Review / Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Xbox 360)

Like it or not, Infinity Ward’s wild success has spawned an influx of like-minded online games where players will be first-person shooting as special forces agents of some kind or another. Fortunately, they can’t all be bad, and I’m pleased to say that DICE has put out a contender in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 that some will see as superior. Oh, it also has a decent single-player game.

Oh, let’s be fair. This does have a number 2 at the end of it, so it’s not exactly directly inspired by Modern Warfare. But then again, the first game did come out over half a year after the other first. It’s impossible to not point out the fact that this series, to some extent, is a function of Call of Duty. It’s never more apparent than when characters in the game make jabs about “douchebags with… heartbeat sensors” or how “snowmobiles are for pussies.” Just… just hard to ignore when DICE themselves seem to be calling it out. It’s on everyone’s mind but it’s dangerous to make a review just about comparing the two.

So to continue (an attempt at) being fair, let’s discuss Bad Company 2’s single-player campaign. It’s good. It’s not great, but it’s fun. It’s also short. The story’s thin, too. You play as Preston Marlowe again, and you’re bunched with Haggard, Sweetwater, and Sergeant Redford once more. They banter, and it’s funny. It’s not always funny, but they’ve got enough personality and dialog to at least be engaging. You’re on a mission to stop a nasty Russian guy from doing nasty things with some old nasty Japanese weapon from World War II, which is the setting of the first level. That’s about it. Simple, but gets the job done.

The bad guys aren’t so great, though. They just run out and shoot you, unless they hide. However, one of the standout features of this game is destructible buildings, which makes those hiding buggers easy meat if you’ve a big enough gun. Not that huge guns like rocket launchers are all too avoidable to begin with, but it looks a whole lot cooler when a chunk of wall goes with the dude. Generally, they’re pretty dumb, though, so you’re more thrilled with the collapsing wall.

Occasionally the campaign also throws a scripted sequence your way. These are pretty fun, and one in particular involving some crashing trucks actually put a smile on my face, but they tend to lack the polish seen in other games like… er… its direct competitor. Still, it’s about a solid six to seven hours to finish, and the brevity makes it worthwhile. If you’re a collector, you may go back to find all the guns and such too.

But of course… you play this game for the multiplayer. There’s the old adage about some games where single-player is just practice, and that is especially true with Quake games. It’s pretty damned true here as well. While the AI is dumb, it’s good to acquaint yourself with riding vehicles and blowing up some walls, because they’re handy. And let it be known… they’re fun.

For the Modern Warfare junkies, this game’s going to feel jarringly slow. Player movement is a bit more sluggish, and maps are huge. It’s not a punishment, that’s just how this game is. Twitch masters can be helpful charging in or sniping from a distance, but there’s something for everyone here. Medics and Engineers are the perfect thing for the team players that just want to lend a helping hand, and maybe pop around a corner to lob a rocket at a tank here and there. It feels good, it’s just as fun as Assault or Recon (Sniper) classes, and it all balances out. Well… it almost balances out. Sometimes a sniper or two or three is downright frustrating.

Then there’s the sheer joy in hopping in a tank and wreaking holy hell upon an enemy base. There have been vehicles in other games, but no series makes them feel right at home quite like the Battlefield series. It’s also the one thing that Modern Warfare completely and sorely lacks. It must be repeated: it’s fun. You can’t help but laugh maniacally, even well after an enemy blows you up. See, after you die from a good tank rush, you’ll be heading back to that spot, and those buildings don’t repair themselves. That destruction you left behind stays, and it always shouts “job well done!” Again. Fun.

There are several game modes: Rush, Conquest, Squad Rush, and Squad Deathmatch. Rush has attackers going for blowing up M-Com stations that the other team must defend. If they fail, they’re pushed back to the next set. They either hold out long enough, or the attackers blow up all the M-Com stations. Conquest is your classic “hold the capture points longer, and more of them” deal. Squad Rush is a infantry only, 4 on 4 version of Rush, and Squad Deathmatch is infantry only, 4 on 4 on 4 on 4, and including one vehicle where the first to fifty kills wins. Most of the fun is in Rush, and you can feel it in the maps that they’re really geared toward it.

There’s also an experience system in the game, but progress on it goes pretty slow, which is in keeping with the feel of the gameplay overall. Not a big deal unless you’re spoiled by the instant gratification of… other games.

While Bad Company 2 almost taunts comparison to Modern Warfare 2, it’s also worth noting that its quality shows that it’s kind of troublesome to do it as well. This is a good game. It is going to attract some Modern Warfare players with its unique features, and it will attract some who didn’t like it as well for those very same reasons. That’s a good thing, and more awesome: it means both games can comfortably coexist. Will it sell as well anyway? In all honesty, it likely won’t. Modern Warfare 2 is like the Titanic of gaming in that way, but that doesn’t mean other games are less deserving. This one deserves your time.

+ Decent single-player that’s short and entertaining.
+ Destruction and vehicles bring feelings of pure, unfettered joy.
+ Multiplayer is, again, fun. It continues to be fun, and shows few signs of stopping.

– Single-player is decent, but nothing special. Even the big events feel thin.
– The slower feel of the game, from movement to experience, may turn some people off.
– Sniper abuse can make frowns.