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Battlefield 2142 v1.20 patch dies on Vista

I’ve spent another fun day banging my head against a brick wall.  The light I’m starting to see is from the cracks in my skull…

I downloaded Battlefield 2142 via EA Link yesterday.  Being a good little user, I also downloaded and installed the v1.20 patch before even trying the game.  I figured that one of the main reasons for a patch on a game that was released late in 2006 would be to improve Vista compatibility, so why bother even trying the unpatched game.

After three or four hours of downloading, I started the game up.  The usual intro movie played, and the game menus appeared.  I selected single player game, instant action.  The screen went dramatically black, then popped back to the desktop with this error:

[1]

Some digging through forums (forii?) revealed many, many people complaining of this problem.  Most of them seemed to have Vista, and the general response from the happy-fun forum denizens: BF2142 isn’t Vista compatible, so install Windows XP.

Well, that’s not going to happen here.  So I went digging deeper.  Many theories focused around the PACE anti-piracy [2] features of BF2142, and involved removing the offending code in various ways.  I tried all the legitimate ways: removing registry entries and code folders, but BF2142 would consistently re-create them and presumably re-install PACE.  Other theories were related to various rights issues (I.E.: assigning the program admin rights).  None of these seemed to work either.

The last thing I tried was based on this post in a GameServers.net BF2142 forum. [3] The excerpt that caught my attention (original spelling/formatting errors included for free):

EA Link
Cannot install 2 thing ather eatsother, if you have installd something, you must EXIT the programm and re-login to install the next thing.

Battlefield 2142
runs in 32 and 64 bit mode

So, BF2142 works, but EA Link has a problem installing 2 things one after the other, at least according to this fellow.  I uninstalled, and re-did my install just of BF2142.  It worked!  Then I rebooted, and carefully installed the 1.20 patch.  After installing the patch, BF2142 failed as before.

So, the simple solution is to *not* install the 1.20 patch if you have Vista.  Unfortunately, without the 1.20 patch, you almost certainly won’t be playing online games with anyone.  Most multiplayer games require all players to have exactly the same version.

Ah well, at least I can play single player…once I uninstall and install it all over again.

Update: The version 1.25 patch also causes Battlefield 2142 to fail as noted above.  It appears this problem occurs under the following conditions:

If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that this is yet another instance where legitimate purchasers of licensed games get shafted by broken/disruptive copy protection schemes.  I suspect that, if I downloaded a warez version of BF2142, it would work just fine.