March 10, 2010
Creating a successful foursome in video games seems to be a trickier thing than you’d have first thought. Other than the obvious Gears of War crew, which is more of two twosomes if you catch my drift, it’s a rare commodity. Compare that to other popular mediums and you’ll see video games are lagging behind. For instance, children’s cartoons gave us Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds and Hollywood has given us Three Men and a Little Lady; both classics in their own right... Yeah... The closest thing we’ve got in the video game industry that’s as epic as those two foursomes is EA and DICE’s B-Company – Battlefield’s band of unconventional soldiers. After a strong debut in Bad Company, DICE’s squad based shooter is back... and full of beans!
Bad Company 2’s single player campaign is an interesting change of tone and DICE have seemingly changed the B-Company from a free-loading, money-grabbing bunch of misfits, to a patriotic, professional crew of soldiers. That’s not to say that they’ve totally done away with the humour, that’s still present for the most part, but Redford – who’s now in Danny Glover’s Lethal Weapon phase of longing for retirement – Sweetwater, Haggard and Marlowe are now more than willing to put their lives on the line for something bigger. Something you wouldn’t really have associated with the crew after the antics of Bad Company 1.
For the sequel, the online multiplayer gets a reshuffle in the classes department; now featuring 4 streamlined classes, rather than 5 fairly limited ones. These include the gunner’s paradise Assault class; the heavy-on-the-stealth Recon class; the I-just-want-to-fix-you-up Engineer class; and the let-me-heal-that-right-up-for-you-soldier Medic class. Whilst on the whole, the class dimensional shift does nothing in terms of gameplay and they are still fairly well balanced, you can’t help but wonder why whenever you take to the field it’s full of wannabe medics. The unlockable M60, med-kits and unlockable defibrillator is probably why, and while the lower level medic is hardly a recommendable class; level them up and they’re a formidable force. It’s going to be virtually impossible for DICE to stop that though, especially after adopting an unlockables system – requiring a lot of time and effort to unlock the more powerful weapons – that favours regular players as opposed to new players.
There are also a ton of new additions in terms of vehicles and gadgets this time around, that range from the it-can-also-be-used-as-a-weapon defibrillator and the oh-my-god-I’m-riding-a-jet-ski Jet Ski to the four man UH-60 transport helicopter and the computer controlled UAV. They add a new dimension to the battlefield this time around that has you just as anxiously looking to the skies for an incoming threat, as it does keeping you surveying the hills and windows for that inevitable sniper fire. Despite all those fancy additions though, the ability to choose who in your squad you spawn on is one of the multiplayer’s greatest additions. It goes as far as to add another element to the battlefield tactics that play such a large part in the overall scope of things.
What is puzzling though is that with an emphasis on squad play and team play, why can’t you jump into a match with more than 3 friends? It’s definitely screaming out for 8 and 12 player lobbies – retaining the 4 man squads of course.
New to the multiplayer as well are the upgrades and customisations that allow players when they reach a certain rank or class level, to add additional upgrades to aid their cause. These can range from stronger tank armour and a sniping spotting tool, to a faster sprint and improved med-kits. These new additions don’t really benefit newer players, but dedicated stalwarts will find that these can improve the experience to the nth degree. However, it is unfortunately another issue that could alienate and dampen the spirits of Bad Company newcomers.
The new tweaks and additions aren’t massively groundbreaking improvements over the original, but they just seem to make the experience seem so much more complete. This added variation and the just-one-more mentality is something that the game thrives on. For those looking to invest an insane amount of time into an online arena, there possibly isn’t a better one on the market, giving you plenty to keep working towards and skill-sets to master. Plus, what’s better than building up a leaderboard of dog tags of your unfortunate CQC kill victims? Nothing is the answer you’re looking for. If there’s anything that is disappointing, it’s that there are only a handful of maps for each mode. Are 5 or so maps per mode really enough? Especially when chances are the vast majority of people will live in the Rush game mode for a very long time. The ever changing battlefield does help change that ever so slightly though.
The main change in this iteration of the Frostbite engine comes with the huge upgrades in the destruction model. Now, not only is it possible to chip away at certain types of cover with your heavy duty munitions, but you can also – with enough firepower – bring down an entire building. In practice, that sounds great and where this is possible, it works superbly, but this is not always the case. The fact that you can only bring down certain types of buildings is a little bit disappointing and it’s quite bizarre that you can bring down a two-storey stone house, but not completely decimate a Butlins-esque Portacabin which miraculously have impenetrable frames. It's also disappointing that the partial visual degradation of a mortar strike is more of an impressive sight to behold than the clumsy tumbling – and frankly unrealistic – collapsing of a house.
That’s not to say that the rest of the game looks rigid and unrealistic like the decimation of a building, far from it in fact, and Bad Company 2 is definitely an impressive looking title. Okay, so some of the textures close up don’t look that great and the anti-aliasing is literally non-existent in places, but the feel and look of war is captured as a whole, and watching a battlefield erupt as you spot for your teammates on a distant hill is nothing short of astounding. The sounds of the guns add to that immersion as well, whether you’re talking about the boom-swish of your sniper rifle as you ping a round over what must be a mile of terrain or the deafening echo of your M60 as you fire it in an enclosed space, each gun sounds unique and pretty terrific.
The only real downfall to date is the opening weekend’s server issues. I um’d and ah’d for a few hours over whether this minor upset should affect the game’s final score, but due to the fact that they’re usually sorted out in a matter of days and when you could get a game, the experience was lag-free, we decided to not factor it in. Despite that, EA and DICE truly need to step up their release week server issues that are frankly inexcusable.
The achievements are a damn sight better than the original as well, which I believe we gave a dismal 20%. This time there are no outrageous and wannabe-Gears-of-War achievements and the difficulty achievements not being stacked is a thing of the past. It’s about a 55-45 split in favour of the single player campaign and whilst there are a lot of multiplayer achievements, they are fairly balanced and actually demonstrate a little bit of thought and creativity. It’s still a good 50 plus hours for the full 1,000, but I guarantee you, you’ll be playing the multiplayer for a lot longer than that anyway.
I’m not going to sit here and compare Bad Company 2 to what people are calling “the competition.” Why? Because they’re totally different games – aside from the obvious shared first-person perspective of course. It would be like comparing the Mona Lisa to Andy Warhol’s painting of the Campbell’s Soup Can just because they used paint. Bad Company 2 on its own two feet is a fantastic shooter, with an entertaining but relatively short single player campaign and an addictive and deep multiplayer. The tweaks that have been made to the Frostbite engine make for more rampant battles and really create some pretty wide-scale wars, but it’s the little improvements that have made all the difference in the sequel. Simply put, Bad Company 2’s multiplayer is reminiscent of virtual crack... but without the itchy teeth.
On the whole, pretty impressive. It lacks a few technical subtleties upon closer inspection, with textures in some places not living up to the rest of the game and anti-aliasing completely going missing at times.
The Frostbite engine is a delight to take control of, both on land, sea and air. First person shooters on consoles don’t control much better than this. It’s definitely at the top of its field.
A short and sweet campaign helps bolster one of the best multiplayer experiences on consoles to date. The online may be stacked in favour of those who are willing to put more time and effort in than most, which is never an ideal message to send across to potential buyers.
A solid list from DICE here with a good mix of single player and multiplayer achievements. The problems from the original are seemingly gone and there is plenty of creativity and originality to keep you hooked.
Bad Company 2 took the solid foundations of the original and built a skyscraper on it. Improving in pretty much every discipline, the sequel boasts a much more robust and comprehensive set of online tools, a pretty engaging campaign and one of the most immersive battlefields in the history of consoles. The online may be stacked in favour of the regular and dedicated whilst alienating newcomers, but it’s a game worth investing the time into. What makes the sequel is definitely the tweaks though; the stuff that the original didn’t deliver on, but thankfully, the sequel delivers in spades.