Battlefield 2: Modern Combat Review

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is the first game in the Battlefield series for consoles.  Starting with Battlefield 1942, the series has garnered much fan support on the PC platform for its excellent multiplayer play.  The huge fan support for the series has spawned a number of sequels and mods.

This time the battle is on your console and in a near future.  The battle rages between the United States, the Middle East Coalition, the Chinese and the European Union.  Ranging from offline single-player to an immense online battlefield of 24 people at one time, the game promises a lot of excitement.

While I’m not a fan of FPS games on a console due to the limitations of the controls, I decided I was going to give this game a fair shake and rate it for what it is, and not what it isn’t, which is a PC game.  With that in mind, I dove into the firefight that is Battlefield 2: Modern Combat.  Come along with me for the ride, and let’s see who comes out on top.

Digital Illusions must be commended for the graphics in Battlefield 2: Modern Combat.  The environments are heavily detailed and look natural, the buildings look weathered or shiny as appropriate.  Each soldier looks different and it’s noticeable even at a quick glance.  Even the trails from tracers, tank rounds or missile launches are gorgeous.  It’s really amazing the amount of graphical detail they were able to pull out of the Playstation 2.

The graphics aren’t the only thing that shines, as the animations of the vehicles and people also are incredibly detailed.  Picking off an enemy trooper from 200 meters away with a sniper rifle at max zoom lets you see the corpse collapse, almost always in a different and natural manner.  There was even an instance where it was worth watching a snipered target slump, slide down a roof, then fall to the ground.  The HUD even gets into the action, keeping almost entirely out of the way in the corners, only bringing information to the middle of the screen when requested or when objectives change.

The only major drawback that can be mentioned on the graphics deals with fine details.  One example is in the opening mission sequence when you’re watching troops leave a troop transport and notice that their hands look like toy soldier hands.  No fingers, just a curved shape to them.  It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s not that noticeable when it does, but it can be jarring at times.

The music in Battlefield 2: Modern Combat definitely gets you in the mood to kick some ass and take some names.  It’s martial with a heavy bass line which does a good job at keeping you in the mood for war.  Other various bits of music also blend in with what’s going on to keep you immersed in the action.

The sound effects are likewise stellar, with each weapon having a different sound from the chatter of a sub-machine gun to the pop of a pistol down to the heavier crack of a sniper rifle blowing some poor soul’s head off.  Tanks, light vehicles and helicopters also get into the action with a variety of authentic-sounding effects.  Considering the track record with Battlefield 2, it’s no great surprise.  The addition of friendly chatter as you’re fighting, keeping you up to date with where targets are, other people in the area and changes in the situation is also highly appreciated.

The voices, unfortunately, are a mixed bag.  While the newscasters for both sides speak very solid English and could easily fit in with any reporter on CNN or the Chinese equivalent, the same can’t honestly be said for some of the Chinese and Middle Eastern voices, which sound almost stereotypical.  One almost wishes that they had taken the Splinter Cell route and allowed the option for native tongues to be used with subtitles for the mission briefings, but in the long run, it’s more of a minor issue and really only matters if you get into voices in games to begin with.

If you’re used to any other shooter on a console, the odds are that Battlefield 2: Modern Combat won’t give you any problems.  The left analog stick moves your soldier or vehicle while the right analog stick moves your aiming reticule with an upward push moving the reticule downward and vice versa.  In helicopters, however, the right analog stick controls the pitch and rotation of the helicopter while the targeting reticule is tied into the steering.

R1 is your fire button while R2 handles changing weapons or changing camera viewpoints in vehicles.  On foot, the L1 button moves you in steps from prone to crouch to stand as well as handling jumping while L2 moves you from stand to crouch to prone.  A double-tap of the L2 button will take you in a single movement from standing to prone position.  In land vehicles, however, L1 and L2 are acceleration and braking, respectively.

Pressing the R3 button will zoom in your weapon, depending on its capabilities.  Circle reloads your weapon, X enters or ejects you from a stationary weapon or vehicle while triangle opens and closes your parachute while falling.  Square, in single player mode, hot-swaps you to another ally troop if you’re pointing towards them. 

Vehicles change things a bit more with the triangle changing vehicle position from driver to gunner for example while square changes to a gunner view in single player mode, if a gunner is present.

Multiplayer changes it quite a bit more, adding in the ability to speak (if you have a headset) by pressing square while triangle picks up a kit.  You can toggle a 3D map by pressing the directional pad left.  Pushing the directional pad right toggles the flag type and distance indicator while moving the pad up or down zooms the map or minimap.  Start gives you a combat zone overview screen while select brings up the scoreboard. 

For the most part though it doesn’t take that much time to get used to, especially if the aiming sensitivity is turned all the way up, which was a tip that was given to me by one of EA’s tech support staff.  Firing, aiming and movement are all relatively easy.  Flying helicopters and driving the various vehicles is a bit tougher, but still not completely impossible to pick up in a few minutes’ time.

One minor issue is with the manual and the in-game tutorial.  The manual itself is almost non-existent, weighing in at eight pages.  With a manual that skimpy, I’d personally expect a decent tutorial mode.  Unfortunately, all you get is two video tutorials, one dealing with the HUD while the other deals with the various bonuses in the game.  It was somewhat distressing, although the in-game help does help just a little bit in that, showing you various tips as they’re required in the gameplay.

The concept of Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is a simple one.  Sometime in the near future, or an alternate past, the ex-Soviet republics begin to splinter.  It begins with conflict in Kyrgyzstan, which draws China in on one side and NATO troops in on the other.  It spreads from there, bringing in the Middle East, which is always a topical choice in a war game. 

In the single player mode, you’ll take the role of each side in turn, waging battles against the other.  Each mission comes up and you’re given a set of objectives to fulfill.  Similar to playing single-player Battlefield 1942 with bots, when you die you respawn as another soldier.  A new quirk to the gameplay is the ability to hotswap yourself into another of your allies at any time, as long as you’ve got a line of sight connection with them.  This can get a bit confusing, especially in heavily forested or urban environments.  Still, it’s an interesting ability and is completely necessary in the game play. 

The game is immense, consisting of 200 missions as well as numerous challenges and mini-games to play.  The goal, other than beating each mission, is to collect stars to gain rank from Private all the way up to General.  Stars are gained by your stats during the missions.  The faster you complete an area, the more stars you get.  The more points you gain, the more stars.  The higher your accuracy, the more you use hot-swap and the less you die.  Dying, unfortunately, hits you twice as hard as anything, as you lose stars for various levels of deaths as well as losing 5,000 points per death.  If you imagine, however, that each mission is 5-10 minutes long (and they can be longer), that gives the game a solid sixteen to thirty-two hour length.  Throw in the mini-games, challenges, hidden items and the quest to get as many stars as you can and the game easily passes 20-30 hours.  Add in multiplayer and you’ve got possibly hundreds of hours of play.

Speaking of multiplayer, EA has put together a robust multiplayer game here with the assistance of Gamespy.  Featuring 24 players in battle at a time, the action gets fast and furious.  In multiplayer mode you’ve got two types of gameplay:  Conquest and Capture the Flag. 

Conquest is familiar to any BF1942 or BF2 players.  In that mode, each team tries to take command of the control points on the map while fighting off the enemy.  Once you hold a majority of the control points, the other side begins losing tickets rapidly, and the first team to run out of tickets loses.  Capture the flag is also familiar and is exactly what it seems.  Of course, your own flag has to be safe before you can capture the other team’s flag, and the winner is the team with the most captures at the end of the time limit. 

The nice thing about multiplayer is the amount of support given.  You can maintain a friends list, create clans and even challenge other clans.  A robust leaderboard is maintained which tracks just about everything imaginable.  About the only real drawback to multiplayer other than, of course, the other players at times, is the size of the maps.  Granted, you can’t expect a huge map like in a PC game to make an appearance, and the online maps and the single-player maps compare in size, but it would have been nice to have some sprawling areas to make conquest mode a bit less like a skeet-shoot.  Although part of me wonders how many soldiers go into battle without carrying at least two grenades.


Normally in this section I’m looking for reasons to play the game more than once through.  In this case, I don’t have to look far.  When a game has two hundred missions and then adds in minigames, challenges and the desire to increase your score in previously done missions to unlock further content, and then throws multiplayer on top of that? 

Well, if you’re a shooter-fan, we’re talking Diablo II levels of replay value.  It doesn’t get any simpler than that.  Of course, if you don’t like shooters, it’s still an amazingly fun game, warts and all.  There’s a lot of gameplay here for the buck, even if you don’t bother going online at all.  The single player is amazingly fun and will take someone at least twenty hours to go through without replaying anything at all, without finding all of the fuel depots and road signs and aerials to destroy or without doing any of the challenges.  If time is spent smelling the roses, so to speak, this game has a lifespan easily pushing fifty to sixty hours.  Again, throw multiplayer into the mix and we’re talking hundreds of hours.

Is it worth fifty bucks?  Most definitely.  While the game isn’t a must-own unless you’re a fan of shooters on consoles, it’s still amazingly worth the money.

When I got this game to review, I really wasn’t looking forward to it much.  I’m not personally a fan of shooters, especially on consoles.  However, after a talk with someone in tech support at EA and some settings tweaks, I gave it a fair shake. 

Simply put, the game blew me away in the first mission.  It’s not perfect, no game is, but for all of the minor problems the game’s got, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.  While it’s not quite as good as Battlefield 2 for PCs, it’s still a great game for the Playstation 2.

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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