The new BF2 expansion pack delivers on its promise of making an awesome game even awesomer. That is, if you can put up with the hassles typically associated with the launch of any Battlefield product—some stuff just ain’t right the first few weeks after release.
The expansion is all about Special Forces combat, so instead of it just being the USMC against the MEC, this time around you play as part of the Navy Seals, British SAS, Russian Spetnaz, and other elite units. The problem is that all the changes seem like window dressing, without any real substance. While everything looks new, the weapons and vehicles all feel exactly the same as regular BF2.
That said, there are a few new features that are very cool. Some classes have flashbang grenades or tear gas, which give you a huge edge in combat. There is also a grappling hook that can be used to scale buildings, and a zip line to descend from rooftops. These tools are rarely necessary, and using them leaves you open to attack, but a team that takes advantage of them can do serious damage. Gas masks and night-vision goggles are now standard equipment for all classes as well. The gas mask is mostly unnecessary, but some night maps require use of the night-vision goggles.
Which brings us to the really good part: The eight included maps are outstanding. Several are very Karkan-like, featuring up-close urban combat. The others include smaller maps that encourage close-quarters combat, and three new battles that occur at night, requiring the use of different tactics. Operating in darkness requires a lot of stealth and strategy, and is easily the most rewarding (and fun) new feature in the expansion pack.
Unfortunately, there are some weird installation issues. Installing the expansion pack rolls back BF2 to version 1.1, even if you have 1.12 installed, so you have to reinstall the patch. People have also reported some instability issues, which we experienced on one of our test machines, but not on another virtually identical PC.
The new maps alone justify the cost of the expansion, but unless you’re a hardcore Battlefield 2 player, you probably won’t miss anything if you pass on this pack.
Month Reviewed: February 2006
ESRB Rating: T