This March will see a landslide of popular Fall Xbox releases ported to Xbox 360 with enhanced visuals, audio and other welcome surprises. Arguably the most successful Live game of the bunch is Battlefield 2: Modern Combat which, despite some small nagging flaws, still remains in the top 10 played Xbox Live games according to rankings frequently published on Major Nelson’s blog (www.majornelson.com).
We recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of Dan Blackstone, Senior Producer of DICE on Battlefield 2: Modern Combat. He addresses some of the complaints fans voiced about the Xbox version and offers some insight into what’s unique on Xbox 360, including Achievements, that you’ll get to experience when the game is released on March 15.
Editor’s Note: Between the time we conducted this interview and are now publishing it, we’ve taken a preview build of Battlefield 2: Modern Combat on Xbox 360 for a spin. Look for impressions on what’s discussed below sometime Wednesday, March 1.
TMR: How far along are you guys and what’s your target launch window?
DB: I’m happy to report that we are in CQC right now! As far as we’re concerned, the client side of the game is finished ” at least until we hear otherwise from QA. We’re now finishing the online portion, which includes running a public Beta test. We’re on track for a mid-March ship (Editor’s Note: March 15).
TMR: The early screenshots show thus far reveal more detailed soldiers, vehicles, environments” heck, everything is a far cry from the Xbox version. Did you approach the visuals looking to build up from scratch or add a shiny new coat of realism to the existing models?
DB: We rebuilt pretty much every asset in the game; character models and animations, vehicles, and weapon from the ground up. Smaller objects in the environment, such as grass, trees, barrels, etc. were also rebuilt. Pretty much the only assets we kept was the ground, but that too received several additional layers of detail.
TMR: While it’s a no-brainer the visuals will be better, what can we expect in terms of improvements to the single-player campaign? Have any changes been made to opponent A.I. or mission objectives?
DB: We overhauled the single player campaign with respect to the AI and spawn points. Basically, after re-writing the AI for enemies and teammates, we went through on a mission by mission basis and tuned everything so the experience felt tighter. One key thing was making sure enemy reinforcements arrive via helicopter, or come from rooms you haven’t cleared yet, since the spawn points was something people needed improvement in the previous version. One of our other goals was to bring the single and multiplayer game experiences closer, so we’ve modified all the single player weapon and vehicle behaviors to match multiplayer. We’ve also modified some of the single player camera tech to match, for example, field of views, zoom ranges etc ” we wanted to really make single player feel like the multiplayer game.
TMR: Have any new vehicles or weapons been added?
DB: This is like the Director’s Cut of the Xbox version, so we’ve added all of the content from the Warsome Booster pack. So while there are no completely new vehicles or weapons, there’s more content than there was in the original release. The three new maps come with new weapon and troop skins and four new vehicles. The best has to be the snowmobile with dual mounted machine guns for the driver, and an open-kit position for a passenger, although pretty close behind is the civilian van with 2 mounted mini-guns!
TMR: Is there a single mission that will blow our minds with the new Xbox 360 presentation? We’re guessing the visuals while parachuting into a firefight will be mind-blowing.
DB: I guess we can’t say “All of them”, right? I think that the first time you storm the enemy base in “Beach Party”, you will be amazed. As your boat makes its way through the minefield, the enemy opens fire on you with heavy machine guns, and you watch your guys get torn apart assaulting the bunkers. It’s one of the more intense moments of the game. You know that you can Hotswap into anyone in your squad and try to save him, but doing so will mean someone else is probably going to get cut down instead. Decisions, decisions!
TMR: Was new audio recorded for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, or does the existing console soundtrack port over untouched?
DB: The voice acting and music was brought over, but new sound effects were recorded to really amp up the weapons and dial up the intensity on the battlefield. We wanted to drive home the fact that bullets are whizzing around you most of the time, make explosions feel like they are rocking your world, etc.
TMR: One of our criticisms of the Xbox Live interface on the Xbox version was the lack of a lobby where you can put together teams and strategize. What can we expect from the Xbox 360 Live interface?
DB: The game matching will work very similarly to the Xbox version, so we don’t include a lobby before online matches. However, this is something we are looking at for future versions. Also, we have provided this sort of strategy making on the Nation website
TMR: How about the Xbox 360 Live gameplay? Is there room to get more than 24 players into the same battle?
DB: The gameplay and maps are still perfectly balanced for a maximum of 24 players.
TMR: Live co-op campaign mode” any chance? Or would Hotswapping make this impossible?
DB: Yes, unfortunately Hotswapping in co-op wouldn’t work at this point. That’s not saying that the Xbox 360 couldn’t handle it, but it isn’t something we were able to include. One thing that we did include in this version is the ability to turn any individual element of the HUD on or off in single player or multiplayer. This was in direct response to community requests to turn off the enemy indicators. So while this isn’t a new mode, it does mean that people can play a much different style of multiplayer match, one where there’s a lot more stealth involved.
TMR: Thus far Live achievements have been anywhere from obtainable in a single sitting to an impossible feat. What can we expect in terms of the amount and difficulty of achievements?
DB: We think there’s great variety in the different achievements people can go after. Some of them will happen without you even thinking about it or trying to do something. You’ll take out 5 guys with the same Sniper clip and then see that you’ve received an Achievement. Other things, like killing 5 enemies with the same grenade, might take a little more work. The most important thing in our mind was to make the difficulty ramp up, and keep things balanced, so most players will usually feel like they are being rewarded and challenged. We also made the achievements available from either the single or multiplayer game
TMR: Is there anything else not mentioned above that will get our readers juiced up for this game?
DB: We’re really excited about this release. Between the new visuals and SFX, the damage modeling on the environment, and the re-tooled AI, this is the most immersive battlefield experience yet. We can’t wait to see everyone online.