On Battlefield 2

by Tom Ingram

I got a video card for Christmas, which let me get back into the swing of online gaming (I had stopped for several months, primarily because my computer was too weak to handle the games). But now I’m back, kicking ass and taking names harder than ever. One of the games I used to play a lot is Battlefield 2.

Those of you who know BF2 are snickering right now. For those who don’t, BF2 is an evil, horribly put together piece of shit. The gameplay is not bad as such, but the developers went out of their way to make it difficult to get that far. If you can get it installed and running on the first try, you get the privilege of sitting through several minutes of splash screens that are unskippable unless you’re willing to hack an obscure configuration file. Then you get to wait five minutes or so for the game to log you in to the server (even if you’re playing offline, you still need to be connected). You can then navigate the Byzantine, half-broken server browser to find a server you want to play (around 80% of them are KARKAND NO VEHICLES!!!11, which gets old very fast). Then you connect, start playing, and get kicked three minutes later for a Punkbuster error.

Yet, despite the headaches and raised blood pressure, I keep coming back to it. Battlefield 2 has some kind of ineffable charm that no other game seems to capture, which makes up for the asstrocious backend. It’s been noted in many places that Team Fortress 2‘s cooperative nature and cartoony graphics drive off the worst of the online-gaming riffraff. BF2 does have its share of griefers who hack the system to airdrop hundreds of humvees onto the aircraft carrier, but the same effect is in place to a lesser degree. Complete dickholes are rarer on BF2 servers because you have to have some kind of interpersonal skill to succeed at the game. To my knowledge, no other game lets you form squads and operate in tight-knit groups with a command hierarchy the way BF2 does. If your team is disorganized, you’re probably going to lose. But when you have squad leaders and commanders who give out sensible orders, and squad members who follow them and work together well, it’s a recipe for success. And it’s fun like no other game I’ve ever played.

Of course, if you’re in a lone-wolf kind of mood, you still can go it alone and effectively support your team. If you want to play as Special Forces, you can airdrop into the enemy base, demolish their command assets with C4, then hide and kill anyone who goes by with your silenced pistol. Piloting a vehicle is always easier with a whole squad, but you can operate tanks, helicopters, airplanes, APCs, and jeeps by yourself if you’re so inclined. And, obviously, the Sniper kit lets you hide out in strategically advantageous positions and pick people off from miles away. The expansive maps, with a mixture of urban and wilderness environments, make things much more interesting for BF2 snipers than in any other game.

That’s another plus that no one else has matched. Battlefield 2’s maps are, relatively speaking, huge. I’ve never been able to get into traditional FPS games like Call of Duty, in part because they have tiny, claustrophobic maps. BF2 occasionally goes too far, with ridiculously huge maps that you can’t move around in without vehicles (the player characters run slowly and intermittently). But the game’s best maps have a perfect balance of size that is well-suited to BF2’s mechanized infantry combat.

More Battlefield sequels will undoubtedly come out. We’ll get more and more bland, solo player-oriented, coffee-filter shooters. But in all likelihood, Battlefield 2 is a game I’ll keep playing for a long time.