June 21, 2007

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Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike (PC/MAC)
Digital Illusions CE, 2007
By Glenn†Given production@hippopress.com

DICE expands on itís stalwart Battlefield franchise with Northern Strike, the first expansion for futuristic Ice Age world war shooter Battlefield 2142. Itís like a snowball fight, but with bullets.

Excluisively available as a downloadable purchase from EA games EALink service (an enterprising but cumbersome interface with a frustratingly useless ďHelpĒ section) Northern Strike tacks on three new maps, 10 new equipment unlocks, 11 new awards, two vehicles and one new play mode. For the money thatís a lot of icy warfare fun.

The Battlefield formula doesnít change much here. Two teams of up to 32 players each still vie for control of flags at various points on the map that allow player spawn points and reduce the reserves of their opponents. Maps like Liberation of Leipzig and Bridge at Remagen (an homage to a famous WW2 battle) are finely crafted playfields. The refined layouts stress multiple attck avenues and the reliance on strategic choke points to keep your enemies at bay. The emphasis is on squad cohesion and maneuvaribilty in order to flank and overrun control points and meet breaches in your sides defensive perimiter.

Northern Strikeís new new play mode, Assault Lines, tips the scales a bit in army balance though. In Assault Lines, EU forces must take all control points on the map be fore being able to strike at the final PAC base. While total domination of the field is nearly impossible in regular Conflict mode the EU is aided by adding spawn points to all APCs and with the introduciton of their new vehicle the Goliath. The Goliathís regenerating armor, and variety of anti-infanty weapons make it a ebast best delt with through guerilla assault and avoidance. The PAC gets a boost to this effort with the Hachimoto a lightly armored but high speed hover buggy. 2142ís signiture Titan mode (where opposing airships are assaulted in lie of control point seizure) returns on the Port bavaria and Remagen maps.

Northern Strike is a hefty expansion, but for a game that many Battlfield afficianados view as yet another expansion to the signature franchise title (Battlefield 2) it rings a bit hollow. The new player unpgrades are top of the tech tree entries that new players wonít be seeing soon as the unlock pace is still frustratingly slow. And when enabled donít have as notable an impact as some of the lower tier bonuses. Battlefield is still the king in team FPS warfare though and both 2142 and Northern Strike are extremely well polished, fine tuned games. Bleeding edge PC gamers may find the graphics a tad dated, a complaint compounded by the icy urban modernity and barren drought striken battlegrounds; a striking contrast to Battlefield 2ís deliciously busy environs. B+ ó Glenn Given.