Battlefield 2142, a 99% online game, seems to be the runt of the litter in terms of the Battlefield franchise. Most people either don't know, or don't care about this game, which is really a shame considering what a great game it is. However, if you have the chance to pick it up at your local games store, do not hesitate!
2142 has the best replay value I've ever seen in a game. Because you have to rank up to unlock, there's always a constant motivation to play more and unlock that cool new gadget, because honestly, all the unlocks are awesome. Also, the maps are absolutely massive! Every time you play there's a new place to go, new camping spots to find, or new locations to fly your friends over to in a giant troop transport. While this means you will be playing for hours on end, it also presents a con. If you're ever forced to bail-out of a vehicle, and you're not close to the main action, you will spend quite some time walking around trying to find a vehicle to hitch a ride in. Don't bother asking somebody for a transport though, the voice communication in this game is dead.
One of the features boasted in the manual is VOIP chat. While it's true, the game does have VOIP chat, it is rarely used by players, often over-looked for teamspeak channels that change depending on the server. You will find every couple of matches that maybe one person will be on VOIP chat with you, and that just isn't as fun as talking to a whole clan via teamspeak, so don't be expecting anything great from the chat. If you only want to use chat to ask for supplies or health or something like that, they have pre-selected sentences that your character can say with the push of a button.
Now let's talk about the singleplayer. Unfortunately, 2142 lacks a campaign. Considering the epic intro before the game, I would have really liked to have a playable backstory to the events during the next ice-age. Fortunately, this game does have a singleplayer mode. It's basically just skirmishes against bots, whose difficulty you decide from level 1-100. This mode only seems useful if you want to practice sniping, learn map terrain, or are having a LAN party. If you're first starting out with the game, you'll also want to learn the ropes with this mode, because I will not lie - This game is HARD!
When you begin, you have only the basic unlocks. The catch 22 of ranking up is that it's hard to get kills when you have basic weapons and nothing at all to help you along your way. This just means that at the beginning of your soldier's career, the best way to rank up will be by playing a support role and letting your buddies do the killing. While this is less fun, it will soon pay off. Don't worry, it's ridiculously easy to rank up at the beginning, so you'll soon be blasting PAC and EU baddies with all the same equipment as your teammates. Also something to note, you can't earn points in singleplayer, so unlocks will have to be achieved online. You won't have to worry about waiting to enter a match either, all you do is select a server of your choice and jump right in.
Some of the superficial characteristics of the game, such as graphics, aren't superb. This is a game from 2006, and the graphics were probably toned down to allow for smoother online play because that's what this game is built almost 100% upon. The sound however, is excellent. Everything from frag explosions / ear-ringing to the miniguns on airships is spectacular (the first time you jump in a transport, you'll be blown away), so you don't even have to have a great sound system to feel immersed in the battlefield.
People will often try to compare this game to Battlefield Bad Company or Battlefield 2, but you have to understand that this game has a completely different style and dynamic than the other two and has to be treated as its own, rather than be compared to its franchise companions. One of the biggest things that distinguishes this game is the Titan mode. Only available in multiplayer, it's the most fun and interesting mode I've ever seen added to a game. There's a giant warship in the sky, and you have to take missile silos all over the map to take down its shields. Classic conquest style. The twist is that, once the shields are down, you have the option to infiltrate the Titan and blow it up from the inside. This means that, depending on your playing style, you can help your team anyway you want. It also means that although every map is outdoors, you always have the option of fighting in narrow corridors or cargo bays, whatever you like. This is probably the best feature of the entire game, and deserves great praise.
The final thing I want to talk about are the bugs. Like all online games, this game has bugs. These are probably noticed more in 2142 because it's purely online. I feel however, that DICE has done a great job of ironing them out, either in beta or in patches. Sometimes it will take about a minute of waiting once you enter the game, to see the spawn screen. Or your body may go inside the titan's frame when you die, preventing you from being revived (not respawned, revived). Although these, are not ideal, they need to be mentioned although they should not be the reason you decide not to buy this game.
All in all a great game, gets an A in my book, and under-appreciated by even the most hardcore Battlefield fan-boys.
Note: Because this is the GameTZ site, I should mention that trade value is not high because you create an online account based on your CD key, so it's permanent (account name cannot be changed, however this is only used for logging in and checking statistics). However if you do trade it and give the person your account information, you can have multiple soldiers so they can start from the beginning too.