Quick fearless readers what's the most popular multiplayer game on Xbox Live?! Well, Halo 2 of course... but Electronic Art's Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (Xbox) has been a contender for months now. So when plans were announced for an Xbox 360 entry in the Battlefield series there was great fanfare... however, once it was revealed that the game was merely a "port" eyes started to wander back to horizon. However, we're here to ask: is the third release of Battlefield 2 the version that unseats the current champion of Xbox Live games, or just the third release of Battlefield 2?
Wait... there's a bit of a loading screen to wait through...
First, it must be said that the numerous, and often lengthy, loading screens from the Xbox version of Battlefield 2: MC are nowhere to be seen in the 360 version. Yes, there's still a loading screen before you hit the main menu but it's now very short. Menu layout is also much improved... and so streamlined that it's almost Spartan compared to the Xbox version. Sadly, there are no options for changing the controller layout or changing the annoying announcer voice (though he can be muted).
When we reviewed the Xbox version we compared the cheesy overblown "fake newscast" story presentation to the Tom Clancy line of games. Since then Ubisoft has admitted that no one could follow unconnected series of short news bits, and now Tom Clancy games sport stories delivered with in-game cutscenes. Guess what? Dice and Electronic Arts still love the "fake newscast" method of story telling. This was forgivable with the original release, but enough time has past that something else could have been put together.
There's still no tutorial in Battlefield 2: MC, but at least the added visibility of widescreen combined with sharper graphics makes starting out a little less confusing. The HUD is still a little counter productive, the controls still feel backwards, but at least now the layout is the same for both single and multiplayer. The actual experience, gameplay, and story in single player haven't been changed at all, but a few new additions make your time feel slightly less wasted.
It's your gun, you shoot him...
The enemy AI and scripting in the single player campaign still invokes that feeling of playing an expensive digital version of "whack-a-mole," but at least you're doing it in high def now! We must commend the generic terrorists; despite watching ten of their friends go down, they find the gusto to run out into the open and fire wildly into the air. I'm still not a fan of the small hard to see team-color circles that appear above people's heads. In multiplayer it makes a bit of sense, but in single player it feels like it's just there to help prepare you for playing online.
The "hotswap" command, which lets you jump from body to body in single-player, has been given an injection of "next-gen" for the 360 version of Battlefield 2: MC. No longer must your target be within your line of sight. So now when you jump to someone who's around the corner the game does a quick and impressive first person zoom around the bend into your new body. Still, all it does is get you from one whack-a-mole location to another.
The final straw during our trek through the single player campaign was finding out that you can't save during a mission. This was forgivable on the original Xbox, but this is the next generation. Shouldn't such a pedestrian feature be possible, if not standard, by now? It's also hard to excuse a port that doesn't add any new content to the experience. Sure Capcom re-released Resident Evil on the Gamecube, but at least there were new story and gameplay elements added. Here EA only tweaked one feature, and... added new graphics.
Online multiplayer: the saving grace? Or overplayed death?!
On the Xbox playing XBL games published by Electronic Arts was a hit or miss affair, but so far we've found playing on the Xbox 360 to be far more reliable. This might be due to how friends are now tracked via the guide, but overall it's been an enjoyable and smooth experience. Still, it's annoying that players must keep track of a separate account in order to access special Battlefield 2: MC website pages and features. Though it's forgivable given the web features far outstrip what even Bungie has done with Halo 2.
Finding and jumping into an online match was quick and painless. However, getting a game with balanced teams was the real challenge. Because players can choose which side they want to fight on matches often become terribly one-sided. Amazing, playing Battlefield 2: MC is a highly enjoyable experience even when you're getting your butt handed to you.
We've had issues with the gameplay in this series since the original PC version. It was easy to forgive this with the Xbox version because we assumed both EA and Dice were learning as they went along. Now with the third version of Battlefield 2 we're really starting to get annoyed that certain gameplay issues continue to exist: artillery strikes are still overpowered, vehicles are still too hard to control, the game still favors jumping in and out of vehicles like a bunny, and there's still only one real game type.
Why is anyone still playing Counter-Strike anyway?
It would be easy enough to write off Battlefield 2: MC as a shallow port of a solid Xbox game with a high def coat of paint added... because that's exactly what it is... but the franchise didn't get to be the king of teamplay-based online shooters by slick adverting or with chicks who kick high: the game is fun. It's always been fun. Played online with two teams of solid standing you'll be laughing it up with genre defining F-U-N. The problem is that we've had this fun before, and it's impossible to recommend paying for the same experience for the third time when nothing new has been added to the mix.
We usually chime in with an "add a star" if you're an online shooter fan, but this time we'd like to add "remove a star" if you've already paid to play the Xbox version. There's nothing here to be found that's going to tear you away from Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark Zero, or even Halo 2. If you don't have Xbox Live Gold there's absolutely no reason at all to pick this one up.