Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: Battlefield- Bad Company 2

The original Battlefield: Bad Company was a lot of fun to play. You had a massive set of open maps to explore, vehicles (from tanks to golf carts) to tear up the countryside with, and a cast of characters and a story so zany you sometimes forgot the vast majority of your time was being spent putting extra holes in a whole lot of Russians.

Bad Company did not take itself too seriously and, for that reason, it stood out for being a lighthearted approach to a genre usually home to more grim tales of intrigue and double crosses.

Most likely fueled by a determination to reclaim the shooter crown and borrowing heavily from more “serious” offerings, I was a bit disappointed by how close to these other shooters Bad Company 2 treads.

Serge, Sweetwatter, Haggard and Preston return as Bravo Company and the group is sent on a mission to retrieve a weapon that, if used, will mean the start of World War III. The story is a far cry away from the oddball quest for mercenary gold in BC1 and, like this new campaign, the rest of the game takes on a similar, darker tone.

Sure, Haggard, Sweetwater and Serge provide some hilarious dialogue and manage to get the job done in unorthodox fashion, but it’s impossible not to feel like some of the joy from the first offering is missing this time around.

Still, from the familiar band of misfits to the inclusion of the most laid back helicopter pilot known to man, the cast, at least, has competing games in the FPS family beat by a mile.
The rest of the single player experience? Not so much.

First, I must say that most of my gripes from BC1 have been addressed. You can fine-tune the aiming more precisely now and there’s little to no tearing when roaming the maps. A bit of pop-in can be distracting and occasionally a flight of stairs proved to be harder to navigate than a tank-infested field, but mostly the game controls like a charm.

Rather than wide-open maps, players are instead almost exclusively kept to a linear path this time around. This actually proved to be a good thing. The pacing is more controlled and what room there is usually provides enough options to attack a given situation from multiple angles.
Shooting is fun, but outside of “enter an area, kill everyone, push forward, repeat,” gameplay often felt a bit repetitive. There are some nice breaks from the action requiring you to snipe or sneak into an area, and the vehicle portions are very well done, but the single player experience felt lacking overall.

More like a seven hour tutorial, the great characters and a script full of chuckles are about the only thing that set the campaign apart from the competition.

So the single player is just good enough to warrant a playthrough. What about the multiplayer?

As with every Battlefield game, online is definitely the main meat of the experience.
I’ve tried to avoid mentioning Modern Warfare 2 in this review because I don’t feel it’s a fair comparison to make. In terms of online, the two offer vastly different experiences. I will, however, say that what MW2 borrowed from Battlefield in the first place (and more or less perfected, I might add), the good fellows at Dice have taken back and elevated it for their own game.

While the use of a killcam is sure to upset many-a sniper, the rest of the additions only go on to improve the multiplayer offering, making it the biggest, baddest war simulator available.
The maps are large and well designed, leaving plenty of room for opposing forces to progress on foot, by land, water or even the air. The four available classes are well balanced and a selection of all-kit weapons allows additional customization for, say, a person who wants to have the gadgets of a scout with the up close gunplay only a shotgun can provide.

Weapons, upgrades, gadgets and perks are unlocked through the course of play, making the soldier customization practically endless.

Along with the normal level progression, individual weapons can earn star rankings, knifed enemies earn you dogtags and there are enough medals and patches for completing objectives to keep any player busy until Bad Company 3 comes out.

Despite only having a handful of game modes, what’s available is addictive and the gameplay is so varied you are likely to never have the same experience twice.

Players can join squads, but an all-speak option for those with mics would have been a nice addition for those wanting to coordinate something with more than just your three teammates.

Speaking of squads, the ability to spawn on any living partner and bonus points for working together make for one of the best cooperation-friendly experiences you’re likely to find.

Finally, something has to be said about the sound and the Destruction 2.0 engine.

From up close gunfire to the distant whip crack of a sniper round being shot across the map, from tanks and choppers to the footfalls of nearby enemies and the groan of an entire building coming down, war has never sounded so good.

And, yes, entire buildings can get turned into piles of rubble thanks to the new engine. This creates a much more dynamic experience and makes for an ever-evolving battlefield.

While the single player campaign was a bit mediocre, I can’t say enough about how well done the multiplayer portion of Bad Company 2 is. For shooter fans looking for a more tactical, explosive approach to the genre, you need look no further.

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