Battlefield: Bad Company 2 // PS3

May 18, 2010

Perhaps it can be chalked up to the 100+ hours of driving tanks and ‘pwning noobz’ in the exemplary multiplayer modes, but when I finally got around to sitting through Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s singleplayer campaign, I found it straightforward, or dare I say it, rather easy. Not that this is altogether unexpected; Dice’s answer to Infinity Ward’s smash hit Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was always going to be about its online modes, but the singleplayer campaign still has its virtues, even if it does, at times, feel like an extended tutorial in order to prepare players for multiplayer play on the battlefield. Finally able to bring you an appraisal of everything the game has to offer, hit the jump for a comprehensive review of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Good Company

Reprising the role from the original Battlefield: Bad Company, the player steps into the dusty boots of likeable everyman soldier Preston Marlowe, who finds himself amidst a ragtag group of comrades who differentiate themselves from typical military bad-asses with a believable mix of human frailty, humour and pathos. Despite this, it’s curious just how capable Marlowe is; his everyman persona perhaps belied by his extraordinary range of skills. Drive a tank? Check. Pilot a UAV? Check. Snipe? Check. Blow up enemy vehicles with an RPG? Check. Scythe down helicopters with a minigun from a moving Blackhawk? Check.

Despite being at odds with the human vibe that Dice is trying to create, it’s clear why players are tasked with such a bewildering array of missions. Firstly, it’s more fun – nothing would be more boring than performing a basic infantry role, mowing down waves of faceless enemies with assault rifles and light machine guns, for hours on end. Secondly, not only does this range of skills provide variety and colour to the singleplayer campaign, it also gives the player a solid foundation in the use of the various weapons and vehicles that they will need to master in the online modes to be any good at them.

Your squadmates are even more heroic. Downed often by stray grenades and hails of bullets, they stand back up again without a scratch. Absolutely unkillable, they represent a missed opportunity for Dice to incorporate the medi-packs and defibrillator from the multiplayer modes into the campaign. Reviving Sweetwater and co. could have yielded extra bonuses, or simply have been a mission requirement that adds to an extra dimension to each objective. It’s a rare missed trick in what is otherwise a superb primer to online combat.

Military Madness

The story is the usual overblown, convoluted nonsense that seems to systematically plague military FPS games of recent times. It contains all the usual uninspired clichés, including a devastating super-weapon and (surprise, surprise) the Russians. You’ll stay in touch with the unravelling plot for a few chapters, before a slew of betrayals, sudden revelations and shallow characters throw you off track. Not that it matters – you just need to shoot shit, after all. The story sustains itself for around ten hours before burning out in a rather tepid final third. It’s rare that a game’s closing chapters are its easiest, but this is definitely the case with Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Presentation-wise, the campaign delivers in spades. Environments are varied, from wide-open expanses of desert, through sluggish rivers studded with bracken, to rain-drenched enemy encampments; each is presented in meticulous detail. All but one of these levels is linear in nature, with each scenario clearly boxed in and fenced off – any forays into the darker parts of the map flash up a timer in which you must return to the play area, or be killed. This linearity is pretty much par for the course for all solo campaign modes of this type; without such artificial corridors, the game wouldn’t be able to deliver its adrenaline-pumping set-pieces. Hand-in-hand with the polished visuals go perfectly pitched sound design. Everything sounds exactly as you would imagine, from the reloading of tank shells to the metallic ring of a knife kill; war has never sounded so good. Even the banter is well-delivered, the voice actors behind Bad Company all putting in solid performances. Special mention goes to the hippie pilot who ferries you and your squadmates around. He’s a pacifist, but, hey, karma can be a bitch.

Tango Down

Despite this solid and polished solo campaign, it’s the online multiplayer modes where Battlefield: Bad Company 2 earns its stripes, and where the majority of the last two months of my life has been spent. Radically different to it’s closest rival Modern Warfare 2 in all but genre and theme, Bad Company 2’s online multiplayer rewards skilled veterans whilst still offering a welcoming hand to newcomers.

At present, there are four online game types to choose from, with a fifth, Onslaught, planned as paid-for DLC later this year. Conquest is a typical Capture The Flag game type, with a number of capture points dotted over and around each map. Squad Deathmatch pits four four-player squads against each other in smaller arenas, each of which spawns a single tank with which to take the upper hand (or become an easy target). A squad must reach a total of 50 kills first to win the match. Rush is easily the best mode available, and is a tailored version of the Gold Rush mode from the first game. Teams are split into Attackers and Defenders, twelve players on each side, in maximum squad sizes of four; Attackers are tasked with arming and destroying a pair of M-Com stations in each area of a continually unfolding map, the Defenders are tasked with repelling their assault. Squad Rush is a mini version of it’s bigger brother Rush, pitting just a single squad of four players against each other on each map, and still separated into Attackers and Defenders.

It’s in the different classes that Bad Company 2 obtains most of its strategy, fun and variety. The online modes are no places for lone wolves; those used to, and put off by, the insane reflexes and breakneck speed required of the largely one-on-one deathmatches of Modern Warfare 2 can relax into a more measured, but infinitely more epic, pace. Play is geared towards team play – more points are awarded to players who help out their immediate squadmates, as well as the rest of their team. Ammo boxes, repairing broken vehicles, throwing out medi-packs – each of these will award points, and plenty of them. Those who don’t have the skills to be sharp-shooters should rejoice – there is more than one way to be top dog in this game.

Class Act

The Assault class provides the firepower and deadly frontline, packing deadly assault rifles and under-carriage grenade launchers capable of bringing down entire buildings. They also have the ability to throw down ammo boxes, providing themselves with unlimited ammo, and providing others with munitions for easy points.

The Engineer class revolves around Bad Company 2’s vehicle warfare; both a mechanic and a demolitionist, the Engineer has access to devastating RPG weapons – capable of taking out armoured tanks with a few shells – and the repair tool, a handy little power-tool which ‘heals’ friendly tanks, and also capable of inflicting humiliating kills on fools who are not paying attention.

The Medic is perhaps the best class in the game, and certainly my favourite. Wielding LMG’s with enormous magazines, they can stand their own in dealing death. But they are unique in the way they can others from it. Medi-packs heal comrades, allowing them to soak of more damage before being put down – and the defibrillator, unlocked once a certain amount of points are accrued, bring soldiers back from the dead – if you can reach them in time. With a squad revive yielding substantially more points than a kill, it’s not uncommon to see Medics amassing the most points at the end of each game.

Last, and least, is the Recon class – the hated snipers – dressed in silly grass suits and squatting in their own cowardice, taking the occasional pot-shot to preserve their kill/death ratio as their team-mates put the effort in to win the match. As you can tell, I’m not a fan.

It’s the diversity in these different classes that makes online matches so fluid, with any given game completely different to the last, or next. Factor in other variables like tracer darts, anti-tank mines, UAVs, quad bikes, motion mine’s, C4, mortar strikes, knife kills, defibrillator kills, fully destructible environments and more, and you have a recipe for extreme chaos, and riotous fun. With Dice already doling out free map packs and sensibly priced add-ons to counter the expensive DLC additions for Modern Warfare 2, it’s building a strong case to be the online multiplayer FPS of choice.With the welcome bonus of a strong solo campaign packaged in with a continually satisfying online component that has never hinted at becoming stale, it’s clear where my allegiances lie in this particular war.

93/100

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