Armored Fury is Dice’s second ‘booster pack’ for Battlefield 2 - that is, a small expansion you can download for a small price. Since it’s even smaller than the size of a regular expansion, I’ll try to pare this review down to the essentials.
The premise for the pack is that MEC and Chinese forces have both invaded the mainland United States, setting the stage for three different maps: Operation Road Rage, Operation Harvest and Midnight Sun. Each one has been built around some aspect unique to North America’s terrain. In Road Rage, the centrepiece is an interstate highway; in Harvest, it’s wide-open farmland. Midnight Sun is similar to the core Chinese maps in BF2, but features thicker forests and white-capped mountains.
Dice seems to have become extremely comfortable with map design, because all three scenarios are well-balanced without feeling generic or gimmicky. Instead, each map has an element that winning teams must take advantage of, or at least cope with. The highway in Road Rage can be ignored, for example, but doing so leaves rear points vulnerable to fast-moving ground vehicles.
The pack’s name stems from a roster of new aircraft for the maps, which are divvied up into one attack jet and one scout helicopter per faction. While the attack jets (A-10, Su-39 and Q-5) are nothing special, the scout helis (Littlebird, EC-635 and WZ-11) are incredibly useful. Their speed and size allow players to make ultra-quick captures, and on top of this their radar scans are broadcast to your whole team. They manage to fill a gameplay gap that I hardly knew existed.
If there’s a problem with Fury it’s in getting it running. EA’s downloading system really, really needs to be tweaked before it becomes as handy as the systems it’s trying to mimic, namely Steam and iTunes. My troubles began when I learned that EA Downloader needs Internet Explorer 6 to function - if you’re running the IE7 beta, you’ll have to downgrade.
Although your experiences may vary, I also had to attempt my download several times before I had a working installer on my hard drive. In one instance I’d grabbed the whole 380+ MB before Downloader told me my files were corrupt. Even with the working installer, Downloader initially told me that it couldn’t find setup.exe. It spontaneously found the file before I was going to try advice from an EA Support representative (who was more insightful than most, I’d note).
Lastly, my copy of BF2 has been crashing occasionally when I spawn on a server for the first time. I’m not sure why. Judging from the way my computer chokes, it could be that the game is touchy about other apps running in the background, but it’s not as if I’m running Photoshop! All I can suggest is that you’ll probably be fine so long as you don’t stress your machine more than you have to.
The bottom line on Armored Fury is this: if you’ve been away from BF2 for a few months, it’s doubtful that a glitchy booster pack will draw you back in. If you still play BF2 regularly however, the cost is a small one for having new maps that are intricately designed and seem genuinely popular online. The new aircraft merely liven things up.