Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Xbox 360 Review

Mark Botwright

Distinguished Member
Reviewed by Paul Haigh

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System: Xbox 360 (also available on PlayStation 3 and PC)
Developers: EA Digital Illusions CE (formerly DICE)
Publishers: EA
Release Date: March 5th 2010 (EU)
Certificate: 16 (PEGI)



Synopsis
A quick question: Which is the gaming franchise with the most titles; Battlefield or Call of Duty? You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Call of Duty juggernaut would take the crown, but a tally of six games pales against the might of the Battlefield series, with an impressive ten titles.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 (BF:BC2) enters an incredibly competitive market for first person shooters, especially given the huge dominance of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) which is only a handful of months old and has garnered critical acclaim, and a staggeringly huge pile of money.

Can Bad Company 2 take the title of ‘King of the Hill' from Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2?

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“You lookin' at me?”

Presentation
One of the big technical advances of the Battlefield series has been the use of destructible scenery. This was a big achievement in the first instalment, and one cannot disagree that the second has taken this destruction and turned it up to 11. Whilst this selling point never quite makes it to Red Faction: Guerrilla levels of mayhem and madness, it never fails to impress, especially when taking out enemies by dropping entire floors of buildings on their heads. Not only is the demolition very pretty and hugely entertaining, it's also game-changing. The cover which you are hiding behind can be removed by enemy ordinance (often explosively) and your options for taking out sniper nests and watchtowers are multiplied by the ability to apply judicious use of high-explosives. It's hard to return to the world of shooting individual enemies through wooden walls when you've been able to destroy an entire building with a tank or rocket launcher. Destruction is not solely limited to specific buildings; nearly all level scenery is destroyable as well, and making a makeshift path for your tank through a jungle area is completely viable, although somewhat noisy.

Given the level of scenery interaction available one would assume that the frame rate, graphical fidelity or screen resolution would have taken a hit. Well, DICE have done a phenomenal job on the ‘frostbite' engine powering this high-octane experience, providing a rock solid frame rate. There are some moments of slowdown, or disappointing textures, but they are extraordinarily rare and are highly unlikely to impact on your enjoyment.


Game Mechanics
Single player is a mostly linear romp through 13 increasingly absurd missions through jungles, cities and deserts. You get the notion, throughout the entire game, that the developers were intensely aware of the vacuum left by the recent release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and there are plenty of in-jokes during the single player campaign poking gentle fun at the other title. One particularly memorable sequence is a homage to the snowmobile race down the mountain from MW2, but BF:BC2 provides quad bikes instead. Not content with a direct tribute, one of the characters even mentions that ‘snowmobiles are for pussies'. There are plenty more examples of this gentle ribbing, with helicopters falling from the sky after an EMP, as well as a final level set on an aeroplane, although this can be destroyed piece by piece.

Humour in computer games can often be a tricky beast to get right, commonly falling flat and making the gamer wince, but you get the impression that the developers have their tongues firmly in cheek, and the subtle jibes invariably cause a wry smile, rarely hitting wide of the mark.

There is plenty of variety in the campaign; one of the missions is almost "open world", with three different areas to be tackled, in an order of your choosing. Each of the areas is actually scripted, but it's nice to have the range of pace and structure in the missions being provided. The story follows along a plotline which could easily be a Tom Clancy reject, but this doesn't matter. The scenarios and gunplay of the game are interesting and engaging enough that the story linking the missions together is irrelevant, and the sum total is no worse for it.

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“Sir, is this a homage, or a rip-off? ‘Shh', keep quiet and no-one will notice”​

One mission has you descending a snowy mountain with ice crystals encroaching upon your vision only to be stopped by finding, or making, your own heat sources. This level makes for a very pleasant change of pace and whilst the single-player experience is ultimately a mere throwaway it's an extremely entertaining diversion.

However, the single player portion of this game really is the smaller piece of the pie; the battlefield series has traditionally been all about the multiplayer, and the number of gamers that aren't aware there was a single player portion of the game is quite outstanding.

There are many for whom competitive multiplayer gaming holds little attraction. I too have often found playing online to be a less than perfect experience; the realm populated mostly with the oft derided ‘12 year old Americans'. Constantly getting killed by people who have the ability to practice for 12 hours a day; snipers who can hit a moving target from across the map. These set-backs can hugely put people off multiplayer as they find themselves being thrown back to the ‘waiting for respawn' screen time after time. Received wisdom may state that those complaining simply aren't good enough at the game, and whilst this is almost certainly true, it's hard to find fun in an experience in which you can't compete in any way. Despite the dislike that some may have to multiplayer games, BF:BC2 has a quality that will pull you back to its online mode time after time.

Unfortunately for new players there are a number of frustrations which may mar your initial online experience, there is no attempt to segregate the new player from the ravages of the immensely skilled players Classes, at the outset, do not have any of the class specific gadgets that make them unique; there are no tutorial modes, so practicing with the harder to handle vehicles isn't possible except in online matches.

As you play, and earn experience with each class, progressively more class specific gadgets are unlocked. This process must be repeated for each class, so for the first few hours you can often feel like you are essentially cannon-fodder. Once the gadgets have been unlocked, there is a corresponding increase in the number of options available to provide support to your squad and this improves the online game significantly. Sadly, this process of unlocking gadgets can feel like an incredible effort, with a very high personal body count, and this will undoubtedly put off a lot of people. There are plenty of rewards for those that persevere, but it's easy to understand how many will attempt a few online matches, and switch off in annoyance. A few beginner levels or game modes would have helped greatly in making that new player experience much more accessible and it would be sensible for game developers to address in future iterations of the genre.

From the off, there are four game modes; ‘Rush', Conquest', ‘Squad Rush' and ‘Squad Deathmatch'. The two rush modes put one team (12v12, or 4v4 in squad rush), defending a series of crates (or just one in Squad mode) while the other team attempt to destroy them. The attacking team has a limit to the number of ‘lives' (BF:BC2 calls them tickets, but lives they are) that can be expended attempting to complete the destruction of the two crates.

Conquest is very similar, but with static flags to attempt to hold, and a limited number of lives per team, it forces the ebb and flow of the match up and down the map much more fluidly. Unfortunately, the battle can often be raging well away from where you happen to be, leading to more downtime than you might like.

All of the game modes introduce a number of vehicles to the maps, including quad bikes (handy for kamikaze runs to unprotected flags), tanks and helicopters (which are extremely awkward to fly properly). The tanks and helicopters sound like they should be hugely overpowered for such an infantry based game, but the clever map design and the numerous static Anti-Vehicle weapons make them useful, but not often game breaking. There are a few maps where skilled teams, especially with the AH-64 Apache helicopter can really decimate a lesser team, but these experiences are rare (especially considering how hard the helicopters are to fly well) and are entirely justified.

Persevering with the online game slowly opens up a number of other options, in the form of additional personal abilities (reminiscent of perks from MW2), weapons and most importantly of all, the class specific gadgets. These gadgets are the real backbone of the classes, bringing brilliantly designed additional elements to the battlefield, giving each of the classes a sense of purpose and place.

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“I'll just hang back here, to, er, heal you, yeah, that's it!”​

They say that points are where the prizes are, and points flow like confetti in a game of BF:BC2. Almost all actions in the game provide a set of points for your online persona, these can be gained from headshots and enemy kills as well as healing, reviving or spotting enemies. Crucially, the rewards are slightly amplified by performing actions as a team, brilliantly designing a mechanic that is clearly provided to force players to work more co-operatively, rather than the standard deathmatch fare of going solo.

For the most part this additional incentive for team play, works well, with the four man squads mostly sticking together (even on the public servers). Having a varied squad with a mix of classes, who act together as a team is definitely the key to dominating online matches.

This squad based play is what really propels this multiplayer experience ahead of the competition. Games with deathmatch style mechanics rely almost completely on your personal skill level, compared to the opposition. You can find a niche in the squad, not necessarily being the person who can pull the trigger fastest, but supporting the better players via medicinal aid, ammunition or even spotting enemies. Allowing the lesser skilled players to play a valuable role is essential, and this is what makes the multiplayer game so much more than the sum of its parts. Working in a team which sticks together and finds ways to communicate transforms the experience and ultimately this will translate into fun.

Longevity​
Although the single-player game will likely be completed in a matter of a few sittings, the variety, collectable guns and secret crates to destroy will keep you playing for a time after the campaign's final credits have rolled.

However, the real longevity here comes from the multi-player mode; this is where the game really shines and the true prowess of the developers shows. The cleverly designed maps, vehicles, squad and class objectives will keep you entertained for many hours.

Whilst there are only 8 maps (10 with the VIP code) and four games modes, the destructible nature of the environments allows maps to play out differently each time. There are no artificial chokepoints in the maps, so the flow of the game feels much more natural, with many multitudes of ways to achieve the maps' objectives.

So far, the multiplayer game hasn't thrown up any significant glitches; a huge testament to the skill, and probably the amount of testing time invested, from the development team. This contrasts hugely with the online side of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which has a number of well reported game breaking glitches and bugs.

There are 50 overall ranks to achieve in the multiplayer, as well as individually unlocking weapons and gadgets for each of the four classes. Insignias and Pins drive the attainment of smaller bite-sized challenges for additional experience point bonuses. There is clearly a huge amount of pride in the online modes; one of the challenges available is to have played 72 hours of the multiplayer game. The development team can be justifiably pleased about the incredible achievement that is the multi-player side of the game, and I am sure that this will stay popular for many years to come, or at least until Bad Company 3 is released.

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“I really hope they are friendly helos!”

Final Thoughts
The single player campaign is humorous, frenzied and entertaining in equal measure, and is well worth the price of admission on its own (especially if you enjoyed the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 single player game). However, even if you are scared of competitive online gaming, you will surely find some pleasure in the depth and incredible experiences available in the multiplayer modes. It will still frustrate, especially on public servers, but to paraphrase someone familiar with leading a four person team:

“You'll love it when a plan comes together.”


Bad Company
• Destructible scenery is always a blast
• Subtle and effective bonuses for playing as a team
• Multiplayer is hugely entertaining, especially in well co-ordinated teams.
• Very few glitches or hacks in the multiplayer game, making it much more equitable
• Guns all have a different feel


Time for a Coffee
• Multiplayer can be incredibly annoying, especially at the start
• Campaign is quite short
• No tutorial maps for the hard–to-handle vehicles


Try this if......
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...you enjoyed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Better than
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Worse than
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
 
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