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Monday October 30, 2006 6:17 pm

Playfeed Review: Battlefield 2142 by EA for PC

Description

A week ago, EA was nice enough to give us a review copy of their latest tactical squad-based FPS, Battlefield 2142. Following in the footsteps of Battlefield 2, 2142 features well-balanced strategic combat with a ton of depth and near-infinite replay value. These are the hallmarks we’ve come to expect from the Battlefield series (as well as its competitors, Counterstrike and Team Fortress among them), but does 2142 have the stuff to rise above the rest? Click the jump for our full review!! grin

Introduction

Let’s get the important news out of the way first - for fans of the tactical, squad-based FPS who were raised on Battlefield 2 and Counterstrike, Battlefield 2142 is not going to disappoint. The key elements are all here, and EA has thrown in everything but the kitchen sink making this one of the most full-fledged, all-inclusive tactical FPS’s out there. If you’ve been tracking this game for a while, chances are you shouldn’t be sitting at your desk reading this review - you should be at your local software store or online at EA’s store, buying this game.

Personally, tactical FPSs aren’t my favorite genre, but I had a lot of fun with this game nonetheless. So for those of you out there that aren’t hardcore tactical FPSers, and who might be wavering on whether or not to pick up a copy of this game, I’ll go through the good and the bad from a non-tactician perspective and hopefully give you enough info to decide if this one is worth your time.

The Gameplay

As I mentioned above, I’ve never been a huge fan of the tactical FPS genre - I’m a Quake 3 player, a shoot-anything-that-moves and rocket-your-way-to-victory gamer. So it takes some getting used to when you start up Battlefield and suddenly have to re-think everything you previously thought about FPSs. Now, instead of just focusing on your reticule and whether anything living is in your sights, you’ve got equipment choices to make, a map to keep your eye on, teammates to defend, commands to send, vehicles to maneuver, and a HUD that sends a wealth of information your way. At first, for a gamer like me that hasn’t spent too much time with this genre, it’s a shock. But after spending just a few hours with the game, I found that everything about the gameplay was well laid-out, surprisingly easy to learn, and eventually (even though I can’t say I’ve become an expert tactician), amazingly fun.

Part of the reason why 2142 will grow on you so quickly is just how well it’s thought out. The character classes are well balanced, as are the various vehicles and weapon sets. And once you learn the sort of rock-paper-scissors of the strategy (walker beats tank, tank beats soldier, soldier + EMP beats walker), it becomes apparent what strategies will work. This is not to say that the game becomes easy - indeed, during my first few rounds the CPU always seemed to stay one step ahead of me, figuring out my newest strategy and coming up with the perfect plan to take out my whole squad - it simply became really interesting. It certainly helped - and this is a real credit to the game designers - that even with a huge number of commands, actions, and weapons at your finger tips, learning the controls and figuring out what exactly every little icon on the screen meant was nowhere near as difficult as it could have been. It’s a comment reserved for the best of games—a title that’s (relatively) easy to learn but hard to master.

Grade: A-

Design

Something is missing in Battlefield 2142 when it comes to the design department, but it’s not exactly easy to say what. The layout is all there - a desolate, futuristic landscape with a mix of high-tech warfare equipment and a town in shambles. And the engine being employed is pretty impressive (even if it does require a fairly top-of-the-line machine). There’s certainly no complaints when it comes to the character models, vehicle designs, weapon effects… even the way your character moves looks and feels very realistic. Similarly, the sounds are all very realistic and war-like and the voice acting is even up to par. And yet, something is missing. Call it flair… call it atmosphere, call it a certain ju no se qua. While the textures and models are beautiful and technically well-designed, there are things that annoy - like the fact that most maps fall into a single monotone colorscheme, or the problem that unscathed, shining modern buildings often sit untouched next to the ruins of an old cathedral or a crashed bus. It’s as if war has touched down just in the places that will make the level design interesting. Likewise, the weapons and vehicles are futuristic in a way, but in other ways they’re just re-designed versions of vehicles in any other FPS genre - your machine gun, though it has a digital readout, feels just like a machine gun… the hovercraft feels and plays just like a helicopter, the transport is just another humvee or Warthog, and the walker… well, OK, the walker is pretty damn cool. Still, if we’re projecting 130+ years into the future, let’s come up with some really cool innovations that don’t just feel like your standard FPS mapped onto the future. I want my lasers! I want my jetpacks! I want some seriously bad-ass railguns or machine guns that fire 200 rounds/second and reload themselves automatically.

Some of this can be blamed on 2142‘s heritage - it’s based heavily on the modern-day Battlefield 2, and it definitely shows. We just can’t help but think that with a little more care and a little more thought, 2142 could’ve been something truly unique, rather than just a modern-day tactical FPS in futuristic clothing.

Grade: B-

Features & Replay Value

When I said earlier that EA just about threw in the kitchen sink, I wasn’t kidding ... if you really want to excel at this game, you’re going to be playing it for quite a while. In some ways, this could be seen as a weakness of the game, as you’ll have to spend a lot of time levelling up your character classes before you can really become competitive online. Still, this feature means that you’ll get a lot of practice in the single-player mode, which is great training before testing your chops online.

Similarly, EA has added in a bunch of new modes, including the all-new “Titan” mode, where players are charged with taking over a giant floating fortress—a task that will put your team’s strategies to the test. To bring down the Titans, you’ve got to fight a land-based battle to take missile silos on the surface, get your troops up to the Titan via a variety of different methods, and finally take to the halls of the vehicle in man-to-man combat. It’s tough, very tough, but once you complete a level this way, watching the points tick down in Conquest mode just isn’t nearly as exciting. If EA can come up with some other great playmodes to include in future iterations, there’s the chance that 2142 can grow to be much more than its predecessors.

Grade: A-

The Final Word
For you tactical fighters out there, you should be ashamed with yourself for making it this far into the review… just get out there, get this game, and start fiddling around online. There’s a lot to like here, and especially if you’re a fan of the genre, you’re going to get a lot of good hours out of this title.

Personally, while I can’t say I’ve been completely converted into a tactical FPS fanatic, Battlefield 2142 definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of what a great tactical FPS can be. You may even see me on EA’s servers someday soon… although for a while I’m sure I’ll be the one lying on the ground, shot in the head and crushed by the foot of enemy walkers.

Overall Grade: B+

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