Battlefield: Bad Company 2 360, PS3, PC Review
We at DZ Towers really liked the first Battlefield: Bad Company. It wasn’t quite as tight as Call of Duty 4, sure, but its multiplayer modes had a much heavier emphasis on teamwork, and the campaign mode – while plagued with its own troubles – had a genuine sense of humour – something that’s sorely lacking in video games, especially within the often po-faced FPS genre. Since then, we’ve had another excellent Call of Duty title (and a relatively lacklustre one, but shh) – and now Bad Company 2 is with us. So, how does DICE’s latest effort compare?
The campaign mode in the first Bad Company managed to upset quite a few people, not least because it demonstrated pretty clearly that DICE hadn’t really made a single-player FPS before. Battlefield: Modern Combat had an ostensibly single-player mode, but most people agreed that simply taking the various multiplayer modes and populating them with AI-controlled soldiers instead of other players didn’t really constitute a proper campaign. So, Bad Company‘s campaign was a brave step forward for DICE, who saw fit to include such quirks as your character simply respawning somewhere else every time he got killed – which is fine if you’re just playing as a succession of faceless soldiers, but the game put you in the boots of Private Preston Marlowe, dumped in a squad of outcasts – the titular ‘Bad Company’ – for going joy-riding in a helicopter. So, you’d find yourself charging into battles, not worrying too much about death, whilst also wondering why this one character is able to keep fighting no matter how many times he gets blown up. At least BioShock‘s vita-chambers had the decency to try and make sense within the game’s narrative.
Still, the game’s characters were enough to make the experience compelling, as they peppered the game with their convincing and genuinely funny dialogue. Eyebrows were raised when EA promised us a “more mature” squad in Bad Company 2, but thankfully we’ve got nothing of the sort. If anything, the dialogue is funnier than ever – listen carefully and you’ll catch your squad-mates having little chats inbetween battles about who would win in a fight between Hulk Hogan and Chuck Liddell, or why aviator sunglasses are for communists. The first game’s theme of the squad’s general mistreatment at the hands of the US military is strangely absent this time around, but the characters nevertheless remain an entirely likeable bunch.
What also helps is that many of the issues with the first game’s campaign have been straightened out. No more bizarre respawning, no superfluous insta-health injector item, and the gunplay has been significantly tightened up. On top of all that, the game allows you a considerable amount of tactical freedom. While Modern Warfare 2 felt incredibly sharp and bombarded you with thrilling set-pieces, the actual gunfights felt like little more than shooting galleries, asking you to clear all the targets then move up, over and over again. Bad Company 2 feels a lot more fluid and dynamic – sure, you’re essentially still travelling down a set path (apart from one really nice open-world bit), but that path is wide enough to present you with a whole bunch of options, depending on your preferred combat style. Frequent weapon crates allow you to switch between any weapons you’ve picked up during the game, so you’re never stuck for ideas.
The game’s story does wobble occasionally, with yet another tired ‘Russia vs US’ set-up, and the constant switches in and out of non-interactive cutscenes feel very dated, especially compared to Modern Warfare 2‘s constant first-person perspective. Why nobody apart from Infinity Ward has learned from the example set by Half Life all those years ago, I’ll never know. Mind you, it seems like a moot point when Bad Company 2‘s characters and dialogue are still ten times more entertaining and memorable than those found in… well, any other first-person shooter.
Of course, as good as the campaign might be, this is a Battlefield game, so the meat of the experience is to be found online. And while I’m not going to tell anybody to chuck their copy of Modern Warfare 2 straight in the bin, I’ve got no problem claiming that Bad Company 2 is by far my favourite of the two games. It’s not that it’s better, per se. It’s just that, like the first Bad Company, it encourages real teamwork. Where Modern Warfare 2 rates people by how many men they successfully shot in the face, Bad Company 2 rates you on the amount of points you gather. Sure, you get points for shooting people. But you also get points for pointing out enemy positions for your team-mates, or for healing your allies, giving them ammo, repairing their vehicles, tagging enemy vehicles with tracer darts, capturing objectives, and so on. In other words, you’re rewarded for actually being helpful to your team, instead of just your proficiency at shooting.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword, mind. If none of your friends are online, you’ll often find yourself getting stuck in a team of idiotic strangers, and you’ll struggle to get anything done while the enemy team steamrollers over you. It can be a frustrating and humiliating experience to repeatedly get your arse handed to you, because your team’s full of teenagers who insist on lone-wolfing it because they don’t actually understand how the game works.
But, let’s say – for argument’s sake – that you do actually have some friends, and you manage to gather a few of them together for a bit of man-shooting action. Well, when that happens, you might just find yourself playing one of the most exhilarating, satisfying, and fun online shooters ever made. There really is nothing quite like taking a well-rounded squad, each member with different abilities and specialities, and pushing forward through enemy lines with the most incredible efficiency and grace. There are times where you’ll genuinely think you’re in a highly-scripted single-player game.
As well as the objective-based modes you’d expect from a Battlefield title, there’s now a squad deathmatch mode. Kills are, obviously, more important here, but the game’s ethos still stands – you work as a team, or you’re screwed.
Then, of course, there’s all the stuff that spans both campaign and multiplayer modes alike. Aesthetically, the game is stunning – the detail and lighting in the environments are almost on a par with those found in the incredible Uncharted 2, though they’re quite heavily let down by some rather nasty scenery pop-up on our Xbox 360 version. The sound design is also definitely worthy of a mention – playing this game with a good pair of headphones (or a proper hi-fi, if you’ve got one) makes you realise how little attention a lot of developers pay to the way their games sound. There are a few notable exceptions, of course, but DICE in particular have made an effort to really nail it with their last few releases, and Bad Company 2 is their best-sounding game yet. Gunfire echoes off nearby mountains, explosives are going off all over the place, and yet there’s still enough detail in the sound of each bullet whizzing past your ears that you can tell roughly what kind of weapon is being fired at you, and from which direction. It’s an amazing achievement that a game can be so sonically dense, but without becoming confusing or overbearing.
Then there’s the building destruction, which has been revamped since the first Bad Company. Buildings can now be completely destroyed if you manage to take out enough walls so that they collapse in on themselves, and your cover can be easily destroyed by standard gunfire as well as explosives. It’s like a less chaotic version of the sandbox fun you could have in Red Faction: Guerilla - it’s not quite as freeform as the Mars-based shooter, but you still have to constantly think about where you can move to next, in case your cover gets blown or shot to pieces. It’s a bit more exciting than simply crouching by a three-foot wall for five minutes, knowing you can’t really be hurt.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is as complete a package as you could ever ask for. An exciting and charming campaign mode – a little on the short side, but no more so than Modern Warfare 2‘s, and with extra objectives for you to hunt down should you feel the need – and slick, incredibly rewarding multiplayer modes that actually bring people together instead of making them all swear at each other via the internet, and provide enough scope for you to come away from each session with your own unique war stories. Multiplayer-heavy titles can be a fickle beast, but we’re pretty sure we’ll be playing this one for quite some time to come.