The Early Days of Battlefield

The Early Days of Battlefield

Following the announcement of Battlefield 2042, DICE teased a new mode which will be a love letter to fans. While we’ll have to wait to see what that turns out to be, but in the meantime I’m sure that there are plenty out there who want to play some of the older games in the series. Help is at hand, especially for playing Battlefield 2 and 2142 online, though 1942 and Vietnam are more complex.

Battlefield 1942

An aircraft carrier in Battlefield 1942

Having played Battlefield 1942 in singleplayer, I never got to see the aircraft carrier.1942 was the one that started it all, offering 32v32 large scale World War Two era class-based action, complete with vehicles, planes and, now and again, boats. As a kid I only ever played this in singleplayer, but even then I had great fun fighting against the bots. It was expanded with The Race to Rome, offering a series of Italian maps to bolster the mainland Europe, Russian and Pacific locales. There was also an expansion called The Secret Weapons of WW2, which added new maps, vehicles, weapons…and a jet pack.

Although my time with this one was limited to playing against bots, the online experience was a world apart from what I was used to. Map sizes were larger, and it was in the online sphere where you could access the submarine and other large naval ships.

While EA made 1942 available for free on Origin back in 2011, it has since disappeared from the store entirely. That probably coincided with the demise of the GameSpy servers back in 2014, a closure of service which rendered all the historic Battlefield titles as near to persona non grata at EA as is possible.

I have a copy of 1942 on Origin dating back to that giveaway, though sadly that didn’t include the two expansions. These days your best bet to see this in action will be scouring eBay and Amazon for some second hand copies. Getting online might not be possible as designed anymore, but if you do pick up a copy, check out this forum thread from a 1942 clan for potential options.

Battlefield Vietnam

A Huey helicopter in Battlefield Vietnam.
‘Nam baby. Full of guns and choppers.

The first full follow-up to 1942, Vietnam was full of songs from the ‘Nam period, Hueys and plenty of jungle warfare. This was another that I only ever played in singleplayer, and while it was still the Battlefield experience of large scale, class-based warfare, for me it didn’t hold the same appeal as 1942. There were improvements to the game engine, but this was fundamentally the 1942 actioned transposed to a different era. Classes existed with some scale of weapon variety, but there wasn’t any persistent stat tracking, rewards or unlocks.

Getting Vietnam up and running in 2021 wasn’t straightforward as this one never appeared on Origin. I was lucky enough to have a boxed copy of the game which I picked up in 2011, but to get things working required scouring the web for a no-CD crack for the .exe. That got me into the game to play singleplayer, but if you want some online action, you might be stuck.

Your best bet for playing in Vietnam might well be Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam, but that is an 11-year-old game and finding some active servers might not be easy.

Battlefield 2

Battlefield 2, still the best online shooter in my book.

The granddaddy of them all, the one that brought Battlefield to the masses and started evincing the direction the series would ultimately take. Battlefield 2 had a contemporary setting, with maps generally set in fictional Middle Eastern and Asian locales. Modern weaponry and vehicles wasn’t all that was new, as Battlefield 2 introduced persistent stat tracking and unlockable weapons alongside medals and ribbons to reward your achievements.

Unlike the modern Battlefield games, the base game only offered one weapon to unlock per class, while the medals and weapons were locked behind challenging criteria. An Expert Armour badge for instance requires 400 hours in Armour. My total time with the game on my clan account is 521 hours, of that there is only 84 hours in Armour. This was a game that had an expectation of longevity.

Finding a copy of Battlefield 2 is another dive into Amazon and eBay, but unlike its predecessors, getting online is a doddle. After installing the latest patches, the BF2hub project is your go-to. The team here recovered the required GameSpy information, including the stats of a vast number of the original player base. These days, downloading the BF2hub and getting into the action is simple, and there are still plenty of severs up and running every day full of long-time fans.

Battlefield 2142

A mech walker from Battlefield 2142
2142 had walkers….why didn’t I play this back in the day? It’s Command and Conquer come to life!

This is the one which I never played back in the old days, and with it coming out just over a year after Battlefield 2, it didn’t get a look-in during my busy days with the -=256=- Clan. 2142 took players into the future for the first time, with the new setting seeing new weapons and gadgets, along with futuristic vehicles, such as armoured walkers.

The big innovation was the Titan game mode, and this might be the idea which DICE are bringing back with Battlefield 2042. The Titan mode saw these flying warships gaze down on the battle, protected by forcefields. Ground troops would fight for use of the anti-Titan missile silos to destroy the forcefield, before they can board the Titan and destroy reactors to finally take it down.

It sounded complex, but for those who were fans of the game, it was a big selling point. Unfortunately, 2142 suffered the same fate as the others with the demise of GameSpy. Finding a copy today will require some more Amazon and eBay exploration, but fortunately the BF2142 Reclamation project has brought the game back from the dead. Servers now exist, offering the community a chance to revisit the last of the original Battlefield titles.

What’s the love letter to fans?

That much teased ‘love letter to fans’ might not be anything to do with the original run of Battlefield titles, and that would be fine as the run of games that started with Bad Company had their own highlights. However for me, the true heart of the Battlefield series lies with these first four games.

While some (Vietnam, 2142) might not have captured the fanbase in quite the same way as the other originals, each title has its own unique charms. I still return to Battlefield 2 on a regular basis, and with the BF2142 Reclamation project I’ll even give 2142 a workout.

As for that new game mode for Battlefield 2042, that supposed love letter? If that did some simple things like reset the scoring system to what we used to see, along with a stripped back range of weapons and unlocks, I would be very happy. And if DICE introduced something analogous to the Titan mode from 2142? I’d be over the moon.

2 thoughts on “The Early Days of Battlefield

  1. Just a few corrections about what you wrote about BF 1942:

    The Carriers are in singleplayer. you can even spawn directly on them. The only vehicle that wasn’t in singleplayer at all were the submarines.

    It was The Road To Rome, not the race to Rome.

    And maps were not smaller in singleplayer. The first game to reduce the map size for singleplayer was Battlefield 2.

    1. Thanks for the comment, and clearly someone who played that game much more than I ever did!

      I knew there was one of the ships which couldn’t be played in solo….memory was hazy, but getting Road to Rome wrong was a big mistake :|

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