Battlefield 2: Special Forces Preview

May the forces be with you.

A good developer gives you what you want, but a great developer gives you what you didn’t know you wanted. Digital Illusions, creators of the explosive Battlefield series, has always been among the latter. In 2002, we thought we wanted single-player Counter-Strike, and they gave us a brand new way to frag online with Battlefield 1942. Then we thought we wanted single-player Battlefield, and they gave us new and brilliant ways to organize and communicate online with Battlefield 2. And less than a month after we clamored for decent single-player content in Battlefield 2, Digital Illusions and EA invited us over for a sneak peak at the next thing we had no idea we wanted, Battlefield 2: Special Forces.

Where the original game features massive daylight battles between heavily armored factions, the expansion will allow players to stalk each other under the cover of night, adding a new dimension of fear and suspense to the series. But since Special Forces is an expansion, you shouldn’t expect any major fixes or changes to the Battlefield 2 skeleton. If you aren’t familiar with Battlefield 2, slap yourself for missing out on the biggest PC game of the year then check out our review.

Since matches take place at night, spotting your enemies while remaining hidden will be a top priority. To this end, you’ll be able to shoot out lights for greater cover and then don night vision goggles to spy enemies lurking in the dark. Sam Fisher would be jealous.

And if he weren’t careful, he’d probably get tear gassed, flashbanged, and dropped like a bad habit. Night vision will let you peer into the shadows, but it will obscure your view of anything well lit, so relying too heavily on either vision mode will leave you vulnerable from some quarter. That’s not to say it’s worse than inhaling a lungful of tear gas, though. Under the influence of this stuff, your vision will blur as your player staggers instead of moving normally. You’ll be able to negate the effects with a gasmask, but we’re pretty sure that will also mean forgoing night vision. If you’re unfortunate enough to see a flashbang explode, that will mean forgoing vision entirely.

But before anybody can blind you, they’ll need to find you, and thanks to the slick new grappling hooks and zip-lines, that will require a much sharper eye. For example, a sniper defending a warehouse control point will be able to break out a grappling hook, throw it up into the rafters, and climb to a superior position. Once the hook is deployed, anybody – friend or foe – will be able to use it until you pack it up again. That means friends will be able to join you in perch, while foes will be able to gank your nifty new toy if you aren’t careful about where you leave it hanging.

Zip-lines, on the other hand, can be fired horizontally or downward at any flat surface up to 75 meters away, allowing players and their comrades to zip from rooftop to rooftop or down into the shadows for a stealthy entrance to battle. Spider-Man…with guns!

With all these slick new infantry abilities, it would be a shame if the eight new maps didn’t give players ample cause to use them. Well, you’re in luck, because EA assured us that the new maps will feature high concentrations of hiding places, narrow alleyways, and indoor control points. Instead of simply rolling tanks up to flags and awaiting their capture, you’ll have to infiltrate and capture on foot, guaranteeing some seriously frantic firefights. Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t want to show up for the party in a slick ride, especially since the eight new maps will be just as large as the old ones, if not larger.

One way to cover that ground will be behind the wheel of the new Israeli Raider. A six-wheeled jeep with lots of weapons mounts, the Raider looks to be a great way for a squad to quickly dash into and out of danger zones while spewing hot lead in all directions. We have also seen screenshots of a pick-up truck with a machine-gun mounted in the bed, and have gotten word that players will be able to deal death from the cockpit of an AH64D Apache Longbow. Although no other new vehicles have been announced, we know there are supposed to be ten total and we’re really hoping to see at least one motorcycle among them.

Along with new maps, tools, vehicles and guns, expect six new factions. To match the name, these will all be based on real special forces groups, including the British SAS, Russian Spetsnaz, U.S. Navy Seals, a Middle-Eastern special forces group, a Russian mafia group, and one other that will probably be something like mujahideen.

But since no new classes are being introduced, we don’t entirely understand the need for six new factions. We’re hopeful that nine total means more than two will be able to battle on a single map, although no details have been announced on that front.

Still, so many interesting details have been announced on so many other fronts that we’re pretty much salivating already. We can’t wait to light up creeping foes with flashbangs and tracers. Luckily, impatient wannabe soldiers like us won’t have to wait long, as the game is scheduled to arrive before the end of 2005. Get ready to reload.

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