Reviewed: May 18, 2006
Released: April 11, 2006
This is my third tour of duty with Battlefield 2. Last year I reviewed the game on PC and Xbox and now I set forth once again to seize the day on the Xbox 360. Battlefield 2 for the PC was one of the most engaging PC war game titles of 2005; the Xbox version...not so much. It was good, just not as good. When I heard that the game was making the move to the Xbox 360 I wasn't interested, but curiousity ultimately got the best of me and here we are again.
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat takes most of what made the PC version great and brings it to the console along with some cool new features like a propaganda-fueled single player campaign where gamers see both sides of a conflict in one of the most treacherous regions in the world and Hotswapping, the ability to play any soldier on the battlefield, to make this game not only playable by the lone soldier, but surprisingly fun.
Console gamers looking to get a taste of what the PC community has been devouring for years now will find a lot to like with Modern Combat. It takes all the open-ended battlefield designs and throws in some intelligent objectives and missions, then tacks on a compelling story with multiple plots and some nice movies to preface and conclude the missions.
Modern Combat comes loaded with content including more than 30 vehicles for land, air, and sea, or you can get personal with more than 50 state-of-the-art firearms to blow up those vehicles, demolish buildings, or just kill the enemy.
There are multiple soldier classes so you can pick a “career” suited toward your style of play. If you like in-your-face action then go for the Assault class, or if you prefer long-distance death, try out the sniper. There are also classes for Special Ops, Combat Support, and Combat Engineer and you can actually get promoted the longer you play and rise from lowly Private all the way to General.
Soldiers can be upgraded with new weapons and equipment like a thermal vision attachment for your sniper scope, and you can also upgrade various soldier stats by performing well in the field or completing specific “unit challenges”. All of these elements really get you attached to your characters and make you want to keep them alive for as long as possible.
Of course the buzzword for Modern Combat is “Hotswapping”, the ability to instantly assume control over anybody within visual range of your current soldier. Example – you are taking cover in an alley and need to get across the street but an enemy tank is rumbling toward you. One of your men is perched on a nearby rooftop and happens to have an RPG. Just point at that man, press the hot swap button and you are now in control of him. Blast the tank with a rocket or two then return control back to your original soldier.
Hotswapping gives you unprecedented freedom on the battlefield to play the game however you wish and change your tactics on the fly. You no longer have to worry about quirky squad A.I. to back you up – you can run the whole show if you like.
For obvious reasons Hotswapping is not available in multiplayer. After all, this is where you are relying on other human players to back you up plus trying to build up that one special soldier and move him up through the ranks.
Despite the extra attention to the solo campaign there is still a healthy multiplayer experience in Modern Combat with more than a dozen special maps and support for up to 24 soldiers. Combine all of that with real-time voice communication, unparalleled stat tracking, rankings, and support for clans; this game comes very close to offering a PC Battlefield experience.
PC soldiers trying to decide whether they want to explore this console version are probably worried about controls. I was surprised at just how well the Xbox controller actually worked, especially on the vehicles, which I had always thought worked better on the PC with a gamepad. But even on foot, movement and aiming were precise enough to keep things playable. If there are any disadvantages due to lack of mouse and keyboard, everybody is affected by them.
Even the 360 version of Modern Combat can't compete with the PC, especially if you are running it on a GF7 series card, but it's getting a lot closer than the other console versions ever did. The battlefields are massive with a great sense of scale, and there are plenty of buildings and other natural elements you can use to take cover when tanks come rumbling by or choppers are buzzing you from above.
Special effects are decent with nice explosions and smoking fires. Gunfire will pop up little clouds of dust as you scramble for cover. The vehicles all offer multiple camera views, so you can decide to drive from the cockpit or from the chase view.
Most of the updates for the 360 verson of Modern Combat are visual. Expect to see much more details in textures, better ragdoll physics on soldiers, and powerful special effects in the areas of explosions, smoke, fire, and even subtle details like individual shell casings that collect around your feet. In-game models have all been updated with more polygons and better textures, allowing them to blow apart with greater detail. The framerate has been tweaked and the powerful 360 delivers solid, smooth gameplay. I should also mention that the game now supports all of the HDTV modes, something the original Xbox did not.
The music in Modern Combat is outstanding with plenty of military-style themes that really get the patriotic blood flowing. I wouldn’t have minding more selections, but most of the time I was paying more attention to the rest of the sound package.
Sound effects are simply flawless with each and every gun sounding like their real-life counterpart. The explosions are deafening and if you have a good sub-woofer you can probably wake the dead, or at least shake them up a bit. The Dolby surround does a good job of putting you in the middle of the action.
Modern Combat also supports the voice chat, which is essential in the team-based multiplayer games. Admittedly, the rest of the sound package loses its punch when you are listening to it through the headphones, but at this point the game is more of a simulation than a game.
The single player game with its multi-faceted story and four factions can easily last 20+ hours, but that is only the tip of the spear. Battlefield has always been about multiplayer and no matter how much story and Hotswapping tactics you stick in there, online play is what’s going to keep you coming back for months to come.
The 1,000 achievement points are spread across 46 objectives that are split almost evenly between single and multiplayer modes. Some, you'll earn without even trying and others will take hours of dedicated gaming to achieve.
Whether you are looking for an action-focused single-player war game or a fantastic multiplayer experience that rivals those Tom Clancy titles, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is a masterful bit of game design. They managed to put just enough single-player elements in to keep the game fun for the solo players while keeping everything intact for the online warriors.
But at the end of the day Modern Combat is nothing more than a visual facelift of last year's Xbox release, and while it looks damn good, I can't recommend buying it a second time (unless you can trade in you old copy for a good price), there just isn't anything new here. But new recruits looking for one of the best military games going, both online and off...well, let's just say we are looking for a few good men.