The D-Day After Tomorrow.
Advances in technology have had a profound affect on our most basic actions. Gadgets and gizmos make everything in the world move faster, do better, and cost less. Aside from the ‘cost less’ part, EA and DICE’s Battlefield 2142 is a pretty good demonstration of how science and its gizmos can turn a war-torn future into a fun-filled weeknight, but does it still inspire the heroism of battles past?
The biggest difference between Battlefield 2142
and its forebears
is its setting. As opposed to basing the game around historical or at least probable real-world conflicts, this time you’re dropped into the beginning of the next ice age, with humanity realizing crops don’t grow on glaciers and proceeding to war over whatever isn’t icy tundra. Luckily, the remaining nations of the world have conveniently congealed into two opposing factions, the European Union and the Pan-Asian Conference, to scrap over what’s left.
Classically, you won’t give a damn about any of that due to the quintessential lack of good single player action. The only choice to make is whether or not you can handle hearing all the combat banter in Russian.
This may be the future, but don’t expect to whip out a blaster just yet. Across the compacted four classes, expect to handle some pretty standard weaponry alongside some incredibly cool gadgets. For instance, in addition to your plain ol’ caveman explosives, a slew of EMP weapons have been introduced that disrupt vehicle controls and blind nearby infantry. Assault troops, now given deployable medkits, also have pocket defibrillators that can instantly resuscitate fallen comrades, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Recon, Engineer, and Support classes round out the bunch, and each class is capable of fulfilling multiple roles once you start gaining ranks online. Each kit can unlock abilities, tools and weapons along two small trees, and there are a few crucial universal upgrades that everyone can access, like enhanced sprinting and grenades. Banking on one class has its ups and downs, as most of the final unlocks are highly specialized, and it’s a heavy investment any way you look at it.
In light of the previous Battlefield games, it’s easy to see how a vet who’s unlocked half the game by the end of the first week would destroy any rookie that just dropped in. Although the server selection interface is slick and improved, it’s still pretty difficult to decipher which server is full of hardcore commandos and which ones are geared to beginners.
Another hurdle for noobs lies in the lack of a decent tutorial for piloting vehicles or commanding forces, a persistent non-feature of the series. Although you can run five of the standard maps against a team of bots by your lonesome, the game’s crummy voice-over blurbs are hard to pay attention to in the middle of firefights. Combine that with the pervasive anti-beginner vibe to be found in most matches, and the new kids will definitely have some catching up to do.
Provided you can figure it out, as a Commander you’ll be able to take advantage of some of the coolest features in Battlefield 2142, like the awesome VOIP system. Commanders can easily speak to one or all squad leaders to issue an order, and the squad leaders themselves can then rattle off the plan to their squad. Even if you don’t have a microphone, you’ll still be able to hear your teammates praise or scorn you.
Like Battlefield 2, commanders can also call in artillery strikes (explosive and now EMP-based) and supply drops, as well as perform radar sweeps to provide intelligence to the frontlines. An extra incentive to actually join a squad online (by the way, just do it, we’ll thank you later) comes in the form of unlockable helmets for each class that track a particular unit type and transmit the data to the rest of the squad. It’s pretty sweet to be able to spot everybody in an awaiting ambush, flank them, and wipe them out because everybody wore their special hat to the party.
Spotting enemies isn’t the only thing the future has made easier. The air units are no longer helicopters, and no longer akin to flying an angry brick, either. The battle walkers are a neat addition, although it’s really just a tall tank. Much more integrated are the APCs, now capable of launching troops skyward in drop pods, to access hard-to-reach sniping territory, escape death, or assault an enemy Titan.
For years, Battlefield
was a one-trick pony, and now it’s finally got two. At the behest of many players looking for a more objective-based scenario, Titan mode has arrived. Titan matches take place on a field containing two giant airships (one for each team) and five missile silos. Controlling a silo causes its missiles to chip away at your enemies' Titan. When your team slams enough missiles into one of these behemoths, its shields drop, allowing you to assault it from the inside.
Toward the end of nearly every Titan match, both teams are frantically balancing a defensive as well as offensive corridor war in addition to the ongoing battle for silo control. The Titans are also moveable, albeit slowly, and armed to the teeth with mini-guns and mortar launchers, making quick work of ground and air forces. Titan mode offers tons and tons of strategic options, and really breathes some life into the series.
This future is bleak, and that much is obvious from the smashed towns and dreary industrial complexes of the game’s ten maps. While they tend to run together due to overused textures and general similarities, they suit the mood fine. Troops animate well, adopting neat looking body armor and mounting up in slick, futuristic versions of dune buggies and tanks, but once again, you won’t be too concerned with how things look when you’re just trying to aim for the head.
So technology can’t fix every problem we’ve seen in the past, but it is good for some giant airships, cool hats, and intense firefights. And really, they had us at the hats. While Battlefield 2142 could stand to remind us a little less of Battlefield 2, its awesome technology has shown us a future worth paying for and dying in.