Being such a fan of the PC version of the Battlefield series I was jumping for joy when the announcement was made that it was marching its way to the Xbox 360. The series itself started out back in September 2002, when Battlefield 1942 was developed for the PC. From then on it has become one of the most popular games played online by the PC faithful masses. Then in October 2005, Swedish developer Digital Illusions made the decision to bring the Battlefield franchise to the Xbox with its ever growing and popular Xbox Live! online community.
The original Xbox title, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, went down very successfully throughout the Xbox Live! community, so it seemed a sensible move for Microsoft’s next console to have a version of it’s very own. Right now you are probably all thinking – “Here we go, another EA game, just making the switch to Next-Gen, with snazzier visuals and prettier smoke?” Well you would probably be right, but there is a certain something in this Xbox 360 version that isn’t present in most 360 titles so far and that’s oodles of online multi-player fun!
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you may not know that the Battlefield series has had its routes firmly planted in the online multi-player pot for years, so if you’re looking for an in-depth single-player game to keep you busy you’re best looking elsewhere. Not to say the campaign mode is poorly designed and short, each campaign guides you though 20 pretty random events that take place in a variety of terrain conditions and different times of day. Missions in the campaign vary from all out sieges on an oil refinery, storming beaches with your team, piloting choppers and tanks over the snow and through to recon/assault missions in your Blackhawk or nifty combat buggy. Throughout the campaign each mission can feel a little meaningless at times as you are thrown around the different scenarios left, right and center. It does not gel together enough to make you feel that you’re taking part in a full blown campaign of war. Maybe having each story start and finish and then move onto the next one may have worked better.
Each mission takes place within a rich and detailed environment, some are so big that it helps to have at least four wheels or a helicopter to help traverse the snow capped hills or barren dusty landscapes. If such luxuries are unavailable (i.e. been blown up) and you’re in a mission that has multiple troops on the battlefield, then you can use an intuitive feature called ‘Hot Swapping’. Hot Swapping is a new feature to Battlefield that gives you the ability to switch between your team-mates at any time and therefore taking control of them, while your previous character is taken over by computer AI. This is helpful and intuitive feature, as instead of playing through one character and their weapon of choice, you can just switch to one of your other team-mates or take control of a helicopter should there be one flying nearby. As long as your team-mate is in your line of sight, you can look over at them and with a press of a button, leave your current body and fly across the battlefield and into the body of the chosen team member. You can use this feature to your advantage and as many times as you like during your mission, it isn’t necessary to do so, but there are moments in missions where you will need to Hot Swap to particular team-mates to help your progress in battle.
Halfway into the campaign, the difficulty level in Battlefield 2: MC escalates very quickly, this can be frustrating as there is a lack of check-points throughout the game. This means that if you die at the last second of the mission, and all of your allies are dead too, then its mission over. At the end of each completed mission you are awarded with points and medals that are based on your progress during that mission. Medals are also based on kills, time spent, weapon accuracy and overall points earned.
Each completed mission unlocks a series of Challenges that can be accessed from the single player campaign menu. These challenges are based on three class types, Hot Swap, Vehicle and Weapon, each of which increases your offline player score of the game as well as aid you in earning achievements. Achievement wise this is probably the first EA game, with a few exceptions, that come with some real hard achievements for both campaign and multi-player modes. They are possibly some of the hardest achievements seen in a game to date. Achievements aside, there is the rankings system for you to busy yourself with for both campaign and online modes; although in a neat twist, to climb to higher ranks requires at least some achievements. So you need to play some of the single-player to get the most out of the multiplayer.
Battlefield 2: MC handles like your standard first person shooter, vehicles can take some getting use to, especially the helicopter, but in time you get accustomed to it. Do not expect to pick up this game, go online, and start climbing ranks and achievements that easily, it requires some hard work and a lot of time until you’re coming in the top three in every match.
So lets return to how the game looks. Graphics are acceptable for first generation titles currently around today, nothing too jaw dropping like GR:AW but nothing too awful like Far Cry. There appears to be no slow-down or drop in frame-rates, even during the most intense fighting scenes, everything runs pretty smooth and with hardly any pop-up. Player and vehicle models have been improved from the PC version also, each having their own makeover with higher textures and increased polygon counts. So far I haven’t come across any visible glitches, such as in some games where you get yourself stuck between a rock and a cliff-edge and have to kill yourself to get out, this is lucky seeing as there aren’t any checkpoints in the game.
Owners of a dedicated sound system will be in for a treat, the games audio is very realistic and atmospheric. Each of the weapons and vehicles give off a booming punch when fired, as well as the sounds of explosions and ricochets from your opponent’s incoming fire. Your whole sound stage is easily filled with explosions and nearby gunfire, and owners of surround systems will find it easy to tell where fire is coming from on the battleground. Some nice effects have been applied to the game, such as changes to the surrounding acoustics when standing under the cover of a bridge or inside metal cargo create, gunfire echoes realistically around your ears, this effect really comes apparent when launching an RPG from this position.
Now for the reason you’re going to be buying the game, the online multi-player. If you’re a lone-wolf who likes nothing better to do than to go on Rambo killing frenzies on your own, this is not the game for you, though you can and it is fun up to a point. The multi-player features just two game-modes Conquest and Capture The Flag, which sounds a little limiting to start off with. If you’re more for balls-out action and strategic tactics, involving taking territories all over the map, then Conquest is for you, otherwise stick with straight CTF matches. Both modes can be played on all of the 16 available maps, custom filters can be applied when searching for an available server which includes whether you want to play a low, medium or high player match, doing this will limit the scale of the map you play on. High player matches feature larger maps with the amount of capture points increased, this is joined with a more variety of vehicles to choose from such as helicopters and boats compared to just a few jeeps and your own two legs on low player based matches. It is a little disappointing not to have the ability to play with the jet fighters in this version. Personally I think this is a good move, as in the PC version, choosing the jet fighter made you king of the hill for a lengthy period of time, as you drop countless bombs on the enemy (and your team-mates!), so the absence of fighters keeps things nicely balanced on the battleground.
When it comes to the community features of the Live! games, so far Battlefield is the true leader. In depth personal stats, friends stats and the usual leaderboards are present, but where the game mostly shines is the inclusion of clan support. Finally all those teams that were dieing for clan support for PDZ and GR:AW have finally gotten what they want.
There is never any trouble finding an online game with plenty of people in, the only problem with this is a lot of peoples’ tendencies to team-kill which is countered by a kicking system which usually not many people ever vote for unfortunately, but that’s just a minor reason to not buy the best multi-player game on live today.
In most games, multi-player is just an add-on compared to the superb single player on offer, but with BF2 it’s the total opposite. DICE have taken an already online accomplished title and added a decent single player campaign mode and some amusing but tackling challenge modes. Overall the game is a true gem for the ever-expanding game list available for the Xbox 360. Graphically the game is one up on the PC counterpart and is decent enough when put against the likes of GRAW and Far Cry Instincts Predator, with crisp visuals and a smooth frame rates, which is what to expect from a Next-Gen title of this franchise. If you’re looking to buy the game solely on single-player alone you may want to try it out first and test the water to see if it’s worth your money, but if you’re a keen online multi-player junkie who might occasionally try single-player, it is well worthy of your money. The achievements, rankings and a really enjoyable yet tense online experience should keep you coming back for more for a long time to come.. well until Halo 3 appears to reclaim the multi-player crown.