The fourth full chapter in the Battlefield online shooter franchise, Battlefield 2142 propels the multiplayer fight 200 years ahead from the first game in the series into a bleak, war-torn future.
The Earth is ripped apart by a new ice age, forcing the entire population into a tiny crucible around the equator in a desperate fight over last inhabitable place on the planet. But honestly, we don't really care what the reasons are - we just want to get our war on. Battlefield is back.
BF2142 returns with Conquest: Assault, but also an all-new game type called Titan mode. Titans are floating fortresses in the sky, and each team's objective is to take out the opposing team's Titan. The battlefield is surrounded by multiple missile silos, and the most effective way to break down the enemy Titan's shields is by taking and holding these silos. This keeps their payloads targeted at the enemy's Titan, instead of yours.
Once a Titan loses its shields, it can be boarded and quickly blown apart from the inside out with emplaced explosives in four key areas, and finally the main reactor.
Boarding the Titan happens via airship drop off or launching up in a "pod" from a nearby APC - one of the signature moments in 2142. Mounting this complex attack occurs while your team is frantically trying to defend against an identical attempt by the opposite side.
The only reason that strangers on the internet can even dream to pull this off is primarily due to Battlefield 2142's incredible "Squad System". In addition to each side's Commander, each team has up to six Squad Leaders. The Commander oversees the entire theater, calls down artillery and spot targets with satellite sweeps, but Squad Leaders are arguably even more vital. They act as mobile spawn points, serving to keep teams of soldiers together and focused on each successive task. A well-coordinated and determined squad is the deadliest thing in the entire game.
Joining a squad immediately underscores the amount that you and your buddies depend on each other, based on the class of soldier you’ve chosen. 2142 combines the previous seven Battlefield 2 classes into just four, but gives each class a wide variety of specialized equipment that can be customized and loaded before the fight. For example, Engineers have a wide variety of vehicle repair and support equipment, but they also can take on an anti-armor role by loading in EMP and tracker mines. The traditional Assault class doubles as a field medic with optional defibrillator paddles, and the Recon class supports both sniper and spec ops load outs with optical camouflage and explosive charges.
But for all the new "unlockable" toys (which come with increased rank), somehow infantry combat has taken a big step backwards in the future of 2142. The feel of being on foot can be best described as "swimmy" - moving around feels thick and unresponsive, and heaven help you if you are on a moving Titan. Worse still, most of the futuristic weapons feel insubstantial, sound like sewing machines and don't often hit what they're aimed at. Yuck.
But the Battlefield franchise has always highlighted vehicle-on-vehicle violence, and obviously, this is still where it shines the brightest. Returning veterans will recognize the breathless hop-scotching between familiar vehicle archetypes: tanks, Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and small, wildly fast four-wheeled buggies. Jets and helicopters are replaced (and combined, sort of) by vertical takeoff gunships and transports (think Terminator’s Hunter/Killers).
But the most substantial addition is the Battle Walker - a two-man mech that bristles with anti-air and anti-armor rockets, in addition to two sets of heavy machine guns for each crew member. Walkers chew on infantry like a dog on a gravy-covered bone, and there is nothing more fun in 2142 than stomping around in a mech tearing through platoons of ground-pounders. Except, perhaps, starring in your very own version of David and Goliath while sneaking into the Walker's blind spot and taking it down single-handedly with some well-placed detonation charges.
Battlefield 2 veterans will recognize most of the visual layout, commands and menu system because, in large part, BF2142 uses the same graphics engine. But building off of BF2's core, instead of starting fresh, has caused pre-emptive criticism that the developers simply "skinned" the original game and charged full price for an expansion pack.
However, once we witnessed the astonishing new battlegrounds, this niggling complaint vanished completely. The development team has lifted the franchise to new heights with the sheer amount of polish and shine they've applied to this sequel. While BF2's modern-day ordnance was faithfully recreated with down-to-the-rivet authenticity, 2142's superb attention to detail is simply breathtaking. 2142 parades you among glimmering skyscrapers in one moment and through bleak tundras littered with mechanical carnage in the next. You'll ride in the most magnificently detailed airships you've ever yet encountered in a game. Even the weapons have a frightening amount of detail and mesmerizing animations.
Unfortunately, 2142 is still the buggy, glitchy mess that we've come to expect from the Battlefield series. While the server interface has been massively improved over the piss-poor Battlefield 2 lag-fest, 2142 still suffers from team name errors, object collision oddities, sound bugs and the occasional system hang. Currently, an annoying bug in Titan mode causes missiles to either do no damage or stop launching or altogether, making for a never-ending round. And still no widescreen support? We have just one word for that: bullshit.
But no doubt, hardcore Battlefield fans will find 2142's fresh game mode and spectacular new levels irresistible. While rough around the edges, the franchise still wears the crown of best team-based experience in gaming today - for now. This Battlefield chapter has our recommendation, if only because we need more fodder for our runs in the Battle Walker.