previewed on PC
In August of 2002, the Battlefield 1942 multiplayer demo was released to the public and became something of an Internet sensation. When the full release came out only a month later, it went on to become one of the most popular online first-person shooters ever, and spawned a plethora of sequels and expansion packs. The latest game in the Battlefield series, Battlefield 2142, is expected to hit stores in early October, and continues the legacy.
For those of you who are long-time fans of the Battlefield series, rest assured; the differences overall are relatively small, most coming in the form of game balance and setting. If you are not familiar to the series, Battlefield 2142 is a goal-oriented, team-based, first-person shooter set in a fictional futuristic setting. The gameplay revolves around capturing objectives, and is heavily dependent on teamwork, communication, and personal reflexes. Players take on various roles required in a battlefield situation, including infantry, ground-based vehicle support, air-based vehicle support, squad leadership, and overall force commanding. Maps are usually sized for between 16 and 64 players, and are typically built around a single theme or environment. To win, it is not only important for each player to be skilled at the game, but to be able to successfully fill a given role on a team. In that sense, it is similar to a team sport like football.
One of the iconic attributes of the Battlefield series are its infantry kits. Battlefield 2142 reduces the number of available kits - from Battlefield 2's seven - down to four; Recon, Engineer, Assault, and Support. While on the surface, this seems like a simplification, in reality, it masks the biggest change the new game brings - a significant amount of player customization. Like Battlefield 2 before it, the game tracks player statistics such as kills, capture points, and support actions, to come up with a global 'score' for each player's account. This score determines a player's rank, allowing the player to unlock various weapon and equipment options in each of the kits (as well as the Squad Leader 'kit' and generic kit options available in every kit). In practice, this is quite similar to experience points in role-playing games - complete with the end result being character customization.
So the game has essentially condensed the elements of Battlefield 2's seven kits into only four, without much loss in the way of options. I'll explain. The Recon kit is a combination of Spec Ops and Sniper kits; Engineer combines Anti-Tank and Engineer; Assault combines Assault and Medic; and Support combines Support with the potential to unlock the ever-popular shotgun. As the player accumulates more points and gains higher rank, they unlock even more options - allowing them to specialize their kit's loadout. For example, the Assault kit's two paths are what I'll call 'Pure Assault' (allowing the player to unlock an under-barrel shotgun, mini-rocket launcher, grenades, and a heavy assault rifle) and 'Assault Medic' which unlocks a defibrillator, smoke grenades, advanced med kit, and light assault rifle). All together there are 10 accessible 'paths' through the four kits and two generic options.
This is a great change for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it adds another layer of tactics and strategy to the game. It is no longer enough just to have an Assault kit in your squad; now you also need the 'right kind' of Assault kit (you did want someone to be able to revive recently fallen comrades, didn't you'?). Further, it rewards veteran and skilled players by allowing them additional kit customization options while avoiding the more artificial level-based constraints imposed by many role-playing games. And finally, the player is pulled into a new level of goal-based gameplay, ingeniously drawing from the Skinner box-esque reward system prevalent in games like World of Warcraft.