PC Game Preview: E3 2005: Battlefield 2
EA's next romp'em stomp'em online FPS is nearly here. We got to see the game at this year's E3 and share our impressions of the successor to Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield Vietnam.
E3 2005 Impressions
Running. Driving. Flying. Shooting. Dying. All these actions are part of the red-hot universe of EAís Battlefield series of first-person shooters. The franchiseís two titles, Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield Vietnam, have a tremendous following (second only to Counter-Strike), the sequel to these games has been widely anticipated by the gamesí legions of fans. We had an opportunity to see and play a nearly complete build of Battlefield 2 at this yearís E3 exhibition.
As in the past Battlefield games, players will join an online server and an ongoing battle for territorial supremacy. The goal for teams is to capture key control points, holding onto that position in a seesaw battle for overall control. A team can win either by capturing all (or most) of the bases or by winning a war of attrition: if a team runs out of bases or lives to spawn new players, it loses. The past two games have taken up the battlefields of World War II and Vietnam, and now Battlefield 2 is set in the modern era. Although it makes no specific ovations to the war in Iraq, itís clear Battlefield 2ís desert worlds are its representations of that current conflict. For an added bit of spice, Battlefield 2 will also feature the Chinese Red Army. Some 30 different vehicles are will be included in the game, ranging from HMMWVs to Abrams tanks to fast attack boats to Apache attack helicopters to F/A 18 Hornets.
Battlefield 2 will offer seven different player classes, allowing players to specialize in nearly their heart desires. A sniper may be a popular selection, but there will also be medics, engineers, and general assaulter. Although Iíve always preferred playing the engineer in the previous Battlefield games, Battlefield 2 will give players like myself additional incentives to sneak around planting plastic explosives. All classes will be able to earn points from killing enemies or capturing objectives, but special bonuses will be given to those soldiers who fulfill their class roles. For example, engineers can destroy targets or enemy assets and medics can successfully heal teammates.
All of these points (which are tracked across the online community) can then be used to move the player to the ultimate class, the commander. This new commander class isnít a novel idea for a first-person shooter, but the idea itself has never really caught on. The concept is to add an element of strategy to the chaos of a normal round of Battlefield 2; commanders will have birdís eye view of the battlefield, with access to satellite intel on the enemyís latest positions. With that information, the commander can then direct soldiers to attack particular bases, pass along enemy locations, or call in artillery strikes. When we saw Battlefield 2 in action, this was the feature that most impressed us, but it remains to see if the new mode will survive in the crazy world of multiplayer FPS gaming.
For the less ambitious, EA has also included a new squad control mechanic which will encourage players to work as a team. The mechanics function as a tradeoff: the player will be able to use the squad leader as a mobile spawn point, but theyíll need to accept the leaderís orders while on the ground. Of course, the primary purpose of this mechanism is to encourage team cohesion, something thatís a bit reminiscent of PlanetSideís own squads. Coordinated attacks will also be much easier thanks to the standard voice communication and easier, hotkey message system.
All of this will be possible with 63 other players in Battlefield 2ís terrific new 3D engine, making for an ambitious game that may be one of the biggest first-person shooter titles of the year. Battlefield 2 will be released later this month.
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