kimfidler's Battlefield: Bad Company (Xbox 360) review

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Battlefield: Bad Company - Review by Kim Fidler

Back in 2002, a game came out that was totally different than anything I had played before. It was an online only game that had some of the largest maps I had ever seen, and a plethora of vehicles to traverse them. Battlefield 1942 was my first taste of actual online warfare. While I did play Counterstrike, Quake III, and Team Fortress Classic; BF1942 was the first time that I actually felt like I was in a real war. Well, as close as a video game could potentially get you to real war. Over the next few years, several other iterations of the Battlefield series came out but I never got to give them a try. Most were only on PC and quickly became classics amongst many of my friends, while the couple that did come to console were of a much lower quality.

With the Battlefield series being mainly made for PC, the announcement of a console-only Battlefield game didn't sit well with many people. From the beginning, Battlefield: Bad Company was touted as a whole new experience. With a full fledged single player story mode that quickly garnered attention with some of the titles' early trailers, and a robust multiplayer mode that promised unlocks, ranks, and all the usual bells and whistles of a modern FPS. It sounded like developer DICE was biting off more than they could chew, and I will admit that I was skeptical of the final product.

Most people that pick up Bad Company are going to throw it in their Xbox 360, click multiplayer, and jump right into the battle. I know I did, and I quickly found out that maybe I should have gotten my feet wet with the single player mode first. In Bad Company, more than any other game I've played before, the single player serves as a tutorial that guides you along from the start of the story right to the very end. Every level you are introduced to a new tool or gadget that will make your life easier, and ultimately make every multi-player game that much more enjoyable.

The story revolves around four soldiers, the army that abandons them, and the search for mercenary gold. It sounds cliche' but as you play through the game you realize that Bad Company tells a much deeper story than it sets out to tell. It's not a pro-war game in any way, and there are more than a handful of moments where every character states how much they'd like to be out of the army. Whether it be in the anxiety surrounding an early release from the army, or the way they embrace their situation, it's a story that really is enjoyable to watch from the beginning to the end.

The characters while fairly static, are fleshed out enough that they never seem to get old. Private Preston Marlow is not only the protagonist of the story, but also the new guy in Bad Company. He's joined by Private Terrence Sweetwater, the level headed intelligent member of platoon; Private George Gordon Haggard, the laugh-inducing demolitions expert; Sergeant Samuel D Redford rounds out the cast as the end of his service leader of the company. It's a pretty standard character lineup for a war story, but every character manages to be likeable enough to care for. The only complaint I have about the characters is how you never really get to see the other side of the conflict. The people you're fighting against are never really introduced and at times it feels as though you're fighting a faceless enemy with no real agenda.

The first thing that will stand out when you boot up Bad Company is how great the game looks. In the past, Battlefield titles have looked pretty nice, but I would go so far as to say that Bad Company looks just as good, if not better than anything else on the Xbox 360. The maps are huge, detailed, and best of all, completely destructible. Yes, many titles in the past have played the destructible environment card, but Battlefield: Bad Company takes it to the next level and allows the player to blow through anything they want. In many other games people will hide behind walls in order to avoid gunfire, but in BC, all you have to do is merely throw a grenade at the wall to expose them. It's a simple mechanic that makes the game feel totally different than anything else out there.

It's with the destructible environments that you begin to realize just how great the sound is in Battlefield: Bad Company. If you have a surround sound setup, the buildings sound as though they are crumbling around you , the bullets whiz right by your head, and the cries of your friends come from the direction they are situated. The guns do sound a little on the wimpy side when compared to the booming sounds of the Call of Duty 4 weaponry, but it's easily overlooked when you enter a vehicle. The vehicles sound just as you would expect them to, and when you're lumbering through a field in heavy armor the bass rumbles as though you're really moving around the soil beneath you. The soundtrack uses a mix of heavy jazz-inspired war themes mixed with a 60s-era spy movie flavor. It sounds like a style that wouldn't work but once you play it you'll realize that no other another soundtrack would suit the style of Bad Company. I would recommend hooking up the surround sound because it makes the game much more enjoyable, but I did try it on a regular television and did sound pretty decent.

As you make your way through the single player campaign, there are a few things that really remind you that this is the first Battlefield game with a full fledged single player mode. The one thing that bothered me the most is that whenever you die, you just re-spawn and jump right back into battle. It makes the game less frustrating, but at times I found myself killing one guy, then dying, and repeating it all over again. It felt as though I was playing the game wrong and it wasn't really forcing me to play any better. What I also disliked about the single player mechanics is how the regeneration of health is handled. Basically, you are given a health injector and at any time you can shoot it into your heart to regain all your lost life. It would be fine if there was a set amount of times you could do this, but it's totally unlimited and very abusable. There is a re-spawn time on it of a few seconds, but once again I felt like I was playing the game wrong whenever I ran around injecting myself any chance I could get. Gameplay elements aside, the only thing about the missions that felt very disconnected is how repetitive they manage to become. They revolve around going somewhere to destroy a piece of enemy equipment, and when that is done you go to a new location to destroy something else. It makes the missions feel really long and drawn out, but with the amount of fun you'll be having blowing up things, it'll be easily overlooked.

Let's face it, the reason most people are going to buy Bad Company is the multi-player mode. Everyone has played a Battlefield game at some point in their life, and almost every time it's a pretty enjoyable experience. It mainly revolves around large team games where you actually have to work together to accomplish a common goal. Some people may be tasked with playing defense where you must guard a certain area so that the opposing team will not be able to capture it. While the other side focuses on being more aggressive, meeting the enemies head-on in order to slow down their pursuit of the target. If you don't have a good balance of offense and defense there is a good chance that your opponents will quickly find a way to overpower you.

The basic gameplay in BF: BC is fairly similar to past Battlefield games, but the "Gold Rush" mode actually makes the game simpler while making it more difficult. It removes the need to capture different points for one side, and removes the need for the other side to be aggressive. The attackers will always be able to spawn at one point or on one of their squad members, while the other side has to maintain the gold crates to avoid being pushed back to another pair of gold crates. There are only so many bases to occupy so the game ends when the defending team loses all of their gold crates, or the attacking team loses all of their reinforcements. Reinforcements can best be explained as spawns. Every spawn uses up one reinforcement, and when those run out, no one can spawn and the defending team wins. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the gold crates is that you don't have to capture them by standing next to them, you just need to destroy them. It doesn't matter what you use, just as long as the gold crate is destroyed in some way. It's a different mechanic than the "Conquest" mode found in past Battlefield titles, but it's still enjoyable in a very similar way.

Fans of ranking-up in games will have alot to like about the Battlefield: Bad Company multi-player. Similar to the presedence set in Call of Duty 4, BF: BC has 25 different ranks that grant you access to new weapons and gadgets. What many people will enjoy is the fact that the player is actually given the choice as to what they want to unlock. Ultimately that means you can have your optimal gear setup very early in your multi-player career, and not have to wait until level 20 to get that gun you want to use. The weaponry in BC takes into consideration the different classes the player has available to them, and allows total customization within the context of that class. With over 35 weapons to choose from, everyone will have something they love to use with every class setup.

One of the more addicting aspects of Bad Company's online experience is the inclusion of "Awards." Similar to the Achievement system on the 360, trophies are awarded to the player for completing certain tasks online. The first awards given out are for a certain number of kills with an assault rifle, running a certain number of people over with a vehicle, etc. As you gain more awards, you'll start to receive Patches and Wildcards; These are obtained through achieving different combinations of awards. It doesn't really add anything to the game but they do show up on your Battlefield online profile which people can look at anytime.

At first the online play can be frustrating because of the sheer size of maps you have to work with. The maps are huge and at times you almost need to use a vehicle in order to cross them. Crossing them on foot will quickly end with you being on the receiving end of a sniper bullet, and without the experience gained through repeated play, it might get a little aggravating. I'm not sure what the catalyst is, but at some point while playing Bad Company online, something will click. You'll spawn, grab a vehicle, blaze across the field avoiding enemy fire and jump out mowing down anyone that stands before you. It's one of the greatest feelings you can have while playing a videogame and it will automatically make you want to play more. The best part about the online component is that the better you play, the more you're rewarded. You gain experience for kills, defusing bombs, planting bombs, blowing up vehicles, and winning the rounds. It actually offers those personal rewards that make you want to play as good as you can in order to receive them.

All in all, I would rank the multi-player in Battlefield: Bad Company right up there with Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. There is enough variety in the gameplay to keep the game interesting, and it sounds like it's only going to get better with the ongoing support from EA and DICE. It has already been announced that with an upcoming patch, the Conquest game mode will be added to the game within a few months. That obviously means new awards and hopefully a new map or two. I feel Conquest mode is how a Battlefield game is meant to be played, and I'm expecting to put another 100 hours into the online game.

While I went into Battlefield: Bad Company not expecting anything great, I am happy to admit that I was wrong. Bad Company is a game that incorporates a single player experience that doesn't take itself too seriously, while still reigning supreme as one of the most enjoyable multi-player games out on the market. Personally, I have nearly put about 50 hours into BF: BC and I don't see myself putting it down anytime soon. I don't know if it's the fact that I can blow a hole in any wall I want, or if it's the nearly flawless multi-player that has me hooked; But there is something unexplainably fun about Battlefield: Bad Company. If you're looking to move on from the war-torn maps of Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, you cannot go wrong with what Battlefield: Bad Company has to offer.

Kim Fidler

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