Ever since Battlefield 1942 arrived on the scene, EA and DICE have had a multiplayer PC juggernaut on their hands with the Battlefield franchise.  Battlefield 2 was released last year with great fanfare and became a critical and commercial success.  The game was restricted to the PC though because consoles didn’t have a large online audience.  Battlefield was also heavily restricted as a multiplayer game since it didn’t ship with any single-player element.

A lot has changed in the gaming market since then.  Multiplayer online console gaming became a reality when Xbox Live was released and Sony released their PS2 Network Adaptor.  Titles like Halo 2 and SOCOM made online multiplayer gaming a viable alternative to the PC.  EA saw this and believed they could create another hit with Battlefield 2 Modern Combat.  The Xbox and PS2 versions were released late last November, but the Xbox 360 was left out of the party.  Now EA has released the Xbox 360 version, but is this the same game with a few improvements or a major overhaul?

Battlefield 2 Modern Combat comes complete with a single-player campaign that helps you understand the mechanics of the game before jumping into the multiplayer, a first for the Battlefield series.  Once you venture into the multiplayer, the true test of your abilities begins.

The original BF2MC for the Xbox had disappointing graphics.  However, the Xbox 360 version does look better.  If you were expecting a large upgrade in the graphics to make it look like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  The polygon counts are still painfully low for an Xbox 360 game, even if the polygon models have gotten a slight upgrade.  It’s pretty sad when you feel like you can count the number of polygons on the weapon you are holding.  The textures are better, with a clean and sharper look to them, but the textures don’t look like they have been enhanced that much.  The explosions are another matter.  They are big and bright, with the particle effects spreading all over the area and smoke billowing up.

Characters movements look fairly realistic up close, smoothly changing position and running from position A to position B.  However, when you are further away, the animations don’t look as good.  Characters skate instead of run along the ground, and their movements are jumpy, losing several frames of animation in their movements.  The different classes do look distinct though.  You’ll be able to tell the difference between riflemen, engineers, and snipers.

If the landscapes had more detail to them, the less than stellar character models could be forgiven a little easier.  When looking at buildings, the textures look pretty bare.  While some of the environments have grass for snipers to lay low in, most of the areas don’t have any environmental detail.  Most of the land areas are flat, with only certain areas having any real changes in elevation.  You are able to distinguish between a jungle environment and an arctic area, but each environment has a similar boringness to it.

The bottom line is that the graphics are better than the Xbox version, the Xbox 360 version doesn’t look all that much better.

The music in BF2MC is memorable, but it’s the same used in the original game.  The snare drum rat-a-tat drives the music.  The horns and other percussion give you the feeling of a small army brass band playing during the menu screens.

If you have a surround sound system, BF2MC gives you a total sense of your surroundings. At times you turn your head to see what is behind you, when actually it’s just coming from the speaker.  Your team shouts at you in the language of the country you are fighting for, giving the game a bit more air of authenticity.  There are visual clues as well on the screen, incase you don’t understand the language.  However, your teammates are nearly silent, only shouting very rarely.  While there are times when you want to be silent, in the heat of combat the voices should reflect the chaos.  The biggest problem with the audio is that it can be a bit too chaotic at times, and the direction you need to head towards isn’t clear from the sound clues you are given.

The control scheme has changed slightly from the original Xbox version.  Movement is handled with the familiar analog sticks as you’d expect.  Clicking in the right analog stick zooms in when your weapon allows it.  The Left Trigger changes your position from standing to crouching to prone.  The Left Bumper brings you to your feet when prone and jumps when you are on your feet.  The Right Trigger fires your weapon and the Right Bumper changes your weapon in conjunction with the right analog stick.

The D-pad has many functions.  Pushing to the left toggles the large map in the single-player mode.  Pushing Right toggles the flags on the screen.  Pushing Up and Down zooms in and out on the mini-map.

The face buttons are completely changed from the Xbox version.  Hitting X lets you speak to your teammates in the multiplayer mode.  Using Y picks up items.  The B button reloads your weapon.  Finally, using A uses items, enters and exits vehicles, and positions you behind stationary weapons.

X in the single player mode has a “hotswap” feature.  When you have an ally in your sight and you hit the x, time stops and your consciousness is transported into that player.  It’s a pretty cool feature, but sometimes you aren’t facing the way you want to be facing when you hotswap into another character.

The aiming is tight enough that you can control precise weapons like a sniper rifle, but you can move around fast when using semi-automatic weapons.  There are times when you have the ability to command vehicles.  Driving vehicles takes some practice though as it isn’t as natural to do with the left analog stick.

The game manual for BF2MC is woefully short, coming on only eight pages.  The Campaign and Challenges should assist you before going into the online arena though.  Challenges focus on a specific mechanic of the game.  These include driving vehicles, firing weapons, and the hotswapping ability.

The Campaign is a string of missions connected by a loose story.  A mission briefing is shown before each mission explaining the objective.  However, you don’t really need to listen to it as mission points are displayed after the mission briefing.  They are connected by a very loose story, but you really don’t care that much about it.

The objective of the Campaign and Challenges is to get stars and medals.  Medals show the accomplishments you have achieved in the Campaign, such as hitting a certain number of enemies with a single clip or a single shot.  In the Campaign, you earn stars by earning a certain number of points, completing the objectives in a certain amount of time, playing as a team player (switching to other allies), and not gaining too many casualties.  In the Challenges, you can earn up to three stars depending on how well you accomplish the Challenge.  While earning one star will be a cakewalk and two stars will be difficult but gotten after a few tries, but three stars will require perfect execution.

As you earn stars, you increase your rank.  Starting as a Private, you rise up in rank all the way up to a 5-Star General.  As you earn ranks, you also earn more equipment to use for the different classes you play as.  As you complete more Campaign missions, more Challenges are unlocked as well.  Getting to the rank of 5-Star General will take a while to achieve.

The screen shows a variety of tools to assist you in your mission.  A minimap in the upper right hand corner shows enemy troops, teammates, vehicles, and objectives.  Underneath it is an objective dial.  This includes a Key Target counter that shows you what key targets have been completed.  Surrounding the Key Target counter is a Balance of Power ring, which shows your strength and the enemy’s strength on the map.  Surrounding the minimap is an enhancement dial.  This dial fills up as you continuously hit enemies.  The enhancements include increased strength and increased firepower.

As you play the mission, you are part of a squad.  You are able to play as any member of the squad.  To switch who you are playing as, line up the icons above the player you want to control through your sight and hit the hotswap button.  Time stops and you get a view of your consciousness slipping away into the new player.  Unfortunately, this button is used often.  That’s because your allies seem to be a bit brain-dead at times.  While they will assist in making kills, they are also prone to sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of open areas.  If you are low on health and try to switch out to another character, your old character will most likely try to run out, guns blazing instead of taking cover.  Since you can lose stars if you reach too many casualties, it can get frustrating with the number of boneheaded moves your teammates make to get themselves killed.

The multiplayer is a huge draw for BF2MC.  With over a dozen maps, over 30 vehicles, 50 weapons, and the ability to play with up to 24 players on a map, there shouldn’t be a lack of variety with the game.  Unfortunately, a few issues drop the score of the game in this department.

First, there are two multiplayer game modes.  In Conquest mode you need to take control of command points to drain the enemy’s “tickets.”  Tickets are the number of soldiers remaining for the round.  The first team to lose its tickets loses the match.  The other mode is the typical Capture the Flag mode.  The object is to steal the flag from the enemy’s base and return it to your base.  The team who completes that the most times when time runs out wins.

From the Xbox Live menu you can access your Friends list, join an Optimatch or Quick Match, Create and Join a Clan, and set your in-game options.  Doing well increases your rank, similar to your single player rank.  You earn points by taking out enemies, healing teammates, repairing friendly vehicles, or driving a vehicle when a passenger scores a kill.  Your single player and multiplayer ranks are kept separate, so you start off as a private again.

Five different troop types are available: Assault, Sniper, Special Ops, Engineer, and Support.  Assault is an offensive troop with the most weapons.  The Sniper uses long-range weapons and a laser target designator.  Special Ops are trained in stealth, so his guns have silencers.  Engineers can fix vehicles and also pack a punch with a rocket launcher and anti-vehicle mines.  Support soldiers are a combat troop mixed with a medic, carrying a machine gun and fragmentation grenades alongside his medkit.

The maps are large, so you will need to have a vehicle to get around.  Luckily, there often are some near the spawn point.  Going into enemy territory with a vehicle and trying to crash the party isn’t exactly the smartest idea.  Strategy is needed to complete the objectives of the maps.

My original complaint of BF2MC for the Xbox was the sad state of the servers when the game was launched.  While the new servers aren’t perfect, they have improved greatly.  Getting into a game is much easier.  Still, the score is dragged down because of the fact that BF2MC for the Xbox 360 really doesn’t seem to have many improvements over the Xbox version.

I have to admit, I took some parts of the Xbox review that I wrote because the two games are so similar, especially in the Gameplay and Value/Replay Value sections.  There are subtle changes, but nothing earth shattering.

If you haven’t played BF2MC for the Xbox or PS2, you might want to check this game out, as there is an active community and it appears that EA has corrected the server issues they had with the original Xbox version.  If you have played BF2MC or have BF2 for the PC, it is hard to say that the game is worth a purchase.  It’s a solid game, but with GRAW for the Xbox 360 and BF2 on the PC, other better options are available.