For a minute, let’s sit back and see Battlefield 2 for what it is: the ultimate modern warfare action toybox – a kind of ‘World of Action Man’ for bigger boys to play with. It’s a game that gives you everything you need to create a hundred different combat experiences, or more slightly tedious frontline stories than anyone in the pub will ever want to hear. The thing is; this toybox is already so stuffed with toys – kits, vehicles, maps, weapons – that it’s hard to imagine what the accessories in an expansion pack could bring. EA’s solution with Special Forces is to give it a theme. This, we’re told, is the battle going on behind the scenes; a battle fought by elite troops in black uniform and balaclava, with the aid of sneaky gadgets and underhand techniques.
In truth, this all comes down to some revamped kits, new maps and new vehicles, and a slight shift in perspective from Asia and the Middle East to what was once the USSR and the Middle East. This brings with it some new elite forces, pitting the British SAS against the Russian Spetsnaz and US Navy SEALs against similarly equipped MEC units (a pseudo-Republican Guard that actually deserves the reputation). There are also eight new maps, and these prove that DICE hasn’t lost its touch for creating eerily beautiful combat environments with oodles of detailed décor. The palace and gardens in the Warlord map would be a high point for most FPS games, and the misty waters and war-torn streets of Ghost Town certainly give them a run for their money. The new units are as intricately worked and brilliantly animated as their vanilla Battlefield 2 counterparts, and the effects are as special as they have ever been. Battlefield 2 remains the most gorgeous, cinematic online combat experience in town.
What’s more, two of the maps now take place in darkness, encouraging a more stealthy style of play. In fact, without one addition – night vision goggles – it would be practically impossible to make your way around, let alone draw a bead on that sniper lying low in the grass. Sadly, the goggles make you all the more vulnerable to the new flash bang grenades and you will also need to keep your gas mask handy once the tear gas start flying around. One deep breath of this stuff and your view warps and blurs in a lovely, psychedelic style. Be sure to enjoy the experience in the few seconds before the opposing troops use your head for target practice.