The success of Activision’s Modern Warfare franchise has made it the 400lb gorilla to beat on the battlefield for many developers. The record-smashing success of its sequel has also given many of its competitors pause, but EA DICE has been tweeting its own horn in positioning their own war machine as a convincing contender for the camoflauged crown. Whether it’s the lure of its vast maps and pedestrian-unfriendly vehicles, or in actually providing PC players with a basic online GUI, Bad Company 2’s action packed followup easily brings in plenty of reasons in kicking kill streaks to the curb.
Modern Warfare and its sequel approach their action with a fine eye to fast paced, in your face action, but neither bring the scale of conflict into as vast a killing ground as Bad Company 2 does. Outside of an RTS such as World in Conflict on the PC or Halo Wars, Bad Company 2 and its predecessor bring players right down into the dirt with the same idea. The sandbox approach that it takes with its open maps offer a number of ways in which to embarrass the enemy and there are still as many ways in which to step up and lead as an individual player.
There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction in watching the mortar strike I had ordered down on an enemy tank position followed up by squads of players taking full advantage of the door it had just kicked down to the objective. Events like these also feel more player driven in the sense that they aren’t shackled to a certain scoring pre-requisite once you have earned them.
Playing hide ‘n seek amidst the houses, apartments, and forests within the game is limited only by how soon an enemy shell will blow it, and you, into a cloud of shrapnel. Instead of spending lives like quarters in rushing particular objective, many of these can be destroyed simply by pounding a building enough that its groaning echo becomes a death wail to the team that had failed to protect it. Bullets can pass through walls and the diversity of corners, hiding spots, and jungle foliage easily entertains any play style. I can be a Medic healing my team in one round and when additional offense is needed, switch over to a more aggressive Assault role and supply ammo. Or maybe I want to stick to being a Sniper, find a nice out of the way tree to hide under, and pick off my targets at will as the rest of the team brings up the front with armor.
Experience levels also provide the same kind of incentive in playing that Modern Warfare does, although instead of perks and kill streaks, additional weapons and class enhancements give the experience a very different pace. Bad Company 2’s focus on a larger, more involved battleground is reflected within the necessity in grinding down the other side before victory can be won or in planning in how to approach, sabotage, and hold certain objectives while being supported by the rest of the team, a traditional approach long held by the Battlefield series it belongs to. It might not be as fast and aggressive as Infinity Ward’s approach to multiplayer, but the destructive tendencies and tactical opportunities that anyone can explore delivers a uniquely varied experience.
Four classes are available with starting equipment, although not each class has its special “gadget” from the beginning. This “gadget” is what sets each class apart from the others, such as the defibrillator that allows a Medic to bring the dead back, or a pair of special binoculars allowing the Sniper to call down explosive rain. Other upgrades include grenade launcher upgrades for the Assault, more weapons, and even vehicle specializations such as providing smoke making whatever you drive harder to hit. Given the fluid nature of the gameplay, players can easily switch in between…and tweak…any of these classes during the game before spawning back in or prior to starting a game.
Four man squads are a big part of the online experience and as long as any of them are alive, your adopted squad acts as a mobile spawn. The firefights that I’ve been a part of online between two teams contesting either a control point or in defending a destructible objective became meat grinders when everyone started spawning in on top of a squad member who has somehow survived long enough. This makes every soldier a potential game changer, especially if they’re hiding close to enemy lines or right in the enemy’s backyard.
As for the single-player experience, it picks up right after the events of the first Bad Company and casts you back into the worn boots of Preston Marlowe, a somewhat boring individual through whose eyes the main campaign plays out. It starts off with a refreshingly nostalgic bang in taking me back to its WW2 roots before enlisting me back into the present against the Russian Federation which is marching against the United States. The story cuts a solid path through each mission, but most of the entertainment value belongs to the other three members of Preston’s team.
The main story winds through frosty white mountains to the dry wastes of the Atacama Desert in Chile with plenty of updated eye candy to justify your HD television. But as colorful as the environment is along with the lines given to your teammates poking fun at another game, having them along is a lot like having the floating Options from Konami’s shooter, Gradius: they’re indestructible, but without you, they’re not very useful by themselves. As fun as they are to have around, though, it’s not hard to feel as if a great opportunity for four-way co-op was missed.
Despite that, Bad Company 2 succeeds in filling its warzone with shredded steel, shattered buildings, and a host of weapons making it one of the most dangerous playgrounds around online. Letting me sneak into an enemy base, steal their tank, and then overrunning their front lines from behind while a teammate zeroes in with a UAV high overhead to take out their own armor is only one memorable moment among so many others that its tour of duty can gleefully deliver in good company.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
EA DICE / Electronic Arts
Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Xbox 360 reviewed)
Rated M for Mature