Xbox 360 is granted another first person shooter to join the ranks of Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark, Quake and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter; however this time the onus is on a mixture of arcade thrills combined with a slight tactical edge. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat or Battlefield 2 as it will now be referred to, was released on Xbox last year and was a huge success as it combined an extensive single player campaign alongside some healthy online multiplayer. Well Battlefield 2 on Xbox 360 is pretty much identical to its Xbox cousin yet how does it fare against the meatier Xbox 360’s growing crowd of shooters?
We’ve all been there, you know, staring down the barrel of some on screen weapon; scanning a digital horizon for anything that moves and then letting rip with synthesised gunfire at the press of a button. Countless games and in fact game time is spent doing just that for many gamers day in, day out. Well familiarity is one thing that perhaps drives first person shooters as many have an instant pick up and play feel to them so that gamers who are proficient in one game will most likely carry that through onto other games, even if they’ve not been played before.
Battlefield 2 is no exception and to begin the single player portion of the game will be something familiar for most first person shooter fans. This time round players take on the roles of various troop types involved in a Chinese and NATO fictitious conflict. Every first person shooter has to have some sort of unique feature that propels it from simply being a clone with different clothing of previous games. Well in Battlefield 2, players can “Hotswap” which means that during the course of play at the touch of a button, can warp to another AI character and take control of him. Imagine Agent Smith from the Matrix movies and you get the idea (although swapping doesn’t kill the soldier when you exit the body). Hot Swapping allows you to move into better positions depending on what the enemies throw at you and also allows you to switch character class on the fly. The character classes come in several varieties and are Sniper, Assault, Support, Special Ops and Engineer all of which have their own weapons sets and unique abilities. The Sniper for example is able to call in targeted fire on land and air based vehicles whereas the Engineer is able to repair vehicles and comes equipped with a meaty RPG and shotgun combo.
The hot swapping also serves as another method of utilizing another of Battlefield 2’s features, which is the ability for any soldier to commandeer numerous vehicles. The vehicles range from dune buggies, tanks, helicopters, various APC’s, and like the character classes come with their own weapons sets and strengths. The hotswap and ability to drive vehicles works very well and is very intuitive to use. It also provides for a differing playing experience due to the fact that it’s very hard keeping a single starting unit alive. This means that gamers need to be able to use all of the classes during play if they are to succeed as being sniper one moment might not be of use in the next.
The missions themselves take place in various climes and come in a variety of forms including some air based missions too. The missions usually require completing objectives that are marked on a map which is permanently displayed on the screen. Clearing one objective normally triggers a second and so on and it is here where the hot swap feature is very useful as you are able to travel from one end of the map to another in a short space of time. The enemies during the missions come at you and your AI buddies with everything they have which is basically the same equipment and units that you have including the tanks and helicopters!
The combat in Battlefield 2 is as I originally stated, very familiar and will take players minutes to get stuck in like a pro. There’s certainly an arcade feel about aiming and shooting although the game does cry out tactics. Unfortunately during the single player game, tactics are pretty much obsolete as the friendly AI mostly dictates the pace of the missions (generally very fast paced). Killing is satisfying and although enemies life bars are displayed (for vehicles at least) it feels solid enough to remain fun and precise as weapons all have a nice kick to them.
Graphically Battlefield 2 looks convincing and although not as nice looking as you would expect from Xbox 360. It does have some neat details which are more noticeable at close range such as high resolution textures on the ground. At a greater distance it’s clear to see better textures in general compared to the Xbox version, but these still don’t detract from the fact that Battlefield 2 is most likely a port. In its favour, Battlefield 2 does have plenty of action occurring what with numerous enemies and team AI as well as the map sizes being quite big with lots of intricacies such as buildings which can be entered and infrastructures of alleyways. There are some physics in use which are in particular satisfying to see when blowing up vehicles, especially helicopters which crash back down to earth in multiple pieces.
The sound is as you would expect from a military shooter with the usual assortment of typical mission brief from a commanding officer to the radio banter from the troops on the ground during missions. The other sound effects such as gunfire and explosions are as you would expect and in fact are what could be describe as generic, but in a nice way. Amongst all the chatter, gunfire and explosions there is also a blistering soundtrack that does in fact pump up the action and add that little more tension to proceedings. Certain war games ditch the music for a more ambient and realistic flavour whereas Battlefield 2 goes for the jugular and pumps out the music in full effect; I like this as it seems fitting with the arcade nature of the game.
The single player will take some time to beat not due to overwhelming length per se but mostly due to its difficulty which requires some trial and error attempts. The last missions which players can choose to affiliate with NATO or the Chinese are in particular very tough to beat. Each mission awards players with stars and if certain actions are performed achievements as well. A mission ranking is gained between levels and players are encouraged to replay missions to try and beat their previous score. There are also various un-lockable challenges which feature using the hot swap under a time limit to driving and weapons use. In this respect there’s plenty to do for non Live connected players.
For those connected to Live or System link then a whole new ball game is opened as half of Battlefield 2’s appeal lies in its multiplayer modes online. Battlefield 2 allows for 12 versus 12 games across conquest and capture the flag game modes. The servers are handled by EA and so players can drop into games and hopefully get a lag free game going. The online play is pretty much identical to the single player with the exception of not being able to hot swap and the absence of AI. It’s up to players to co-ordinate themselves into tactical teams although this rarely seems to be the case or so be it in the 50 plus games I’ve played thus far. The more organised clans are probably where it’s at to get the most from the game as I’ve seen all sorts of unruly actions in random games. Things like team killing or even players rushing off to get to the helicopters at the beginning of the game only to lose control and crash into the ground killing all occupants! Either way the online play is very fun as your team gains and holds various points on the map in conquest mode. What I particularly like is the fact that players are able to do their own thing or form small teams to perform co-ordinated attacks. A favourite for the lone players is to drive far from the map hotspots and snipe from a bush in the surrounding hills! The visual range is very good and although there is some fogging it does allow you to see targets that are almost miles away.
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is a welcome addition to the Xbox 360 roster of shooters and whilst it doesn’t offer that much difference to other shooters other than its freeform play it is a game which contains pick up and play action. The single player is perhaps weaker than the online play but still has enough for a purchase especially as it’s not as tactical as Ghost Recon and should appeal to more casual players. The arcade element and the fact that players have reasonable freedom means that most gamers should find Battlefield 2 to be an entertaining game. Sadly the conquest modes aren’t usable offline versus AI bots which would have added another layer for those not online connected. In general I have had a good experience with Battlefield 2 especially online which is where the real fun begins.