I wrote a bit about Project Reality when 0.8 was released as it was my first experience with it. After my gaming break I recently rebooted up the franchise in it’s 0.95 version. This Battlefield 2 mod does so much right for my gaming style and in general, that I want to share, promote, hug it, and force all of my Call of Duty/bunny hopping/Medal of Honor/dolphin diving friends to play it. And appreciate it.
A bit of history – the mod is created by Black Sand Studios, which is a group of FPS enthusiasts who decided to improve the realism level of Battlefield 2 way back in 2004. They do a lot of modding of various titles but Project Reality is their flagship. It is one of those ‘labour of love’ projects, as the mod is free to the community.
In the most simplest of comparisons, PR is EQ if Call Of Duty is WoW. That’s not meant to scare you off – there isn’t progression in PR (it’s a 64 multiplayer map game) but strip down all the silly from what we get in new FPS titles, and all the fluff that detracts from the experience, and you have the most solid core gameplay for any FPS out there with depth, consequence, reward and decision making that is sadly absent in the FPS of 2010.
More PR goodness after the break.
A short bullet list of what you can expect to changes to core infantry mechanics:
- Shooting is challenging – there are no crosshairs. You have to scope in to have a chance to hit a target, and bullets deviate. At long ranges you even have to account for bullets dropping.
- There are no indicators of where you are being shot FROM. Yes, you hear the bullet whizzing by your head but if doesn’t hit the wall beside you you have no clue. There are no red indicators that magically pop up on the screen letting you know.
- Damage is meaningful. You won’t self regenerate. Once you go below 75% health (which doesn’t take much to do) you will slowly bleed out without medical attention. The screen also makes it harder to see or do anything until you get that medical attention, ensuring that when you are hit your main goal is to survive to fire back. Parts of the screen turn red, and the closer you get to death the harder it is to be aware of your environment.
- Running while firing, or throwing a grenade, etc. makes it more challenging to hit your target. Bunny hopping, dolphin diving, jump-throw grenading doesn’t work.
- You have to identify your targets. Holding your crosshairs over a friendly will pop up their name – in time (depending on how far away they are).
- There are no mini maps in the infantry game (you can call up a map, which takes up half of your screen, to see where friendlies and assets are) but it isn’t as simple as looking top right to see if that movement in front of you is a teammate or an enemy. If you aren’t careful, by the time you figure it out you are already dead.
- Teamwork is not only encouraged, but pretty much necessary to have any level of success. Running off on your own is an in game death sentence, and even snipers prefer to travel with a spotter.
- Kits are limited – only X number of each kit per squad or map (with a recharge timer) putting extra value on the scarce kits, and also ensuring that the game doesn’t have 20 snipers or anti tank running around aimlessly.
- You don’t get credit for a kill right away – so if you really want to know if you killed the enemy behind the bunker, you need to go check. There isn’t much more disappointing or as scary as walking up to a bunker where you thought you just hit someone, and the body isn’t there. Your hits and misses aren’t tracked visibly – it’s what you see in your scope that counts.
That is a short list of things, it is definitely something you have to experience for yourself. You notice I talk a lot about the infantry game – that is how I primarily play. As mentioned there is quite the learning curve, and I haven’t taken the jump into the jets, transport choppers, attack helis, etc. They do all pay a key role (as expected) and are limited as assets. Due to the way players move and respawn on the 4km by 4km maps they are essential. Some seasoned pilots may spend the entire round just moving troops around the battlefield – it is always a challenge and takes a good level of skill to move troops safely and securely.
PR does much of vehicle combat well. Squad Leaders can laser target enemy assets for Close Air Support (CAS) and if your squad is pinned from moving due to a tank on the horizon, call in the air strike and move along. Of course, you can only do that if you have a level of air superiority, and it is a game layer that plays out while your troops work towards objectives.
While there are static assets (such as in starting bases), a key gameplay element is that soldiers can build their own. Forward Bases, MG nests, HAT, Foxholes, barbed wire – your squad can build mini bases (or single assets) in and around the map strategically and at need. This adds a strategy element as your team can build strong defensive or offensive positions throughout.
There are several game modes in PR, the most popular being Assault and Secure (AAS) – similar to capture points but teams only have limited options – you can only ‘cap’ objectives based on which you currently hold. This funnels the battle (usually into 1 or 2 objectives) while make sense of supply chains. No stealth squad back capping possibilities. The more interesting mode is Insurgency – where one team defends hidden Ammo Caches on a map, and the other has to find and destroy them. This game mode is balanced with the indigenous force being on home turf – unlimited tickets – and the attacking force having better technology. Caches can be found by searching for them, or by accumulating Intel points (enemy kills, captures, etc) which will then reveal the cache on the map. It’s an exciting easter egg hunt with guns.
Oh, did I mention you can make a mortar fire base, and fire across the map with the correct coordinates and skill level, in a team environment loading, locating target areas, relaying aiming, and defending the mortar pits? There is something special about advancing on a target, hopelessly outnumbered and in danger, and radioing a separate squad who can soften up the enemies position before moving in. It is all really well done. A good back and forth round can last a couple of hours.
I could write an awful lot about the game but am afraid I am not even doing it justice. The modelling and map work done to it makes the mod almost 4 GIGS in size. If you have any interest whatsoever in the first person shooter genre, and find most available experiences shallow and lacking challenge, go to www.realitymod.com, download and play. Read around the forums. Read the manual. Take the time and patience to get a feel for the game, and then enjoy the experience. I’m not picking on the TF2, COD’s of the world as I enjoy those games for a different reason. Much like in MMO space, current FPS titles are offering the same, often bland, experience. Project Reality offers something much different, and in context, much more spectacular than what you are used to.
I’ve said it before – someone needs to give Black Sand Studios a budget so they can move their creative talents from tweaking an existing game platform and realize their full potential and vision.