Review by KaiserWarrior

"One of the most poorly-designed games I have ever seen."

For years I'd heard of the Battlefield series, this wonderful series of games with open-field combined-arms combat, but I'd never picked any of them up. But then they did something different. It wasn't in the past, it wasn't in the present; no, this new Battlefield game was set in the future! That was relevant to my interests, and so I went down to my local store and picked up a copy. I will tell you that it was one of the largest wastes of money I have ever committed to.

Story: 4/10
Paper-thin, as in most FPS games, and especially multiplayer-centric FPS games. IT does have some interesting twists of which side was winning at a given point in time, but most map introductions read like the following:

"PAC and EU fought a lot here. Titans are cool. Lots of them got blown up."

Graphics: 6/10
The graphics for this game are modern. Nothing too impressive (given that Unreal Engine 3.0 is just around the corner), but certainly not bad. Textures on characters tend to be very detailed, and there will be no problems discerning between each class of both factions. The texture work in the maps is fairly good, but a severe lack of variety drops the score a few notches; you are either in barren snowy wasteland, or barren desert wasteland. Lots of meshes are recycled in an obvious way. To top it all off, the game has VERY steep hardware requirements, and still manages to lag even on fairly high-end machines.

Sound: 9/10
The sound team did a great job: Music during loading screens is quite appropriate and catchy, and the sounds of war will immerse you greatly into the world. Each weapon is very distinct in its sound, you will never be wondering what gun your opponent is firing off nearby.

Gameplay: 1/10
And this is the great letdown: This is one of the most poorly-designed games I have ever seen. The concept was brilliant, but the execution was abysmal. There are four classes in the game: An assault class that excels at killing troops, but can do nothing against vehicles. A support class that also excels at killing troops, far beyond Assault's capabilities (Thanks to the Light Machine Gun, a very broken weapon that, unlike all others, gets more accurate as the user holds down the button) and can only EMP vehicles (stop them in place) for one or two seconds at a time. An Engineer class that can repair vehicles and equipment, and whose weapons are very good at killing vehicles (so long as you hit them in their specific weakspot -- and remember that they don't have to do the same, they can simply spam you with explosive weaponry that kills you instantly), but has very limited anti-troop capability. And finally, a Recon class that can do everything: A sniper rifle for one-shot-killing troops at long range, an assault rifle that can go toe-to-toe with any of the Assault class weapons at medium and close range, mines that kill troops instantly from insane ranges and are extremely difficult to get rid of, and demolition packs that can blow up vehicles instantly (assuming one places two or three of them at a time). I'll leave it up to you to decide which class is superior.

There are two game modes, Conquest andTitan. In Conquest mode, the objective is to capture and hold various strategic points around the map, and reduce your enemy's 'ticket count' (essentially the number of times their team can respawn) to zero. A decent enough game mode, except that all strategic thought and possibility is removed by the fact that any point can be captured by anyone at any time; there are no links or paths through a map. Defense is impossible because you would have to defend every point at once, and run the risk of having nothing to do for an extended period of time (nothing forces enemies to come to your point). Fortunately, the designers removed much of this worry by simply making most of the maps extremely linear with one or two very large chokepoints; if you do not enjoy endless, pointless meatgrinders, you will not enjoy this game. Camping is the order of the day, as it is by far the most effective strategy of the day.

In Titan mode, each team has a Titan, a massive floating ship in the sky. The map has five missile silos that will launch missiles every two minutes when they are owned by a team. This phase functions almost identically to Conquest mode. Once the Titan's shields have been destroyed by repeated missile impacts, you can either let the missiles keep hitting it until it dies, or go aboard to do it the quick way; there are four consoles and a final reactor core to destroy. Unfortunately, Titan mode suffers from extremely poor design on the interiors; each console is at the end of a long hallway with only one entrance -- an entrance that WILL be camped by three or four support players with Light Machine Guns and infinite ammo (thanks to their handy ammo hub), and WILL be plastered in mines and demolition packs by recon players to instantly kill anybody foolish enough to actually attempt to complete the objectives. There is no skill or finesse in this mode, it is down to raw numbers of who can just push through all the spam and hit the console.

The game has a rank system, whereby killing enemies and completing objectives earns you points, and these points go towards your rank in the game. There are 40 ranks in all, and each time you increase a rank (or level, if you prefer RPG terminology), you gain an "unlock", a point you can spend on a piece of equipment or new weapon. There are numerous pins, ribbons, and badges you can earn as well, through hitting certain milestones in your personal stats; most of these award you with a point bonus, which can range from as little as 5 to as much as 2000 (for reference, going up one level costs around 2000 points once you hit level 30 or so). Unfortunately (again), the designers made some very questionable decisions as to what point values certain awards should be worth, and how often you can get them. For example, for knifing 8 people in a single round, you are awarded a pin worth 20 points (a lot in this game). This happens every 8 kills with the knife. This leads to some enterprising players starting up and playing on "knife servers", where everyone agrees to use only the knife; due to the pin, this results in massive point gains for all involved, sometimes on the order of 500 points per round. Rather than fix the rather obvious issue with the award, EA has simply decided they will reset your character's stats (and thereby lose all of your unlocks) for doing such things. One more poor design choice in a sea of very many.

Overall: 1/10
Battlefield 2142 was a brilliant concept. And it can be genuinely fun playing it in the singleplayer mode, where bots don't understand all of the broken game mechanics and abuse them to their fullest. But playing the game online is a nightmare. You are trapped on the same ten maps forever, facing opponents who are well aware of the drastic imbalances and flaws in the game and take advantage of them at every opportunity. The game had a ton of potential, and all of it was wasted on some design decisions that were clearly not very well thought-through or playtested. This is truly one of the most poorly-designed games I have ever seen.

UPDATE 8/13/08: I've adjusted the game's overall score from 2/10 to 1/10. After hearing that the game had received several patches and new content in the year and a half since I first reviewed it, I decided to reinstall the game and see if any improvements had been made. The re-installation process was so abysmal and game-breaking I felt it worth an update. Battlefield 2142 has received a "Booster Pack", or expansion, known as Northern Strike, as well as being patched up to version 1.50. The actual process for installing the game correctly is now the following: Install the game, then patch it to version 1.40, then install Northern Strike, then RE-PATCH the game to version 1.40, then patch the game to version 1.50. No other method of installation other than this exact sequence will work, the game will either crash or not allow you to connect to servers. This sort of nonsense characterizes the entire flavor of the game, and makes it frankly unbearable to even get working correctly, let alone play. This truly hits home that this is one of the most poorly-designed games I have ever seen.

Reviewer's Rating:   0.5 - Unplayable

Originally Posted: 02/05/07, Updated 09/01/08

Game Release: Battlefield 2142 (US, 10/17/06)

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