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Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Developer: DICE | Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 03/02/10 | Genre: FPS

The Battlefield series certainly isn’t new to the consoles, going all the way back to Battlefield Modern Combat 2 on the original Xbox. Despite a presence on the past two generations of hardware, the franchise has never quite measured up to its PC sibling. This held true for Battlefield: Bad Company, an interesting but forgettable foray by DICE into single player design. Thankfully, Bad Company 2 smashes the console stigma. No longer does it feel like DICE is experimenting with how crack into the living room, they’ve simply given gamers what they always wanted: a genuine Battlefield experience.

The single player portion introduced in the first Bad Company returns, as do the squad members of Bravo Two. Sarge, Sweetwater, and that crazy Texan Haggard are all back to fend off an impending Russian invasion fuelled by a super weapon called Project Aurora. The campaign takes players across the globe, from mountainous mother Russia to the jungles of South America.

As already stated, the single player focus in the last game was a letdown and sadly that’s still the case. The story begins with an interesting throwback to past Battlefield games with a level set during World War II, but after that things get dull really fast with a predictable and thin military storyline. The characters of Bravo Two are an entertaining bunch, making humorous references to hit action movies like Predator. It’s just too bad DICE couldn’t incorporate some real inspiration from those films besides mentioning them in some jokes.

The campaign tries to set up key sequences not found in multiplayer like jumping out of an exploding plane or having to avoid freezing to death in a snowstorm. The environments are also much more elaborate than multiplayer maps with interior structures like castles. Icy cliffs, dense jungles and bombed out cities are all brimming with detail and weather effects like sandstorms. Add in the destruction mechanic and Bad Company 2 gets an edge by making the player feel unsafe at all times since any form of cover can be destroyed. Enemies know this and they’re just as happy to blow stuff up as you are.

The problem is there just aren’t any surprises during the thirteen missions.  Objectives range from clearing an area of enemies to clearing another area of enemies. Sound boring? It is. Some sniping missions and vehicle segments break the pace up but overall the campaign just feels basic and uninspired. It’s obvious DICE tried to make a single player game that didn’t feel tacked on but the plodding gameplay and painfully stereotypical plot kill the effort.

These shortcomings are easily forgotten after a few matches in the online multiplayer and it’s no secret that this is what people are here for. Going up against Modern Warfare 2 probably sounds as crazy as trying to compete with Heinz for the ketchup market, but Bad Company 2’s flavour of action is just as good as any big name brand.

The chaotic warzone simulation Battlefield is known for remains intact. Games support up to 24 players on sprawling maps filled with tanks, jeeps, helicopters and watercraft. A couple new means of transportation include the zippy quad bike and UAV drone which can spread quite a bit of havoc while the operator stays a safe distance from the action.

One big fault with the first Bad Company was the inclusion of just one multiplayer mode at launch, adding to the game’s half-baked taste. DICE has smartly remedied this mistake by including a number of modes. Gold Rush returns but is now simply called Rush, as M-COM stations replace gold crates as the targets which must be either defended or destroyed. The archetypal Battlefield mode Conquest is back and a tighter infantry focused mode called Squad Deathmatch rounds out the list. Squad Rush, a slant on the regular Rush mode, is currently only available to those who pre-ordered the game but will be available at a later date.

There are four classes: Assault, Medic, Recon and Engineer. Each can be customized by unlocking equipment through the now standard ranking system found in most FPS games. What makes the customization so great is how streamlined it feels. Weapon attachments, additional vehicle firepower and heavy body armor are just a few perks that can be easily swapped between spawns in no time at all. It’s much better than having to quit an entire match just to make some minor adjustments to a class.

All of the classes in Battlefield are expertly balanced and each is designed to facilitate teamwork. The assault class drops ammo boxes, medics heal fallen comrades and snipers can mark targets. Not only do these little jobs help, they also net dish out additional XP, giving players a reason to work together.

And that’s really the only way to win in Bad Company 2. Teams who use the squad system to spawn with allies on the front lines will usually trample over a group players selfishly scrambling to boost their K/D ratio. The only thing missing from the teamwork dynamic is some form of hierarchy like the chain of command system in MAG. Having a leader designate where other players should direct their attention rather than wander would be great, especially since people can’t communicate outside their four-man squad.

Nitpicking aside, the multiplayer plays great thanks largely to the teamwork. There’s no better feeling than riding shotgun in a Blackhawk while tearing down buildings with the chain gun or holding a position with your squad against hordes of encroaching enemies and hailing tank shells.  These moments, plus the in-depth experience system, make Bad Company 2 a long-term investment.

Audiophiles will be in heaven with Bad Company 2. Everything from explosions to the sound of a gunfire echoing inside a building is delightfully crisp. The foul mouthed soldiers shouting out enemy locations and crackling radio chatter all help plug your ears right into the front line. A number of different audio settings are also available so users can tune the game to their own setups. A mode recommended for anyone is War Tapes, which amplifies every piece of audio in the game to create the feeling of watching an intense war film in the theatre.

Bad Company 2 has also gotten a serious graphical upgrade that’s most evident in the lighting system. Rays of sunlight beautifully illuminate environments, especially the maps set in the African desert. The destruction mechanic has also received a shot in the arm. Besides blasting away walls, entire structures can now be toppled. The creaking sound that comes just before the tumble is gratifying but it also affects gameplay since M-COM stations can be destroyed in the collapse, making them even more delicate.

The bottom line is this: don’t buy Bad Company 2 for the single player because it’s obvious the heart of the series still doesn’t lie there. Instead, buy it for the polished multiplayer with everything one would expect from a shooter today, plus the fantastic team-play only Battlefield can provide.  It may have taken DICE a few tries but Bad Company 2 shows they’ve finally gotten their act together when it comes to making a proper Battlefield game for consoles.

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By Mark Melnychuk - 03/18/10
ESRB Details: Blood, Strong Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Battlefield: Bad Company 2

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