You're in Good Company with Bad Company.
For all its charms and “console-centricity”, I could not get into the original Battlefield: Bad Company. Don’t get me wrong, there were many aspects I liked; it had likeable characters, the premiering Frost Bite Engine opened up a world of possibilities, and it had a decent multiplayer component to it. However, for every positive, I couldn’t help but think the game was a little off. The single-player campaign, although touted as the main selling point, often felt flat or cobbled together from elements from the multiplayer, and even the multiplayer suffered from a certain amount of flaws and imbalance.
With the free to play Battlefield Heroes and the great “reboot” of the WWII conflict in Battlefield 1943, DICE has finally returned to B. Company with Bad Company 2. Although this entry still leaves room for improvement, it jumps ahead of its predecessor by leaps and bounds.
The story of Bad Company 2 only shares the titular characters with the first game Other than that, there is little callback or association with the game prior. This go round, we have B Company, Sarge, Sweetwater, Haggard, and Marlowe, thrown into the veritable frying pan when a WWII weapon of un-fathomable destructive potential resurfaces. With the Russians doggedly pursuing it, it’s up to our heroes to go on “one last mission” to retrieve the weapon, and hopefully save the from invasion by the Red Menace. Actually, it’s not really clear why
we’re fighting or where their allegiances really lie, nor does it really explain much about how the weapon and its schematics resurfaced. Indeed, the narrative is certainly lacking here without the simplistic chase for gold that was present in the first, but it manages to piggy-back on the backs of its likeable characters to provide enough motivation throughout the story’s length. Indeed, if you stand around with your squad mates whenever you get the chance, you’ll get deep insight into their inner psyches and complex characters. Ok, ok, maybe you won’t, but at the very least, they’ll make you laugh.
The single player campaign is exceedingly more linear in BC2, and as such, relies more on scripted encounters and set-piece battles. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels that the game can’t keep up with the pace at which you want to run through a stage, and scripting can get a bit sloppy, sometimes even leading to cheap deaths. This doesn’t diminish the “cool-ness” of some of BC2’s better levels, but it does slow down the otherwise briskly paced experience significantly. The campaign should take about 7 hours to play through on the normal difficulty level, and there isn’t much closure by the time the game ends, but BC2, despite pacing problems, provides enough thrills and laughs with its campaign to merit at least one play.
What the real draw in Bad Company 2 is, and indeed what it seems most of the developer’s focus went into is its excellent multiplayer suite. It would appear that nobody can do online large-scale combat better than DICE, because what is here is absolutely fantastic. Essentially, there are four multiplayer modes to try out. Conquest is the classic Battlefield mode where two teams of 12 jockey for control points on the map. These control points are tied to each team’s “spawn tickets”, or how many more units each team can spawn into the fight. Control the majority of the points on the map, and the other team starts hemorrhaging tickets until one team is utterly defeated. Rush mode is the mode introduced in the first Bad Company, where teams are split into Attackers and Defenders. Attackers attempt to take out designated COM stations on a map, while Defenders do everything they can to stop them. When the COM stations in the designated combat zone are destroyed, the Defenders must fall back to a new area to try again, while Attackers will have to repeat their feat thrice more. The game ends when either the Attackers run out of spawn tickets, or the Defenders lose all of their COM stations. The final two multiplayer modes focus on splitting teams into smaller squads and stress tactics and teamwork even further, as Squad Deathmatch tasks squads to be the first to achieve 50 kills, and Squad Rush is a diminutive version of its bigger brother, the Rush mode, with small squads vying for COM stations.
The reason Bad Company 2’s multiplayer works so well is because of its solid gameplay foundation. In theory, BC2 works just like any other military-themed FPS; you’ll engage enemies by sprinting behind cover, crouching, and popping up and firing at your foes from behind your gun’s iron sight or scope. The controls of the game have even been tweaked to more comfortably accommodate those familiar with that OTHER modern combat FPS. The Battlefield franchise, however, has an extremely unique feel to the shooting. Explosions, for example, are much more impactful in this game as they actually shape the landscape of the battle at hand. Campers are no longer a problem when anything that can be camped behind can be obliterated. Soldiers can soak up the damage, but, specifically in multiplayer, they will fall by the dozen when improperly supported by comrades of a different class. Almost as important is the use of vehicles. From tanks, to helicopters, to off-road vehicles, every thing supports the forward momentum of the gameplay without feeling cheap or exploitable. Indeed, Battlefield’s multiplayer supports a leveling progression that allows for customizable load outs, but at the time of this review, the game felt extremely balanced.
Balance, however, is something the presentation lacks. While environments, weapons, and player models look good enough visually, it’s in the fine details where BC2’s graphical direction falters. Faces don’t animate very well, there can be significant clipping and screen tearing when the action gets heated, and some textures stick out as uncharacteristically sloppy.
One area that lacks no polish is in the sound design. From the fantastical, triumphant, and sometimes haunting melodies of the original score to the sound of every bang, boom, and blast, the sound design truly draws you into the feeling of being on a hectic battlefield. The voice actors do great with the script they’re given, and it’s when they sound like they’re ad-libbing that they’re at their best.