After 2005's critically acclaimed Battlefield 2, any follow-up by DICE had a lot to live up to. So, due to time constraints, costs and perhaps a hint of cleverness, Battlefield 2142 arrives not as a brand new title, but as a kind of add-on or mod, one set over a century ahead of its predecessor. As the title suggests the year is 2142, and to the dismay of freezer manufacturers the world over an ice age has ravaged all but a small fraction of the Earth. The fertile soil that remains doesn't have the abundance to support all of the Earth's inhabitants, so a war between the planet's two superpowers breaks out. You control either the Pan Asian Coalition or the European Union in a battle to the death... or for first dibs on the barbecue, depending on your level of hunger.
Whereas Battlefield 2 offered players the choice of seven classes to play with, 2142 streamlines the selection by fusing a couple of them together. You're left with recon, assault, engineer or support kit selections (that's four, stat fans). As you'd expect and as their titles allude, each type of soldier excels in a particular area useful in making their team a well oiled, enemy-killing machine. At first every soldier has only a knife and basic gun to aid their offensive and defensive tasks. However, piling hours into the game in order to earn points and awards gives anyone with the skill and perseverance a chance to bulk up considerably. Moving up in the ranks for kit upgrades and new abilities seems like a fair enough solution to seeing that the game's most dedicated players are the strongest, but it does have its flaws. From the off as a weedy little soldier, whimpering about home sickness and foot rot, even the game's bots are better equipped than you, let alone users more accustomed to Battlefield's ways. To say you'll have your fair share of disastrous bouts before your situation gets better is true. That said, though, unlocks for both ordinary soldiers and squad leaders arrive at a relatively steady pace, so getting good is eventually worth any amount of embarrassing battle scarring in the beginning.
Battlefield 2142 consists of two game modes, one of which has been pilfered from Battlefield 2, whilst the other is brand spanking new. The former is a conquest mode in which armies from both sides are set the task to capture and hold specific points on the map. Each team has a set number of tickets which deteriorate when individuals and the teams' holdings meet their demise. When the ticket number of any team reaches zero, they lose like the bunch of losers they really are. Pah, losers.
The new Titan mode, however, is where the real excitement lies for Battlefield newbies and veterans alike. As its name suggests, the Titan is a gigantic warship that dominates the world's sky like, for instance, a blistering, nasty spot might dictate the appearance of someone's face. Not a pleasant analogy, but you get the idea. Each team has a Titan which they must try to defend at all costs. The only way to destroy the opposition's mechanical, airborne beast is to attack it from land-based missile points, pummeling its protective shield like there ain't no tomorrow. Once the Titan's preliminary shields are wiped out, it's time to take this mighty machine out once and for all, a task which can be carried out in one of two ways. The first relies on the previously described method of continual missile attacks from the ground upwards, a relatively conservative and defensive approach. The more adventurous player and their team might instead head for the Titan directly in an attempt to ravage its defensive lines and annihilate its core reactor. This route is of course more dangerous and direct, so in the end it's a case of tactics, one which relies heavily on the knowledge of your team's strengths and the cracks in the game plan of your enemy.
As with any game which relies so heavily on communication between players, (up to 64 users can play at once, 48 in Titan mode), the most fun possible with Battlefield 2142 is when you've gathered a group of willing participants who want to work together sensibly for a common cause. This isn't always possible with a lot of players somewhat understandably wanting to go it alone and glory hunt instead of playing an equal part. When things do run smoothly, though, unfolding events are worthy of the description 'fun' with a capital F.
No one knows what the world will look like in 2142, not least whether we'll be living in a world in need of a good defrosting and a limited supply of food, but kudos has to be given to DICE for having a good go at producing a convincingly futuristic environment... to an extent. While trudging through the game's detailed world atop some impressively meaty weaponry is undeniably exciting, as too is the exploration of the innards of humongous aircraft or the capping of an evasive enemy soldier, there's an area which visually has troubled many a gamer - that of Battlefield 2142's dynamic in-game advertising. Furory around privacy violation and spyware issues spread throughout gaming circles, fears which EA have tried to settle through reassuring press releases, but which certain players are still wary of. Wherever you are in the world, adverts provided by the advertising network IGA deemed suited to you flash up on in-game billboards, varying in language and product. As reported on this site in August (here), players might also be maddened by the idea that a game they've already paid for in full is still dotted with product placements. Although it's becoming increasingly common to see all manner of adverts in games these days, early 21st century commodities appearing in a 22nd century environment doesn't seem to sit quite right.
Ignoring the annoying so-called 'geographically appropriate' ads , Battlefield 2142 is a title bound to please fans of the series, of which this is the fourth installment. Though newcomers might at first feel a little overwhelmed, there's enough enjoyment to be had for anyone who can overcome the rather 'in at the deep end' difficulty curve. That, as well as the occasional server blip shouldn't be enough to put you off, especially if you've ever wanted to be responsible for the future of the world's food supply. Hungry for a bit of Battlefield, anyone?