Swedish developer DICE has long been the master of online warfare, their lineage of creating excellent multiplayer experiences extending back to 2002’s Battlefield 1942. Even though DICE has a bunch of award winning frag-fests tucked under their caps, their games have always lacked a solo outing outside of throwing a bunch of computer-controlled grunts at someone and calling it “single-player”. DICE’s first foray into the setup of a solitary campaign came with 2007’s Bad Company, the second DICE game on current generation consoles and the first one with a single player portion.
The tone of the game was humorous, and it wedged the story into the huge open maps that the series is known for. The multiplayer was lauded, but then again, that’s a given with DICE. What Bad Company did prove is that they can make single players games, but it was in need of some refinement. Two years later, we’ve got a sequel and it aims to take back the crown of “First Person Shooter King”. What did DICE do differently this time around?
One of the first steps DICE took was to cut out the huge open areas of the first game and replace them with a more conventional sandbox approach that blurs the lines between the Halo series’ large encounters and Call of Duty’s corridor-like shoot-outs. At times you’ll be hoofing it through a jungle canyon, while at other times you’ll be ripping across the desert in a buggy. It all feels a lot tighter than the first game and helps keep you on a path towards your objective.
Your squad from the first game returns, and they’re just as off-color as ever. You’ve got your no-nonsense Sergeant (he’s too old for this crap), the nerdy tech guy, and the dude who loves explosions. You fill out the role of Preston Marlowe, the former FNG who’s swept along for the squad’s misadventures. While the game makes you out as the least experienced of the four, your squad mates are really only good for yelling out one-liners and filling the air with ineffectual gun-fire. While it doesn’t quite reach the point of having you do everything by yourself, the onus is still on you to take out all the vehicles and RPG-wielding troops.
Despite your team’s ham handedness, their presence makes the game a lot more cinematic and lively, and this is helped along greatly by the superlative sound design. Every gun, from the basic pistol to the biggest machine gun, all pack quite the punch, rumbling the battlefield and the living room alike if you have a good enough sound system. Another way that the effects tie everything together is that distance plays a key part in determining how you perceive sound. The sounds start out as muffled but become sharper as you get closer. My advice it to put on the “War Tapes” mix and let the silky symphony of battle caress your ear drums. Bad Company 2 is also one of the best looking games in recent memory, but if you look close enough you’ll find some issues with aliasing and few instances where the graphics will tear. Overall it looks beautiful, especially if you’re running DirectX 11, but there are some minor hiccups.
Of course, even the most well presented games need a decent story, and this is where Bad Company 2 stumbles. The sense of humor that permeated the first game is back, but it’s got a more serious approach this time around. The over-all plot is a mishmash of many different sources and it takes more than a few swipes at Modern Warfare 2’s narrative. Unfortunately, like Modern Warfare 2, the story has the feeling of a Tom Clancy novel that didn’t quite make it. The level designs are really good, however, and the set pieces are quite riveting. Calling down the rain on a fortified village and tearing up the Andes Mountains on a souped-up patrol car are just two of the moments that give you the “holy crap” feeling during the campaign. The opening mission, which sets up the back-story, is also really well done and it feels like a cross between LOST and Battlefield 1943. Two major complaints I have against the single player campaign are that the checkpoints are spread way too thin, and the enemy AI is much too accurate with their under-slung grenade launchers. Combine these two, and you’ll have a few occasions where you’re playing the same section over and over.
The main hook of Bad Company 2 isn’t the story, but the unique destruction mechanics. Now referred to as “Destruction 2.0”, this upgraded system allows for entire buildings to be reduced to rubble, crushing unfortunate occupants and objectives that happen to be caught inside. The constantly shifting battleground makes for some exciting scenarios, both in single and multiplayer, when your cover is blown away and you’re scrambling to find new shelter. The game is determined to let you take advantage of this system, as most multiplayer classes come equipped to blow open walls, and there are explosive barrels stacked everywhere. There are a few glitches with Destruction 2.0, but the mere fact that this game has it at all puts it head and shoulders over a lot of its competitors.
The primary draw of a Battlefield game of any kind is, of course, the multiplayer. While the single player is pretty good, multiplayer easily blows it out of the water. There are two main modes on offer here: Rush returns from the original Bad Company, but this time you’re attempting to blow up M-COM stations instead of gold crates. The other mode is Conquest, the classic Battlefield stand-by where you try and take control points away from the opposing teams. The more flags you have, the faster the opposing team loses respawn tickets. Rush is a heck of a lot of fun, and it’s the superior mode in my opinion. Conquest is a good time, naturally, but near the end of the matches a loud, obnoxious foghorn sounds over and over for about three minutes.
Unlike some other online shooters, where the word “team” is used very loosely, cooperation is essential for victory. You can group into squads of four and back each other up as you duke it out with the opposing team. There are four classes, each with their unique role in combat. The Assault class is your basic battering ram, but he can also resupply ammo. The Medic and Engineer are self-explanatory, and the Recon class is a cross between sniper and special forces. Once you get high enough in level, you can equip various shotguns and battle rifles across all classes, so even those stuck in the back lines can get a little closer at higher ranks.
The only gripe I have about multiplayer is that it takes a little too long to advance in rank, and the classes don’t start out with their specific gear. Running around as a Medic that can’t heal or revive kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion. Once you get past these early hurdles, however, you may find yourself well and truly addicted to Bad Company 2’s multiplayer. There were a few server and connectivity issues at the outset, but these have mostly been fixed.
While Bad Company 2 may not have the best campaign mode, it more than makes up for it with its multiplayer, something that I can’t stress enough. Even if you weren’t a fan of the first, my advice is to give this game a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.
So, what do you guys think? How many of you have played this game, and what are your opinions? What platform are you playing it on?
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