I was always curious as to how a game’s concept is born. I imagined some eccentric Art Director lying about on his armchair, feet on the desk in a ficus office, waking up from his creative trance every now and then just enough to scribble a couple of ideas in a Photoshop window with his graphic tablet. I imagined the same guy putting his palms together, as if he were extraordinarily pleased by the finality of the creative process, frowning to look as serious as possible and smacking his lips, delighted. I imagined him sending over secretaries through the office to announce a meeting, mentally preparing himself to share his vision with his studio colleagues.
Then, I was as curious as to what makes a sequel. I imagined the process as something less mystical, something born not in the chasms of an Art Director’s mind, but by a midget with a wide forehead whose office is somewhere on the „Sales” floor, and who, after moving his eyes over the annual profit report is moved by the financial productivity of some franchise, so he stamps the title and passes it to the „Pre-production” floor.
Perhaps my small deviations are far from the real process – but that’s not the point. I don’t trust sequels, all the more when their theme has been exploited to hell and back by others as well. Playing completely different titles, all of them unfolding during the Second World War, I feel like a child who’s eaten three bowls of strawberries, only to discover that their delicious taste is replaced by a profound nausea by the time he gets to see the bottom of the third bowl. This is the exact same feeling we all get when we like a song so much that we listen to it over and over again, only to be assaulted by migraines when we hear the song played randomly after we’d gotten tired of it.
This way of mine of seeing things has been punched in the face repeatedly, the most recent hit being taken from Call of Duty 4. And that’s not because it were an oasis of originality that sets aside any other warzone shooter through any kind of revolutionary aspect, but because a good game is a good game, whether it’s about some phantasmagorical subject we haven’t heard of or some vision grinded by tens of years of books, movies and games.
Disclaimer: Dieses Speil is nicht unterstutzt von Republikaner, Nazisten, Terroristen, Mahomedaner, Christen, Schwangere Frauen oder Jack Thompson.
You understand, then, how my curiosity got mixed with skepticism the moment I put the disc in my console, curtains closed and door locked, not knowing whether to expect another bowl of strawberries or a whole different dish. My previous experience with the Battlefield series taught me that the single-player mode is just multiplayer with bots, so imagine my surprise upon discovering a cinematic campaign, story and everything that goes with it.
Even more surprising (especially coming from EA) was that the game’s perspective is not a republican, pro-American „For Greater Liberty” fashion statement and other Faux News (sic!) bull. The player takes the role of Preston Marlowe, one of four soldiers in battalion 222 in B Company, also called Bad Company due to its exclusive admission prerequisite of being a troublemaker. For the same reason, B Company is thrown headfirst into battle, before even the scouts. This is where a typical war-by-the-numbers story starts to unfold, with a slight satire nuance. We’ve got all the elements we’d expect from a contemporary war fairy tale – Russians, mercenaries, a fictitious country under the rule of a pleasant lunatic and twists just like we saw in Black Hawk Down. Like CoD4, a relatively plain story is very well presented due to the tense atmosphere, fresh lines and inspired sound editing. The protagonists don’t shy away from „fishing” the dead mercenaries’ goods and by the end of the story you don’t really know whether their motivation is loyalty to their country, the need to finish their military service or the gold bars that the members of a sinister organization carry on them.
The popular „duck and heal” recovery system, used in loads of shooters, from Halo to Gears of War and Call of Duty 4, has been replaced by a concept similar to the Predator’s healing tool in Alien versus Predator – the voluntary injection of a miraculous substance that brings you back to full health. You can understand my smirk when, towards the end of the game, I was being shot at with all the guns you see in all the Rambo movies simultaneously, while I was ducked behind an indestructible obstacle, sticking more needles in me than a drug addict with a short attention span.
That doesn’t make the gameplay bad, though. A very big part of the game is very tense, dynamic and fun, especially because of the mass destruction weaponry. The game is filled with explosives and the maps are vast enough to ensure a „loud invasion” sensation. What cut off my enthusiasm was that the AI is phenomenally stupid, on both sides of the fence. The three soldiers that accompany you are almost useless, and the mercenaries, beside the fact that they see you from miles away, have no self-preservation instincts whatsoever. Nothing new on that front, it’s not like there are loads of shooters which excel through their AI, and besides, you’ll probably wake up, just like me, going through the game just to see the end, but it’s pretty sad to be subjected to such a stupid flaw while playing a game that’s essentially good.