builds on the game play mode established in the earlier iterations of the franchise but adds a few new twists to keep things interesting. The biggest addition is that of the Commander role/squads. At the beginning of every round, each side elects a Commander to manage the battle from a tactical standpoint. Commanders play a crucial role in the game as they can direct the objectives of each squad as well as directing supply boxes, UAV’s (which allow you to see all of the enemies within a certain area), and direct artillery fire at a target. Artillery is a bit tricky as there is some lag from when you fire the artillery to when it lands, forcing commanders to anticipate where enemy troops and vehicles are going to be and making sure that their own troops don’t get rained on from above.
Commanders play a vital part in the game because they are the only ones who have a full feel for where everyone is in the game. A good commander is not going to turn the tide of a battle if the teams are lopsided. They will make a difference if they are of about equal skill. DICE did a good job of designing the commander’s screen so that it’s d simple to pick up on how to do the job and relay information to your squad. This allows for the quick dispersal of the commanders strategy to everyone in the game.
Squads are also a new addition to the game and allow you to do formally what gamers in previous versions of the franchise did already…gang up in groups to attack targets. An added benefit of being in a squad is that you can re-spawn with your squad leader if he is alive and not in a vehicle that is full (you can’t fit four people in a three person jeep). Commanders and squads are interlinked as orders that are sent to the squad from the commander are automatically passed on to the squad members (if the squad leader so chooses). A nice touch is that the squad leader (the person who’s been in the squad the longest) can lock the squad so you can only have people you know and want in the it. The squad leader can also boot out members of the squad and, if the Commander wants, they can break up the squad as well. It’s a nice touch and allows you to control who you want to play with to some degree.
Another new feature in the game is the new “rose” communication button. By pressing down the Q button, it brings up a quick communication menu. You then highlight which command you want to select by moving the mouse in the direction of the communication item you want. It kind of remindes me of BMW’s new i-drive system, except that it’s useful and doesn’t cost $50,000. The system allows you to quickly relay enemy sightings, request help or supplies as well as a few other items. The great thing about it is that it’s context sensitive so that if you mouse over an enemy tank and use the enemy sighted button it will relay the correct information on to the rest of the team. Pressing the T button brings up the communications selections for commanders and squad leaders.
The game also ships with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) support so you can actually talk to people instead of having to take the time to type things out. It takes a little bit of setup and there’s a some additional bandwidth overhead to use it but it’s there if you want it. Thankfully, you can turn it off and avoid having to listen to your fellow gamers (I’ve spent too many hours on Xbox Live to think that VOIP is the god-send people say it is…too many 12 year olds who relish the anonymity of the internet).
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