Wednesday, July 13, 2005

BF2, Top or Pants, who knows yet?

Well, it does look good. Which is nice. It also sounds good (though I can't figure out why I can never hear any VOIP chatter). It even runs pretty quickly when it's going despite my machine being a couple of years old (just don't get too optimistic about your graphics choices).

Does that make it any good? Well, yes and no. The kicking graphics and sound improve your ability to kill things no end. You can hear soldiers creeping along behind walls, see armour in the distance and make out infantry movement between buildings. The squad based play (when it works) is excellent and being on foot isn't the terrible pain it was in the past.

But this is not the online game that Desert Combat was. It wants you to have a permanent identity so it can give you rewards and, presumably, stop you ripping it off or cheating. The catch is that if you are going to require everyone to login then you should really provide more authentication servers so that it doesn't take seven minutes (by my watch) to log in. Perhaps the times I play the game are particularly busy but since I play it in the evening after work (and gardening) I don't have a lot of flexibility about that.

It's annoying too that you have to wade through a whole bunch of non-negotiable ads to get there. At least you can deal with that by nuking the movie files from your install.
The big delay is when you actually want to play. Select multiplayer and wait for the server list to populate, select apply filters to prune it of all the ones you don't want (why show servers that are full, BTW?) and wait. Then wait some more.

Why doesn't it apply the filters by default, it's not like I ever change them? So then you get a list of suitable servers but it isn't sorted by ping despite the fact that it should be (according to the column highlighting). Why is that? So, re-order the columns for ping and try to find one with an actual ping value (so that you know it didn't simply fail to respond). Now try and connect. Well odds are good that if you picked a server with one slot free that slot is gone. Fair enough the game is popular. Still it takes a very long time to tell you that. Instead pick a server with a few slots free and wait to join. Then wait some more.

It will now spend a long, long time checking you haven't tampered with your client. Is there no way to precalculate this during the other interminable parts of the process? Couldn't it let me join and kick me if I had tinkered?
Anyway, now you're into the game. But what's that? Lag? Weird bunny hopping? Could it be that the 90ms ping server isn't really at 90ms from you? Tough, you'll need to disconnect and try again. Or alternatively the game could play along happily for an hour or more while you rack up the points until you are second on your (admittedly losing) team and then drop the connection. That's annoying in and of itself (I mean we only had two tickets left) but it's particularly annoying because that means no addition to your central stats. So the fact that you've picked up a commendation for being a badass and that you've added a lot of kills to your negligible tally counts for naught. Nice.

Then there are the balance issues. Why can't we have a MANPADS? A stinger to the cockpit made quite a big difference in DC so why can't I have one in BF2? The ATGMs are lovely but too slow for anti-air. The stingers we do have (on some armour and on stationary mounts) are very, very weak, too easy to trick with any warm object, tend to hit your team as much as the enemy (not good when you call the CAP to help fight off the choppers) and take forever to lock and to reload. Worse, if you are assaulting a position then you won't have safe control of the emplacement (unless you sneak on for a quick shot) so all they need to do is call in a chopper and you can't fight it off.

I do like the damage balance on the armour though. There's nothing like killing a tank with a shot to a soft-spot to make you feel tough. The fact the you didn't see his supporting APC and are now dead doesn't take the shine off it. The infantry seem pretty good, though I can't figure out why half a mag of 5.56 to the body from an M249 is beaten by a few shots from an SMG. I usually lose one-on-one firefights because I'm not that good which seems fair to me.

Overall, if you are very patient, have a lot of time to devote to it and an amazingly central network connection you are sorted. Otherwise, wait for a working patch (not 1.0.1).

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