Battlefield 2: Modern Combat
These days it seems that there are so many wartime shooters on the market that you could feasibly do the breaststroke through them. Many mediocre titles have come and gone, but EA is no chump when it comes to publishing games. Its Battlefield series got started with the 1942 installment back a few years ago and since then it has seen a few expansions and inevitably a sequel. While it has pretty much been an exclusive franchise to PC gamers Battlefield 2, in some form, has finally been released on the console market.
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat hit the streets back in 2005 for the PS2 and Xbox, but the 360 finally got its next generation hands on it as well. The game is pretty much the same as the other versions except there are some nicer graphics and a few online additions. Basically the game pits you in the role of different sides in a modern day conflict. From NATO to China and even a few other factions in between you'll be strapping on the bullet vest and packing grenades in no time.
Considering this is the first time that the series has been on home consoles newcomers may be a little confused at first to realize that you don't actually play as one single person. Instead (in the single player campaign) you control a whole battalion and can jump between them at any point. Well, assuming that they are alive and you are looking in their direction, that is. Each member of your squad has a little blue symbol above their head that shows you what soldier "class" they are. Once you look at them the symbol turns white. That's your cue to leap into their point of view.
It's a little disorienting at first to change positions so rapidly, but once you get accustomed to the system you'll love it. This feature is especially handy when a particular soldier is closer to an objective location than you are. If you also happen to kick the bucket while you're playing, don't worry. You'll just jump to the closest warrior on your team and take over them. Keep in mind though that if you are the last man in your squad standing the mission rests on your ability to stay alive; which is harder than you'd think.
Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't played a Battlefield game before, but I found the game to be very difficult at parts and a little too easy at others. There were moments in the single player game where enemy soldiers would just cut through my platoon like butter and there was nothing I could do to stop them. At other points the shoe was on the other foot and it seemed that I was an untouchable deity. It could have been just luck of the draw or whatnot, but the game's balance seemed a little off in the challenge department.
Given the unbalanced challenge in the game it should go without saying that a lot of that has to do with some spotty AI. Enemy soldiers do little more than run at you and shoot. Only a few times in my experience did I see an opponent duck for cover or try to flank me. Having played several games similar to Battlefield 2 in the past, I can honestly say that the AI here isn't the worst, but it's certainly not the best. Still, I guess there's something to be said for relentlessly getting pelted with bullets.
Digital Illusions (the development team) wanted to give the solo campaign a little more meat than just running and gunning. Unfortunately they didn't really succeed in that sense. Objectives and missions as a whole often just involved you going in and blowing stuff up to no end and finding a home for each of your bullets. Sometimes the pacing was shaken up by forcing you to do out of place recon missions, but those were few and far between. This is a game that features a lot of relentless shooting and it can get pretty mind-numbing. That being said, most of the game's structure seems to be directing traffic towards the addictive multiplayer.
Let's cut to the chase; I found the single player campaign to be rather mediocre with a few bits of fun tossed into the mix. The online play, however, really helped save the experience and is the driving force behind why I enjoyed the game as much as I did.
Online the game really changes the schematic and even though the action is borderline the same as you'll find in the single player campaign, it's much more immersive here. For starters there are two modes to tackle: Conquest and Capture the Flag. I'm sure if you are a first person shooter veteran (or even newbie) you can figure out what CTF is. It's the Conquest mode that I found to be the best and most addicting.
Conquest is essentially a hybrid of Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Capture the Flag. Two opposing factions go head to head to capture flag poles to raise their banner. The more that you control the better your standings will be and as long as you hold more than your enemy you'll win. It's a very simple concept that becomes so much more when you take into consideration that up to 24 gamers can play at a time.
The game becomes a virtual fragfest of epic proportions and in many ways it reminds me of Return to Castle Wolfenstein's online features. You can pick a certain class of soldier that you want to be and each has their own strengths. Assault is basically your straightforward fighter with a grenade launcher and assault rifle. Special Ops is a class designed with some C4 and knives in mind. Engineer is the rocket launcher, shotgun, and landmine carrying badass. Sniper should be self explanatory, but a nice addition to this class is that you carry a laser targeting device that can destroy enemy vehicles. Last but not least is the Support class which works as a medic, grenadier, and your one stop shop for mortar strikes.
Each soldier class is useful in their own right, but against certain enemies and on specific stages one always fits the job better than another. It all really boils down to what your specific playing style is, but it's better to get familiar with all classes so you know their capabilities. It's also important to get to know the 16 stages that are featured here so you know where the flag positions are. There's nothing worse than being called over to flag four and not having any idea where it is. Sure you can display the numbers and occupying flag on your HUD by pressing right on the directional pad, but sometimes that's not always practical.
Another saving grace for Battlefield 2's multiplayer is the fact that the environments are so large and to scale that it's daunting at first. You often need to grab a jeep or tank to drive to a location because if you tried to foot it you'd be looking at a minute long jog. If you're really feeling like having a good time you can also hop in a helicopter and fly around launching missiles at everybody. Keep in mind that if you have to bail from your bird you are also equipped with a parachute. That's handy stuff considering the transition between flying the helicopter and jumping into the city below is flawless, even with a map full of gamers.
As with most other Xbox 360 games Battlefield 2 features a ranking system and a big roster of achievements. The online ranking system is done purely by what you have accumulated for points. There are 46 achievements with a total of 1,000 points that you can grab online and off. For the most part they are based on your performance so you need to get X amount of kills with Y class in order to get the achievement. Needless to say with some stiff online competition actually getting these is a challenge all by itself.
After playing the single player campaign I have to admit that my opinion of Battlefield 2: Modern Combat wasn't the highest. The solo game was fine and all, but it felt a little too straightforward and linear in most missions. The AI wasn't the greatest in the world and the gameplay was full of nonstop action that got a little tiring after a while. Once I brought the fight online though I was hooked. The Conquest mode is simply amazing once you get right down to it and is easily the reason to pick this one up. EA's servers weren't without their share of hiccups, but overall the experience so far has been flawless.
Another area where Battlefield 2 excels is the visual department. Online or off this is one great looking game with a lot of nice textures and realistic animations. Environments are so full of detail and weight that they can often be a little daunting to tackle. Something as simple (as I mentioned earlier) as hopping out of a helicopter and parachuting into the middle of a battlefield is accomplished to the point that it's almost surreal. No matter which stage your playing in there's something that will impress you. Even if it is just watching a snowmobile drive over that landmine you placed earlier.
Unfortunately the game isn't without its underdeveloped areas. Shadows aren't very realistic and often times they seem to shimmer or get fuzzy for some strange reason. Death animations can be wonky at times as well since I've seen my soldier's arm grow three times as long and bend with two elbows. Sometimes soldiers would be walking around holding an invisible gun. I don't know if this was a by product of some lag on EA's server or what because I only noticed these glitches online.
The sound direction in Battlefield 2 is a little spotty in some areas. The music is great and the sound effects are decent enough, but the voice acting is absolutely abysmal. The in game announcer was the butt of a lot of jokes while I was playing online and on much more than one occasion I heard other gamers complaining about him. Needless to say; I concur. Then again, the repetitive and obnoxious announcer wasn't anywhere near as bad as the borderline insulting Chinese accent guy. It is easily one of the worst "accents" I have ever heard in a game and does nothing to break stereotypes. At least the technical "quality" of the sound is decent even if its content isn't.
If you own a 360 and you haven't played this game on the Xbox yet then you'll want to check this one out. The single player campaign isn't exactly amazing, but the online multiplayer is. I had so much fun playing Conquest that I forwent much needed sleep "just to play one more". Quite honestly I haven't done that since Halo 2 first came out. The graphics are very good and the immersive feeling in most every environment is unbelievable. The audio is quite the mixed bag with some of the most terrible voice acting I have heard in a while. Overall though Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is a fun wartime game with an addictive online mode and plenty of things to do otherwise.