Battlefield Bad Company 2
Nothing improves competition like a great rivalry. After years as the kingpin of military multiplayer, Battlefield creator DICE found its title in jeopardy as FPS gamers abandoned PCs in favor of consoles and Call of Duty became the gold standard. At the core of Infinity Ward’s world-beating shooter was the Battlefield blueprint. The studio borrowed the persistent rankings and unlockable weapons concepts from Battlefield 2, refined them to unprecedented levels, and matched its robust online offering with an expertly crafted single-player campaign featuring thrilling scripted sequences that put action flicks to shame. Not content to settle for second place, DICE throws down the gauntlet with Bad Company 2, delivering its best multiplayer package since Battlefield 2 and a remarkably improved single-player campaign that openly mocks its rival while cribbing from them at the same time.
As with all Battlefield titles, a phenomenal multiplayer mode serves as the heart of Bad Company 2. The game successfully blends many innovations from the series’ past with impressive new features to create a robust experience that rightfully challenges Modern Warfare for the multiplayer crown. All the Battlefield staples return – player progression, rankings, squad groupings, unlockable weapons, and huge maps that allow players to attack via land, air, and sea. The deep progression system constantly dangles the carrot of achievement in front of you, offering a wealth of unlockable weapons, gadgets, and specializations with nearly every round. An impressive array of pins and insignia document your battlefield prowess, and the dog tags return as boast-worthy incentives to knife unsuspecting enemies.
Conquest and Rush still serve as the multiplayer pillars, but Bad Company 2 also introduces two new change-of-pace modes. Squad Rush places a four-player team in the role of attackers who must best the four defenders by destroying two crates. Squad Deathmatch, on the other hand, pits four teams of four against each other in a battle for kill counts and bragging rights. Both modes feature more intimate maps and take much less time to complete than the standard Rush mode. Teamwork and coordination are stressed to new degrees as well. Keeping close proximity to your squad is essential for reviving fallen teammates, which can spell the difference between successfully defending a crate and losing it while half your squad waits to respawn.
The multiplayer modes are complemented by a fantastic array of maps. Many pay homage to great maps from Battlefield’s past, and the diversity in locale and terrain assures every battle plays out differently. Some concentrate on vehicular combat, where controlling the air with choppers or mounting an assault with tanks are the keys to winning the war, while others stress infantry tactics in tighter urban locales. These expertly crafted environments are a far cry from their cramped and frantic counterparts in Modern Warfare 2, giving players room to orchestrate coordinated assaults.
A pair of useful new tools bolster the team tactics. The spotting mechanic helps improve communication by allowing players to mark enemy positions as they identify movement on the battlefield. In addition, the overpowered artillery from Bad Company has been removed in favor of a player-guided UAV that allows you to track and mark enemy movements from above between missile barrages.
DICE made many logistical changes to the multiplayer experience, but failed to address some other minor hindrances. You can finally kick unwanted players from your squad to make room for a buddy, but large groups will gripe when their party gets split by the sometimes unaccommodating matchmaking system. The sketchy statistics updater still takes awhile to post the results from your most recent match (a legacy problem that’s plagued Battlefield for years), and the annoying kill cam is sure to anger players using the recon class because it gives away sniping positions. Snipers also won’t be pleased that DICE once again doesn’t allow players to go prone. Thankfully, you can ditch the kill cam in the new Hardcore mode, which also turns off many HUD elements and increases the damage to deliver a more realistic war experience.
As great as the multiplayer is, DICE takes its biggest strides forward with the drastically improved solo campaign. The follow-up to the Swedish studio’s first attempt at a crafting a meaningful single-player experience finds success in mimicking some of the best games to date – keen gamers will notice borrowed elements from Call of Duty and Uncharted 2 sprinkled throughout the campaign. The most drastic improvement comes with its renewed sense of pacing. By ditching large open-world environments in favor of a more linear path, DICE is better able to craft memorable scripted sequences that the first game sorely lacked. Amazingly, DICE pulls this off without sacrificing the player’s sense of freedom – the levels are still big enough to offer several tactical options for players to explore.
The jokers from B Company resume their role as the loveable heroes, but DICE trades in the humorous Three Kings storyline of the first game in favor of a more somber mission. When the U.S. learns the Russians are after a secret WMD the Japanese developed during WWII, a routine mission turns into a globetrotting escapade that takes B Company from the jungles of South America to the peak of the Andes mountains. Though the stakes are higher, that doesn’t stop Sarge, Sweetwater, Haggard, and Marlowe from cracking jokes at each other’s expense. The comedic dialogue shines throughout the game; these eccentric soldiers have more personality than all the protagonists from Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, and Medal of Honor combined.
A number of subtle improvements keep the campaign moving along with the clip of a Hollywood blockbuster. DICE ditched the health syringe from the first game in favor of a regenerative health system, the forgiving checkpoint system doesn’t punish players, and you never have to babysit your more-than-capable squad during the intense firefights. The only thing the campaign lacks is co-op; since four heroes are already fighting side-by-side throughout the game, this was a missed opportunity for DICE to one-up the competition.
Though the campaign doesn’t top the brilliant set pieces found in Modern Warfare, the drastic improvements bring it near the level of Infinity Ward’s juggernaut. Placed in tandem with the exceptional multiplayer, Bad Company 2 is a memorable shooter that should be a favored destination on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network for much of 2010.