UPDATE JUNE 22, 2005:
FiringSquad has posted the complete Battlefield 2 Review. Read on to see the final verdict, and also view 120 screenshots!
The Battlefield 2 demo was released in almost the opposite way from the Battlefield 1942 demo. BF1942 was a relatively unknown game with only the hype of the singleplayer demo to promote it, when the multiplayer version was released during QuakeCon and took the event - and attending media - by storm. The hype built from the ground-up, EA was pitching sources everywhere, and we didn't have to slog through 5 splash screens before playing the game - just 2.
Battlefield 2, on the other hand, was hyped up from the top down. The Next Big Thing, the True Battlefield Sequel from DICE, and Only Available At GameSpot were the slogans, images and concepts that assaulted us. Well, it was exclusive to GameSpot for about 30 minutes, it is the true sequel from DICE, but the jury hasn't yet returned a verdict whether or not it's really the Next Big Thing.
First, let's get the bad out of the way:
The most obvious reminder that this is a DICE game are the strange bugs and even stranger interface. Who presses 'j' to talk? How come going prone is a toggle but the crouch key must be held down? Why must keys be unbound before they can be re-bound as something else? Why does the game tell me that the left Alt key is bound when it isn't? Someone explain to me why I must select a kit, select a spawn point and choose "done", rather than simply selecting a kit and double-clicking a spawn point, or picking the spawn point and double-clicking the kit? Didn't our favorite Swedish shooter developers get the memo about the interface last time around? Bueller? Lumberg? Anyone?
All these mysteries and more shall not be solved in this demo, nor are we told why there are so many unskippable splash screens before the game even loads. Both NVIDIA and ATI owners have experienced graphical glitches, bugs, and even hang-ups. The ForceWare drivers with the demo tend to solve most of the NVIDIA bugs, but ATI users are told to try Catalyst 5.6s, and failing that, reverting to Catalyst 5.1. This is rather worrisome for a game that's 2 weeks from release.
Despite all these unnecessary hassles, the demo does deliver where it's important - gameplay. Though hampered by hard-coded 12-minute rounds, there is no doubt that Gulf of Oman, the map that ships with the demo, gives a good, solid feel for the game. It likely won't be the instant classic that Wake Island was in Battlefield 1942, but it contains hefty numbers of air and ground vehicles as well as infantry play. There is no major naval action, though there are some small boats to shuttle players in from the American carrier. There is a 16- and 32-player version of the map. The 16-player mode is hardly ever seen, though it's the only one available for singleplayer.
Anyone doubting that Battlefield 2 deserves the Battlefield name should set those doubts aside immediately. Judging by the demo, BF2 is as close to Battlefield 1942 as a game could be and still call itself a distinct sequel. It's improved in some evolutionary ways, perhaps even revolutionary, but without breaking the core concept.