland), 16+ Elsewhere. Advisory: "Contains realistic depictions of violence"

Battlefield 2142 is the latest in the line of "realistic" first-person shooter (FPS) games to be released by the development house Digital Illusions, CE. It follows on from Battlefield 1942 and the sequel, Battlefield 2, to present a glimpse in to the future of modern warfare. As with the previous titles, BF2142 focuses on squad-based tactical warfare, set in the grim future.

Back story
BF2142 shows a possible future of Earth, affected by a devastating Ice Age. While the exact causes of this Ice Age are never delved in too deeply, needless to say humanity reverts to what it does best - armed conflict over resources. With the Ice approaching from "the North", BF2142 pits two massive conglomerates against one another. The major players are the English-speaking (yet surprisingly American sounding) EU, composed of the Western countries from Europe, and the Russian speaking (and thus inherently disadvantaged) PAC. Together they battle for strategic resources and territory over a variety of environments.

Yeah, yeah, so what about the game?
Glad you asked. The back story in many games of this genre is fairly irrelevant. Side A is attacking Side B, in a limited playing field. This Grand Tradition is continued in BF2142, where the environments are explained in a purely rudimentary fashion. As a player, you don't care about the ground you are walking/rolling/flying/stomping/hovering over, you just want to know who to shoot.

The maps themselves present only two distinct types of territory - the constantly wintry landscape and, surprisingly, the sunburnt desert. The desert maps don't really gel with the whole "impending Ice Age" feel of the backstory. You battle for control of refineries, sites of undisclosed technological importance, the Suez Canal and important cities like Minsk.

So... the GAME?!?
Wow, you are pushy!

The game itself LOOKS very slick. Making good use of the latest graphical advances, this game present high-detail textures, bump mapping and looks very futuristic - from the "clean" look of city buildings, the bullet holes in surfaces, to the gritty dust devil kicked up by weapon shots and the passage of vehicles. The traditional "Conquest" mode of play, with limited "lives" and control points for player respawning is one of the main modes of multiplayer.

Titan mode!
The thing that really sets BF2142 apart from (non-modded) previous incarnations is the introduction of a new mode of play - Titan mode. As warfare develops in the future, massive flying deployment and weapons platforms are created, dubbed "Titans". These anti-gravity behemoths are utilised by both sides of the conflict, providing a huge hunk of metal to rain death down upon your enemies or to quickly send young men to their demise. The Titans are protected by a force field-esque shield system, with only a few exposed gun turrets - two top-mounted, high-calibre, high-speed machine gun turrets and four underbelly-mounted artillery cannons which rain 6 massive blasts down on targets below. Due to the restrictive nature of the mountings, these guns each have a limited firing arc, but are quite powerful to targets they do hit. The Titans do start a little out of the way from battle though, allowing hesitant commanders some protection of their greatest asset at the cost of firepower.

In Titan mode, the aim of the game is to secure five Titan Missile Silos, tactical and indestructible missile launchers that fire missiles that severely damage the opposing Titan shield. To capture these silos, an opposing player simply stands nearby and their automated combat suit uplinks (wirelessly!) in a few seconds and begins to take control of the silo. This can be done EVEN WHILE THE OPPOSITION ARE NEARBY! Initially deactivating and then re-targeting a silo can take a single soldier approximately 30 seconds. During this time, they are free to attack, however if they stray too far from the silo, their progress is halted. Thankfully, apart from the time it takes to re-establish the uplink, there is no penalty once you resume your proximity. If you got the silo to 50% and wandered off, you can come back, wait a few seconds to establish another uplink, and resume from 50%! As a result, control of the silos sways backwards and forwards many times in the course of play. These silos allow the controlling team a spawn point from near the silo, making them valuable forward deployment locations.

With the silos pounding the Titans shields, eventually one (and eventually both) of their shields will fail. At this point, you have to make a decision: do I keep control of the silos and wait for the Titan's hull to buckle, or do I assault the Titan directly and try for the quick kill by destroying its reactor? It is, of course, never that easy. There are 4 control panels that you have to destroy to gain access to the reactor room, and you can bet that the opposition are going to defend it to the bitter end. What happens is that the battle shifts dramatically from a vehicle and medium-to-long-range affair to close quarters combat - grenades, deployed defences, healing and resupply lines become crucial. Of course, you have to watch out that YOUR Titan doesn't fall prey to the missiles and assault crew of the enemy! This "end game" play is addictive, and many players seek it out exclusively.

And once the Titan is destroyed (either pounded to dust with missiles or its reactor is taken out) then you have a brief period to GET THE HELL OUTTA THERE or you get caught in the resulting explosion, causing your demise, but certainly bringing about the end the round!

Vehicles - tell me more!
Like other Battlefield titles, the maps are large, designed to encourage (initially) the use of vehicles rather than twitch FPS close combat. While previous mods to the BF series have had a dazzling array of vehicles, BF2142 simplifies them to the following types:

Aircraft

  • Helicopter Gunship. Jump in, fly out and start shooting. Primarily against other aircraft, with some use at strafing land targets. Can hold 2 or so people, 1 pilot, firing missiles and machine guns, and some auxiliary machine gunners.
  • Helicopter Air transport. Higher carrying capacity, these flying mobile transports have one pilot spot (with machine guns) and capacity for approximately 6 others - 2 with machine guns, but the remainder only able to fire their standard firearms.
  • Drop pods. Launched from either the APC or Titan (see below), these pods allow rapid, single person deployment across and ABOVE the battlefield. Faster than walking, they are extremely visible threats, making the soldier encased within vulnerable.
Ground units
  • Fast attack Recon vehicle (4x4). Heck, the PAC even CALL it a Groundhog! A fast, manoeuvrable, SUV-esque vehicle, with a roof-mounter turret machine gun and space for one person riding free in the back. Provides minimal armour protection for its passengers, but allows rapid deployment of up to 3 in to battle. The machine gun provides excellent infantry attack capabilities, but has a real weakness against explosive ordinance - be it grenades, EMP, shoulder-mounted missiles from the Engineer, or cannon shots from tanks and the like.
  • Tanks. We all love them, we all want them. With capacity for only 2, the main cannon turret and auxiliary missiles and a second spot for a machine gunner, these mobile support vehicles provide the greatest level of protection from small-arms fire. Durable against larger ordinance, their lack of manoeuvrability makes them vulnerable to EMP and missile attacks.
  • Armored Personnel Carriers (APC). One of the more interesting vehicles in the game, best used with multiple crewmembers. Capacity for 6, the driver with machine gun and EMP missiles, the primary gunner with a linked trio barrage of explosive missiles, and multiple machine guns. Additionally, the APC also has the ability to launch drop pods - rapidly propelling individual soldiers up to Titans or across the battlefield. As manoeuvrable as a tank but with better armour than the 4x4, used well the APC can be an excellent support for any squad.
  • The Battle Walker. Oh baby. A new unit for the series, this vehicle is modelled around your basic mech - a two-legged, heavily armoured, mobile weapons platform. With capacity for just 2 people, the driver has the challenging role of manoeuvring the sometimes unwieldy vehicle to bring the high-calibre machine guns and missiles to bear. The secondary gunner can fire a SECOND set of machine guns and EMP attacks. Because of its rather large frame, the Walker attracts a LOT of attention - usually of the "explode-y, hurt-y, 'kill me!'" type.
Static defences
If the vehicles weren't enough, (and they aren't in my opinion) add to the mix a few static Anti aircraft turrets and even a slow moving but vehicle-deadly rail gun turret and you've got yourself a great deal of variety in roles.

Things can't get more complicated, can they?

Classes? I want to hear about the classes!
BF2142 actually SIMPLIFIES things a bit here. Well, sort of. There are four "kits" that a player can take, defining their role in the battle.

  • Recon is your standard sniper setup - high-powered, zoomable rifle, knife, weak sidearm. Initially they don't have a tertiary role - they are for the camper within all of us.
  • Assault is a jack-of-all-trades, with a healing twist. Dependable assault rifle, they also carry a deployable first aid kit.
  • The Engineer carries a slow, shoulder mounted missile launcher - one shot levels a 4x4, two shots takes out an APC or Battle Walker, and 3+ for a tank. Their backup is not a pistol but rather a SMG, and their "special" ability fixes vehicles.
  • Finally, choosing the Support kit gives you a stabilised machine gun with a HUGE ammo clip - firing this weapon makes it MORE accurate, meaning you are DEAD in a one-on-one at close range but far more effective over time. The Support kit also provides you with a resupply kit - important in longer battles as all non-static weapons have limited ammunition.
But wait! There's more!
There is indeed more. As you play, you gain experience. Kill an opposition player? Get a point. Resupply someone who needs ammunition? Get a point. Deactivate a silo? Get a point. Retarget a silo?!? Get a point. As you can see, points are fairly freely available in this game. The only way to LOSE points is to suicide, or teamkill, at which point the player you sent to an early demise can CHOOSE to punish you, stripping you of 6 points.

The points you accumulate allow you to gain "rank", with increasing points required for each subsequent rank. Each rank, after the base Recruit, such as Private or Corporal Silver allows you to choose one Unlock for use in multiplayer. These unlocks allow for more advanced equipment or abilities. The unlocks can be chosen across any of the 4 kits regardless of what you normally play, or can be used for "common" abilities and equipment. The common elements include fragmentation grenades, increased sprint capacity and sprint recovery or additional ammunition. If you are team-based, you can take common squad-leader upgrades, allowing you to set your own spawn points, deploy intelligent drones and the like.

The Recon kit can choose things like anti-personnel mines or rifle stabilisers. Assault can take defribulators to revive comrades in the field. Engineers can enhance their missiles, take demolition explosives or boost their repair capabilities and the Support kit can take small-arms energy shields, short-range scanners, or everyone's favourite - deployable sentry guns!

Wow, that's great! I can't wait to get in...
Not so fast! I haven't finished yet!

You mean there's more?!?
Yup. Ever wanted to be a Commander? Well, now you can. At the beginning of each round, players can elect to be the Commander for the round. If no-one of higher rank forces you out of the way, you open up a whole new tactical aspect of the game.

First off, you get to move the Titan if you wish. It is SLOW to do so however, and causes horrible lag to the players below. It does allow better use of the powerful weaponry that the Titan wields, but opens these weapons up for attack. It will also make storming your Titan once your shields are down that much easier. It becomes a game of balance.

Utilising the overview map, however, you have access to use satellite tracking to get slightly-lagged enemy readouts across the whole battle, deploy overhead UAV drones to provide localised detailed area scanning that is relayed to your troops, parachute in supplies or even deploy an orbital bombardment in the form of an EMP blast to a small area!

You can issue commands to individual squads, and if the squad leader accepts, control the flow of the battle. Squads get Field Upgrades if they do particularly well, making squads useful to both the average player and Commander. Squads that complete their objectives provide the Commander with points, and as they have the potential to spend most of their time out of battle mired in coordination, the winning Commander gets their points DOUBLED at the end of the round!

Golden Trinkets!
On top of this, there are a variety of pins, ribbons, badges and medals that you get for accomplishments in the game - getting a streak of 5 kills, 10 air defence kills, hours clocked up in a particular kit, finishing first in a round, etc etc. These rewards all add a few extra points to your score, allowing a player the ability to post some seriously BIG numbers for a round. I've managed to get 150 in one round from rewards alone!

Wow! Sounds like the perfect game!
It is good. However, there are a number of reasons why you WOULDN'T want to play it...

  • Firstly, it smacks a little of "more of the same". There are TONS of games like this released. The Titan mode is available for PREVIOUS version of the Battlefield franchise as mods, although with far less polished results.
  • Secondly, and quite perversely, it is NEW. You will want new hardware to run this puppy. Older computers will thus struggle with lower frame rates. Even new computers hit lag issues when the Titans move, or there are lots of 2D-rendered explosions going on around them.
  • Thirdly, the install process is ABYSMAL. The installer insists on looking after DirectX, virtually FORCES GameSpy to be installed, and you can't escape putting PunkBuster on your PC. While this is fine for the "causal" level of gaming, people have complained that this is tantamount to spyware. However, these steps make GAMING easier, and no private information is really given out.
  • Speaking of PunkBuster, it seems that good ole PB is rather harsh on what it defines as "legitimate" and, worse, it will kick anyone with a ping of 300 or more. That is barely possible in places like Australia unless you have high bandwidth connections!
  • Finally, the game can be VERY spotty in terms of reliability. There is a series of well-known CTD (crash-to-desktop) problems that players are waiting on EA to fix.
All up though, BF2142 is a satisfying game that I recommend to anyone who enjoys first-person shooters and can play as a team. Ignoring the nay-sayers, BF2142 is a well-written and polished game that brings an official baseline to an area of gameplay previously restricted to (sometimes appallingly implemented) mods.
Sources

Battlefield 1942 - Battlefield 2 - Battlefield 2142

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