Battlefield 2: Modern Combat was originally scheduled to ship at the same time as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, a date EA moved to recoup some share of the next-gen limelight. With the extra two months of development, DICE had time to make the graphics look even better than they did in the preview build we saw in February, and they upped the ante even more with the enemy intelligence (AI).
For the most part, those superficial upgrades are the biggest change between the current-gen version of Battlefield 2: Modern Combat and its Xbox 360 counterpart. As a result, rather than beleaguer you with a rehash of that review, we’ll simply refer you to it if you’re unfamiliar with the franchise’s move to the consoles. And for info about the game’s next-gen graphic and audio upgrades, just read our hands-on preview.
What we’ll focus on in this review is actually the one upgrade that really makes a difference: vastly improved enemy AI. In upgrading the enemies’ intelligence, DICE created a game that is much more formidable and provides much more of an enjoyable challenge. The thing is, if Battlefield 2: Modern Combat were like Halo, where the main character is a one-man army and an epic hero, the AI upgrades would be perfect. But it’s not. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is a game based on squads, one in which the key single-player innovation is a HotSwap feature that allows you to “teleport” to any friendly soldier whose icon you can see.
As in the current-gen version, HotSwapping is an amazingly fun feature, as it lets you stay in the heart of the action at all times. It’s ironic, then, that this same feature also exposes the one problem with boosting the enemy AI: EA failed to make similar improvements to your teammates’ intelligence. With the improved enemy AI and still-run-of-the-mill friendlies, your teammates die far too frequently and quickly, leaving players to fight off waves of intelligent enemies all by their lonesome. On the one hand, this promotes active HotSwapping, as you’ll need not only to stay in the action but also to ensure your comrades stay alive. On the other hand, the disparity between friends’ and foes’ intelligence renders HotSwapping somewhat useless; if there are no squadmates to which you can HotSwap, what’s the point of having the feature in the first place?
To be fair to EA, it’s probably just the company’s desire to get you to play Battlefield 2: Modern Combat online, as that’s really where the game was meant to be played. It doesn’t take a genius to look at the Xbox Live Achievements and see the majority of them dependent upon multiplayer milestones. But it’s even more obvious when you consider that Battlefield has always been an online-driven franchise. Fortunately, now that the Xbox 360 version has been out about a month, the matches have generally cleared of players who are too young to strategize, and the online play is as solid as ever, even if the vehicles are still a challenge to control.
Again, though, the most notable changes between the Xbox 360 and current-gen version are the graphical and audio updates, which you’d expect, and the improved enemy AI. In theory the enemy AI is a vast improvement, but with the lack of equally improved friendly AI, the change is a minor annoyance. HotSwapping is fun, but only when you have comrades to HotSwap to. And with the relative inability to do just that, there’s really only so much fun to be had in the single-player portion of the game.
- Gameplay: 7.5
- The HotSwapping is as frantic as ever, and the improved enemy AI makes for more challenge, but the lack of a friendly-AI improvement hinders the overall fun factor.
- Graphics: 8.5
- DICE spruced it up sufficiently from the current-gen version, and the vehicles even look less blocky than before.
- Sound: 7.5
- Great surround-sound and environmental effects, but other than gun sounds there isn’t all that much to talk about.
- Replay: 8
- The online play, as you’d expect, keeps the game alive, but the apparently hero-driven single-player portion gets tiresome after a while.
- Overall: 7.5
- In spite of its delay, the game simply can’t steal the thunder from the one-month-old GRAW, especially with AI discrepancies that take away from a core gameplay mechanic like HotSwapping.
— Jonas Allen