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Battlefield 2 Community Day Report

IncGamers was fortunate enough to be invited to another EA Community Day at the company’s Redwood Shores corporate headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area. This time the event was for Battlefield 2, the follow-up to EA’s popular team military shooter, Battlefield 1942. The community day was a bit different this time around since it was devoted more to actual game playing than the “show and tell” of the previous community events that I’ve attended. I have somewhat mixed feelings on this since seeing and hearing how the game is being made opens it up to a different perspective than just sitting down and playing it. On the other hand, I can’t complain too much since spending a lot of quality time playing a game cuts through a lot of the hype and let’s you judge the title on its own merits. With that out of the way, let’s move on to the event.As usual, EA’s Community Manager, Mike Murphy put us up in the cushy Sofitel, which is a walk away from EA’s offices. We checked in the evening before the event and headed over with the other invitees (from various Battlefield fan sites) to EA for some pizza and soda. The biggest letdown of the event occurred when there was no beer to be had, but I took it like a man and washed down my tasty Amici’s pizza with a Sprite. We were joined in EA’s private event game room by members of the Battlefield Mod Community, who had their mod-themed event earlier that day. The evening wound down a bit early, which was cool since the BF2 fan site crew and myself were able to grab some brews at the hotel and talk about the current state of gaming.The next day started off early since we were able to stock up on a high-protein breakfast at EA’s cafeteria (i.e. monster omelets). From there, we headed over to the demo room, where we were set up with our own PC’s for some hands-on BF2 action. It’s here where things were much different than previous Community Days that I’ve been involved with. In the past, members of the development team would present information about the game in a more formal setting and it typically served as a lead-in to playing the game on a limited basis later in the day. For the BF2 event, we started the event by jumping right into the action.My first impression in starting up the game is that this “ain’t your daddy’s Battlefield 1942.” The graphics in BF2 bring the franchise to a much-needed level of today’s PC shooters. It won’t blow you away like an Unreal Tournament or Doom 3 but it will impress you if you’re used to playing games such as the Delta Force series for example. The draw distances of the outdoor environments are most impressive and will have those who like to snipe in gaming heaven. The highly detailed environments really do play to what EA calls its “cover and concealment” feature. An example of this is the tall grass, where snipers can safely hide in while surveying the landscape for potential targets.The minimum specifications for running the game will be a PC with a 1.7GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, and a video card with 128MB of memory. The recommended video card is an nVidia FX5600 (or above) or Radeon 8500 (or above) since these cards support Shader Model 1.4. The optimum system specs are 2.5GHz, 1GB RAM, and any current generation video card. The computers we played on had nVidia 6800 GT’s running at the highest game specs (processor and RAM not given) and did not exhibit any major problems running the game.The maps that we played were final with the exception of the graphic’s light maps. The topic of a demo came up and it is still up in the air as to whether there will be a demo released before or near the launch of the game. The levels are set up to support 16, 32, or 64 players with a breakdown of 9 squads per team (6 players per squad). The maps scale based on the number players in the game so the playable area increases with larger number of players as does the number of control points. We played on 16-player maps and a 32-player map. Each squad can have a leader and a commander can lead the entire team. The RTS-inspired commander role is a new addition to the Battlefield franchise. The commander gets a top-down view of the battlefield and can issue on-screen orders and verbally communicate to squad leaders via the game’s voice communication system. Satellite scans are also at the commander’s disposal, which gives him the ability to locate every enemy on the map. The commander can verbally communicate these enemy locations to squad leaders and if he wants to get the information out to the entire team, he can drop an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) anywhere on the battlefield. Once a UAV is dropped, any enemy that gets within a certain radius of it appears as a red dot on every team member’s on-screen radar.The commander can actually do more than just issue orders and reveal enemy locations – he can also direct artillery strikes on any location (and have the option of watching it in first-person mode). In addition, he can drop supplies to teammates on any spot on the map. This is pretty powerful stuff that should prove to be popular to highly organized teams.Battlefield 2 is set in modern-day combat, where you can choose one of three sides (U.S.A., China or Middle East Coalition). The levels that we played had the U.S.A. and Middle East Coalition sides. I played primarily as the U.S.A. side and a bit of the Middle East Coalition to get a feel of the different weapons. The Middle East Coalition possessed Soviet-made weapons and for the most part they were equivalent in firepower to the American weapons.The game was easy enough to get into with the interface being essentially the same as the other Battlefield games. You can select from seven different soldier classes – Special Forces, Sniper, a*ault, Support, Engineer, Medic, and Anti-tank. I spent most of my time playing with the Sniper, a*ault, and Anti-tank profile. I gravitated towards the Sniper profile since the maps are so huge and I wanted to see how lethal this particular class could be. The long-distance visibility is excellent and will have Private Jackson wannabes (sniper in Saving Private Ryan) drooling. But you might want to hold onto your scopes since there are some drawbacks due to gameplay balancing. The first thing you’ll notice with the Sniper rifle is that you only have the aiming reticule when the weapon is in zoom mode. In non-zoom mode, you don’t have an aiming reticule at all so you either have to do your best with raw aiming or try to go to a medium zoom to get the reticule. The biggest drawback is that your field of view narrows to zoom only, which can be lethal with a nearby enemy. This deficiency definitely limits the appeal of the Sniper class and thus has the intended effect of preventing the game from becoming a snipe-fest. The other item to note is that unless your target is low in health, you better have your headshots down; otherwise you’ll be wasting your bullets. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if there was one more higher level of zoom magnification (there are two), but there isn’t so you really have to be a crack shot to take down enemies on a consistent basis.The a*ault class’s weapon is standard machine gun fare with a very cool grenade launcher (secondary mode). The grenade launcher does some sweet damage to a vehicle or anyone on foot. It takes some practice getting the aim down since there is an arc to the grenade’s trajectory. The a*ault class will be the choice of most players since it offers the best overall balance of weapons. For those who want to carry the heavy stuff – the Anti-tank profile is the way to go but be warned that you won’t have the same mobility as a lighter weapon carrying class. This is important since mobility when your on foot is important when you consider the numerous ways enemies can come at you (vehicle, air, and on foot). The upside is that you can wreak havoc on any armored vehicle or low-hovering helicopter. On a lighter note (humor, that is), the medic can kill enemies with a paddle shock. That’s right – surprise an unsuspecting soldier and use your defibrillator as a melee weapon to bring your enemy down to his knees. Shock the Monkey!The pace of the ground fighting felt about right so those fearing a twitch fest have no need to worry. You can also forget about snipers ruling the day since crack marksmanship is required (see my comments above). Overall, the firefights are very intense and fluctuate in momentum based on who can bring the biggest firepower or squad to the fray. All of the vehicles are easy to drive and should prove to be extremely popular. The cool thing is that while vehicles give you an advantage in firepower and armor, they are still vulnerable to any soldier carrying an anti-tank loadout. Vehicle vs. vehicle is also a kick since the battle usually ends up being a cat-and-mouse game, where both players frantically try to get in the optimum position while reloading ammo. The only problem I had with the vehicles was a key binding bug with the left and right turn command – my A button ended up being my right turn and my D button was for left turns. Not ideal when you’re trying to get the h** out of the way of a rocket. This will obviously be fixed with the final release but I still wanted to report it.Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to fly any of the aircraft but again, those who have played the previous Battlefield games, especially Battlefield Vietnam should be familiar with the jet fighters and helicopters. If we get our hands on preview code, we will report back on this part of the game. The game does include joystick support so I’m eager to get my Sidewinder out of the closet and back on my desk for BF2.The levels we played were a good sampling of the how the game will vary from wide open spaces to close-combat, urban fighting. This type of variety in the types of levels will definitely give the game a long online life. Throw in the excellent mix of on-foot, vehicle, and aircraft warfare and BF2 should be tough to walk away from.Between our two game-playing sessions, we received the obligatory tour of EA’s campus but unfortunately, we were not able to make the rounds through the developers’ workspace areas, which was a bummer since it’s always interesting to see the concept art and reference material that’s usually hanging from the office walls of the development team. We were able to get a video interview with a*istant Producer, Ben Smith, which we will be posting shortly. Throughout the event, there were trivia questions with prizes such as a couple of BF2 ZBoards, an iPod Mini and an nVidia Geforce 6800 GT video card, which yours truly walked away with (no, I didn’t jack it – this old-timer knows a bit of trivia too!).The EA crew needed to pack things up before heading home for the weekend so we had to give up our keyboards and mice, otherwise we’d probably still be there fragging away! We want to thank the entire crew at EA for giving us the opportunity to attend their Battlefield 2 Community Day. Stay tuned to IncGamers since we plan to continue our coverage of Battlefield 2 as it nears its release date in June.

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