Battlefield 2: God Help Us If This Is What Real Combat Is Like
I’ve been playing Battlefield 2 (plus demo) for nearly a month now. My gameplay has markedly improved since the first time I stumbled into the combat zone as a target dummy for many an enemy. I’ve honed my skills to where I can at least hold my own, and often give better than I get. I do not have a military background, although I’ve watched enough war movies, read enough history books, played enough First Person Shooters and have enough common sense to know what does and does not work on the digital battlefield. In a word, I know what I’m doing out there. The question is, does everybody else? Does real combat involve stealing a teammate’s tank, flying helicopters upside down, and telling your squad leader to sod off when he is trying to get some help from you? I sincerely doubt it!
My favorite position. Looking for enemies who dare step foot on the street!
Battlefield 2 works best, and is arguably the most fun, when you are playing in squads as part of a larger team. The overall commander of your team issues orders to the various squad leaders, and your squad leader will then issue orders to you. When this is a working relationship, the game illustrates some of the finest teamwork in a modern combat simulation you will see on a computer screen. However, unless you play on a server with a good group of squad mates who share your same philosophy, you may quickly find yourself operating alone, without support, without friends, and without purpose. For me, I seem to have the misfortune to find the latter more than the former these days (even on ranked servers where realism comes at a premium).
Case in point. I can’t tell you how many times I will form a squad, have three or four other guys join me, only to check my map in a few minutes and see my people spread willy nilly across the map – far from the point they are supposed to be attacking! Not only does this make issuing cohesive orders difficult (you can only issue attack coordinates one at a time), but it makes teamwork absolutely impossible. Similarly, I will often join squads, track down the leader only to find him running in circles, hiding in a dumpster, seldom or never issuing orders and seemingly playing a different game than the rest of us. This begs the questions of why join a squad at all, or why create a squad at all? In my experience, on ranked servers no less, teamwork is great in theory, but seldom put effectively into practice.
Resist the urge to drive this vehicle on suicide missions! Especially when we are on board with you!
Even when squads are working as a finely tuned machine (which is a thing of beauty!), there are always other teammates ready to rain frustration upon you. Take driving for instance. Driving should be a fairly straightforward exercise for most people, and in BF2 we can think of driving transport vehicles much like driving a cab. You pick up, you drop off. But wait, you are in a battlezone – so maybe we should refine our rules a bit. You pick up certainly, you drive your troops TO the hot zone, but not INTO the hot zone (seems obvious to me). While certainly not as bad as driving a gasoline tanker into battle, I can tell you that nine times out of ten if you drive an APC full of troops right up next to the enemy anti-tank guns – you can count on every allied soldier getting killed. Unfortunately this happens more than I care to think about…and I have learned to bail LONG before any APC reaches live ordnance. On the flip side, how many times have you seen ONE soldier drive away in an APC while the rest of your team stands in the base checking their watches because they now have no transport?
When I finally do get behind the wheel, I will often take my Humvee out for a spin (when there are no passengers to pick up!) and park it at the end of a long street, and then sit up in the cupola to work the machine gun. This position gives me a great field of fire to take out enemy troopers trying to cross anywhere down the length of the street. Yet, it never fails as I begin to control the street some doofuss will jump in my rig, drive me smack into the middle of the enemy, and promptly get us both killed! Isn’t it just common sense that driving a lightly armored vehicle into the enemy camp is going to result in death? I now jump out anytime someone takes my drivers seat (why can’t I just lock the doors?).
One heavy machine gun can control an entire street…that is until you are driven off a cliff by your fool teammate.
Sometimes you will find teammates just overly anxious to do their job, and while I can’t really fault them for their enthusiasm, I am often left shaking my head in disbelief. One situation that really burned me up concerns an engineer who followed me to capture an enemy flagpole. He jumped out of my APC, and then proceeded to lay AT mines around the flagpole as well as around my vehicle! There was nothing I could do but jump out and start walking. Also, how many times have you gotten into a transport helicopter only to realize (after it is upside down) that the pilot had never flown before?
Other times, teammates will definitely be a liability just by their very existence – and one prime example is the fool who thinks it is funny to throw himself in front of any allied vehicle he can find just to watch both of your scores go backwards (ever notice how much easier it is to run over your own team than the enemy – OK, maybe that is my frustration talking). This is in addition to the Team Killers out there who simply take pleasure in outright killing their mates. Luckily, server side software can often kick those players before they become a huge distraction. The commander of your team can also show his darker side by dropping ordnance upon your own base killing all the defenders, but leaving the fringe enemy survivors alive to walk in unopposed…
When you jump onto unknown servers, and join unknown squads, you can rest assured you will never be able to predict the sort of interpersonal bickering which may have started just before you arrived. One such nightmare happened recently when I joined a large squad and we all got into a transport helicopter along with some stragglers, and began flying to the hot zone. At about the same time, I notice a couple of the squad guys typing what appeared to be angry messages back and forth (I wasn’t really paying attention, as I was on a machine gun looking for enemy units). A minute or two later I definitely notice some hot words being exchanged and I see a plane heading directly toward us on a broadside collision course. I didn’t open fire because it was clearly an allied plane…but as it got closer and closer it was obvious it wasn’t going to swerve to miss us. When he did collide, all hands were lost on the copter – our entire squad. The dead fighter pilot then begins laughing at what he did, and basically said “in your face” to the guy he had been arguing with on the copter. He killed us all just to get even with that guy on his own team!!! Ahh, don’t you just love teamwork?
Finally, my favorite episode happened just recently. I was driving a heavy troop transport around some tight corners in Karkand City. As I made a final turn onto the main bridge, I saw an infantryman standing in the middle of the road, and I desperately tried to swerve/brake to avoid him (why can’t they have the sound of squealing brakes?)…but as many of you know, the damage model is such that if you even touch a pedestrian with a vehicle, it means almost certain death for him. And yes, this guy flew off my fender like a rag doll, much to my dismay. Before I could continue (this is all taking place under the hail of enemy bullets) I notice one of my passengers jump out of my truck, I see him walk around to my driver’s side window, then he proceeds to unload his clip into the front seat – easily killing me. After sitting in a shock for a few seconds, I told him that he was absolutely the most idiotic player I’ve ever seen in this game. He responded by informing me that my death was payback for running over his squad mate just then! Later in the game I had his whole squad lined up in front of my truck and I could have easily done something stupid… Yet, alas, killing teammates is something I just can’t do on purpose, even when they deserve it!
The game is absolutely thrilling when everyone is playing as it was “meant” to be played.
Cherish it when it happens!
Now don’t get me wrong. Battlefield 2 is an outstanding game when it is firing on all cylinders. When you have a good commander who doesn’t drop artillery on his own men, a squad leader who actually assigns orders and a squad that actually follows orders the game is unbelievably fun. The anecdotes above are just a few of the times the game misfires, and by and large the faults lie squarely with the people playing the game, and not with the game itself! I just wonder what real soldiers must think when they see some of the antics going on in this simulated battlefield. How much fun it must be to play with an entire server of serious gamers instead of the rabble that populate most of the digital battlefield these days!
Despite everything, I am off to play once again – surely there is more idiocy brewing in the public domain which will both exasperate me as well as inspire me to write more!
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About the Author:
Brian “Siberian H.E.A.T.” King is the CO of Armchair General Magazine’s website, armchairgeneral.com. When that doesn’t keep him busy enough, he can sometimes be convinced to actually sit down and write articles on military history and wargaming. He can be found playing Battlefield 2 under the nom de guerre [5ACG]HEAT. If the game allowed it, you would often see his character shaking his head in amazed disbelief at what goes on there!