July 05, 2008
There are very few developers in this age of gaming that can truly say they are heavyweights in the first-person shooter genre. Sure, many claim to be among the elite, but it takes a bit of extra magic and the knowledge of what your target audience want in a game to be duly recognised in this field.. Sure the obvious Bungie, Valve and Infinity Ward are on that list, but that list certainly wouldn’t be complete without DICE. For over 5 years now, the Swedish developer (now owned by EA) have been churning out the Battlefield series and in that time, it’s been greatly received. Their latest addition, Battlefield: Bad Company, is their first truly next gen title and they attempt to take another direction for the single player in a spirited effort to create the complete package.
Bad Company takes place in the not so distant future and its single player campaign is focused around the 222nd battalion, codename, B-Company who are otherwise known as the army’s expendable assets. The B-Company are a bunch of morally challenged soldiers/ex-cons who’ve been thrown into the frontline to deal with the most dangerous of tasks. You’ll step in to the shoes of Preston Marlow fresh off the plane and in to hostile territory where you'll hook up with loose cannons, Haggard, Sweetwater and Redford. Together, you will embark on a mission for personal glory and wealth. War? Stuff that, these boys just want gold... And lots of it!
The Battlefield series has never really been renowned for its single player campaign, but Bad Company seems to throw dirt in the face of that suggestion. The game eases you in to the controls and the combat early on and within minutes of the tutorial we are introduced to the much heralded Frostbite engine, and more importantly, the destructive environment system. Bad Company is said to boast environments that are 90% destructible and this includes the ability to flatten most things. Whether it be trees, sheds, portacabins, or you just simply want to blow a hole in the side of a military barracks... Anything goes, or so they tell us. It appears that the foundations of these buildings are invincible, so no, it doesn’t meet the “Mercenaries” franchise level of destruction. Still there is plenty of fun blowing a hole in a wall and then taking out the shocked troops the other side.
While the debris effect and the aftermath of the destructible buildings is remarkably impressive, the explosion effects were particularly uninspiring. Don’t get me wrong, Bad Company is a very “nice” looking game, but in comparison with other games on the market, it fails to raise one’s excitement. The Frostbite engine does however do a great job of rendering the terrain and the surrounding environment, adding a sense of realism to the world you inhabit. The engine does an even better job of allowing you to destroy parts of the terrain as well, especially bridges which make for some classic moments.
Bad Company has a really serious arsenal to offer gamers with each weapon and gun type having its own specific feel and sound. The sound of the bullets piercing through the air and the echo it creates throughout the valley is a fantastically realistic moment. Not to mention, the audio aspect of Bad Company throughout is fairly decent with some fluid voice acting, quirky menu music that feels more at home in a Pulp Fiction film and some great environmental sound effects. There is something so realistic about a bunch of four soldiers moving through a desolate outpost with the birds tweeting in the background, only for the tranquillity to be broke by sniper fire as you jump for cover. All this with the most entertaining bunch of troops you will ever fight with. Their sheer inability to remain and act professional is humorous to the last.
We wish you could say the same about the enemy AI though. The way they hear you coming sometimes when you’re creeping up behind them, having slipped in to enemy quarters unseen, is beyond me. Having eyes in the back of their heads is an understatement, it’s more like GPS with built in motion sensors!
Of course, it wouldn’t be Battlefield without vehicles. Throughout the campaign, you’ll have access to a wide range of vehicles from tanks and jeeps to helicopters and golf carts (I kid you not). They all handle with great ease and cause plenty of wanton destruction as well. Perfect mix.
Bad Company's single player, all in all, is a fairly high octane affair with set piece after set piece but it’s not really genre defining. The simple “go here, clear the way”, “go here, kill them” objectives are a tad monotonous at times, I suppose the one saving grace is that the crew you roll with are so damn entertaining. I must admit though, that despite all that, the single player campaign is an enjoyable ride and something that the Battlefield single player campaign has lacked for some time, but as usual, the multiplayer is where it’s at!
The Battlefield series has always been renowned for creating an absorbing and all round fun multiplayer arena and nothing has changed with that as far as Bad Company goes. Included in the shipped retail version of Bad Company is one solitary mode named Gold Rush. Although it's disappointing for a game to ship with one mode these days, when so many other titles give us a plethora of choices, Gold Rush is still an addictive gametype and EA assure us there is more to come and at no extra cost.
In Goldrush, starting with no time limit, gamers must defend or attack various objective points placed round the maps utilising various vehicles and the weapon classes at their disposal. The defending team will have infinite respawns and will have to kill the oncoming attackers as they rush to destroy the gold stash objective points. Attackers on the other hand will have to push on with limited respawns taking out the crates of gold. As the attacking team take out the objective points they will receive more respawns and push the defence back further and further until they run out of points to defend. If all points are destroyed, the attackers win and if the attackers lose all their respawns, they lose. Simple really.
There are 8 maps which are of varying size and shape with plenty of strongholds and vehicles to take advantage of throughout. Before they start, players can choose from 1 of 5 classes; assault, demolition, recon, specialist and support, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. The ability to respawn and change classes in between deaths, means that the vehicles aren't as much of an overpowering or frustrating threat as they usually can be in other titles, which is refreshing.
With the ability to play in a 24 person match, the game for the most part is stable and lag free, but by EA's recent self admission, they are not up to scratch for everyone. Too many titles these days are being pushed out with far from immaculate services and considering the Beta and Demo stages of this title, these problems should be non-existent at release.
The multiplayer mode's ranking system is simple and you'll easily move through the ranks as you rack up points. Medals are awarded for impressive performance in a specified area and by obtaining these you will receive more points towards your next rank. As you rank up, you're able to spend acquired unlock credits on weapons and gadgets to use throughout the multiplayer mode for an extra edge and advantage. Hell, the stats system is even able to tell you whether you’re exceeding or falling short of your usual form, naturally, I was a constant underperformer.
It's safe to say that the multiplayer mode of Bad Company is the game’s forté. It's a delightful romp that even lets you game with a squad of friends (although sometimes it'll split you up for some unknown reason!). Despite having only one mode currently available and the servers being a little sketchy at times, we can liken Bad Company to a fine wine; tasty, classy and will only get better with time.
I wish we could be as positive about the achievements... The list would usually be deemed to be fairly balanced with a nice mix of some multiplayer and single player achievements, ticking boxes in all the right places. There are some nicely placed rank achievements for the online rankings and of course the traditional “Seriously + a couple” achievement for kills in the multiplayer arena, but bear in mind that kills come a damn site quicker than they do in Gears, so it’s not as daunting. Despite all the positives from the list though, the Swedish developers made a fatal error. DICE’s inability to stack difficulty driven story achievements in my eyes is an unforgiveable sin. Why not encourage people to play your flagship multiplayer mode, instead of forcing them to play the campaign more than once. Shame on you DICE, I should just deduct all the positive points you gained with the rest of the list right now. Think things couldn’t get worse? Think again. There are a few collection achievements for the single player as well which ruin any sort of fluidity that you were trying to get as you work your way through the story. All in all, a decent list marred by ridiculous non-stacked difficulty achievements which we honestly thought was a thing of the past.
As usual, the latest Battlefield title has a well polished and highly addictive multiplayer mode that allows you to change your fighting style as little or as much as you want. It is this alone that will keep players coming back and not the fairly straightforward campaign. Sure there are some destructible environments and some pretty nifty vehicles thrown in there, but the fact of the matter is, no matter how entertaining your three co-pilots are in the single player, they will never be as entertaining and responsive as your mates on Xbox Live. So what if the game has only got one mode, it’s still a great mode. We just hope that the Conquest pack (which will be free) reaches us before we get sick of doing the same situations over and over and over and over again. In a nutshell, experience Bad Company if you want a multiplayer mode that just screams quality. If you do play it, have a chuckle and enjoy the single campaign... if only for a few while.
Some super in game sound effects that add a sense of realism to the situation. Some great sounding guns that each sound different to one another and your crew seem to have a superb chemistry with each other.
Nothing ground breaking here really. The Frostbite engine has its superb moments, especially with regard to the terrain and such but the rest is just fairly bog standard.
Easy to control and simple to pick up and play. Game is sometimes let down by an unforgiving and totally unrealistic AI. Vehicles are also simple to control and blowing the hell out of everything has never been so much fun.
The multiplayer mode is as superb as ever. The only real let down is the lack of game modes, one is just simply not enough, remember DICE, variety is the spice of life. Despite that, it’s still one of the outstanding multiplayer titles on the Xbox 360. The single player isn’t bad either.
Non stacked difficulty achievement ruin what had the makings of a decent list. Unforgivable? In my books, certainly!
In this day and age of first person shooters, it’s pretty much standard protocol to create a decent single player campaign and tack on an average multiplayer mode... However, DICE like to be different. Bad Company boasts a competent and fairly entertaining single player mode but their multiplayer mode is most definitely their fundamental selling point. One of the best multiplayer modes and battle systems on the Xbox 360 as far as I’m concerned. When the Conquest pack hits, Call of Duty could have a bit of competition... We hope.