Saturday, March 24, 2007

Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike Review

Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike, developed by Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts.
The Good: New maps utilize new vehicles
The Not So Good: New unlocks are at the top of the trees, not enough content, still won’t save my mouse movement controls, new stability issues
What say you? The first 2142 booster pack features content that should have been free: 5/8

It seems that booster packs are the way to go in the Battlefield universe. Rather than doing more content-heavy expansion packs, EA has settled on doing smaller, online-only downloads of a handful of maps, units, and other features. Although this type of content is usually released for free by less money-hungry publishers, Electronic Arts has decided to charge a nominal fee ($10) for some new additions to the disappointing Battlefield 2142. Is Northern Strike a must-have for owners of the original game?

The graphics of Northern Strike are the same as Battlefield 2142, except with more snow. The new vehicles fit the futuristic theme of the game well and don’t seem out of place. The developers have gone the urban route with the new maps, and they look similar to the Berlin map from the original game. I experience graphical lag (when looking around) playing Northern Strike that I did not experience when I played the original levels; I guess all of that snow is a system resource hog.

What do you get for $10? Three new maps, two new vehicles, ten new unlocks, and a tweaked conquest mode. It’s kind of ridiculous that this content costs anything (even only $10), since most games would have given this out for free for owners of the original. Maybe if you add up several different booster packs it will equal one expansion pack in terms of content and price, but it would still fall behind the lofty standard set by Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar. The maps are nothing revolutionary: two of them are variants of existing map themes (urban and bridge), while the third port map is at least original and uses the APC launch pods as an integral part of the map. Each side is given a new vehicle: a slow moving grounded Titan and a fast moving hover jeep. The slow moving vehicle is too slow for a lot of the maps, while the jeep-like vehicle is too fast. The new unlocks are all located at the top of the unlock trees; I guess the developers figure that the only people who will purchase Northern Strike are experienced players. This is a silly notion, as those casual players who don’t play for hours every day will miss out on the new weapons. Most of the weapons are counters for existing weapons: anti-camouflage, anti-mine, anti-sniper, plus increased magazines and stamina. There is nothing too innovative here, but I do like the sticky bomb projectiles. The developers have also tweaked the conquest mode, requiring you to capture all of the flags before assaulting the enemy base in Assault Lines mode. This is meant to prevent troops going around to the back and force them to fight on the front lines, but they still just need to bite the bullet and incorporate Unreal Tournament’s onslaught mode into the game to get true constant combat.

There is nothing in Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike that is really cool. None of the new maps, weapons, upgrades, vehicles, or game modes is anything you need to have if you’ve played the original. I hope that this isn’t a trend copied by other games and publishers, releasing content for a fee that should be free. One could argue that these additions should have been in the original game anyway. And Northern Strike doesn’t fix any of the bugs from the original game that the free patches did not: the game still doesn’t save my mouse movement commands, and Northern Strike even introduces some new issues (my screen goes all-yellow every once in a while, which did not happen in the base game). Plus, it even makes the game laggy for not much benefit. Sure, it’s only $10, but Northern Strike is hardly worth the money and you’re not missing anything if you choose not to buy it.