A note about ads: Before you even install the game, you have to read a note about Battlefield 2142’s in-game advertising system. It displays in-game advertisements scattered across levels, and it collects data to see whether or not you saw the ad. The ads are lame, and the concept of advertising in a product that you’ve already paid good money for is absolutely ridiculous, but I ignored it when reviewing the game, since it doesn’t have a bearing on the actual gameplay.
The Battlefield series, from day one, has been all about capturing points and draining tickets with class-based combined-arms warfare, and this game, with a single notable exception, is largely the same. For those unfamiliar with this widely-emulated system, there are two teams on a map which is populated by various spawn points that can be captured by either side. Capturing these points allows your comrades to spawn there. If your team controls enough of the points on the map at the same time, you can drain the enemy's ticket supply. Whenever a member of either team is killed, his team loses a ticket. There is no way to get tickets back and whoever reaches zero tickets first loses. Tickets correspond to respawns, essentially. Lose too many people too fast, and you're losing. Hole up in a single point and ignore the rest of the map, and you lose too, as your enemy can just sit back and take potshots while he drains your ticket supply. The system is time-tested and, if sales numbers mean anything, player-approved.
2142 has several maps that follow that exact system, so if you came to the game looking for the same thing you played in Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Vietnam,and Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, then you will certainly not be disappointed.
But, for folks that enjoy something new, there is Titan mode. Titans, in the 2142 universe, are massive floating battle-stations that act as mobile spawn points and aircraft hangars sitting high above the battlefield. In the new game mode, each team has one, and the commander can move it around at his leisure. There are several points throughout the map with missile silos, and each Titan has shields and a hull that can be depleted. You can probably guess where this is going. Teams must now race to capture the points and then hold them for two minutes to launch a missile. It takes four missiles to deplete the shields of a Titan and four more to demolish the hull. However, after the shields are down, the opposing team can send out a boarding party to break into the Titan's control room and set off the nuclear reactor at its core, which blows the entire station to kingdom come. You can get onto the Titan in several ways – either by being dropped off by a transport aircraft or by “podding,” that is, getting into an APC and launching yourself from it in a small pod that rockets into the air and then crashes onto the enemy Titan, or wherever else you steer it. The mode is, if nothing else, a change of pace from the monotony of point captures and spawn-camping, even though, when you peel back a layer of terminology, you are really playing the same game with the added excitement of a floating capture point to battle over.
Other changes to the basic formula involve the classes and the unlocks system, which is more robust and logical than the one in Battlefield 2. There are now only four classes – assault, recon, support and engineer – and every one of them is more functional than before. The assault class takes over the medic's medkit and defibrillator, the engineer takes the explosive charges that used to belong to the special forces and the bazooka that used to be the antitank man's signature weapon, and recon remains virtually the same as the sniper class in previous versions. There are also new unlocks – and not just weapons, but abilities and upgrades as well. There is active camouflage (invisibility), enemy tracking and information systems, grenades, stamina and sprint boosts, energy shields, automated turrets, and all kinds of other technology, in addition to the new guns for each class. In some ways – having to unlock grenades, for instance – the new system is annoying, but it does manage to bring a measure of balance and customization to the game, since you have to pick and choose the right tools for the job, and there are now far more tools at your disposal. Also, it’s nice to be able to unlock new things in the middle of a round and use it right then.
Overall, the changes make 2142 a better game, but not a terribly different one. The people that loved it to death when it was called Modern Combat, Veitnam, or 1942 are still going to love it, and the people that didn't like it or were looking for a radical new direction for the franchise aren't going to enjoy it at all.
"Overall, the changes make 2142 a better game, but not a terribly different one."
Even though I can tell that 2142 uses a barely-upgraded version of the engine that powered Modern Combat, it still looks good. Some of the textures are the same, I swear, but overall the new technology and all its lasers, plasma bursts, and electromagnetic pulses are presented convincingly. They fit in very well with the game's futuristic cities filled with tall buildings of steel and shimmering glass. It still requires a beefy rig to run and look anything like the official trailer or the screenshots in the press kit.
It's hard to gauge how realistic some of the sounds in 2142 are, since I've never heard a real walking tank stomp across the landscape, and I'm unfamiliar with the sound a plasma gun makes, but the sounds in 2142 are about what I'd imagine them to be if the technology actually existed. The battlefield reverberates with the sound of a barrage of artillery slamming into the ground, and the transport aircraft make a distinctive whine as they pass overhead. Sniper bullets sound appropriately lethal, and a burst from a machine gun, even in the far future of 2142, is still impressive. The music, as usual, is pretty forgettable, but when you have your own tunes it doesn't matter that much. I just put on some Wu-Tang and pretend that my soldier of the future is a connoisseur of classical music.
This game is all multiplayer, so I'm disappointed that EA and DICE still haven't written their own server browsing software and anti-cheat algorithms. They're still relying on GameSpy and PunkBuster, which is fine for games that add multiplayer only to have another bullet point on the back of the game box, but inadequate for a game that lives or dies on the strength of it's multiplayer. PunkBuster continues to randomly kick people for no reason at all (thankfully it's less prevalent than it used to be), and GameSpy continues to provide excruciatingly slow server browsing. Thankfully, it's not as bad as Modern Combat's server browser, but it's still pretty frustrating. Then again, given the legendary bugginess of DICE's games, perhaps it's best that they left the server browsing to a third party.
That said, multiplayer on a good server not populated by idiots is so fun that it oftentimes completely erases any gripes you may have with the stale gameplay, sloppy vehicle physics, slow server browser, or general bugginess of the game. Shooting up the landscape in a transport aircraft with your buddies hanging precariously off the side and firing their weapons full-tilt is still tons of fun, and few things compare to podding onto an enemy Titan, blowing it up, and jumping off it at the last second, parachute billowing behind you like in some sort of futuristic James Bond film.
"...multiplayer on a good server not populated by idiots is so fun that it oftentimes completely erases any gripes you may have..."
The new game mode, the new unlocks, and the revamped ribbon/badge/rank system mean there's a lot to do if you’re into the game to begin with. As I said earlier, I’ve put nearly thirty hours into the game and I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of awards and promotions. Completists will be able to pump several hundred hours of gameplay out of this one.
2142 is not a bad game – it’s got lots of bugs, balance issues, and other idiosyncrasies, but it’s not bad. My only issue with it, honestly, is that DICE hasn’t really made an effort to change anything substantial about the game in five years. I understand that they’ve created a winning formula, but I’ve grown pretty tired of playing the same thing year after year, and no change of scenery – to Vietnam, the future, or anything else – is going to alter that basic fact.
Final Score: 6.5