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Battlefield 2: Special Forces

Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Digital Illusions Canada
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 64
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Squad-Based/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The guys at EA and Digital Illusions are back with another addition of the smash hit Battlefield 2 fledgling series, with it’s first expansion. BF2: Special Forces brings us all kinds of new goodies, from 8 new maps, several different guns/vehicles and a few general improvements. Not many games can combine the dynamic gameplay and pure fun of the Battlefield series, after all, and it’s more of the same here.

Graphically, this is pretty much your same stuff as the original, with a few added effects like the new gas dizziness and flashbang “whiteout” effect, not to mention the night vision goggle’s eerie green glow. But the player/vehicle/building models are identical, and still hold up well, with that glorious rag doll physics and great detail. You can see all the authentic straps, patches, helmets, boots and weapons are displayed with infinite variety. Explosions and other special effects are also awesome as usual, especially the monitor-shaking artillery bombardment that kicks up clouds of dust, shrapnel and “hamburger” that was once a soldier… Speaking of goriness, this is “Teen” all the way folks - no ripples of blood or limbs flying off sadly. I am really surprised that not many games have the gruesome dismemberments of Soldier of Fortune; it really adds such a visceral feel and sick fun factor to gameplay in general. Maybe someday Double Helix will return… But I digress (what else is new?). To wrap up the look of this title is simple - it’s flashy and sound, but will test your rig’s power. You will see some stuttering, lag spikes and other performance problems, and EA/Digital Illusions have taken warranted heat for it, yet they don’t seem to fix some of these glaring issues.

Sound wise, between the various languages (option available for English conversion) being shouted and screamed across the battlefield, and the robust sound effects, this sucker is an auditory delight. Getting back to the voices, it does a feel a bit odd to hear nothing but English being spouted by Middle Eastern Coalition forces, or the maps with only Russkies and Rebels. But for the sake of understanding what the hell is going on, I advise using the translation option. The music is also fairly subdued, and you only really hear it at the end of each map. Most notable is the Russian acapella version of the main theme. What a riot it was the first time I heard it after we won the round.


The good ‘ole frenetic musical-base action is back again. I use the latter term to describe the incessant capturing of flags across the map; often after you capture one, you have to backtrack to recapture it seconds later. This changes obviously with organized clan play, with plans for flag defense, chokepoints, vehicle usage and so on. But on the public servers, it’s worse than 3rd graders playing soccer- “kick, chase, kick, chase” ad nauseum. Unfortunately, they forgot to include some new gameplay elements, which many fans cried for, namely the sequential base capture functions, seen in a famous Battlefield 1942 mod called Desert Combat. Just a “few” of you should be familiar with it… This allows for more massive battles and vicious fights over one objective, instead of a hot dropping jet pilot who caps a flag by himself waaaaaay in the rear, pissing everyone off.

Besides those shenanigans, the gameplay is fun - really fun! Whether it is the flanking maneuvers of your 6-man squad, or your pure ownage with an Abrams Tank, you will find something enjoyable to do. Me personally? I enjoy sniping - a lot. There is no better feeling than picking off some moron 400m away, whose going to town in his seemingly invincible machine gun turret, or securing the high ground with claymores, setting up a nice, relaxing shooting gallery. One shot, one kill, baby. Of course, if that’s not your bag, you can always dive into tossing around plastic explosives (spec ops kit), firing shoulder mounted missiles (anti-tank), laying down suppressing fire/doling out ammo (support), healing folks (medic) or being a tank whore (engineer). Having a good mix in a squad is always key, and better yet when you can coordinate over game hosted voice, which is only for your squad; so don’t worry about garbling over other folks.

The new additions are the main attractions though, for BF2: Special Forces. First, 8 new maps grace us this time around, and show a pretty good mix of gameplay. Fans of Strike at Karkadd and Mashturr City from the original BF2 should especially rejoice. You have your urban-style maps like Iron Gator (inside a carrier) and Warlord (think Iraq 2005), as well as your more standard, open-ended vehicular combat like Surge. They also threw in a few night maps, something missing from the first installment. These aren’t too shabby, and even include basic vehicles. But what is most notable is the real lack of jets. Most maps don’t have them, nor do they have a lot of choppers either. Just a few scattered armor vehicles, with a healthy dose of wheeled vessels as well. At times on the night maps, things can be a bit hazy, having to constantly use night vision goggles (NVGs), while in some places the illumination will blind you from street lights and whatnot. What is even more important in this situation is to be aware of the first set of new toys - the flashbang.

This grenade will make it go from pitch black to “HOLY- GOD- mushroom cloud- bright” in no time flat. So not a good idea to wear those sexy NVGs all the time, eh? They also added tear gas, which will produce a trippy sputtering, wobbling, “drunk” screen for your soldier, a la SWAT. Thankfully, you can don a cumbersome and vision-restricting gas mask to counter this. Ever wanted a grappling hook? Yeah, me too. So bingo, a couple kits get the ability to toss this hook up, and assail certain structures and walls, and used in tandem with a sniper, it makes for a deadly combo. Also entering the mix are new vehicles like the jet ski (I know, ultra hot…), a six-wheeled buggy blistering with guns, technicals (Black Hawk Down-esque pickups with machine guns), new helis and a new BMP APC with heavier gun. Along with this, they threw in 6 “new” forces, such as the Navy S.E.A.L.S., Russian Spetsnatz, Insurgents and more. Sadly, all of the above minus the new grenades/grappling, is uninspiring and more of the same stuff we have all seen over and over again.


If you have played any first person shooter before, is nothing new really. You spawn in, you stay low, you use cover, you aim using iron sights, you fire, you blow stuff up, etc. The kits all have their little nuances you will learn after a few rounds of each style, so overall, this is a fairly simple game. I will say though, some of the flight controls can be tricky, but more on that below…

Game Mechanics:

First off, this is a pretty clunky process from EA. First, after you install a huge file (4 GB), you then have to download a patch which updates the version to the current build. This is something that isn’t readily apparent unless you visit a forum or two, causing a few headaches to put it mildly. There are also issues with the freaking load times too. True I may need a defrag or two, but these map rotations and general loading take forever at times. Not a good thing when half the players are already in the game, and running around capturing things, while you stare at the monitor waiting. Couple this with some wonky browser options, and you have some major technical problems. The controls are pretty solid however, aside from the obtuse chopper controls, which usually require a joystick for best operations.

Overall, BF2: Special Forces combines solid tactical gameplay with arcade flavor, that also adds flashy graphics and stellar sound. The main drawbacks lie in the funky technical issues, that range from lag, stuttering and an obscure interface. And really, $30 for a few new maps and skins? Please… release the mod tool support already. Thankfully, if you can fight past these problems, you can’t really find more fun online, so grab your gear soldier, you’re going to Special Forces boot camp!

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP (32-bit), 1.7 GHz Intel Celeron D / Pentium 4 or AMD, Athlon XP/ Sempron or greater, 512 MB or more, 8x or faster CD/DVD drive, 1.1 GB (plus 3 GB or more free space on Windows partition), DirectX 9.0c compatible; Video card must be AGP or PCI express, have 128 MB or more memory, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 or greater; ATI Radeon 8500; ATI Radeon 9500 or greater, DirectX 9.0c compatible

Test System:

Windows XP, Intel P4 3.2 Ghz, 1GB of RAM, ATI Radeon X800 XL 256mb

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated