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FPS Gaming Near-Perfection Marred by Bad Support
Published on January 5, 2006 By mittens In FPS
Despite the slight delay in getting today's entry in the ever-popular top ten list, I'm happy to say that I'll have this up and you in a position to be reading it before midnight, so therefore, I win. So, in the name of brief introductions so I can have this little puppy up in time, the following is what I feel to be the ninth best game to be released in 2005.

Battlefield 2 -- Publisher: Electronic Arts, Developer: DICE
While I have no official stats to back this up I'd go as far to say that the original game in the Battlefield franchise, a World War II large team shooter aptly titled Battlefield 1942, is one of the first large-scale team FPSs to be released to universally positive praise and mass appeal. The only titles to be released before BF1942 were the first two games in the Starsiege Tribes franchise, creatively named Starsiege Tribes and Tribes 2. These games were fantastically fun and attracted a decently-sized audience including the hardcore fans of the game who are a mildly overzealous group -- to say the least. If I were to make a broad-scale comparison of the Tribes games to BF1942, I'd say it's a relationship similar to the one between Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM -- sure Wolfenstein came first, but DOOM expanded and enhanced on every aspect of the game to the point where any clones of these two games would henceforth be referred to as DOOM clones. Tribes may have come first, but Battlefield 1942 is the game that I believe pushed this style of online FPS warfare into the limelight.

I vaguely remember the first time I played Battlefield 1942 -- it was at a LAN party, one of the only ones I had ever gone to, and definitely the only one where I had actually stayed for more than three hours. A bunch of guys were passing various copies of this two-disc (if memory serves) around to the hundred-plus nerds in the gymnasium. These discs did nothing to stop the pounding hearts of the Counter-Strike elites screaming commands at their neighbors, but for those of us who were greatly unfamiliar with the multiplayer FPS realm for reasons revolving around the idea of a "28k modem" or those who simply hated CS, we used these discs and installed them on our leet phat boxes. A number of expletives were exchanged around this very large room as a number of us attempted to get the game to work, but eventually we had about eight people ready and rip-roarin' for some local area action.

And we played. We also promptly forgot the basic teenage human necessities such as eating and sleeping, much less the necessity for a quality shower, as we frantically fragged each other in maps that took not seconds to traverse from end-to-end, but maps that took so long to travel from end-to-end that time was never really an essence in calculating the distance of a trip, because somewhere between start point A and end point B, there was always that guy sitting in the corner of the gym who was there to pick us off. As the night went on, we had more and more fun with the game, and we slowly weaned the CS folk away from their crack and into our cocaine. It was a good time had by all, and something I'll never forget.

Despite the tremendous fun we silly newbies-at-life had playing BF1942 in its early weeks of release, we all noticed just how unstable and buggy this game really was. So as time went on, DICE released patch after patch until, eventually, the game actually hit a pretty damn stable and just plain fun level of finality. DICE followed up Battlefield 1942 with a couple expansion packs, but by 2004, after the game had been patched to holy hell and back, and the EA money hat machines had quit choking the life out of the aging game, it was time for a new locale for players to frag in: good 'ol Vietnam, and it went down in "history" as one of the worst "sequels" I've ever seen. Battlefield: Vietnam was fun, but overall I think it was more a devolution of the kind of depth and entertainment that Battlefield 1942 had still been offering at that point, and BF:V didn't even boast much of a new rendering engine either. BF:V ended up being little more than a full-price standalone expansion for Battlefield 1942 -- except without the rock-solid stability and balancing that BF1942 had achieved by that point -- and gamers noticed and their wallets stayed fatter because of it.

I have this theory that, all along, Battlefield: Vietnam was never intended to be anything save for a bit of new funding for DICE's real sequel to Battlefield 1942, the aptly titled Battlefield 2. From the name, I'd suppose that players were no longer actually fighting a war, but a psychological battle of numerical meaning -- Odds vs. Evens in a viscious battle to the death. Whichever team wins, the other is divided by zero. The end, yay for all.

Battlefield 2 is, really, everything any BF1942 fanatic could have ever wanted in a sequel... Well, except for the fanatics who really felt that some of those crucial WWII battles were being omitted from their fragtastical masterpiece but, let's face it, just send them blindly into an alley in Best Buy and they'll bump into some other WWII FPS which has just that. BF2 is a more "modern" take on the tried-and-true large scale online FPS franchise, with three sides battling for supremacy (over such things as oil and Chinese waterfalls): the Americans, the Middle-Eastern Coalition, and the Chinese in a fictional war setting. BF2 had new everything; new graphics, a redone audio engine, buffed-up infantry combat, a "commander" mode for the power mongers of every family, and a whole lot of new vehicles and weapons. Best of all, though, was the addition of a global ranking system where a fairly unnerving number of stats were gathered in an official EA database guarded by only the best of the best troops our galaxy has to offer. To be honest, Battlefield 2 is an online FPS players' wet dream.

At least it should have been. If Battlefield 2 was everything that it is capable of being, it would have shot to the top three ranks in this list instantly, and don't get me wrong, the gameplay itself is top-notch FPS action like you've never seen before. As much as it hurts me to say this, DICE screwed the pooch on BF2 -- big time. I've gone through these annoyances and bugs before (in the most widely linked and discussed article in the site's history), so I won't reiterate everything here, but here's the abridged version: EA released a demo of the game weeks before the actual game hit shelves, and featured some very large, show-stopping bugs that ranged from the game being absolutely unplayable to players shooting their own teammates every few seconds due to allies being mistakenly labeled as enemies (this bug still, to my knowledge, was not addressed even two months after the game hit shelves). EA/DICE released community updates saying that these issues were all known, and that they would be addressed in a timely fashion.

And timely it was not. The first patch for the game took weeks to hit the forces of the mighty Internet and ended up breaking so many aspects of this otherwise great game that EA actually had to recall the patch and instructed everyone to uninstall, then reinstall, the game so as to play on any of the servers which had stat-tracking allowed. A new patch was not issues for another month or so. A number of key issues and bugs still have yet to resolved, but that's okay, because a new expansion pack was released! I wouldn't worry too much about picking this puppy up at the moment, because according to a number of reviews and news sites, the expansion still fails to resolve a number of former issues with the game while also adding a whole heaping serving of new ones. Thankfully DICE is working hard on a new patch -- and it's coming in the form of booster packs! Wait... What?

In short, Battlefield 2 is one of the finest online FPSs that can be played today. The graphics are amazing, the infantry as well as the vehicle combat work well together and, for the most part, are quite well balanced, and playing as a soldier in a well-functioning squad of a handful of other friends, at times, actually feels like you're in the middle of a real battle. For a few weeks straight, before the first mispatch was released, the matches and pubs I played with an old clan were some of the most enjoyable and intense gaming experiences I've ever had.

And then the game starts crashing, or you shoot a mislabeled friendly or etc. etc. etc.
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