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Battlefield 2

Arriving pretty much out of nowhere, the original Battlefield 1942 effectively established the multi-player war genre. While the single-player game was little more than a tutorial, the online mode saw dozens of gamers meeting up to shoot, bomb and stab each other. It's a measure of the game's lasting appeal that more than two years after its release, an average Sunday night finds more than 5000 players still going at it with a vengeance.

The Vietnam-based follow-up proved less popular, but fans of the series will be salivating at the news that the 'proper' sequel is almost upon us, with new graphics engine and a host of innovations. Bucking the historical trend, Battlefield 2 is set in the very near future. And while it's supposedly a work of fiction, to the untrained eye the action could be mistaken for recent news footage. Situations include US troops defending oil pipelines from crazy-eyed men with beards, for instance.

With you playing as either the USA, China or the so-called Middle Eastern Coalition, the format remains largely unchanged from the previous games. A large part of the action involves claiming territory through strategy, teamwork and superior firepower. New features include being able to change position in a vehicle while on the move, as well as 'material penetration', which means firing through barriers. Bedroom generals can even appoint themselves as commander, taking an eye-in-the-sky position and directing the action from above. Who said war was hell?

Battlefield 2 will be advancing on to your PC in spring 2005