When it launched, Battlefield 2 proved to be both the most excitingly enjoyable online squad shooter ever devised from a gaming standpoint, and the most frustrating from a technical standpoint. Problems with particular brands of graphics cards, a hog on your system hardware, an online ranking system prone to hackable abuse - any ordinary publisher would have thrown in the towel long ago and started again. But then EA is no ordinary publisher and Battlefield is no ordinary franchise. Hence less than half a year later: the Special Forces expansion pack.
We were given access to three of the planned eight maps, specially designed for the titular forces to battle across. Russian Spetsnaz, Navy SEALs, the good old SAS and three variations of insurgent groups fight across a chemical weapons factory, an east European rocket pad and a darkened airbase, all bristling with new vehicles to play with.
UPS AND DOWNS
These maps all conform to the usual BF2 parameters - plenty of chokepoints, siege areas and widespread flag bases to capture. The main difference between these and traditional BF2 maps is the sense of focus each has. Environmental triggers (lift switches and the like) add a touch more interaction and verticality to things, showing how tiny little touches can make a lot of difference to otherwise static map environments, adding a sense of purpose to them. These no longer feel like generic war zones but real working locations with actual reasons for your squads to be there (again, in keeping with the special forces nature of the pack).
That said, the code wasn't working too well at the time of writing as lifts designed to take you to the top of a rocket pad or a cliff-side control centre would just shoot off into the heavens leaving you at ground level, staring up at the rapidly disappearing platform like something out of a Road Runner cartoon. I'm sure it'll all be operational on the night, though.
Then, of course, there are the zip lines. Everybody loves zip lines. When Special Forces was first revealed to us, it was the thought of sliding from rooftop to rooftop that had us most excited. Next to parachutes, zip lines are perhaps the finest innovation ever to hit the world of shooters and Special Forces has them in spades.
That is, snipers and special forces classes have them. Everyone else will have to get their rope-sliding kicks down the gym like everyone else. Simply fire your new crossbow weapon at the surface of your choice and a handy-dandy super-fun slide appears, ready to take you to the lower level location of your dreams.
ZIPPY AND BUNGLE
But will zip lines change the dynamic of the base game in a major way? Probably not too much, although it does provide a hefty boon for the busy sniper on the go. In fact, it's the sneaky element of society that will get most practical use out of them - the rest of us most likely enjoying the novelty factor of impromptu sliding races from atop tall buildings.
Yes, snipers can now add to their already burgeoning survival prospects. Previously, once installed at the top of your giant crane/tower/chimney stack and having mined all the access points with claymores to prevent people sneaking up the ladders to end your reign of sniping terror, you were sorted for life. At least until the enemy commander got a fix on your position and dropped ten tons of artillery on your head.
Thanks to the manually created zip lines, you can now give yourself an instant escape route out of the path of fiery barrage death, sliding James Bond-style from your rooftop idyll as it explodes behind you.