Exceptional Online, Charmless Offline
Looking at the cover of this game (for any system), you would be forgiven if you thought that this game had nothing to do with the original. From the perspective of the single-player story, you're mostly right. All the charm and the humor they put into the first game is gone. Yes, the characters have the same voice actors, but the characterizations have all gotten turned around. Sweetwater was transformed from a meek geek in way over his head into an all-American patriotic soldier. Haggard was transformed from a backwoods pyromaniac into a calm sniper with surprising knowledge of weaponry and a Texan accent. And Marlowe, despite supposedly being a pilot in the first game, rarely gets to drive anything here that isn't part of a rail shooter level.
On top of that, the levels force you to go down one corridor of land and if you even dare think of going anywhere else, "enemy mortars" will instagib your ass. Compare this to the first game's story mode, where you had incredibly open levels, plenty of vehicles for the taking, and the story was actually kind of funny as it drew references from films like Kelly's Heroes and The Dirty Dozen. Hell, the grenades had smiley-face pins, just to show it wasn't taking itself that seriously. I guess somewhere along the way, when BC2 was in development, some exec whined "make it more like Call of Duty!" and thus all the charm of the first game's story was stripped out. B-Company, the quest for the gold, and the Legionnaire from the first game are never mentioned again, replaced by a generic story about American soldiers trying to stop an evil Russian Colonel from launching a superweapon that could destroy America.
Sure, you get a plethora of weapons to collect along the way and M-COM stations to blow up (replacing the gold bars from the last game) to get XBL achievements (and little else), but chances are you'll stick with the scoped XM8 with underbarrel 40mm grenade launcher for the most part, as it can kill anything except for heavy armor, yet has impressive range.
So why give this game almost four stars, you might ask? I would answer that the multiplayer is totally worth it. Sure, the servers are still being tweaked at time of writing, but the games actually encourage teamwork and coordination in order to attack and defend different objectives. Aside from standard team deathmatch ("Squad Rush") and Conquest modes, the Rush game mode challenges you to attack (or defend) a series of pairs of M-COM stations, using every tool at your disposal. In some cases, you even need to make use of the game's Frostbite physics engine to blow up a wall with a grenade or a brick of C4 to uncover the M-COM's hiding spot.
You get to choose four classes to play with in multiplayer: Assault (with rifles, grenade launchers and ammo crates), Medic, (carries an LMG, medkits and a defibrillator to revive teammates), Engineer (wields sub-machineguns, AT missile launchers and can repair or destroy vehicles) and the Recon (sniper, can detect enemies with motion mines and call down mortar strikes). However, within these classes are additional weapons (like shotguns and machine pistols) and other customizable specialties that help you contribute the most to your team.
I could go on about each little specialty in the game, but the fun moments I have experienced are ones you just can't script. Like one round where I fired a stationary AT launcher within an enemy base and destroyed a tank, then blew up a second one as it came to avenge its friend and the engineer that came to support it. Or another time when a squad of three enemies put their backs up against a wooden wall only to get blown up by a brick of C4 I planted on the other side. Moments like that, especially if you happen to have people you can count on and talk to in the squad, are what make this game great.
Of course, the problem is that the multiplayer is online only, so if you happen to have a bad connection or no home internet connection at all, then you're better off not buying this game. Feel free to run through the story once or twice for the achievements, but otherwise, forget about it. However, if you do have the ability to play over XBL, then I highly suggest going out and buying this ASAP.