Ultimate in war

For all of mankind's affirmations about loving peace, the theme of the world's most popular computer games is war.

Battlefield 2, a DVD-ROM in English by EA Games, distributed with a 22-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and a 1.7 gigahertz Pentium 4 PC or higher, for ages 14 through adult, NIS 229. - Rating: ***** For all of mankind's affirmations about loving peace, the theme of the world's most popular computer games is war. And this contemporary first-person shooter involving the US, an Arab "Middle East Coalition" and the Chinese, is the ultimate in combat software: There is no better game of this genre on the market. The first in the series was Battlefield 1942, which when released in 2002 presented team-based World War II battles in all its historical locations and was followed by Battlefield Vietnam. The conflicts in this new version are imaginary, but still highly realistic, and as in the previous two disks, war is humanized: Combatants' surnames and initials are shown on the screen in blue letters, and you are told who killed whom, even when it is "friendly fire" in which a member of the same army accidentally shoots or runs over a compatriot. Although bodies are catapulted into the air when a military base is hit by bombs, and you hear soldiers' last breath and see their bodies shake when they are about to die, you see absolutely no blood or disfigurement. The opening scene is a heart-stopping, computer-generated scene of soldiers fighting for their lives. It ends abruptly and you - who can serve as a commander, squad leader or plain "grunt" depending on your choice - are told: "Welcome to duty!" The singleplayer mode, which pits you solely against the computer, offers 10 different "maps" (levels) and allows 16 soldiers to fight at once. The superior multiplayer mode, which requires an Internet connection, offers 12 maps and accommodates up to 64 simultaneous fighters. You can join any of the three armies: If you've decided not to be an American but rather to serve in the Chinese or Middle East Coalition (most of whose soldiers look like a bearded Saddam Hussein), you will hear all walkie-talkie communications soldiers in genuine Chinese or Arabic, but the English translations of dialogue conveniently appear on the top-left of the screen. To prevent chaos and confusion, the soldier you play can communicate only with others in the same unit or his commander; squad leaders can talk to higher ups who need to call for artillery fire or supplies. The aim in each scenario is either to conquer outposts on a map or destroy all the "tickets" (representing soldiers) each time they appear. These "tickets" can be "respawned" (brought back to life) up to 220 times, depending on the map. You can even make soldiers commit "suicide" (disappear as if by magic, not by shooting himself) so they can be resuscitated and fight elsewhere, and bookmark and replay successful battles as if they were basketball games. At the commander's disposal are a radar scan showing enemy positions, an unmanned aerial vehicle that beams a smaller area for team members, and logistical support to replenish supplies. You divide soldiers among different classes - Special Forces, anti-tank, sniper, assault, support, engineers and medic - and call in the latest tanks, helicopters, war planes and other combat paraphernalia. Unlike most first-person shooter war games, Battlefield 2 is not a solo experience, but requires orchestration of a team that must cooperate to triumph. The highest grade of graphics and advanced technology provide stunning scenery ranging from the deserts of Oman to Chinese forests. Down to the last detail, everything is authentic: Signs on the dusty Middle Eastern roads are in Arabic, tree branches quiver as a copter is about to land, lakes and streams reflect the cloud patterns. Demanding a very powerful computer, the game is played at easy, veteran and expert levels of difficulty and plays out differently each time. Nevertheless, Battlefield 2 fans will surely clamor for more map levels so they can fight this war forever.