It is my solemn duty to report that the time has come. If you have a copy of Battlefield 1942, it's time to pack it away. It's obsolete, redundant; its services are no longer required. Play it one last time if you must and savour the memories; of bloody victories fought over sod and ruin, the comrades lost in courageous assaults and the calluses that forever fused index finger to mouse. Yes, be mournful of its passing, but be thankful that its spirit lives on.
OK, OK, a bit too melodramatic I know, but during the few hours of downtime before I sat down to write this review, I realised that Battlefield 1942 would soon be departing my hard drive after three years of distinguished service. Eyes clouding over with nostalgia, I was genuinely moved to fire up Digital Illusions' ground-breaking shooter one last time, smiling with genuine endearment at the still inane displays of so-called intelligence on the part of the computer-controlled combatants. Gawd bless 'em.
Fear not though, because the future looks bright. Treated to one of the most frantic
and exciting intro movies ever inserted into a game, and given the sheer breadth of new features and the near-future setting, it's surprising how quickly you settle into Battlefield 2's new surroundings.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
The interface has barely changed: movement, shifting through the weapons, finding and driving the various vehicles is exactly how you expect it to be, but better. On foot, movement seemed to overcompensate for your actions in previous games, but here turning, advancing and strafing seems far more natural - more how it should be. Break cover and double tap on the forward key and you lurch into a sprint, stamina bar depleting as you near your destination. Jump and your stamina falls further, so you dive behind a bush to catch your breath, waiting for the next dash to take the enemy position.
Going back to '42 or 'Nam, you realise how basic the first-person shooter component of each game was. Here, you can avoid vehicles completely (although the occasional lift to the front line will always be welcome) and have just as much fun as those who prefer not to stretch their virtual legs.
BF2's maps are far more diverse and dynamic than its predecessors'. Buildings that were little more than shacks are now fully realised structures of stone and plaster. True, they're not quite as intense as in Counter-Strike, or as sinuous as PlanetSide's innards perhaps, but there are enough places to avoid mechanised warfare and indulge in more traditional means of FPS death dealing here.
Sewers wind underneath bases enabling Special Forces to creep about without fear of being intercepted by missiles. Tall cranes peer across oil refineries, affording incredible views for snipers to bead over. Outside, maps are littered with pipes, crates, horse carts and other detritus, some of it easily destroyed, most of it frustratingly permanent. The upshot of all this is that infantry firefights are a driving focus of each game and when a tank does appear, avoiding its gaze (and slapping a satchel charge on it) is very much easier.
That's not to infer tanks and other such methods of conveyance are in any way obsolete (this time around grenades are strictly for soft targets). After all, it's that very mix of first-person action and vehicular combat that makes Battlefield the series it is. Fast buggies, APCs, M1 tanks, choppers and jet fighters are all faithfully represented and are quickly settled into should you already be accustomed to their forebears from BF: Vietnam.