Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is actually the first game in the Battlefield series to be released on consoles, and it's not actually the same game as Battlefield 2 on the PC; so if you're confused about the name, it's ok. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is a solid game, but it has a more arcade-like feel to it than its namesake on the PC. It has a more involved single-player mode, but its multi-player is disappointing, especially for anyone who has logged time with the excellent PC Battlefield games.
Modern Combat's storyline feels like it was ripped right from a Tom Clancy game, which would be a good thing if there weren't so many of them. The former Soviet state, Kazakhstan, is in turmoil, and a NATO peacekeeping force, led by the US is sent in to diffuse the situation. China takes exception to the NATO "meddling" and sends troops in to "protect the region," Of course this leads to a conflict between the two powers, which is where the game picks up. The game alternates between the viewpoints of the United States and China, allowing you to see both countries' points of view as you play a few levels for one side, and then a few for the other. It makes the routine story more interesting, if nothing else.
There's plenty of variety to the missions, but there's nothing here that hasn't been done before. You'll protect a hacker, do some sniping, blow up submarines, protect territory – you know the drill. There are plenty of weapons at your disposal: shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, pistols, assault rifles, and explosives. One of the best things about the Battlefield series on the PC is the amount of vehicles you can control, and the freedom that being able to commandeer any craft at any time gives you. That freedom is here on the consoles, but to a lesser extent. You can pilot helicopters, drive tanks, jeeps, and boats, but the controls are unresponsive and leave a lot to be desired. The rest of the game utilizes the typical control scheme that most FPS share on consoles, so controlling your soldier while on foot is no problem at all.
Battlefield 2's coolest innovation is "hotswapping." Hotswapping allows you to teleport from one soldier to another, so you're never far from the action. Instead of traversing across town, or trying to climb a building to find a good sniping point, you can simply beam yourself into the body of the soldier that's where you want to be. This keeps the action fast-paced and it allows you to multi-task in several areas. You can snipe from a rooftop, drive a tank, or spray cover fire – all in a matter of seconds. It's a really neat idea, and one that will certainly be "borrowed" by future first person shooters.
Since mowing down consecutive enemies is how you regain your health, as well as how you earn medals, the console version has a decidedly arcade-like feel to it. Enemies will come in droves with little to no regard for their personal well-being, and when you kill them; they'll spawn again. The fact that enemies will spawn from locations you just cleared makes coming up with creative tactics pretty pointless. Eventually you'll just learn to hide and wait for the bad guys to come to you, kill them, make sure no more are going to appear from nowhere, and then move on.
On the PC, online is where most people spend their time playing Battlefield 2, however, this will not be the case with the console incarnations of Modern Combat. There are 13 maps and 24 people can play at the same time, but there are only two modes of play (capture the flag and conquest), and there are some serious lag issues that EA has yet to hammer out. There's no incentive to work as a team, so the whole class system which allows you to choose from five different types of characters is never explored. Sniping is extremely effective, and as a result, most people spend their time hiding out sniping, but occasionally they'll mix it up by shooting rockets like mad, or doing stupid things that don't help the team's cause. So basically what you've got here is some standard game modes, campers, and some technical flaws – this isn't your PC's Battlefield.
EA games tend to be visually appealing, but Battlefield 2 is an exception to the rule. There's not one area of the game's graphics that is above average. The levels are huge, but aesthetically lacking, the draw distance is mediocre, and character design is middle of the road. There's no progressive scan support, so anyone with a high-def television hoping for some cleaner visuals is out of luck as well. There are some decent weather effects like snow and rain, and the framerate isn't bad, so it's not all negative as far as the graphics are concerned.
Say what you will about the war genre being played out, but one good thing has come of all these war games: sound design. Once an afterthought, creative use of surround sound, dynamic music, and realistic sound effects has become standard for most games, and Battlefield 2 is no exception. The battlefields come alive with the sounds of vehicles scurrying across the landscape, rockets taking out tanks, and even your fellow soldiers calling out enemy positions. The action is frantic to begin with, and the endless barrage of the sounds of war coming from your stereo only enhances the experience.
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is not a bad game, but it will certainly disappoint anyone that is expecting the PC experience on their PlayStation 2. The addition of hotswapping makes the campaign mode a pleasant diversion for a few hours, but after a while you're going to want to go online and you're probably going to be let down by the lack of gameplay modes and technical problems that EA is working on, but has yet to fix. If you've got the option, go with the outstanding PC version of Battlefield 2. If you don't, give this one a rental before paying full price – it might not be your cup of tea.