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Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Review

4
  • PC
  • X360
  • PS3

Bad Company 2 is a terrific multiplayer shooter that offers the scope and strategy that made the Battlefield series so great in the first place. The single-player, however, feels a little flat this time around.


Chopper Flynn. 
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 builds off of the previous game by adding more multiplayer options and refinements and delivering a new single-player campaign. As someone who happened to enjoy the previous game a great deal, this is a fantastic thing. But the single-player campaign, despite offering a lot of the same charm and character that made the first Bad Company so memorable, doesn't pack the same punch the second time around. Sure, the wholesale destruction of buildings has gotten a bit better, but it feels like you aren't put in enough situations to actually take advantage of that fact on a regular basis. Instead, it feels like building additional multiplayer modes and refining that aspect of the game was a priority, and multiplayer fans should find those changes to be quite exciting.

The four guys that make up Bad Company are some of the greatest new characters to come out of this generation of console hardware. There's a natural sound to the voicework that makes them seem like some regular guys thrust into some pretty messed-up military maneuvers. Last time around, they broke ranks and attempted to steal a truckload of gold. In fact, the ending of the first game implies that they got away with some of that gold, too. But there's no mention of the gold in Bad Company 2. In fact, the events of the first game aren't really referenced at all during the main story. Instead, the same four guys are sent after a mysterious super-weapon that dates back to World War II, which makes a guest appearance in the game's prologue level before things get going in modern times. After a brief stint in Alaska to set up some of the action, B-Company is transferred into a special ops division and sent off to Bolivia. There's a bit of globetrotting going on between missions, but the core mission of finding out more about this secret weapon and stopping the people who would hope to uncover its secrets and use it against the United States remains the same.

Though you stick with your squad throughout the game, you don't often feel like you're fighting right alongside Haggard, Sweetwater, and the Sarge. After battles cool down, they seem to stand around, and it feels like they're warping ahead of you when you start running to the next checkpoint, just to make sure that they're in position for any scripted sequence or dialogue that may come up. Overall, I felt pretty disconnected from a lot of the action, and the campaign often felt pretty mindless.

 In single-player, there are new guys to mow down around every corner... like this corner up ahead, for instance.
However, a lot of that is because I wasn't stopping to let the environment and the squad sink in. There's a fair amount of incidental dialogue from your squad in Bad Company 2, but since they tend to stand still and not stick with you whenever there's no fighting going on, it's very easy to miss. If you stand around with the guys for a bit, you'll hear some hilarious exchanges, with jokes usually made at the expense of Haggard, the Texas redneck of the crew. In one moment, he'll attempt to tell the team that he's fluent in Spanish... or Spanglish, at least. But then he'll refuse to actually speak it. In another, he'll comedically brush up against the edges of racial sensitivity by asking the Sarge why "Afro-Americans" pronounce the rapper's name as "Fiddy" Cent instead of "Fifty." In yet another, he'll talk about how there are parts of his brain that could certainly use some washing. They'll debate the existence of God and what makes a man eligible to go to Heaven. At one point one of them will talk about the "big bong in the sky." The characters talk over each other and interrupt one another in a very natural way that sounds more like a movie scene than a video game. But the main story dialogue, by comparison, is extremely on-task and usually very dry. It's also received a liberal sprinkling of Generation Kill-inspired mil-speak, just like Modern Warfare 2, so expect to hear more than a few "Oscar Mikes" in there. And unless you make it a point to wait around for those incidental moments to trigger--and they don't seem to always pop up in the same place--you're going to miss the best part of Bad Company 2's approximately seven-hour campaign.

The action in the campaign feels flat in spots. The big thing about the first game was the introduction of destructible buildings and other covered positions. Walls blast apart beautifully when you launch grenades into them, and using a tank to decimate everything around you can be satisfying, as well. All of that returns for Bad Company 2, and you can now hit some buildings so hard that they collapse entirely. But the areas you're fighting through often don't take advantage of those strengths. There aren't many situations where you're given enough explosive hardware and enough nearby buildings to really tear the scenery apart, and it makes Bad Company feel a little less unique in the process. You'll move from point A to point B, shooting down everything that gets in your path. You can't absorb a ton of punishment, either, so you'll have to play fairly conservatively in hectic situations. Primarily, it just doesn't feel as wild as the first game did, even though it pushes many of the same buttons along the way with tank battles, a few spots where you're firing from mounted weapons on helicopters, and so on.

Meanwhile, the multiplayer side of Bad Company 2 feels like it got significantly more attention during the development process. To the casual onlooker, the differences might not seem enormous, but if you got up close with the first game and stayed there for a good length of time, you'll definitely appreciate the new modes. Conquest mode, which was released as an add-on for the previous game, comes stock now, and you can also play in squad deathmatch mode, where four teams of four players each fight it out until one squad gets 50 kills. There's also a mode called squad rush, which plays like a speed round of the standard rush mode for up to eight players. In squad rush, the attacking team only gets 20 tickets, but there's only one point to destroy at a time. If the attacking team can destroy two such control points, they win. It's a great mode for players who might not always have time to play through a full rush or conquest match. On the downside, squad rush is currently a pre-order bonus for console versions of the game, and will be that way for 30 days following the game's release, at which point it will be unlocked for all to use. Additionally, the game ships with a "VIP" code in the box on consoles, which like Mass Effect 2 and other games before it, is designed to deter second-hand purchasers by locking them out of certain content. Or you could look at it as "if you buy the game new, you'll get a free map pack out of it in a few weeks." Debating the pros and cons of such tactics is outside the scope of this review, but consider yourself informed about the nature of this game's code-based offerings. PC owners get squad rush immediately, with no code required.

The characters of Bad Company are still, well, characters.
Regardless of the modes and all that other stuff, the action in multiplayer remains largely the same, which is to say that it has a tactical depth that most shooters lack. You can hit a button to "spot" enemies, causing them to show up on your team's radar for a few seconds. You can pilot a UAV, giving you a sky-high view of the map, which makes it easier to spot for your team, though the drone can also fire a few missiles at targets. The UAV, as it turns out, leads to one of my favorite things to do in Bad Company 2: sneaking up on someone that's currently using the UAV station and stabbing them in the back, then sending the UAV crashing to earth. Of course, other vehicles are in play, giving you plenty of chances to royally mess up while attempting to pilot a helicopter or drive a tank while shooting at targets. The game retains its layered approach to unlockable items by tying most of its weaponry to the specific classes. So by playing as a medic, you'll gain additional medic weapons, which are usually light machine guns. By playing the engineer class, you'll get more submachine guns and gain access to the repair drill, which you'll need if you want to repair vehicles. Though I'm effectively married to the assault class and its ability to toss out ammo crates to help resupply troops in the field, the classes all have a different feel that makes them compliment each other very well.

The things that sticks with me about the multiplayer, though, is its audio. While most games can do up-close gunfire extremely well these days, once you get further away, it often loses a lot of its character. Battlefield's indoor/outdoor exchanges, where you might hear someone firing their XM8 all the way across the map while standing around a corner, all sound acoustically appropriate. Weapons fire and explosions muffle properly at range and echo around the environment amazingly well. You'll hear callouts from the troops as they perform tasks, and all of them sound, well, kind of savage. Hearing an American soldier curse up a storm as he's stabbing an enemy from behind is downright jarring, compared to the dry military talk that most other multiplayer shooters deliver. It's impressive, and all of that audio goes a long way toward making Bad Company 2 feel huge.

That huge feel has always been the big differentiator between the Battlefield series and other first-person shooters, and Bad Company 2's multiplayer has plenty of that to go around. Where the first Bad Company felt like a solid take on placing the PC-friendly Battlefield experience on consoles, Bad Company 2 settles in and feels right at home on both consoles and PC. This no longer feels like a compromise made to keep the console kids busy while PC owners wait for the next "real" Battlefield game. It feels a lot more like the genuine article, streamlined and bumped up to 2010 standards. If you appreciate the way Battlefield has done this kind of open, spacious warfare in the past, you're going to love it. Fans of the previous game's campaign mode, however, will probably feel a little disappointed. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
132 Comments
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Edited by Venatio

Hmm, 4 stars? Expected 5

Posted by Jadeskye
@Venatio: 4 makes sense.
Posted by Bobdaman18

I expect 5 as well...still, good review.

Posted by EgoCheck616

There are going to be a hell of a lot of MW2 haters who are going to rip this review apart.

Posted by Kyreo

Nice review.  Usually I don't skip the single player of any shooter but this review totally validates my decision of skipping the campaign.

Posted by johnlennon

wtb this game

Posted by Andheez

Yup

Posted by monster9999

Good review Jeff 4 makes good sense to me and ya stabbing dudes on uav's....awesome

Posted by Jeffsekai

le sigh

Posted by hinderk

Great review Jeff. Might pick this game up later if I get the chance.

Posted by Ghostiet

I felt the single player portion of the first BC was very bland and served only as a tutorial for the multiplayer, so I am very surprised by Jeff's fond memories of it.

Posted by Noitu

Damn, this is definitely a get for me, then

Posted by MAN_FLANNEL

I called it.  Great multiplayer + so-so single player - coop = 4 stars.  

Posted by dbz1995
@EgoCheck616 said:
" There are going to be a hell of a lot of MW2 haters who are going to rip this review apart. "
Basically. The team of Jeff defenders, MW2 lovers and the 'stars mean nothing' duders will all unite and make a destructive force.
Posted by HatKing

I was right!  4 stars was what I predicted Jeff would give this game!  I don't know if that means I know Jeff too well or I know video games too well. :/
Online
Posted by SuperSambo

Good review, I could never understand your views on the first game's single player... I would however prefer a more refined version of that, than what they seem to have produced.
 
But this is BF, im in it for the MP!

Posted by StrikeALight

Worth a purchase, then.

Posted by KamasamaK
@MAN_FLANNEL said:
" I called it.  Great multiplayer + so-so single player - coop = 4 stars.   "
When was this? You said 5/5 in a comment on the MAG review.
Posted by rottendevice

Great review.  
 
I hope the Bad Company 2 multiplayer gets more attention than the first game's did.  It's so well balanced and fun.

Posted by Bollard

I loved the campaign of the first one so much for the characters. Looks like imma be doing a hella lot of standing around then to enjoy this one. Tis a shame. The end of the first one made me enjoy BFBC the way I did too.

Posted by poundrock

Don't forget to set the audio to the WAR TAPES setting.  Makes a world of difference and really puts you into the action.  Awesome game.

Posted by JoelTGM
@HatKing said:
" I was right!  4 stars was what I predicted Jeff would give this game!  I don't know if that means I know Jeff too well or I know video games too well. :/ "
It's because you know how reviews work.  With average singleplayer, you're not allowed to give it 5/5   :)
Posted by Out_On_Bail

Good review. I mostly agree with all of it.

Posted by biggest_loser

Thanks for the review Jeff!

Posted by Torben

Great review! 
 
What if it did not have a single player part but was just like MAG? How would it compare to that? I would love to see some thoughts on that subject.

Posted by Zatoichi_Sanjuro

First BC campaign was mediocre at best and the characterisation and dialogue was tired and unfunny. 
 
Luckily I don't play Battlefield games for their story arcs or "witty" jibes from it's characters during the campaign. Multiplayer all the way.
 
And Squad Rush is available to all non-Americans from day one.

Posted by MAN_FLANNEL
@Kamasama said:
" @MAN_FLANNEL said:
" I called it.  Great multiplayer + so-so single player - coop = 4 stars.   "
When was this? You said 5/5 in a comment on the MAG review. "
Wow, somebody has a good memory (I didn't even remember saying that at first).  Anyways, I voted 4 in a "what do you think Jeff will give it" thread after hearing the campaign wasn't too hot. That 5/5 comment came from me being surprised by Jeff giving MAG ( a game which he didn't seem to like all that much) a 4. 
Posted by stealthdf2

Awesome, I cant wait to tear into this tonight when i get home!!!

Edited by kingando420

All my favourite games get 4 (Fallout 3, BF 1943, Borderlands) so I guess that must mean this is awesome?! A bit weird that MW2 got a 5 though when that also had a flawed single player campaign and a weaker multiplayer than BC2 (in my opinion) maybe spec-ops saved it? Personally not my cup of tea.

Posted by Metal_Mills

Who the hell plays BF for the single player? I honestly might not even touch it.

Posted by Hashbrowns
@Metal_Mills said:
"Who the hell plays BF for the single player? I honestly might not even touch it."

I do, and since the campaign was the only reason I liked the first one, I won't be buying Bad Company 2.
Posted by Nadafinga

I'm finding the campaign to be good fun so far...I'm only a few levels in, but it has a great opening level, and the subsequent levels have some cool epic explosions and hectic firefights.  There's a little bit too much "on-rails" stuff so far, but that's my only complaint, and its a small one.

Posted by Milkman

About what I expected. It's a shame that DICE seemed to push the single player aside like an afterthought. I love Battlefield multiplayer as much as the next time but without the terrific single player that the original had, it's just a Battlefield game.
 
 
Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Posted by Jeffk38uk

Quite tempted to get this game, even tho I've never played a Battlefield game before. Seems this focuses much more on the tactical and capture rather than the total of your kill streak.

Posted by ultimathule

So the multiplayer is awesome but it's lacking on singleplayer aspect. First MW2 and now this, I wonder if the singleplayer in FPS is coming to an end =/

Posted by RsistncE

I don't get this review. MAG had no single player and a multiplayer that was worse than this game's, yet they both get the same score? MW2 had the superior single player but the inferior multiplayer (which is arguably the selling point for both MW2 and BC2) yet it got a 5? Either the reviews are bullshit or we're seeing the limits of using a 5 star score system.

Posted by OneKillWonder_

Couldn't agree more with this review. I'm about 5 missions deep in the campaign and it just feels incredibly bland, with the exception of a few firefights and the vehicle chases (the one in the 5th missions is particularly awesome).
 
I love the multiplayer in this game. Didn't really care for the original Bad Company in that department, but BC2 hits all the right notes here.

Posted by MAN_FLANNEL
@RsistncE: 
Opinion. Opinion. Opinion. Opinion. Opinion.
Posted by supercubedude
@RsistncE: 
 Or maybe it's Jeff's opinion that MW2 is better than BC2?
Posted by natetodamax

I officially don't like the 5 star rating system. Doesn't make much sense.

Posted by Tennmuerti
@RsistncE: I'm with you on this, feels wierd.
 
This shows very well the limit of the 5 star system. Altho I would rather GB just did away with review scores honestly. I much rather read the review only and not see the "score" so that I'm only influenced by what is said in words. it's hard not to look at the score when it exists. That's just my opinion tho :)
Posted by SteveV

Maybe they should have just dropped the singleplayer completely. It seems to be the thing that is dragging down the review scores, and who really plays Battlefield games for the singleplayer? I´m definitely getting this game though :)

Posted by Xeiphyer

I played a good 6 hours of it last night and its amazing. I doubt I will ever play the singleplayer though, maybe for trophies.

Posted by shatteringlast

I think the SP in this game is way better than in BC1. I'm actually giving it a chance this time... that also could be because I can't seem to join ANY FUCKING GAMES ONLINE. 
 
My scores so far: 
SP - 4/5 
MP - RAGE/5

Posted by Scooper

Great review, Jeff. Maybe could of touched upon that in multiplayer the experience is enhanced many fold if in a squad of friends because that makes the game for me really special.

Posted by PhannIOUS

I personally thought the Single player was quite great. Right up there with COD4, a bit less than MW2. Still pretty great. Funny pokes at MW2 also. Even the com guy (riverhead: dispatcher?) has the EXACT same voice as the guy in MW2. They must have used the same person. Multi isn't my favorite. Since all you have to do is camp a tank and rack up amazing amounts of kills.

Posted by Nemesis

DICE and their legions of fanboys are really showing their douchebagginess. Bad Company 1 single player was much better than BC2's single player because it was actually different. Now they are trying to copy everything from the COD series and are failing miserably. I don't remember Bungie, Infinity Ward, or Zipper ever taking shots at each other. Looks like they are jealous that the crown was taken from them years ago.
 
You bitches can argue while I enjoy both games.

Posted by TheJollyRajah

Jeff, this is a 5 star game. COD is the most overrated shit ever.  
 
Seriously, MAG gets 4 stars along with this??? Sometimes I feel you should ditch the 5 star system.

Posted by SPACETURTLE

Only 4? I havent played the full release yet, but I seriously thought this game was going to get 5...

Posted by CarolynP

Anyone looking at any scoring system to tell them everything they need to know about a game is always going to end up being frustrated. A 4-star system sometimes seems too limited. With a much broader system, people search out minute discrepancies, arguing about why one game gets a 7 and another a 7.5 or why one gets an 8.2 and another gets an 8.3. No matter what kind of system you use, consistently scoring hundreds and hundreds of games in a way that makes sense to everyone and that nobody perceives any inconsistencies with is pretty much impossible. There's just too much subjectivity involved.

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