Battlefield 2 is, obviously, the sequel to the highly successful Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield: Vietnam. Whereas the Vietnam game was developed by DICE Canada, Battlefield 2 is the home-brewed product of the original Swedish team. It features a brand-new game engine with graphics and sound that are obviously far superior to the original, but the core gameplay ideas are still there.
In fact, one's initial impressions could be that this is a Desert Combat-like mod with pretty graphics, but there are some key differences that make it a new gameplay experience, though they require player co-operation. In the main, however, this is still your friendly neighborhood Battlefield game and DICE has certainly not messed with the formula.
For those few of you who haven't played a Battlefield title, we'll briefly recap that. The Battlefield series is a relaxed realism combined arms shooter that takes place on servers that range anywhere from 16 to 64 players, typically striking a good balance in the middle at 32. Players spawn as infantry of several kinds of classes, and can continue as infantry or find a vehicle to use. Usable craft include buggies, hummvees, armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters, jet aircraft and light overboard motor boats.
In previous Battlefield titles, the class of infantry spawned dictated not only the special equipment available to the player, like satchel charges, mines, or a rocket launcher, but also the effectiveness of his primary weapon. Battlefield 2 evens out the main weapons significantly - the superiority of the M16 over the M4 or MP5 is noticeable, but not dominant. In fact, the only default weapons that don't fall into the assault rifle or SMG category are shotguns and sniper rifles. The shotguns are absolutely deadly at close quarters but their utility beyond 30 feet is questionable at best since the hit pattern becomes quite random, while the sniper rifle is balanced by its relatively low damage potential. The pump-action shotgun of the Chinese engineer seems to have far and away the best single-hit damage, though this is balanced out by a tepid rate of fire.
Teams compete for flags in Conquest or Double Conquest modes, which are minor variants of each other. Each flag acts as a spawn point and typically has some sort of vehicle or at least stationary item near it. The spawn locations around the flags tend to be widely dispersed, making base rape camps difficult but not impossible. Each time a player spawns in, he uses a ticket, and these measure the score. Tickets are non-replenishable and go down through respawns, and automatically begin to tick down as one team starts to hold the decisive advantage in flags. Once all flags are captured, or one team's tickets go down to zero, the round is over. Maps seem to go to a best-of-5 series, though this is undoubtedly variable and up to the server admin.
There are 12 maps, though there are three versions of each - for 16, 32 and 64 players. This has its advantages and drawbacks, no doubt to be debated heatedly on various forums, but in general we'd say that the pros and cons of this decision cancel out. The maps are generally solid, with no stinkers, but none so far seem to have caught players attention like Guadalcanal, Wake Island or Kursk did for the original.
There is a nominal singleplayer mode that has only 10 maps, and they're always limited to 16 players. This is no doubt to keep the number of bots down, but also keep them from vehicles they're clearly not comfortable in - like aircraft and boats. How do we know this? Well, it's a safe bet when one considers that the two maps that are missing are both boat-heavy. In general the bots are significantly more competent than in previous Battlefields, but are not up to the superb level of the UT bots yet.