If I can start this Looking Back article with a brief history lesson, I think it will stand us all in good stead.
The Battlefield series of games, developed by Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by EA, seems to have been around on the PC forever. The game I’m looking at today, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, was the first title in the series to be released on consoles, initially appearing on PS2 and the OG Xbox back in 2005. The version we are concerned with today was an enhanced version of the game released back in 2006 on the Xbox 360.
Originally conceived as a standalone side story / expansion for Battlefield 2, which was released on PC the same year, the Xbox 360 version was touted as having not only improved graphics, but much improved online functionality. It is worth noting, in case you want to hunt down a copy of this game and give it a try, that EA shut down the servers for this game in June 2014, so if you do play it, it will be offline only.
The plot of the single player is suitably bonkers, centering around a war between NATO and China that takes place in Kazakhstan, famous now of course as the home of Borat. The setup was pretty interesting, as you completed missions for both sides before eventually choosing which army to side with. The game plays on the propaganda that would undoubtedly be a part of a war in today’s media age, with both sides accusing the other of war crimes. After choosing who to fight for, it is revealed (and spoiler alert for those of you who haven’t seen it) that it is in fact a terrorist organisation called Burning Flag that is actually responsible for the war crimes, and they have tricked the two warring factions into a war in the region. Burning Flag has also sabotaged the only attempt at negotiation, and so it falls to us (of course) to stop their leader, Commander 31, from launching three nuclear ICBMs; one at the US, one at Europe and one at China. If this attempt to stop him fails, it would appear that there would be nothing left to fight for, with the three main homelands reduced to a nuclear wasteland, and no Brotherhood of Steel in sight!
Luckily, this being a video game, we manage to abort the launches and are hailed as the saviour of either NATO or China, depending on which side we chose. An interesting mechanic in the single player campaign was the ability to swap the soldier you were playing as, so if you wanted to take control of a soldier closer to the action, it was almost like you possessed him, and could then see the world from his perspective. If the soldier you were controlling died, again, your point of view would change to the nearest soldier to you. In this way, you could control the most useful soldier for the situation you found yourself in. Need to blow up a tank? Switch to the guy with the rocket launcher.
The single player was only one side of the coin, however, and the multiplayer was by far and away the most popular reason for people playing Battlefield 2: Modern Combat. The game itself warns when you fire it up that it changes when playing online, but what it doesn’t warn you about is that it becomes awesome as two modes become available: Conquest and Capture the Flag.
Conquest is, to me, the quintessential Battlefield game mode, and is still my go-to mode whenever I fire up a Battlefield title today. Conquest involves capturing points on a map, and the team that has the most flags sees the enemy “tickets” decrease steadily until they run out. The first team to lose all the tickets is the loser. Now, this is a rather dry explanation, but suffice to say that battles in the areas of the flags that you have to capture can be very heated indeed, with points changing hands several times in a game, and intense firefights involving ground troops and vehicles very much the norm.
The other mode, Capture the Flag, does exactly what it says on the tin. Instead of the flags being fixed, like in Conquest, the flags are much smaller and portable, and if you walk over one you will pick it up. You then need to make it back to your base carrying said flag. To add a little bit of spice, you can only deposit the flag if your own flag is still at your base, so if you get the enemy flag back to your base and someone has half-inched yours, you have to get it back. Of course, in all these modes, teamwork is very important, and it may be my rose-tinted glasses, but in the days that I played this game, it did seem like there was more of a “Team First” mentality, rather than what we have nowadays with people sitting back with a sniper rifle padding their K/D ratio. I for one miss those days.
Now, I first came to the Battlefield 2: Modern Combat party somewhat late. I was gifted Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for my birthday, way back in 2010, when I still had some zest for life. Having played Bad Company 2 to death, and having completed the story of Bad Company 1, I was casting around for a new game to play when I came across Battlefield 2: Modern Combat on the second hand shelves of my local GAME emporium. Rushing home with it in my hot little hand, I immediately loaded it up and thought I had made a terrible mistake.
You see, the graphics, while improved from the PS2 and Xbox version, in 2010 were no longer cutting edge, and I had been spoiled by Bad Company 2. However, once I got into the online modes and found my feet (read: stopped dying within three seconds of spawning) the flow of the battles and the size of the maps made me very happy indeed, as did tagging along with some guys who knew their elbow from a certain bodily orifice. Again, this isn’t something that seems to happen much these days, the taking of new players under more experienced gamers wings: nowadays it just seems to be focused on killing everyone and laughing about it afterwards. This may be why I no longer play competitive shooters anymore – even Gambit in Destiny 2 is straying perilously close.
Anyway, before I climb fully onto my soap box, these are my memories of playing Battlefield 2: Modern Combat. Did you play it, back in the day? Am I imagining the whole “play as a team thing”? How do you feel about modern competitive shooters? Let us know in the comments!