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Battlefield 2: Modern Combat

Score: 82%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Digitial Illusions (DICE)
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 24 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

If you aren't familiar with the Battlefield series, you've more than likely heard of or at least played one of the multitude of copycat games that popped up in the wake of popularity that followed Battlefield 1942. This is the series that originated the idea of large, open battlefields littered with all manner of vehicles where two teams of players could blow each other up to their heart's content. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat brings the series to the PS2, and though the console iteration isn't quite as good as the PC version, its still just as fun.

Visually, Modern Combat doesn't compare to its PC cousin, though it doesn't look all that bad either. Maps are highly detailed and feature a nice variety of things to see. The same goes for all of the vehicles and troops. Each are detailed, but won't outright blow you away with their quality. Special effects turn out to be the factor that makes the game look a little better than it does. Environments feature some nice lighting effects, though some areas look a little too "soft" due to a hazy "glow" that shows up on some maps. Still, you get lots of nice explosions to look at, which is always a plus.

The game's soundtrack fits with the military feel of the game, but the voice acting is what really helps to sell the experience. This is especially true during news broadcasts that detail what is going on between missions. Sound effects are the weakest link in the presentation chain. They sound okay, but lack any impact -- so you get the same feeling while firing a rifle that you would a tank cannon.


Gameplay:

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is split into two modes, a single-player offline campaign and an online multiplayer. Of the two, multiplayer is really where the fun is with the series. Multiplayer games allow for up to 24 players per game, though it only supports two match types. Conquest has you and your small army capturing and protecting hotspots scattered around a large map. These matches are more about control and teamwork as you really won't get too far by trying to go solo. Capture the Flag should by now be familiar to nearly every gamer as it has been a staple of multiplayer games for awhile now.

So you're probably asking yourself just what makes Battlefield such a unique experience. The big drawing factor with the series is the number of vehicles that you can take control of during matches in order to accomplish your goals. Modern Combat offers a wide selection of modern military vehicles that cover land, sea and air. Even better, multiple players can man some vehicles, so one can drive while the other shoots. If you need to, you can even call in air support via player-controlled helicopters, which, not surprisingly, are the first thing nearly every player on the map seems to go for first. In addition to a selection of vehicles, five troop types are also available, each with a specialty. Assault troopers are your main fighting grunts, while snipers are for long range tactics and Spec Ops are for those who want to go alone behind enemy lines. Support soldiers are for, as their name suggests, support while Engineers are around to help repair vehicles.

On the single-player side of things, you take the role of both NATO and Chinese forces in a near-future conflict in Kazakhstan. Unrest in the region spurs the U.N. to send a U.S.-led peacekeeping force in order to gain stability. Of course, this show of force by NATO makes the Chinese government a bit nervous, causing them to also send in their own forces in order to maintain control over certain interests in the area. During the game's 20-mission campaign, you'll switch between the two factions and see both sides of the conflict. While the missions themselves really aren't something to get excited about, the campaign structure itself is. As you swap sides, you'll also get to see media broadcasts detailing what has been going on in the conflict. Of course, both sides have their propaganda machines running at full steam, so it is entertaining to see how each details the missions you've just played.

The biggest problem with single-player campaign is that they tend to feel too much like multiplayer games instead of their own entities. There's no sense of control during matches since enemy troops will spawn in the most random of places; even in rooms you just cleared. While it can be argued that the single-player game isn't much more than practice for multiplayer, it still would have been nice if these considerations would have been taken into account as they really blow the atmosphere generated by the between-level news reports.

Other items, such as a ranking-rewards system and the quicker pacing of action, contribute to the game feeling like more of an arcade game than the PC version. Little things like multipliers for killing multiple enemies and other bonuses take away from the "team" aspect that makes Battlefield so enjoyable. Instead, it feels more like a one-person conflict, so players who enjoy going Rambo might get a little more enjoyment out of the experience.


Difficulty:

Offline, Modern Combat is a mixed bag as far as difficulty. The single-player campaign offers a variety of mission types which range from really hard to not so hard. While you would expect a range of difficulty types, you would also expect some curve leading from one to another. Instead, Modern Combat will present you with a few easy missions, then a hard one, only to give you another easy one right after. This leads to a very inconsistent feel and, as a result, you never feel completely comfortable with anything. Troop A.I. is as mixed as mission difficulty. One minute you'll face a smart troop, then a not-so-bright one. Overall, it is just the luck of the draw... or at least that's how it feels.

Game Mechanics:

As far as controls, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat isn't all that hard to figure out if you've ever played a console FPS. The simple to use controls help to facilitate the more arcade-like pacing of the game and let you jump right into the action without too much fuss. This is one of the console version's main differences since the PC version tends to lean towards the more "realistic" side of combat and carries with it a much slower pace. Troop controls are pretty good, though some vehicles are a little harder to control, a trait that detracts from the game.

One of the more interesting control features is the ability to switch between characters mid-battle. This helps to facilitate the feeling that instead of controlling one character, you're actually in command of the entire force. Battles are usually multi-faceted affairs, so there's usually more than one thing going on during a game. In order to switch between positions, all you have to do is look at the solider you want to play as and press the hot-swap button. Not only does this let you get around to areas of the map quickly, but will make sure you always have the right troop type for the job ready.

Overall, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat does a good job of bringing the PC experience to consoles. There are still a number of problems, most of which seem to be a product of trying to cater to the console audience (who are a vastly different breed of gamer than their PC counterparts), resulting in the experience seeming a bit lacking for series vets. If you're looking for the true Battlefield experience, it might be better to go for the PC version (though it may require upgrading your PC). However, if you're more of a single-minded gamer who is interested in a straightforward shooter where you get to blow up a lot of stuff, you might want to give Battlefeild 2: Modern Combat a look.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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