It's pretty easy to want to compare Battlefield: Bad Company 2 to the other big name console shooter that was released in the past year, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 from Infinity Ward. Wanting to compare the two is a pretty natural reaction, and not just because they're both big-budget shooters on the PS3 and Xbox 360. For one, they both involve story lines about fictional invading Russian threats. They both involve a tightly knit squad of characters that you come to care about over the course of the single-player campaign, and they both have a very robust multiplayer offering that'll keep fans of both games entertained for hours, if not months, on end. Overall, they're pretty comparable to each other. What I'd rather not get bogged down by, though, is which one is the better product. Let's just say that I'm currently enjoying the ability to take a break from Modern Warfare 2 and play some Bad Company; it's a great distraction from, and even a possible replacement for, the highly addictive online nature of MW2.
DICE, the developers behind both the original Bad Company and this sequel, have become known for crafting pretty solid multiplayer games, with the well-received Bad Company from a couple of years ago, and the recently released Battlefield 1943 on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN. Both games capture the overall spirit of the Battlefield series, which has been hugely popular on the PC for years but has only recently made the transition to consoles with some success. These games are known for giving players a large playground for combat, providing large, open maps with multiple spawn points, squad abilities, squad classes, and vehicles to rain down destruction on your enemies. Bad Company 2 is no exception to this rule, and the multiplayer modes are incredibly fun to play. However, before we go into that, I'd like to talk a little more about why I enjoyed the single-player content so much.
The story line in Bad Company 2 comes on the heels of the first game but doesn't reference it that much — or at all, from what I could tell. The story of the boys from B Company chasing down gold doesn't get so much as a mention, either by way of a cut scene or the incidental dialogue you would encounter if you remain stationary and listen to what your fellow soldiers have to stay. The only thing that does carry over is Sergeant Redford's desire to retire, something that's continuously held back with every additional encounter Bad Company has over the course of the game. These guys might be soldiers, and good ones at that, but you get the idea that they're just looking to get home. It's a pretty easy sentiment to get behind, especially once you see the messes this particular squad has been tasked with cleaning up.
The prologue for the game plays out from World War II and introduces the main threat of the game through a top-secret mission gone wrong, codenamed Operation Aurora. It's a cool throwaway section that gives you a chance to toy around with a setting and weapons that are going to be more familiar to fans of Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 1943, but for the rest of the game, you're stuck in modern times. Along with that, certain tech comes into play, including a limited minimap that'll give off enemy locations as they fire at you (but disappear if they remain silent), a huge range of weapons that'll bring joy to most gun aficionados, and a number of secondary items that allow you to call in air strikes, make use of a UAV, etc. There are a lot of scripted events that'll have you using these particular devices, and the results are generally impressive and satisfying, even if you can't utilize them over and over again.
Part of that impressiveness comes from the destructible environment in Bad Company 2. With the sequel, DICE really steps up the idea of blowing holes in buildings and destroying cover. In the original game, you could toss a grenade at the side of a building and get a pretty standard response as to which part of the building was affected and how it looked, the destruction effects in the sequel seem to be a bit more randomized. It really depends on where you aim your shot, or how close to a wall or structure an explosion might be, and you'll get a different result almost every time. It also adds a whole level of depth to the AI, who reacts pretty well to the changing environment and will often try to destroy your cover in order to flush you out. Combine that with the fact that it doesn't take a great deal of damage before you'll be brought down, and you'll find some pretty hectic sections of the single-player campaign that'll really test your shooter reflexes.
For the most part, though, the campaign is more of an excuse to show off the different aspects of all the weapons that Battlefield has to offer, giving you different load-outs for missions, various crates that you can encounter to switch out weapons from spot to spot, and a number of hidden weapon collectibles to encounter. There are also some vehicle sections, mostly ground-based, and some great minigun sequences from a helicopter that will let you run wild with the destructive effects. There is a rather run-of-the-mill plot, but I really liked the characters of Bad Company, and I've always found that the Modern Warfare titles lacked humor, which is available in this title in spades. It's also 100 percent worth it to stick with your squad during a lull in action, as some of the funniest dialogue can be missed if you keep pressing forward through the game.
Moving on to the multiplayer, Bad Company 2 features four modes, only three of which were available to me during this review. The fourth, Squad Rush, is an unlockable preorder incentive from some retailers and doesn't become available until after 30 days. With that said, the three included here were more than enough to keep me entertained, and I found something to love about each of the three modes. The game features support for a max of 24 players, with modes like Squad Deathmatch generally capping out at 16 players. There are also the Conquest and Rush modes; Conquest is a king of the hill scenario where players attempt to gain control of various spots on the map to generate points, and Rush has one team attacking and one defending, and it plays out in a similar fashion to the main mode of the original game.
Squad Deathmatch pits four squads against each other on a handful of wide-open maps, allowing for squad-specific chat functions as each team battles it out in order to be the first to reach 50 kills. To help your team secure a victory, an armored vehicle is placed on most maps, and it will house multiple team members and allow you to cause some massive destruction to the surrounding area. Another feature that's unique to Bad Company 2 is the ability to spot other players, so if you're quick enough to catch a glimpse of an enemy player and tap the Select button, you'll create an in-game marker that follows that enemy around, allowing the rest of your team to easily see him. This is particularly useful for the recon class snipers; someone else finds enemies, spots them, and lets the snipers take them down. If you can get a group of friends together with some voice chat, you can do pretty well for yourself in not only Deathmatch, but also in the other two modes. It's definitely a multiplayer experience that promotes teamwork over the individual player, and it's a blast to play with a group of friends.
The game also features an unlock and level up system that's been carried over by quite a few shooters since the original Modern Warfare. You'll gain experience for kills, medals and a few other actions along the way (like spotting), and these points are tallied up after every round and added to your overall score. There are a number of ranks to move through, and the leveling up process feels a little on the slow side compared to other shooters. There are different classes to specialize in, including Assault, Medic and Recon, with special skills that can unlock along the way, like the ability to supply your team with extra ammo in the Assault class or healing medpacks of the Medic class. A well-rounded squad is certainly key, so you'll want to play around with the various classes and see which one suits your particular play style. Along with your overall soldier level, the classes have their own levels too, so there's a lot to gain by switching between them at different points.
If you're just fan of shooters in general, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 isn't a game to be missed. I think it's a big improvement over the groundwork that was laid out by the first title and manages to improve just about every aspect, from single-player right down to the multiplayer component. While it doesn't deliver the exact same experience that veteran Battlefield PC players might have been familiar with, it's a step in the right direction when it comes to making large-scale, vehicle-enabled combat accessible to the console crowd. I had a lot of fun with the game during my review, and I plan on continuing that fun in the weeks ahead. It's a great game to play and is definitely worth picking up.
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