So the scientists were right! Global warming has hit Earth hard in 2142. Fuel is no longer the political currency of the world. The need for arable land to support the world's dwindling population has driven nations to war once again. Welcome to the world of Battlefield 2142.
The European Union is facing off against the Pan Asian Coalition to claim those parts of the European continent not covered by the big freeze. The Americans are nowhere in evidence at all in the game, and we can only assume that as a race they were wiped out in the Obesity Plague of 2020.
The first time you fire up this game you are immediately requested to register online. If you are not connected to the net, you cannot play this game - not even the single player portion of the game, such as it is. This process involves registering with EA Games and choosing a password and user name. Pretty straight forward you say? Well it took us numerous attempts to achieve success. The system seems to have already allocated every known user name, and we encountered a few interesting crashes during the registration phase. Once you do manage to pass this first test you then set up a character profile.
The game itself is divided into two modes: there's single player, which is largely a bot driven version of the online part of the game. This is common for the Battlefield series, however you wonder why they have not learned anything from some of the successful first person shooters that have recently been released. The storyline for Battlefield 2142 has some real potential, however it is not explored at all in any type of mission-based single player game. There is no gradual introduction of technology or mission via tutorial. All you get is the ability to load a few of the online play maps, and play with and against a bunch of computer controlled opponents. Given that you have to register online to do this you wonder why they even bothered to include this.
Online game play has always been the strength of the Battlefield series and it is obvious that this is where all the effort has been directed. When first going online you have a very nice display that scans the current game servers and ranks them based on the latency. During our test phase there was a reasonable selection of Australasian servers to play on.
Once you have chosen your faction, you must then decide on your troop class. There are only four ypes to chose from and these are Assault, Recon (Sniper), Engineer and Support. Unlike the faction choice you can change class from game to game. Once you hit the battlefield proper you soon learn that you are in for a hard fight. The more you play and the more successful you or your squad is the more upgrades and equipment becomes available to you.
In principle this system rewards players and delivers a goal or reason to come back for more. The downside however is that new players are so much fresh meat for the more geared and hardcore players. This can be very dispiriting for the casual player (more so given the lack of any real single player options). If you do advance you then have an opportunity to upgrade your character with better weapons, grenades, secondary fire options and the like.
The basic game engine has remained the same from previous titles in the series. The big enhancement has been the inclusion of a new game mode called 'Titan'. This challenges you to take out the opposing faction's overhead gun platform that hovers above the battlefield. This can be achieved from the ground by taking over missile silos, from the air using aircraft or by direct assault. Defending your own Titan can be achieved by manning many of its gun platforms. You can actually pilot the Titan and move it over an enemy base. This can result in some interesting battles however this mode really only lends itself to high population games.
In the year 2142, personal weapons have not advanced much from today's weapons of choice. They may look a bit more futuristic but under the hood they are still assault rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers. There are no laser weapons, futuristic rail guns or plasma guns. We found this a bit flat and unimaginative.
Where there is a major change is in the vehicles. There are the usual tanks, Humvee, aircraft and transports but the real killer is the introduction of a Mech. Huge metal combat walkers that you can pilot into enemy lines, and wreak havoc with cannon and rocket fire. They take a lot of punishment and with a co-pilot running shotgun on a secondary turret can be a real game breaker. Ground plodders have access to EMP grenades to take out the mechs' shields, and rockets can reduce them to scrap, however in the hands of a good crew they can be devastating.
The maps are well laid out, however the larger maps can be an exercise in frustration if you are playing on a low population server. The design and feel of each of the maps conjures up the desperation and desolation embodied in the story, and you can't help but feel how good a single player campaign might have been.
Graphically the game is not bad, however it is limited by the game engine. There are some great looking buildings to fight on and through but you cannot enter most of them. This lack of environmental realism results in most maps having limited attack channels and places to hide. The more sparse maps make crossing on foot quite boring and renders you very vulnerable, with little in the way of scenery objects to hide in. Overall though a valiant effort has been made to wring the most out of the aging game engine.
The game on our review machine had an interesting trait of crashing for no reason at all, dropping us right back into Windows. This happened reasonably regularly both in online play as well as in single play.
Overall we found much of Battlefield 2142 to be the same as previous titles in the series. There is a new story, new scenery and new weapons but closer inspection showed that a lot remained unchanged. The new game mode and the introduction of the Mech are great, but these features do not make for a ground-breaking game. It will however definitely appeal to fans of the series and is a solid game to play.