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Boom.

The future is a pretty wicked place

New installment in videogame series is best yet

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Bullets dissolve concrete, kick up ground, smash steel and zip by your ears like deadly little insects. Vision blurs. Tanks, buildings, rocks--everything just a fuzzy outline of itself. You run. Breath rasps like rocks in a coffee can. Blood in your mouth. Blood in your lungs. Concrete against your back is cold. Can't stop thinking of a mortician's table. Spin out from around the corner, dust grinding under your heel. The 19 foot steel chicken's arms begin to spin. Fire. Dust around you again. Can't see anymore. Can't stand anymore. Can't breathe. Then, after a 16 second cooldown, it starts all over again.

The first thing that's apparent upon playing Battlefield 2142, the latest installment in EA's mega-hit series, is just how visceral the fighting can get. All the weapons feel appropriately powerful, whether shooting or being shot at, and subtle touches like the player character's heavy breathing or blurred vision in a heated firefight all add to the overall feeling of realism. In a game set in a post-ice age future where the European Union is going bullet for bullet with a new Warsaw Pact called the PAC, "realistic" might not sound like the most appropriate descriptor, but the game's so stunningly executed that using any other word would do it a disservice.

That said, the gameplay hasn't actually changed much since the last game. There's the necessary graphical improvements, a super-fun new game mode called "Titan," and a new unlock system that allows players to accrue neat little upgrades like mini-rocket attachments for their rifles or a difribulator for reviving fallen teammates, but beyond that, there haven't been any vast renovations. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Simply put, 2142's predecessor, Battlefield 2, was one of the best times to be had shooting people on the internet. It had a number of vehicles that found the perfect balance between realism and fun, well-designed levels and utilized a simple-but-brilliant squad system that allowed players to group into smaller, surgical units. Everything that made the other games addictive and accessible is back, and the new additions put 2142 far enough above its sister games to still hold appeal for Battlefield vets.

Anyone who thought the original Second World War simulator needed enormous, chicken-looking walking tanks will be pleased with the new vehicles, and virgins to the series will be starting out with the most polished game in it. Overall, 2142 is a great waste of a weekend, especially for players with a handful of like-minded friends. Ultimately, anyone who's followed the games won't find anything they didn't expect, but they won't be disappointed either.

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