Battlefield 2: Modern Combat Review

Electronic Arts had a huge hit on their hands when Battlefield 1942 was released on the PC.  Combining combat on foot and in vehicles, Battlefield offered players the opportunity to meet with a greater number of players at one time than they had experienced before in a first-person shooter setting.  The focus was on multi-play, so the absence of a solo campaign wasn’t missed.  Since then EA has capitalized on the popularity of the series with Battlefield Vietnam and the recently released Battlefield 2.

Since then consoles have come a long way in online gaming.  The Xbox comes with an Ethernet port built in and an impressive infrastructure in Xbox Live. Sony allows PS2 owners the opportunity to go online with an online adapter that supports both broadband and dial-up connections.  Games like Halo 2 and SOCOM have large online followings, with communities and clans created specifically for those games.

Now EA brings Battlefield 2 Modern Combat to the Xbox and PS2.  While is has the same moniker as its PC counterpart, several differences distinguish the console versions.  Most noticeable of these differences is the inclusion of a single-player mode.  Can Modern Combat live up to the Battlefield name?

The graphics in BF2MC are disappointing.  From a distance, the graphics look rather ordinary.  Upon closer inspection, the issues really start to show.  The models are blocky, and the low-detail textures don’t enhance the look of the game.  When close to an object, it’s almost as bad as a texture from the original Doom.  The environment pop up is so bad at times you’ll see grass and other plants pop up a few feet in front of you.  While the explosions are decent, they don’t have as big of an impact as they should.

There are a few bright spots in the graphics.  The animations of the soldiers look realistic, especially after they are blown away next to a barrel.  The rag-doll physics do a great job of giving a realistic look to the game.  I even saw a soldier slide down an icy roof.  When hotswapping between players the effect is similar to the blur effect in Need for Speed Underground or the Burnout series.

While I can understand that some graphics might have to be sacrificed for speedy gameplay online.  When a game like Halo 2 has better graphics and has been out for over a year, the graphics like this are inexcusable.

The music in BF2MC is memorable.  I actually found myself remembering the tunes and humming it a bit to myself shortly after I was done playing the game.  However, it’s not something that will stick with you long term.

The sound effects are fine.  The weapons have the right weight and firing them is satisfying.  Engines of the vehicles rev and hum as you speed off to the next objective.

Playing BF2MC with a surround sound system gives you a total sense of your surrounding, and at times you’ll be turning your head around to see what is behind you.  The statuses of your team are shouted at you in the language of the country you are fighting for.  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.

While the controls are similar to most FPS games, there are a few differences.  Movement is handled with the familiar analog sticks.  A jumps, while B enters and exits vehicles and stationary weapons.  X changes your position from standing, crouching, and lying prone.  Y reloads your weapon in the multiplayer, while White handles that job in the single player.  Right trigger fires your weapon.

Switching weapons is handled with the Left trigger and the right analog stick.  Pulling the Left trigger brings up your weapons in a cross figure with the default weapon in the middle.  Moving the right analog sick selects the weapon in that direction.

Y in the single player mode has a “hotswap” feature.  When you have an ally in your sight and you hit the Y button, time stops and your consciousness is transported into that player.

Control is tight, and 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.  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 in at 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 while playing the missions.  These missions must be completed in order.

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.

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 where 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.

Unfortunately, EA seems to have issues with their servers on Xbox Live.  When trying to look at Optimatch options, I got the message that the server was busy.  I could enter a Quick Match without any problems, but this issue was disconcerting.  Even after installing an initial patch and the game having been out for a couple of weeks before I tested the Xbox Live multiplayer, there were still issues.  Until EA can get their servers more accessible, it’s hard to recommend the game for their multiplayer portion.  However, they are aware of the issue and they are working on it intently.

Battlefield 2 Modern Combat is a bit of a paradox.  While the graphics are poor, the sound is much more developed.  The controls are great for while on foot, but vehicles take some adjustment.  The single player element is well developed and never feels frustrating, while the multiplayer only includes two different modes of play and there are server issues.

After the legacy of the Battlefield games on the PC, BF2MC is a bit of a disappointment.  I am confident that EA can get their server issues resolved, but at least there is the single player to keep you occupied in the mean time.  The game is worth renting to check out the single player, but I would wait for the EA servers to become stable before adding this to your collection if you are a fan of the Battlefield series.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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