By Matt Carey
I decided to start his review with a quote from the television series The Unit. For those that haven’t seen it, it depicts the professional and personal lives of a group of special ops soldiers in the American Army, and I figured that it would be quite apt given the game in question. Anyway, I thought it would be pretty cool to find a funny, yet similarly chin-strokingly interesting comment to kick things off. I didn’t find one with quite the kind of gravitas I was after. I did find this one though:
“Well, how about that? The bullets go where you aim the gun”.
Whilst technically that isn’t 100% accurate, it does pretty much sum up your average fella in one lovely sentence. You see, the difference between a soldier and you, me and the guy sat opposite you on the train to work is that secretly, in the back of our heads, we all think that shooting guns and blowing shit up for a living is pretty cool, but the soldier has the balls to do it. The rest of us pick up the controller for our games console of choice and pretend.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 offers, more than most other games in the genre, ample opportunity for you to “blow shit up”, using the Frostbite game engine that made the first game so memorable. For those that don’t know, Frostbite allows the gamer to blow up anything they want. See a sniper in a building that keeps ducking behind cover? Send a missile his way and take out the wall, leaving him exposed and vulnerable. Want to capture a base inside a wooden hut? Pop a mortar strike in its vicinity and take down the structure, allowing easier access. That’s what the Frostbite engine does. It makes the virtual world around you destructible.
It was this game engine that took what once was a well loved series, and gave it enough oomph to stand toe to toe with the gargantuan Modern Warfare as a true heavyweight in the genre. The controls, online game modes, and having different classes that actually have a use and importance past the superficial meant that gamers the world over finally had a valid reason to take Call of Duty out of the disc tray and have a different, yet equally enjoyable option.
It should be noted here that the time spent between the release of BC1 and 2 has been well spent, and the aforementioned game engine has been tweaked considerably. Your first indication of this is the graphical ability on display. Your opening level, set in WW2 era Japan, doesn’t initially demonstrate this, but as you progress, you shortly find yourself hidden in tall grass, watching a patrol pass before being mowed down by overhead fighter planes, and it is at this point you get your first “wow” moment. It is this point where you realise that, graphically, this game is going to drop your jaw once in a while. The game affords you travels across a range of varying landscapes, so whether it is the lush Amazonian rainforests, or dirty sand-swept locales, visually, the game never lets you down.
The story itself, after this opening prologue, sees the rag-tag soldiers from the first game return. This time, they are not rogue, they are not searching for gold, but they are back in the military fold. And so you progress, from one vista to the next, taking in the sights, and plugging a few enemies with whatever weapons you find along the way. Pretty much like the first one then. Well, yes it is, but unfortunately, this time, the story itself is rather short. It is, however, a lot more believable than the first games’ offering, leaving, as it does, the spectacular set-pieces to MW2 and instead, dipping its big toe firmly in something a little more true to life. It is certainly more refreshing than the originals constant flippant attitude and humour-based antics. I enjoyed it, and what more do you want than that?
Of course, a great many people only see the single player game as the side show to the main event, that being the online multiplayer mode. Thankfully, what we find this year is a mode that has a healthy respect for the fans. Everything is in place from two years ago, only beefed up, and with more game types too.
The first, and most famous in Battlefield lore, is the Conquest mode. Players are split into two teams, with each one hell-bent on capturing and securing a certain number of bases. The more bases you hold, the quicker the enemies re-spawn tickets deplete. You win when the opposition cannot spawn any more. If you hold all the bases, it doesn’t matter how often you and yours get killed, your tickets won’t go half as quickly as the enemy’s.
The next mode on the agenda is Rush. Last time round, we knew it as Gold Rush, in keeping with the greedy antics from the single player mode. There is no gold this time though, so Rush it is. The basic concept is while one team attacks, the other defends two destroyable crates from the enemy. Should the enemy destroy these crates, then the defenders backtrack to the next part of the map that opens up, where two more crates reside. And so on. This means two things. The first is that the maps in this mode are generally huge. The second is that matches can go on for a year and a day. The whole “re-spawn ticket” system is tweaked slightly here, whereby the attackers have a set number, whilst the defence have infinite re-spawns.
As for the last two modes, we have Squad Rush, a smaller, stripped down version of Rush where two squads of just 4 players compete against each other, and Squad Deathmatch. The latter of these is a Battlefield spin on the perennial classic game mode whereby 4 squads, each comprising the obligatory four squad members, compete to be the first to 50 kills. This is certainly a refreshing change on the bog-standard team death match modes seen elsewhere, and really does reward the team that successfully communicates and makes use of the classes and tactics they afford.
Four game modes seems quite paltry in comparison to other games -we all know MW2 has them coming out of its ears, whilst even Bioshock 2 manages around 6 or so. But in this instance, there aren’t many more that are needed, and even though four doesn’t sound many, it is certainly better than just one mode, which is all Bad Company 1 offered out of the box, with DLC adding conquest mode at a later date. Perhaps the only thing missing is free for all , but given the team based nature of the game, it may not work. That’s not to say we won’t see it at some point though.
So what of the four classes on offer? Well, each, as you might expect, has its own unique strengths and weakness’. The medic is wonderful for reviving fallen comrades and throwing out medi-kits, but not as strong in mid to long range combat, whilst the recon – or scout – class is great at long distances, comes unstuck at close range, but does pack some handy remote charges. As you progress through the multiplayer, you gain, rather obviously, experience which in time causes you to level up. As you increase your rank, so do you increase the number of guns, attachments and equipment in your possession, allowing you to customise each class further to your liking. And don’t go thinking that this sounds easy. This isn’t Call of Duty, and you will not be levelling up from 1 to 3 or four in the space of one match. Reaching level 2 took me a good 4 or 5 games. If you want to reach level 50, well then, you better be in for the long haul.
What makes the Bad Company series so wonderful is that it is the only game on the market that has taken a good look at what Infinity Ward have done, made notes on a few things they like, and then adapted it slightly to work in their own game. They haven’t changed their vision to accommodate some Modern Warfare ideas; they have taken a few Modern Warfare ideas and changed them to fit in their game, and it is an important difference. What it shows is that DICE is a developer that believes in their own product, and knows that it is strong enough to compete with other heavyweight games. They steadfastly refuse to leave the formula that has made Battlefield a fan favourite for years, but are quite happy to add improvements when necessary. The end result is a game that looks fantastic, offering plenty of hours of fun. Once again, Dice have thrown down the gauntlet to Infinity Ward and demonstrated that not all games have to copy them hands down to be successful, and with that in mind, I think another quote from The Unit is in order:
“Son, I’m here in an official capacity; and that capacity is to kick your ass.”