Reviewed: November 19, 2005
Released: October 25, 2005
Earlier this year I got to review Battlefield 2 for the PC and found it to be one of the most engaging PC war game titles of the year. It takes a lot to get me out of my squad-based Tom Clancy “shell”. I’ve got my clan and my close group of friends who regularly play online and none of them are too willing to jump into the larger scale battles of the Battlefield franchise.
When I heard that the game was making the move to the console I wasn’t all that interested, especially when I heard the designers were putting more focus and emphasis on solo gameplay. For a series that was built on multiplayer excellence, I couldn’t begin to imagine how DICE would pull this off, but somehow they did.
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.
Modern Combat certainly isn’t going to be competing with the PC version, especially if you are running it on a 7800 GTX card (or two), but it looks mighty good on the Xbox with massive battlefields and a great sense of scale. 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 details have gone into the soldier models and their fluid animation as well as some of the most detailed weapon models you can probably find in a console war game. The only negative thing I could say about the graphics is that they do fuzz out with some blurry textures, or perhaps they are trying to simulate heat distortion with some ripple filter. For some reason the game doesn’t offer any HDTV support so there are some jaggies and even some shimmering in places.
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 Communicator, 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.
I wouldn’t have minded some more maps and more modes, but there is support for new content downloads so we can always hope. Meanwhile, there is plenty here in both versus and team-based options to keep any soldier’s thirst for action satiated.
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.
This is the game Delta Force: Black Hawk Down wanted to be but failed miserably, and while you might only be able to have half as many soldiers in a game, you are going to have four times the fun of any other Xbox multiplayer war game out there, online or by yourself.