At A Glance
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In several ways, better than Battlefield 2 for PC.
- Overall: 8
- Graphics: 7
- Sound: 7
- Single Player: 8
- Multiplayer: 8
- frenetic combat
- single player campaign
- generally good network play
- lots of neat graphical touches
- campaign can be inconsistently hard
- lots of pauses between challenges
- stupid people that only want to play BridgeTooFar or Backstab online
Getting from the Xbox Marketplace demo of BF2MC to actually buying the game took me more than a month. The demo was polished, the online play was fun, and the controls weren’t terrible. Why the hesitation? Because I’d played Battlefield 2 for PC.
Battlefield 2 PC is not my favourite game. I enjoyed BF1942 for a while. I loved screaming “Your country has deserted you, Geee Ayyye!” in a faux asian female accent at my girlfriend when Battlefield Vietnam came out. I got into Desert Combat for a little while.
BF2 was fun for about a week, then the kids cracked it and the sploits started. Then the bugs. As of 1.3, I can’t connect to any servers any more. I’m told it’s not uncommon. Fantastic job there.
So anyway, why is BF2MC better? For starters, it handles the sploit situation completely, because it’s a closed system. Only people with (presumably uncracked) Xbox 360s can play you; everyone uses the same system, software, controllers and so on. It’s good that way. Means that when you’re killed online, you’re more likely to blame the lag/sneezing fit/torrents being downloaded at the same time/crack cocaine than the little bastard hax0rs. That’s a net positive right there.
It’s also a different game, and this works strongly in its favour. The single player campaign isn’t just a series of bot matches using multiplayer maps – it’s a vaguely coherent set of fun – and sometimes staggeringly difficult – missions, vaguely tied together by a storyline, which unlock Challenges with success. An example mission was to set demolition charges at 4 points along a bridge, while coping with oncoming waves of enemy troops and a few helicopters.
While playing single-player, you can use the X button to warp between soldiers on your team – just point at the guy you want to become, hit X, and you schloop over to assume his body – the same sort of thing happens automatically if the body you’re inhabiting dies. This is a well-implemented feature that expands your options on the battlefield – but don’t think you can get all Operation Flashpoint and order your team to do something specific – they all run to a preset program when you jump out.
The Challenges are a fun series of minigames covering various vehicles, weapons and techniques, at which you can earn between one and three stars, three for a near-perfect score. A combination of stars and medals earn you promotions, and promotions unlock special weapon and ability upgrades. Examples of Challenges: driving a Humvee around a twisting, muddy course in the lowest possible time while collecting the most possible bonus points; going ten-pin “bowling” with soldiers and a grenade; sniping a bunch of people from a helicopter. If there’s a criticism of the Challenges, it’s that the transition times between rounds and after a match can be painfully long for type-A personalities; at least there’s no constant loading screens.
You have a separate Online career in which you accumulate kills and medals to rank up; medals correspond with XBL Achievements. Online, the game ranges from being more fun than just about any other Xbox Live game to a depressing base-rape experience; it largely depends on the quality of people you play with. Some times, you’ll be able to run off and concentrate on trying to earn a medal; others, it’s all you can do to just cling to a flag.
Not every game is ranked – you can elect to join an unranked server and just shoot some people for fun while building your skills up or for warmup, then flick the switch and go postal on a ranked server!
The maps are typically more intimate than BF2 PC. They’re built for a smaller number of players, and this means that the play style is adjusted accordingly. There are two maps that seem to get a disproportionate workout in ranked games – Backstab and BridgeTooFar. BridgeTooFar was the level from the demo version so it’s understandable that there’s a certain fondness for it, but I don’t think I’ve played even a quarter of the maps so far- the kids always want their B levels! (Maybe it’s just an alphabetic thing?)
While there are some neat graphical flourishes – focus is used effectively to create a feeling of depth, explosions have an associated heat plume and flashbangs work nicely – it doesn’t look like a true next-generation game.
The audio is pretty good. The directional audio works nicely, the room shakes when the volume’s turned up, and you can use audio cues to accurately judge what’s happening around you.
The control system is pretty good once you get used to it – the Y button does most of the non-reload, non-vehicle entry/exit buttons, and the right shoulder button is used as a convenient way to switch weapons (hold it, use the view control to pick the weapon from a cross-shaped selection, then release). It’s seamless when you learn how to use it effectively.
The vehicle controls are my one noteworthy disappointment – the clunkiness of the PC controls carried over, and you tend to find that they steer entirely in one direction, or not at all; there’s very little finesse available (or if it’s there, I haven’t found it yet). The choppers are a nightmare to control, which makes it all the more humiliating when someone that’s mastered it strafes your spawn point for the seventeenth time, before anyone can shoot him out of the sky!
So, overall, I’d say this is the best arcade multiplayer combat game currently available for the 360.
Choosing between GRAW and BF2 is easy – GRAW is a realism-focused simulation of infantry combat, BF2MC is an arcadey infantry-and-multi-vehicle romp. Pick whichever one you’re in the mood for, and go for it!