Editor note: the review was written before the release of the R7 update
I’ve become pretty convinced that EA DICE doesn’t gamble when it comes to games. Their titles have a good design and pretty well executed – Mirror’s Edge, for instance, convinced me that it knows what momentum is and that the protagonist’s inertia also affects the players’ enthusiasm once they’ve tasted the unconventional sprint.
The Battlefield series is one of the most appreciated in the FPS genre, thanks to its enormous maps and generous number of combatants per square foot, and this multi war game on vast landscapes not only incites, but also encourages a tactical approach in lieu of the adrenaline rush and aggressiveness of “narrower” FPS games.
Furthermore, the Bad Company spin-off showed us, I think, that when you combine the Battlefield recipe with elements like destructible buildings and a level design that encourages ambushes at the end of the street, you can be pretty damn sure you’ll get the best of both worlds.
The first Bad Company came across as more of a parody with the budget for a blockbuster rather than a new path, but don’t think of the tasteless and disgusting ones that come out every years as “<<GENRE>>Movie”. Nope – it’s refined enough to show us the parallel to the source material, as well as the new direction towards which the Swedish studio pulled. The main characters, although one-dimensional, had enough verve to stay memorable even now, two years from release, and the strong emphasis on explosions and home-depot express door making through walls kept my adrenaline boiling in multiplayer.
Then along came 2010 and with it a multiplatform sequel. At first sight, an indigo copy of Modern Warfare, penciled out by the obvious framing of a Battlefield title. At second sight, a little bit more, so if you’re expecting a dynamic and incisive game like MW2, stop reading right now. This hybrid is still being governed by DICE rules, rules that not only encourage, but impose versatility and tactical thinking.
Here, recoil is recoil. Here, the forest is incredibly effective when sneaking around, ambushing your enemies or organizing mortar picnics. Here, the buildings are shelters only as long as they don’t come crashing down on your head. This is war, sonny.
The mandatory five-hour intro
I’ll soon give up calling short single-serving single-player storylines campaigns. Most definitions imply this word describes something lengthy, intense and bedazzling, while the actual so-called campaigns in most recent FPS games only serve as short appetizers for the real core, the multiplayer. And sadly, Bad Company 2 is no exception, the result being that the mandatory five-hour intro is loaded with twists and cinematic moments, but is pretty light and compact, leaving (just as MW2) plenty space for another portion or two of feverish action.
A first introductory mission, seen from the perspective of the Bravo Company in the Second World War, illustrates the object of the coming conflict. Afterwards, a temporal leap to the present squeezes us into the dirty and wet boots of the same losers who had hoped to escape with a hefty amount of gold at the end of the first Bad Company. Typical for their foolish and goofy personas, the protagonists get captured and punished with another depressing term in the most dangerous company since Tom Hanks led any gang of boys around.
So Haggard (the Texan redneck), Sweetwater (the tech-savvy), Redford (the brave captain) and Marlowe (the silent hero) are once again caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t ask for and are only making worse, despite their best efforts.
The cinematographic nuance is similar to that in Modern Warfare 2, but is a bit more fluent and well-tied together (maybe also due to the fact that the perspective doesn’t change from one mission to another and not every character dies before you even learn his name). The maps are also richer in vegetation and natural décor than the competition, while the action doesn’t trip against stupid inconveniences like, let’s say, your daily reality.
Where there’s many, the ammo count drops.
Unsurprisingly, the multiplayer includes experience-based player progression, with all the leveling and weapon, gadget and perk unlocking that comes with it. How it works is not a big mystery, but I consider it’s pretty relevant that the actions which bring you experience here emphasize helping out your team and winning the match as a whole, instead of individual acrobatics.
Furthermore, you have to work your way up just to reach the tools that define the classes – the Medic doesn’t have defibrillator pads or a first aid kit in the beginning, the Engineer can’t fix vehicles or place antitank mines, a Recon must pull his weight before he gets the priciest tin can of all (the mortar) while the Assault class will need to get a few brutal kills before getting the ammo box for him and his allies.
Still, the “adaptation” grind is not all that annoying, because there’s an initial period in which you have to get used to the physics and ballistics anyway. The recoil is much more poignant than in Modern Warfare 2 – firing single shots is mandatory in most cases, and estimating the trajectory also plays an important part when you want to eliminate your adversary without giving him a chance to retaliate.
Because bullets are governed by gravity and don’t instantly reach their destination either, the target must be adjusted accordingly, which adds an interesting dimension to the combat and transforms Bad Company 2 into something more complicated than a point-and-click adventure game. It’s just as important that the “prone” function no longer exists, which reduces the camping rate (it would be extremely hard in certain situations, considering the Recon camouflage suit, to see an enemy all curled up in the bushes). And considering the objectives and game style, I think the prone wouldn’t have served anyone but campers.