There may be newer and flashier Battlefield games out there, but Battlefield 2 remains the 800-pound gorilla.

Released in 2005, Battlefield 2 is a large-scale teamwork-focused multiplayer FPS in which two opposing forces attempt to control a map.  The maps scale in size, ranging from 16 players to 64 players, with new areas opening as the number of players ramp up.  All of the maps are laid out well and are easy to memorize, but naturally it take some time to learn about the hidey-holes and instant-death routes.  Environments and terrain vary, with some locations taking place in urban areas, while others take place out in the middle of nowhere, while still others are located near large bodies of water.

Battlefield 2 can be played as a standard “kill everything that moves” type of game, but the main focus is on strategic spots on the map, marked by flagpoles.  These areas provide a spawn location for each team, so if one team captures all of the strategic spots, the other team literally can’t spawn after getting killed.  Either capturing all of these locations or reducing the opposing team’s “tickets” to zero (by way of killing them) will end the fight.  There are also different game modes that take place on the standard maps that are enforced by server admins/programs.  My favorite are the all-sniper servers.  On these servers, there are one of a couple maps that are used (generally ones that have some natural dividing line like train tracks, river, etc.)  The globally accepted rule on a sniper server would be that you can’t cross this central boundary.  Some of the more advanced servers run modified versions of the maps, which contain invisible walls (forcefully preventing you from crossing), but most servers run the standard maps with an active admin and kick anyone that crosses over the threshold.  There are other varieties as well…’nades and knives, pistols only, etc.  The majority of the servers out there just run the stock maps with admins taking care of the kicking, just in case any of the ”house rules” get broken.

Visually, Battlefield 2 is bland and uninspiring.  Even back when it was new, no one was mistaking it for the greatest graphics ever (despite Battlefield 2 being the first game I remember that made having 2 gigs of RAM almost a necessity, despite the 512 megs of RAM minimum.)  The good news is that, without any kind of visual flair, things are kept really straightforward: you won’t ever be distracted by pretty visuals or superfluous effects.  One thing that has been nailed is the perception of movement.  It’s generally easy to see movement across the environment, since everything looks so flat. 

You can go lone wolf (which is how I play most of the time, primarily because most servers are just for “fun”…I generally stay off the ranked servers, as the kind of player that usually populates them far exceeds my own skills), and just figure out for yourself whatever needs to be done.  However, for the true Battlefield 2 experience, squads are set up with squad leaders that give out rally orders (suppressing fire on this location, attack this location, defend this location, etc.)  These orders appear in the chat window, as well as on the minimap.  In turn, the squad leaders are given orders by the “commander”, a player which has a tactical bird’s-eye view of the battlefield and access to things like UAVs and artillery strikes.  The implementation of this system, both from an organizational and interface standpoint, allow even the most ragtag team to assemble in a cohesive way and work together.  So long as your commander knows what they’re doing and gives the squad leaders solid orders to relay (and your team has people that actually follow those orders), teamwork happens organically. 

One of the best parts about Battlefield 2 is the leveling and statistics system.  Nearly everything you do is recorded on a table, making it easy to see at a glance what you’ve done and how you’ve done it.  Everything from kill/death ratios, time spent using certain types of weapons (and even specific weapons from those weapon types), time spent on each map, and more are available for you to peruse.  Much of the tracking is superfluous, as someone who has achieved the highest rank could still easily be blasted away by a Private.  Each weapon performs very differently, but they’re all worth using; kills in this game rely on skill (and, sometimes, pure dumb luck) more than anything else.  Rank generally doesn’t play into things too much, save for the real-life experience earned from playing the game so much.

Battlefield 2 had its fair share of trolls back in the day, but things are much quieter now.  It seems like the nutters have moved on to newer and flashier entries in the series (such as Bad Company 2), which means all that’s left are people that really want to play the game.  I played the ever living hell out of Battlefield 2 back when it was first released, but funnily enough I’ve been getting more enjoyment out of my recent return to the world of tactical warfare.  Just be sure to keep an eye on the clock…the four hours I spent in-game on Sunday felt like four minutes.

Even today, 6 years after Battlefield 2′s original release, there are still a plethora of private servers available.  Last night, I managed to find over 20 private servers while using four layers of filters.  Searching for all available servers returned over 300…so no worries about finding somewhere to play; there’s something for everyone!  If you’re looking for a tactical online wargame filled with skilled yet polite players, I’d suggest trying out Battlefield 2.  If it’s been a while since you loaded this one up, I highly recommend you reinstall it.  I play under the name “pojut”, if anyone is interested!

Oh, and one last thing: if you get the common “transparent terrain” bug in Vista/Windows 7, right click on the Battlefield 2 shortcut and disable visual themes.  Battlefield 2 apparently has some issues with the Aero system implemented in Vista/Windows 7, and disabling it through the program’s shortcut seems to resolve the issue.