Taking the Battlefield series into the sandbox might have seemed risky two years ago, but it was a gamble that paid off for DICE. Despite a few criticisms with the story and bits of repetitive gameplay mechanics, Battlefield: Bad Company debuted to positive reviews. With a little over a month until the sequel hits stores, we managed to sneak in some face time with the single-player component of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The demo may have been short, but no matter. It was built to impress, and that it did.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 continues the Cold War-style, Russia-versus-America theme introduced in the first game, but this time around, it's not simply backdrop. It's the main story line. As usual, the dastardly Russians have been up to no good. In between vodka shots, those crazy Cossacks have managed to come up with a nasty super weapon that threatens to completely obliterate the American forces. Since it's a high-risk operation, Preston Marlow and the boys from Bad Company are called in to do what they do best: blow stuff up.
Although most of the game occurs in South America, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 starts its single-player campaign in North America — way up north in Alaska, to be precise. The developers promise multiple environments in which to battle, including snow, desert, urban and jungle warfare.
We started our first mission by flying over an enemy encampment in a chopper and gunning down the hapless soldiers as they massed on the ground. With plenty of structures, explosive tanks and incoming vehicles, it was a great introduction to the enhanced destruction available in the updated engine. Unlike the original, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 allows for total destruction of in-game structures. Want to take out an opponent in cover? Blow up the building he's in so that it collapses on top of him.
After the chopper landed, it was time to move about on foot. The first ground challenge was taking out a machine gun nest at the top of the hill. Rather than approach it head-on, we flanked to the side while the remainder of the squad drew fire. A bullet to the back of the head took care of the gunner. From there, it was a quick run into an office in order to steal some information, and then we were off to an urban ground battle.
This is where we really got our first licks with the game's AI. It's tough, yet it didn't feel cheap. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 pretty much forces you to fight intelligently if you don't want to get gunned down. Rushing ahead with guns ablazing is a good way to die quickly. If the demo level is any indication, using cover is pretty much a requirement. If there doesn't happen to be any, the destruction engine pretty much ensures that you can create some. With the foot soldiers out of the way, we switched back into a vehicle sequence and went racing along cliffside roads, fending off oncoming attacks in a gambit to reach the fallen satellite before our Russian friends. Of course, as soon as we got there, the demo level ended.
We loaded up the other demo level and found ourselves on the outskirts of a South American jungle village. It seems that one of the Russian weapons recovered by the Americans was a decoy, and the original is still out there. Unfortunately, the NSA operative with the inside track, Major Aguire, was kidnapped by Russian forces. Bad Company to the rescue once again.
Fighting in the jungle level was a bit more open than in the snow-covered base we first experienced, with enemies hitting our squad from all sides. The flimsy shacks afforded the Russians plenty of cover at the outset, though some well-placed explosions quickly leveled the playing field — no pun intended.
Most noticeable in the jungle level were the environmental effects. The lush landscape was teeming with color and provided a stark contrast to the brownish hues used for the stonework found in the village. Partway through the mission, rain started to fall, adding to the location effects.
The mission wrapped up with a battle against a tank. A shoulder-mounted RPG proved to be an effective way to combat the behemoth; it was almost too effective, actually. The battle provided another showcase for the game's destruction effects, but it was over all too quickly.
"Short but sweet" is the best way to sum up the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 demo experience. It's impossible to cast any sort of judgment on such a small snippet of play, but it is safe to say that the game makes quite an impression. Assuming the rest of the experience is just as juicy as what DICE packed into the demo, Battlefield fans have plenty to look forward to come this March.
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