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Battlefield 2

It's my James Bond moment. I'm a sniper, a lone wolf, operating on my own agenda, aiding the fight for control in the Gulf Of Oman in my own special way. Bedecked in camouflage netting and hoisting my rifle, I've scaled the heights of a giant crane, towering over all, perched at the highest edge and scanning for targets.

But they've noticed me. One kill too many added to my total score. A helicopter gunship, bristling with cannons and missiles, bears down on my position and unleashes a speculative volley of fire towards me. Camouflage netting is fine in the bush, but something of a giveaway when surrounded by steel and pipes.

Zoom

I'm on my feet in an instant, not waiting for a second burst, and running - sprinting - for the opposite end of the crane's arm just as the gunship fires again. Two seconds, three seconds, then the edge of the crane is upon me, opening to the skies ahead, beckoning to the cold, hard ground hundreds of feet below. The pilot finds the missile controls and an explosion rocks the top of the crane. But I've already jumped...

MAN OMAN
Gasps, cries, utterances of disbelief. I haven't forgotten the watching audience and I'm playing them like a master storyteller, holding their attention in the palm of my hands even while their hearts are in the roofs of their mouths. This is Battlefield 2 you see, the first time playable code has been released to the press, and there isn't a member of Zone that isn't crowded around the office games PC, watching my exploits and living every moment as though they were at the controls themselves.

We've all been waiting for this for a long time. We've seen presentations, attended strictly controlled press tours, but this is the first time we've actually been given fully working code to explore for ourselves, packed with tanks, jeeps, APCs, buggies, helicopters, gunships, jet fighters, aircraft carriers and zodiac boats - as well as all the weapon loadouts and command systems and persistent player rankings we've been promised over the past six months.

Two sides, Americans and the Middle East Coalition, fighting over a handful of control points, spread amongst mid- to low-level buildings, inlet rivers, bridges, coastlines and a railway with a stalled train acting as a mid-map separator.

HIGH POINTS
The ground rushes towards me as the novice gunship pilot struggles to both reacquire his target and avoid crashing headfirst into the crane's tower. The ground, followed by certain death, (followed by a 15-second wait to respawn back on the beach), 007's done for this time for sure. Except for a split second later when a sudden head jerk follows the unfolding of a life-saving parachute, to yelps of surprise and delight from the onlookers. The master storyteller, playing their emotions like a fiddle. A gentle, controlled descent back towards the safety of friendly lines as the pilot loses the fight for control above, clips the rotors on the boom arm and plunges into the ground and respawn menu below.

Zoom

It's the greatest thing we've ever seen. At least, it is until a bit later on when I discover the jet fighters sitting on the carrier decks have an alternative hover mode by pointing the rotating engine downwards. Then that becomes the greatest thing we've ever seen until a bit later than that when, as a medic, I finally manage to successfully use the defibrillators to shock and stun an unaware enemy.

HOW HIGH
So the wow factor is all present and correct, what of the promised meat on those bones? Namely, how well does that much anticipated command system actually work in the cold light of day? As expected, all soldiers get to deploy a radial menu in the field, although depending on how far up the chain of command you've managed to inveigle yourself, you'll have a different set of commands to choose from. Basic grunts that join a squad can simply issue plaintive cries for help from their betters, simple requests for a basic plan of action in this whole goddam war.

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