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Previews

Battlefield 2

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Opt to start a squad of your own (by simply hitting CAPS LOCK to open the command screen, pressing the start squad button and thinking up a silly enough name for your band of merry men), and you'll be able to tell your team to move to certain positions, attack different points, mount vehicles and so on and so on and so on. Alternatively, you can open the map, right-click somewhere and drop a command at will.

The radial menu takes some getting used to due to over-sensitive mouse responses, often leading to a request for artillery drops on your fallen comrade rather than a medic. It's not a major problem however and is certainly something DICE should have addressed in preparation for the game hitting the shops.

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INCOMING
Then there's the Commander mode. Run on a democratic basis, you put yourself up for command, and providing there are no objections or requests from higher-ranked players, suddenly you find yourself in charge of the whole shebang, the eyes of dozens awaiting your tactical wisdom and strategic nous.

A satellite map, a list of squads (Commanders can only order about formed squads - individual soldiers are immune from the whole C&C hierarchy), and a bunch of commands for dropping supplies, sending out recon drones and dropping hot artillery death. These are the tools of your trade.

It can be a little fiddly, but given time to figure it out and with players that communicate adequately, you can get quite an effective offensive movement going. Remember to watch your own position though, as all too often I was caught out by forgetting that the Commander is still a physical presence on each map - one that can be shot at and killed by the enemy.

AIN'T BROKE DON'T FIX
There's not much in the way of physics on show, but the need to have maps work with up to 128 players dictates a limited approach on that front. As for the ground experience, despite the splendour of the all-new and incredibly impressive visuals - the sun-bleached lighting and detailed texturing bringing to life the world of combat in a way second only to Half-Life 2 - it isn't long before I settled myself down into the comfortable pillow of traditional Battlefield gameplay.

Running from one capture point to the next, hopping in and out of passing tanks, jeeps and APCs, cursing the snipers who pick you off with supernatural precision, tense stand-offs as you wait for the enemy's flag to come down and yours to go up - all the classic feelings are there intact, but the added sense of tactical structure now means things tend to make far more sense in the field than before, opening the game up for newbies and removing the old Battlefield problem of old hands knowing exactly what to do on any given map while the rest of us get lost, shot at and dead-ed.

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The enhancements certainly allow for the kind of thrilling exploits detailed earlier, meaning all those classic 'Battlefield moments' will be bigger and better than ever (narrowing down the many superb moments to the three listed above was a task in itself - this whole preview could easily have been a "and then I did... And then I did... And then I did..."-type affair).

From our playtest, Battlefield 2 honestly feels like it's setting a whole new benchmark for multiplayer online shooters. The genre may have been troubled recently by the likes of Joint Ops (or failed to have been by Söldner), but nothing quite has the weight and sheer lust factor as this. Full review soon!

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