Game trailer: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Military-based action games have become the first-person-shooter staple thanks to franchises like Call of Duty. We've seen attempts to capture the same experience before, but Battlefield: Bad Company seems to do the best job at tackling the genre with its own take on things.
We've been playing Bad Company 2 for a while now and enjoy some things, but dislike others. Does it have a leg to stand on, or does it rely on too many elements that Modern Warfare 2 has seemingly perfected?
As a potential rival to the juggernaut that is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the equally awkwardly named Battlefield: Bad Company 2 certainly looks the part. It has a collection of multiplayer games, a semi-throwaway single-player campaign, and the long-standing provenance that comes from being an offshoot of a well-liked classic game series.
And, in fact, this buzz-heavy shooter is very well-made and has much that catches our attention. It's main claim to fame is wildly destructible environments, which is a press-release-like way of saying many of the actual buildings and structures in the game can be brought down by rockets, bombs, and other high-powered attacks.
Certainly that destruction mechanic was engaging enough to keep us roped into a single-player campaign that started off strong with a gripping WWII raid, but soon fell into shopworn cliche (and unlike the similarly cliched Modern Warfare 2, it lacked the frenetic energy to keep us from asking too many questions)--at least for a few hours.
But the main attraction is the online multiplayer, and on this count, the game both hits and misses. The ability to bring a building tumbling down on someone's head makes for battles that feel different almost every time, and the mission types stay far away from the typical team death match shootouts, making this a a must-try for fans of military first-person shooters.
At the same time, there's a lack of what we'd call transparency. New games don't start from a central lobby, where you can see who else is playing (or how many people are playing each game type); and tapping the "back" button on your Xbox controller doesn't bring up the in-game scoreboard, you have to hold it down, or navigate to a separate submenu. If the game has different types of matches based on the players' relative ability levels (as Modern Warfare 2 does), it's also not transparent about that as well. We also found that almost no one in the game was using voice communication, via the Xbox headset, which was quite the opposite of what we've experienced in other chatter-filled military shooters.
That said, we've had some truly transcendent moments in multiplayer matches--one in particular when we climbed up to the second floor of a half-bombed building with a rocket launcher, and just as an enemy helicopter buzzed through at nearly eye level, we managed to fire off a shot and hit it right in the tail rotor, bringing the bird down. It's these excellent standout moments that stock our personal highlight reel and make it easier to forgive the somewhat focus-grouped feel of the rest of the game.
Is there room for two major multiplayer military franchises? Though it certainly doesn't top Modern Warfare 2, Bad Company 2 at least makes a serious case for being the "other" big online console shooter.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is definitely a departure from the last game's theme. The characters remain mostly the same, but Bad Company 2 doesn't focus as much on trying to be a comedy like we saw in the first Bad Company game.
Instead, the action is the star of the game, and everything we really enjoyed the first time around carries over. Destructible environments have to be Bad Company 2's selling point, and the title is able to handle this detail better than most games today do.
It would be impossible not to mention Modern Warfare 2 when talking about Bad Company 2, because there are loads of similarities here. Controls are basically the same, but we think Modern Warfare 2 feels tighter. Graphically speaking, Modern Warfare 2 edges out Battlefield, but mostly because the former is able to run at a smooth 60 frames per second.
Bad Company 2 does have its fair share of engaging action, arguably trumping what's found in the Modern Warfare 2 single-player campaign. Environments collapse and change right before your eyes and at times there's a sense of comradery that doesn't always come across in Modern Warfare 2.
We found the online multiplayer mode in Bad Company 2 to be a bit on the light side, though, specifically in the number of game modes. As far as actual game play goes, it's here where we really draw the connection to Modern Warfare 2's experience. However, in almost every capacity, the latest Call of Duty game remains superior. That said, we liked the moments of anarchy where buildings collapse on enemies or driving a tank through a ammo shelter. The selection of vehicles, aircrafts, and tanks is satisfying--stuff we're not used to seeing work well in this type of online setting.
Gamers looking for a more in-depth and fleshed-out single-player experience may find it here, as the story does hold its own. But in the end, it might not be enough to replace memories of Modern Warfare 2 that are still fresh in so many minds.
Be sure to check out a live demo of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on the February 26 episode of preGAME!