Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first person shooter developed by DICE studios. The single player campaign follows a squad of unorthadox characters during a ficticious conflict between the United States and Russia, primarily concerning a secret weapon that as developed in the 2nd World War. It’s not the most original story in the world, but the campaign is certainly still very enjoyable throughout.
The graphics are very detailed and in some moments, breathtakingly beautiful. DICE have done an exceptional job of merging the background geography and skybox with the foreground elements which really does makes the areas seem like a huge open battlefield, even though on most of the levels take you on a linear path through them – which is in some ways a bit of a shame considering Battlefield’s wide-open level heritage, although granted it’s always been a multiplayer-focused game until (relatively) recently.
While the campaign itself is good, it’s far from perfect and has some minor problems. The main issue here is the story itself really, as I mentioned earlier it’s not very original but it’s not very interesting either and the result is that you don’t really care where you are or why you’re there blowing stuff up and shooting people. The saving grace is that the act of killing people and blowing stuff up is a huge amount of fun – the weapons feel weighty and sound movie-perfect – the crack of a sniper rifle piercing the tense quiet just before an assault kicks off, a close explosion causing you to lose most of your hearing, the rattling of an assault rifle echoing down a corridor – all of this really adds to a chaotic combat experience.
The improved damage engine that now allows buildings to be completely levelled makes for an extremely satisfying way to eliminate whole squads and/or progress through the level, and it’s never really promoted in the game as a gimmick, it’s more an evolution of what DICE started with BF: Bad Company 1 and neither feels neither overused or pointless. A major change to the campaign from the first game is that your soldier’s health is no longer numerical, recharged by stabbing yourself in the sternum with a needle – it is instead the (now standard) system where damage clouds and distorts the screen and recharges slowly when you’re not getting shot. This, coupled with the fact that there’s no respawns this time – you die, you reload a checkpoint – makes the campaign feel a lot more coherent in structure, but whether it’s better than the first game or not is subjective to the player. Personally, I prefer this over the old setup as respawning as the same guys required too much of a suspension of belief.
An aspect I was slightly disappointed in was that the game is more seriously focused this time and for many it was the tongue-in-cheek humour of the first game that gave it character. While there’s still some comedy moments in the game, they’re restricted to conversations between your squad mates, rather than farsical momenents like a certain soldier single-handedly invading a country, and as such it feels more ‘generic’ than before. The only other note campaign-wise I’m going to touch on is that it can get a little frustrating as sometimes it feels like there’s a magnetic target stitched into your face, and you’ll find yourself being killed from out of no-where – this coupled with the destruction and gunfire tending to kick up a hell of a lot of dust – can sometimes result in what would be considered a ‘cheap’ death. This doesn’t happen frequently and it shouldn’t put you off the game, but it’s worth mentioning.
Totally overshadowing the campaign mode is DICE’s truly excellent multiplayer. There’s Conquest, where teams try to capture and hold flags like what was found in the older Battlefield games; Rush mode pits teams into an attack and defend battle that progresses in stages as the attackers destroy satellite uplinks and will be familiar to those you played the first game. There’s also 2 other multiplayer modes that DICE have added – Squad Rush follows the same rules as the regular Rush mode, but is a one-on-one squad battle; and Squad Deathmatch is a team deathmatch style game that has multiple squads fighting each other for kills. Unfortunately there’s not a huge selection of maps (something I’ll blame on the current trend in DLC, but I digress…), there’s something like 4 for each of the two main game modes, and further customisations of those for the smaller-scale Squad matches. There’s a map pack available at the moment that contains 1 further each map for Rush and Conquest (which is free to those that bought a copy of the game with the VIP code) and there’s more to come listed in the in-game Battlefield store. While there’s not a huge number of levels at the moment, they all play significantly differently. Some are vast battlefields where players will be involved in a lot of vehicle and long-distance combat and some are smaller, more infantry based affairs and everything in between – there’s also quite a variation of settings for the maps: snowy mountains, deserts, jungles and swamps all feature and all look stunningly beautiful to boot. The jungle levels in particular have some very nice lighting effects, plenty of shadows to hide in and beams of light filtering through the leaves that make you pause in awe of the beauty of the world we live in… then get shot in the face, natch.
The multiplayer hasn’t changed a great deal from the previous game in the way it plays but there’s now rather large amount of customisation available. As you rank up you can acquire Specialisations, along with new guns and some new equipment – for example the recon class starts with a powerful sniper rifle and C4 charges, but after gaining a few ranks you could choose to equip it with a shotgun or submachine gun or have the ability to call in mortar strikes and it’s this customisability that opens up the game. It gives you a large area, a bunch of different tools and give you a the choice of how you’re going to use them. You can switch up your weapons, equipment and specialisations any time you die and it’s presented in a way that allows you to quickly re-adjust and get back into the fight without having to go through loads of menus – this is great as it gives you even more freedom to change and adapt your tactics on the fly to give yourself the edge over your adversaries.
Bad Company online supports 12 players a team, but when you’re playing it definitely feels like twice that. The amount that’s going on at any one time during a match.. well.. hectic is quite the understatement: tanks roll in protected by engineers and flanked by assault troops, choppers rain down hell from above, even quad bikes cause their fair share of chaos as attackers zip around defences and attack from behind! The destruction engine also adds a new layer to the mayhem, but also to your tactics in Rush games, with buildings now able to be fully toppled, defenders will have to adapt from defending the actual objective to defending the building that it sits within, as if the building goes it’s more than likely that the objective will be destroyed too.
One of the main strengths of Battlefield’s multiplayer is the way that good teamwork comes naturally. As before, whenever you die, if any of your squad is still alive you can spawn on their location. This in turn means that it’s in your interest to keep them alive, and considering that almost all actions that help your team (like providing soldiers with more ammo, throwing a motion detector ahead of an assault or simply healing another player) reward you with a lot of points – and points means more unlocks! This has the effect that it’s very likely that say, if you’re in a tank that’s damaged you’ll find that some random player you don’t know has the motivation to come over and repair you, and there’s not many games out there that promotes good teamwork quite so effectively – this is important as it is very much a team based game and a good squad of 4 that communicates and works together well has a huge advantage and more often that not it is this that will win the game.
In conclusion, DICE have crafted good single player campaign but a masterpeice in multiplayer – it doesn’t say “Defining Online Warfare” on the box for nothing!
TGL Score 9/10
Format: Xbox 360 (reviewed) Playstation 3
Release date: March 5th
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE