Crave has finally managed to have a good old bash on the sequel to our favourite PC game ever, Battlefield 2 -- Battlefield 2142 is, as the title suggests, set in the future, and promises much more than just a change of graphics. But does it deliver?
Only a year after the massively successful BF2 was released, there are doubts over whether this is really a full-blown sequel. Already the anti-EA brigade has called it a glorified mod. We have to say this is unfair. The roleplaying element of BF2, whereby you earn points from killing the enemy and helping your team, and those points unlock new weapons, has been massively expanded. There are now four kits to play as (Assault, Engineer, Recon and Supply) instead of BF2's seven, but you can customise those kits with unlocked equipment before each battle.
The main problem we had with BF2 was the proliferation of uncooperative teammates. BF2142 has taken steps to make it even more desirable to join a squad and play as a team through squad-based bonuses and points for being helpful. We heartily applaud this -- the experience of working in a unit that knows what it's doing in BF2 is among the very best gaming experiences we've ever had, whereas the chaos of being on a server where no-one communicates is intensely frustrating.
Another big innovation is the Titan game mode. Instead of capturing flags and depleting the enemy's resources, the sole objective is the destruction of each other's titans -- massive floating fortresses protected by shields. Capture silos on the ground to take down the shield, then board and blow up the behemoth's engines -- and stop the enemy doing the same. This is an intense new experience, although we're not sure whether we prefer it to the normal Conquest mode.
Vehicles have had an overhaul, too. They have been downgraded in terms of effectiveness against infantry, particularly the aircraft. We welcome this -- players who hog the planes and get dozens of kills just by dropping bombs all the time really pissed us off in BF2. The major introduction in this area is the walker (or "Big Robot!" as the Russian team shout when they see one), a hulking great mech (pictured). These require two players to function effectively, and are far from invincible.
Another great feature is the game's performance on relatively low-spec machines -- it uses the same graphics engine as BF2, so if you can run that on low settings you'll be fine, but it manages to look much prettier. The lack of geographic variation in the maps spoils this somewhat -- perhaps creating future locations is more difficult than mimicking present-day places. Load times are still very lengthy, sadly.
This is a full-price game (£35), and we're not sure that it warrants the tag given the relatively small number of changes from BF2. Quality control certainly hasn't improved -- there's already a patch. But it's more than a mod -- a very good upgrade, perhaps, and for any BF2 fan it's absolutely essential. You can read a more in-depth review in our Games & Gear channel. -NH