We find good company with Bad Company. (PS3, Xbox 360)
Surely, the first question you'll be asking yourself when you fire up Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for the first time is whether it can really measure up to be the Modern Warfare 2 alternative that EA has been promoting it as. Certainly, MW2's multiplayer aspect has been quite divisive, especially given the number of damaging hacks and exploits that have damaged the online experience.
For many, the last straw was the game's slight single-player campaign, salvaged only by the inclusion of Spec Ops – arguably the best thing in MW2. Enter DICE's Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the FPS that should fulfil all of your multiplayer needs and more besides. It might seem lazy and somewhat obtuse to compare MW2 to BF: BC2, but if the publisher is going to invite the comparisons, then who are we not to play along?
Traffic wardens resort to heavy-handed tactics in the desert. And Bill had only gone to buy a rocket launcher.
Tanks are always welcome in Battlefield. You can't beat rampaging through enemy camps in one.
Besides, plenty of players have been quite vocal in their growing frustrations with CoD and its unbalanced perks, and it's those very people that may well find that Bad Company 2 offers a much fairer, more even experience online. DICE haven't stopped there though, going to extra lengths to ensure that both single-player campaign and multiplayer facets of the game are equally substantial and worthwhile.
Bad Company's single-player narrative returns once again to the titular team from the previous game, with Sarge still yearning for retirement, Haggard still whooping at explosions and Marlowe and Sweetwater still fretting about the futility of it all. After their ill-conceived quest for gold and glory, B-Company end up in the Army once more, engaging in more conventional objectives driven by duty rather than personal gain.
The same snappily-written banter and one-liners between the quartet thankfully remains intact, meaning that there's more personality in BC2 than you'd find in most first-person shooters, even if the characterisation still borders dangerously close to cliché. You and your team travel from jungles to snowy tundra and vast desert dunes as the mission unfolds, bringing new challenges and masterfully constructed action sequences that keep things consistently varied.
When not indulging in bombastic action and testosterone-fuelled exchanges, Bad Company 2 conjures up some truly inventive set-pieces, like weaving your way through a treacherous snowstorm, taking shelter in houses or shooting flammable barrels to keep your body heat up. Other such highlights include sniping patrolling guards during a storm, concealing the ringing echo of gunshots behind flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder. Targeting laser-guided airstrikes on a derelict village is another, as is piloting a remote UAV drone to pinpoint ground-based units for destruction. And that's just for starters. There's plenty more where that came from.
And while these moments stand out as uniquely involving and memorable, it's the robust nature of the core FPS mechanics between the big set-pieces that make BC2 special. There's seldom a lull in the action as you're either racing around a cliff edge in a jeep one minute and then rolling roughshod over enemy units in a tank or silently crawling through leafy undergrowth snipping camouflaged tripwires, the next.
DICE has also improved the control set-up for Bad Company 2, sensibly doing away with the previous game's clumsy weapon and item selection, mapping grenades and melee attacks to the front bumpers, which is far more intuitive. Health too is now regenerated rather than assigned to an administered adrenaline shot, which always proved fiddly under heavy fire.
“I'm not falling for that old “it's behind you” trick.”
It's often impossible to resist playing air guitar in the middle of a warzone.
BC2's visual and sound design too is consistently exemplary throughout, and though the graphical finesse is sometimes lacking, the updated Frostbite Engine allows for expansive environments and a level of destruction far beyond that of any other FPS currently available, now enabling you to dole out some 'Destruction 2.0', reducing most buildings to rubble. Exploration is actively discouraged however, penalising any attempts to venture off course with a ten second countdown demanding that you turn around or die instantly.
This is never detrimental however, and indeed, focusing the objectives by making the campaign more linear is actually quite beneficial, keeping the experience tight and cutting out any aimless wandering. There are plenty of hidden satellite uplinks to locate and destroy and a whole list of collectibles to track down in the shape of extra guns, which is a just reward for exploration within the allotted boundaries, which is still sizeable.
Two weapons can be carried at any one time and being able to switch between them at intermittent supply drop points unlocks immense opportunity for experimenting with differing approaches towards objectives. Most of the time this will involve launching rockets and grenades through walls or other obstacles in a bid to test the limitations of the Frostbite Engine, but either way, blowing things up never gets old and the strategical, visual and indeed aural impact of explosions and gunfire is unmatched.
Vehicle sections are just as impactful and break up the usual running and gunning alongside your team. Occasional blasts on the minigun of your helicopter gunship used for extraction and piloted by hippy pacifist, Ghost Rider also lets you mix things up at certain intervals. Ripping through buildings, vehicles, explosive fuel dumps and scampering enemy units below is always huge fun leaving you wanting more. It's to DICE's credit that Bad Company 2 is almost comprised entirely of this kind of overblown Hollywood action movie-style stuff that sits happily alongside the well-written story.
And though humorously penned, the story never compels as much as it could, yet it does a good enough job in moving the action along at a steady pace, injecting a bit of variety as and when it's required. That said, BC2's single-player still stands up as much more than simple preparation for the multiplayer portion of the game, which is quite possibly the main reason players will buy BF:BC2.
Comprised of several modes, including the return of Gold Rush, now simply titled 'Rush', and Conquest multiplayer offers a wealth of online fun. Squad Rush offers a smaller, more tightly focused version of Rush with fewer players, while the standard deathmatch and team deathmatch modes are exactly as you'd expect. Consistently enjoyable and suitably frantic in traditional Battlefield fashion, BC2's multiplayer skirmishes better than they were in the original Bad Company, thanks to multiple gameplay tweaks such as larger maps and streamlined controls. XP and other rewards are generously awarded for flexing your skills in the multiplayer arena and there are no pesky unfair perks and exploits to mar and skew the experience. And hopefully there never will be.
Bad Company 2 represents the complete FPS package, boasting accomplished multiplayer and single-player components. Consequently, BF:BC2 is entitled to take pot shots at its closest competitors (Sweetwater complains about the Army sending in “pussy-ass guys with heartbeat sensors on their guns” for instance) while liberally borrowing from them at the same time.
Shoot it down! Shoot it down!
Blowing holes in walls is all part of the strategy. Fun too.
DICE's sequel is a superlative FPS, let down only by odd inconsistencies in the destruction whereby certain objects can be blasted into smithereens while others stand up to infinite punishment despite clearly being made out of the same stuff. Why should certain internal walls be utterly invincible and flimsy structures stand up to limitless punishment while others crumble with considerable ease? It's a minor niggle and one that never conspires to mar the experience, since the amount of destructible scenery far outweighs the bits that aren't.
BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2 VERDICT
Ultimately, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is one of the best FPS titles currently available. Single-player might not be exceptionally heavyweight, but it manages to mostly push all the right buttons. It’s multiplayer where the real substance lies though and it’s there that you’ll find that BF:BC2 offers real long term gameplay that’s both satisfying and infinitely entertaining. And that’s really Bad Company 2 in an artillery shell.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Taking down several helicopters with a guided rocket launcher emplacement