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Battlefield 2: Modern Combat

The online PC battle fest trains both barrels on Xbox and delivers a mighty fine fusillade

One day there won't be any such thing as single-player games. Instead, there'll just be enormous, virtual worlds created from a myriad of interconnected experiences, bereft of moronic and predictable AI and packed with real people living out their fantasies in an alternate online universe.

Just imagine it. One day you may find yourself gliding at Mach 2 in a jet fighter (flight sim) over fields packed with people harvesting corn (real-time strategy) on your way to influence a ground battle (FPS) that's being played out dangerously close to a nearby school (educational software), while back in the real world your arse cheeks are caressed by your brand new Silkomatic Botty Wiper - that doubles up as a Goblin Teasmade - having just taken a dump mid flight in your state-of-the-art Gamertron PottyChair.

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But such a pleasant fantasy is still some way off, and for now, we have the likes of Battlefield 2 - a 24-player Xbox Live shooter - that's currently as close as we're going to get to this futuristic gaming utopia. And you know what? You're going to love it.

For those of you who don't know, the Battlefield series has amassed somewhat of a
reputation in recent years for producing some of the finest team-based wargames ever to grace PC screens. Battlefield 2: Modern Combat proudly picks up the banner and carries the series to the next level, with some of the most compelling, intense and downright entertaining firefights you're ever likely to have experienced.

But before we get too carried away, a little background info for those of you who may not be familiar with Battlefield 2's gaming template. Divided into twelve beautifully realised and distinctly different battlegrounds, Battlefield 2 pits two modern armies (from a selection of the US, the EU, China or the Middle East Coalition) against each other in a scrap for territorial dominance.

Each army starts in a base full of military vehicles that can be used to race towards a collection of predefined areas on the map (flags), which must be captured and defended. However, rather than just being another predictable captureall- the-flags-to-win shooter (although there is a traditional CTF mode available), Battlefield 2 breaks from the norm by introducing a rather intriguing variable into its bloody equation.

At the start of a level, each side is allocated a number of points, called Tickets. Whenever you or one of your team-mates cark it, you lose a Ticket. Your Tickets also automatically count down during the course of the level. The more flags you control the slower they'll diminish - the twist is that the team that runs out of Tickets first, loses.

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As a result, it's doesn't take long before you realise that this isn't just another lone-hero shooter - where the sole aim is to rack up as many kills in the shortest possible time - but a carefully balanced, intricately devised theatre of war in which teamwork supersedes the individual ego. This is conflict how it should be, bloody, terrifying, tense and dominated by the most organised team, not the most adept fragger. Every time you die you're forced to momentarily sit it out, nervously watching the timer tick down in whiteknuckled expectation as you wait to rejoin the fray, all the while listening to your team-mates scream for backup as a column of enemy tanks thunders towards a poorly defended position.

Strategic thinking affects every facet of the game. Every time you die, you can respawn as one of five specialised characters - Assault, Engineer, Sniper, Support or Special Ops, who all bring very different skills to the battlefield (for more on this, see the A Class Apart panel on page 074). You're encouraged to use your head rather than your heart, not choosing your favourite troop type but the one that's most likely to benefit your team.
Make the wrong decision too often, and you could soon be staring defeat, rather than victory, straight in its pug-ugly face.

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