E3 2006: Battlefield 2142

To twist a few tired metaphors, in Battlefield 2142 war is hell on Earth frozen over. The latest title in the squad-centric online shooter series, 2142 finds Earth caught in the floes of a new ice age, as the creeping freeze squeezes two coalitions - the European Union and the Pan Asian army - into a fight for the last remaining pockets of habitable land.

Battlefield 2142 might be futuristic, but it's not science fiction. There're no ray guns, lasers or teleporters in this chilly dystopia, although rifles, pistols and other projectile weapons have been enhanced with extra grunt. Aside from a brilliant blue muzzle flash spitting from the gun barrels of Pan Asian infantry, the weaponry retains a gritty, real-world flavor. Think the pulse rifle from Aliens, and you should be as keyed up about the game as we are.

Even so, the 22nd century does boast one or two bleeding-edge leaps in murderous technology. Most obvious are the Battle Walkers, intimidating hulks of armor on legs, bristling with giant guns.

Take a stomp in one of these beauties and you can mow down squads of soldiers, smash tanks and blast airborne targets out of the sky. A clever defense system even enables you to deactivate rockets and grenades as they hurtle towards you, although you’ll need a full two-man team to make the most of a Walker.

Then there's the APC, heavily armored and kitted out with a nifty way of deploying infantry - each passenger sits in a special pod that the APC can launch high into the air to reach elevated positions or just crash-land the unharmed soldier straight into the action.

There are 14 vehicles in total, although we've not seen them all in detail. But while DICE showed the game off to us we caught a glimpse of a sort of hover-copter decked out with air-to-ground missiles, and an airborne troop transporter.

Infantry get their techno-fix in the form of active camouflage. Switch on this ability to go invisible and you can stalk your enemies unseen, with only a liquid-like shimmer to give away your position, although you can't use any weapons while undercover. More importantly, though, squad leaders now have access to a remote control, machine gun-touting hover drone and portable spawn beacons - enabling squad members to respawn together wherever it's activated, even if the squad leader is cut down.

Battlefield's magic is in the finely tuned combat, and DICE has worked hard on enhancing the “rock-paper-scissors” style balance of previous games in the series. So, although Battle Walkers might sound invincible, foot soldiers can stock up on EMP grenades, which will temporarily disable any and all uber-vehicles in their electrically explosive range. Work together with your squad and it's possible to turn the tide in any situation.

Finally, DICE has upped the stakes with new game modes and multiplayer options. Titan mode employs the biggest new vehicle - the gigantic, hovering Titan cruiser - to brilliant effect. During the battle the Titan acts as the base for the army's commander, enabling them to deploy reinforcements or launch orbital artillery strikes, with each side fighting to breach the enemy's defenses and board the Titan - using the launch pods from an APC - and then blow it from the sky.

There're also plans for cooperative multiplayer games - something that gamers of Battlefield 2 were campaigning for - where you can join up with buddies to battle a team of AI bots. We love the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it atmosphere of this new outing for Battlefield, and with a comfortable fall launch on the horizon, we haven't got long to wait to re-enlist with one of the greatest war games around.

May 10, 2006


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