The Battlefield series has earned a special place in the hearts of shooter fans with blazingly fast multiplayer warfare. BF1942 boasted an elegant FPS simplicity, large maps, and good graphics for its time. BF Vietnam didn't prove to have the lasting appeal of its predecessor, but it did give us choppers, jungles, and flashbacks to "Apocalypse Now." Battlefield 2 brings us up to date with an assortment of modern weaponry, including jets, tanks, Humvees, and heat seeking missiles.
You'll be soldiering for one of three military superpowers: the U.S., China, or the newly formed Middle East Coalition. Scaled versions of each of the 12 maps are available for up to 64 players. It's nice to see that some of the classes from BF1942 have reappeared. You can play as Assault, Sniper, Special Ops, Engineer, Medic, Support, and Anti-Tank personnel.
Graphics and Interface
Like previous BF titles, BF2 has great visuals, particularly if you have a high-end computer. View distances have improved, you can almost breathe the smoke, explosions rattle your desk, and water looks terrific.
There are a handful of dynamic elements in the environment, but while you can occasionally blow a bridge or crash a gate, you will typically find that a wire fence is enough to bring your tank to a sudden stop. Nevertheless, aside from how easily you can get stuck on a small incline, the vehicle physics are more convincing than ever.
The conventional FPS controls have changed very little. Mouse and keyboard can be used to operate all the game's equipment, but I still find a joystick very helpful when flying planes and choppers. Unfortunately, while you can get a joystick to work with the game, support is minimal.
Vehicles and Weapons
This aspect of the BF series never fails to shine. The high-tech weaponry in BF2 is, quite literally, a blast, and seems to be reasonably balanced, with one possible exception being the jet aircraft. There are several air vehicles that have special weaponry operated by the passenger, such as guided missiles. They can restock their ammo simply by flying low over an airstrip, so running out of bombs isn't a big concern. Stingers will sometimes take them down, but I'm not convinced that the anti-air weaponry in BF2 is adequate for the task.
Snipering is more challenging than usual, perhaps because the rifle power has been toned down to keep everyone from playing sniper, although I haven't tried the locked rifle yet. The handheld anti-tank missiles definitely appear to get the job done.
Support roles have been given some addition functionality in BF2. When you're playing a support position and you get into a vehicle, the vehicle becomes a sort of mobile support station. For instance, an engineer driving an APC will automatically repair any vehicles close enough to the APC.
I despise the way you can still capture command points from inside a vehicle, but many people prefer it the way it is.
Medics are equipped with shock paddles which can be used to revive critically wounded teammates. Typically you will be critically wounded before you die unless you find yourself caught in a large explosion.
One interesting new feature is the inclusion of a command structure. Teams can now be made up of squads, each of which has their own communication channels. One person on the team can play the commander position, which gives them access to a top-down view of the map with special survelliance and artillery functions. The commander can assess the big picture and issue orders accordingly.
To facilitate teamplay further, the game also has integrated voice chat. Squads have separate channels, and the commander communicates through the squad leaders. It's a novel approach, but it gets surprisingly little use, and the advantage probably still goes to TeamSpeak users who can put everyone on the same channel.
Although you don't have to play in a squad, there are benefits to be had from it. Most importantly, your squad leader acts as mobile spawn point. If they are in a vehicle, you will spawn in the vehicle with them. This can make a big difference when you're down to your last flag.
Another new addition to the game is the ranking system. When you play on a ranked server, it keeps track of your score and you are awarded ranks for your achievements. The most obvious benefit to raising your rank is that you gain access to special weapons that are otherwise locked. You also have the option to play on unranked servers where no record of the match is kept, and some unranked servers have all the weapons unlocked.
Points are accummulated not just through frags, but also by repairing vehicles, reviving fallen comrades, and performing other essential tasks.
Having a persistent set of stats does add depth to game and give players some overall goals to work toward. Sadly, such systems are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. In the case of BF2, it's a simple matter of getting a couple friends on the other team, meeting on a quiet part of the map, then killing and reviving each other over and over again. It's not hard to imagine how other stats, such as those for engineering, could be inflated in similar ways. A system that awarded diminishing returns for, say, killing the same player repeatedly in a short time span, would go a long way toward addressing this, but it's probably too late now.