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Now, nobody forces you to join a squad, but doing so gives you some important bonuses. First, in a balanced squad with medics and engineers, you have more support when things go wrong. Secondly, when things go really wrong you have a special spawn point at the current position of your squad leader. As one of the biggest frustrations of a game with such large maps is that a death can mean you’re several minutes away from the action, the ability to respawn back with your squad mates is a pretty enticing proposition.
If all this sounds a little too organized, then rest assured that Battlefield 2 doesn’t make you feel like just another cog in a well-oiled machine. Partly it’s because of the variety of roles it has to offer, with players choosing between seven ‘kits’ that run the gamut of special forces, assault troops, engineers, medics, snipers and anti-tank specialists. Whatever your proclivities, there’s going to be something to suit and a valuable part you can play. And as you can change kits every time you respawn, you can always transform to meet the changing needs of battle.
And that’s before we get to the vehicles. Some are designed just to get troops rapidly from A to B, others are your basic heavy tanks, but all have a major impact on which way the victory turns. Where Battlefield 2 really rings the changes is in the increased role of air-support. Helicopters can still be used to ferry troops into battle or allow for parachute attacks, but they also have tank-busting and strafing capabilities that make them a force to be reckoned with in any assault. This, in turn, makes the inclusion of jets all the more important. Not only are they great for tackling helicopters, but with practice they’re also fit for carpet bombing and precision raids. Note the ‘with practice’. Flying aircraft is a skill, and one that’s worth building offline against vaguely intelligent bots before you plummet into the hills with a full load of angry team-mates onboard.
Amazingly, it’s all very well balanced. No kit seems particularly overpowerful, and while tanks can dominate a map if given free reign, they’re easy meat for a skilled anti-tank troop, a smart engineer or even ordinary troops if they work in concert. If it flies, it can be bought down. If it moves, you can blow it up. Even snipers – the terror of many online games – are limited by the fact that they often need two hits to kill from a distance and face a long reload between shots.
It’s also a game where your individual efforts feel rewarded. You get points for kills, but also for assisting kills, capturing or holding control points, healing allies as a medic or repairing vehicles as an engineer. Even better, these points don’t disappear when the game ends. Play on a ranked server and your tally will be added to a permanent record, with the promise of a juicy promotion or some cool new weapons once the points rack up.