My roomie and I are playing a lot of BF2 lately - on PCs. If you read my earlier BF2 posts, you know how much of a struggle it was to get co-op working for this game. EA/DICE have issued several patches for the game, but none of them has added co-op features. Hard to understand, given the many petitions out there and the fact that co-op gaming is practically there already in the original game.
I now have an XBox 360. When the BF2 demo for XBox 360 became available recently, I was curious, so I downloaded it. The main menu for the demo includes four options: play, options, view controller setup and something else I can't recall right now. Choosing any of these options caused a message to appear (paraphrased): "You can't do this due to a subscription limitation." Forget how silly it is to prevent people from seeing the controller setup because of a subscription limitation - the real problem here is that the message is too vague. I eventually worked out that since the demo is online multiplayer only you need an XBox 360 subscription that allows online play. I've given Microsoft plenty of cash already and, coincidentally, never play online, so I've been fine with the free Silver subscription. But apparently Gold is needed to play online.
Here serendipity stepped in. A co-worker had - just the day before - plopped a 48 hour free Gold subscription card on my desk. I searched the opaque 360 interface for a way to use this card and eventually found one - or so I thought. I entered the code - a painful process without a keyboard or mouse - and was told that this code wouldn't work in this context. Well, RTFM, right? The card described how to find the appropriate place in the UI to enter this particular code. Once entered, I was able to play. And view the controller setup, of course.
No split-screen options were apparent. But is this only a limitation of the demo? Who knows. So I told the game to connect me to a BF2 server and got into a game. Of course, the game was populated by only two types of user: experienced console shooter players and total newbies trying desperately to learn how to aim their weapon with a little thumbstick. Score: experienced console gamers: infinity, newbies: zero. Include me in the newbie category, by the way.
After half an hour of dying over and over and never even hitting anyone, I handed the controls to my roomie. Suffice to say that his experience was the same. Why didn't they set things up so that the default game servers are all newbie zones? Remember, a demo is supposed to encourage players to buy the full game, not scream at their TV in frustration and vow to never buy the game.
I tried again, this time with the headset. Hey, it works! I can hear voices. What language is that? Chinese? That's not too helpful: Chinese people screaming at me. Oh wait, there's an English voice. He asks me how I'm doing. I press the talk button and say "Okay, I guess." He says "Great, now listen: there are a couple of dudes spawn camping. When you spawn, do a quick 180 and start firing. We have to kill those guys." All his remaining communications were about how to kill these spawn campers. I thought: Why am I playing this? So I stopped.
Amazing. On the PC, this game (with, admittedly, a lot of tweaks to enable co-op play) is one of the best co-op experiences I've ever had. One of the best gaming experiences ever, in fact. But on the 360, you couldn't pay me enough to try it again, for two reasons: gamepads don't work for first-person shooters, and no co-op play. Way to go EA.