Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Digital Addictions or How I Became a 21st Century soldier!

Wow. It's been MONTHS since I last wrote a blog entry here. Is there anyone out there who still may be reading this? Probably not, but that's ok, I'm going to post anyway.

So what has kept me from here?

Alot!

I have MANY, MAAAAANY interests. Boardgames first and foremost, but I'm also an armchair Model Railroader, Miniature's Painter, Web Surfer, Wii (and PS2) player, and a Computer Gamer. It's that last one that has been the big time hog lately - well, at least since Christmas.

My lovely wife and I were doing some Christmas shopping at Target just a few days before the 25th and we're walking through the video game section as we were looking for the latest discounted PS2 games to consider getting. We walked past all the computer games and I pointed out a few titles that interested me in case she was looking for something to get me for Christmas.

"Sid Meyer's Railroads looks good." I said, cleverly combining two of my interests into one potential present. "Uh-huh." she said as she kept on walking.

"Oh this looks good too!" I said as I showed her something she was sure to be more interested in. "It's the new Lord of the Rings game for the PC - Battle for Middle Earth II." "Don't you already have that?" she asked? "No, I have the original only." She still kept on walking.

Then I saw it. My enthusiasm must have registered within her as she stopped, turned around, and came back to where I was as I announced with a bit too much excitement "BATTLEFIELD 2142!!". I spent the next few minutes explaining to her how this was the new game that was from the same guys that did Battlefield 1942 (which I also loved). I didn't mention the disappointment that was Battlefield: Vietnam or the next one that I never got, Battlefield 2.

She looked at me with an amused look on her face and we continued on our way. So much for that, I thought.

Well, Christmas morning came and after all the mayhem I had all THREE games sitting there. Gotta love the wife. I was most interested in Railroads initially as the graphics are stunning and it really is like building and operating a railroad in miniature. That basically took me took the New Year and around that time I decided to try BF2142.


For those of you who have never played this kind of game, it's what is called a "1st person shooter", meaning your screen is what your man sees as he moves around the battlefield in real time. You move with the keyboard and look around and aim with the mouse.

Set in the future after a new Ice Age occurs because of global warming, BF2142 pits two factions against each other in the fight for control of the last few places on Earth that are still habitable for the planet's dwindling population. There are multiple maps that you play on that range from cat and mouse games on wide open plains and deserts to claustrophobic and intense firefights in abandoned cities that are now just frozen remnants of what they used to be.

As you play, you move around the battlefield trying to "capture" control points by moving within their vicinity and survive long enough to raise your flag. Once it's under your sides control, anyone on your team can "spawn" (come back if you are killed), at any spawn point on the map - which are always the bases your side controls as well as certain vehicles and beacons that your side has in play. This makes it convenient to get back into the fight quicker instead of always starting over all the way back at your home base. It is the fight for possession of these control points that is the meat of the game.

(All pictures are actual screenshots DURING GAMEPLAY and are not staged or doctored in any way!)

Close-up of a typical player character during game play. This is the Port Bavaria map from the Northern Strike expansion. The Hachimoto speeder is flying throught the air while friendly soldiers defend a control point.
You have several styles of play available too. There is the standard conquest map, where each side controls one "uncap", or uncapturable base to start from and each has to take over the majority of the neutral bases to start their opponents "ticket" count to dwindle. Ticket's really just mean the number of times your side can die before the game is over. Each time you die costs a ticket for your team and if your side is losing on captured bases, they count down an extra ticket after so many seconds as well. Not good!

Assault maps have only one side with an "uncap" - they are the attackers, and the defenders control all the remaining bases. The attackers have more tickets initially, but the ticket count is already counting down against them as soon as the game starts. The attackers MUST gain control of a few bases very quickly or they may never catch up before their ticket count is expired.

Finally, there is the ultimate version of the game, which is new to this version: Titan Mode. Here the game play is two-fold and it is really where the game shines. Each side has a huge hovering ship over their end of the battlefield that acts as a hanger for their gunships and troop transports. The Titan is the only safe spawn point for each side as there is an energy shield that protects the Titan from all attacks that you can inflict upon it.

A ground view of an Titan defending itself from an enemy gunship.
"What's the point then?" you might ask. Well, instead of bases to capture, there are 5 missile silos around the battlefield instead. They are indestructible and can be captured like a base can. Once you capture a silo, it will continuously launch "anti-Titan" missiles at the enemy Titan to continually pound on it's energy shields. They are the only thing that will harm a Titan while it's shields are up. Control the majority of the silos and the enemy Titan's shield swill drop before yours does. Once those shields drop, the game takes a dramatic turn.


An anti-Titan missile launches while a friendly soldier looks on.
The Titan is basically a huge hovering cargo ship/hanger with gun turrets underneath and anti-aircraft guns on top. There are 4 interior corridors that can be accessed from the cargo bay (which in turn can be accessed from one of the two landing areas on the rear of the Titan). These corridors contain the reactor consoles which protect the reactor core which is what is powering the entire ship. The 4 consoles must be destroyed to gain access to the reactor core and the very vulnerable main reactor. The consoles must be destroyed in sequence too, console 1 must be blown up to lower the shield to console 3 and the same goes with consoles 2 and 4. Once the final console is blown up, enemy troops have a straight assault to the reactor core itself.


Entering the enemy cargo bay from the upper flight deck...looks like this Titan is not too heavily defended - YET.
Of course, that is easier said than done. You have to get up to the Titan to begin with and you have several ways to do that. You can fly a troop transport over and land on the rear flight decks - watch out for those AA guns waiting to shoot you out of the sky. You can also hop into an APC (All Personal Carrier) on the ground and drive it near the enemy Titan. Once close enough, you can launch yourself up in a self contained "Pod" that can be somewhat controlled to land up on the Titan! Then the fun begins...


A fire-fight erupts in one of the four console corridors.
The enemy team WILL have many men defending their Titan and their troops will fight you everywhere - on the flight decks, it the catwalks, in the cargo bay, in the access corridors and especially in the reactor core. This it where some of the most intense fighting (and gameplay) will occur. Some of the firefights that occur on the Titan's look like they are right out of a Hollywood movie. Oh and by the way... While you are trying to destroy the enemy Titan, they are doing the same to yours!

How does one make sense of all this during the game? What prevents it from being just a bunch of un-coordinated attacks back and forth that would quickly get old and boring?

BF2142 utilizes a command stucture during gameplay. Why run around and try and do everything on your own, when you can have 5 other guys helping you? Enter the Squad leaders. Each player can join up into an existing squad or make their own if they desire. Squad leaders give out basic commands and direct the squads to attack or defend bases and silos or simply to move to certain spots on the map. Members of their squad can '"spawn on them" so they can quickly get back into the fight in the right area if they die. Experienced squad leaders can also select special upgrades to further help his men.


A Battle-walker takes on an enemy speeder on the 'Bridge at Remegen' map in the Northern Strike expansion.Two Titan's clash over the bridge at Remegen.
Supervising the entire battle on each side is the commander. He has access to a special screen that allows him to scan the battlefield, drop supplies, order EMP strikes or orbital bombardments and give out orders to each squad as to where they are needed most. Commanders can also MOVE the Titan to pit the big behemoths against each other directly too. Most of these abilities are based on a physical structure at your home base (on the battlefield) that can be destroyed by the enemy. Luckily they can also be repaired!

A good commander can win the game for your side, a bad one can lose it just as easily. Commander's are selected by the game system at the start of each battle based on the rank of the applicants that apply for it. Ranks? Yes, in another brilliant twist to the game, players can earn "unlocks" - which are special items that can be selected for each of the 4 types of player "kits" you can select during the game. You earn points for kills, for following orders and you can also get various pins, badges, ribbons and medals during the game to further increase your score as you play. Initially, you start as a recruit and only have to earn 40 points to get your first unlock - and rank of Private. As you get better, the amount of points to get to the next level increases and it gets much harder to earn them . There are 51 unlocks available and almost as many ranks. Your rank is shown as a small icon next to your soldier as others on your team see your guy on their computers.

The BF2142 website allows you to track all your stats and see how you are doing compared to other players.You can select one of 4 kits any time you die and are waiting to come back (you can also select a spawn point if you want to change where you'll re-appear).

You can select the Recon kit - good for snipers and demolition experts. This is a great kit when you want to take out the enemy's commander "toys" or better yet, the enemy consoles and reactor cores. Earn unlocks to get special items like a super sniper rifle, scope stabilizer and an "active camo" package to virtually make you invisible as you run across the battlefield!

One of the many cool spots for a Recon soldier to snipe from...200 feet above the battlefield!
The Assault kit, is the basic soldier kit who gets the best basic anti-infantry weaponry and the potential to earn some really cool stuff to make them like Arnold in T2. The assault kit also is the medic of the 4 groups and you can drop medical hubs to heal friendly players that are wounded for extra points (and even more if you heal fellow squad members!) Be sure to get the defibulator unlock to revive "dead" teammates before the have to repsawn.

The Engineer class is the best for taking down enemy vehicles. Specialized weaponry like anti- tanks guns, AA rifles, portable enemy vehicle beacons and motion mines (mines that CHASE enemy vehicles that move nearby!) are just a few of the cool unlocks for this kit. The engineer is also able to conduct in field repairs to just about anything that can take damage - vehicles, commander toys and Titan guns - all of which earns him extra points during the game.

Finally, there is the Support kit. This is a good all-round soldier that has good weaponry and the ability to supply fellow soldiers similar to the Assault kit with the medic ability. You can drop supply crates to re-arm tanks, weapons and other items that your team may need. Popular unlocks for the Support kit are the shotgun (one shot kills if you are close enough), as well as the portable enemy infantry scanner, sentry guns (drop them to automatically protect an area) and energy shields to block incoming small arms fire.


A support soldier is protected by a personal shield as a sentry gun and fellow soldier covers his left flank.
Each kit offers a different style of gameplay and you can change them on the fly during the game as your team needs or your desire changes.

Topping it off is the latest addition to the game - the $10 add-on called Northern Strike, available as a download only from EA games. This adds 3 new maps, another style of play called Assault lines (you can't capture the last enemy base unless you have ALL the others under your control), two new vehicles, and more awards and unlocks to earn.

Did I mention that although you can play this at home, the game is meant to be played online with as many as 64 players (32 per side) fighting it out at once in real time? EA games has a master server that you log into that collects data on your soldier during the game to track your points, rank, earned unlocks, and a bazillion stats to obsess over after you are done. The EA server lists all the current games being played on all the other official "partners" servers so you can jump into any game you want at any time - specifically to your desires at the time. Want to play a 64 player Titan game on the Suez Canal map? Click on one from the list. There are usually 3 to 4 HUNDRED servers going at any one time.

Your online profile also allows others to see how you are doing and you can have other players become your "buddy" so you can join them in a game when you sign on. You can send and receive messages - even during the game!

So there ya have it. This is the reason I'm not blogging as much as I should be, or why I've been absent at times on BBG. This game is like digital CRACK. I have several friends that I have got to buy the game and we get online nightly to play. There is a built in, IN GAME, voice interface so you can talk to your squad members during the game - they have really made this easy.

The graphics and sounds will put you in the smack dab in the middle of a futuristic war that will be unlike anything you have ever played! Go buy this game now!

By the way... Add me as a buddy... my nickname is DEATHnMAYHEM.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,

You still have at least ONE reader! LOL ;o)

*** You coming to ConQuest Sac-2007? ***

Shalom,
Maksim-Smelchak.

Jason Brown said...

Hello,

I like your blog and I added you to my blogroll. Feel free to check out my blog at: boardgamer.blog.com

I'm new to this blogging thing but it seems like fun.

Jason