It is almost hard to believe it, but this is March. The time of year when one or two fantastic games hit the shelves by now, and already we have had several must own titles. Battlefield Bad Company 2 continues the trend as EA and DICE deliver a follow-up to their modern-day war shooter that somehow manages to best the king in several areas, while still retaining its own unique brand of gameplay. Bad Company 2 is once again a developer taking all of what made the original game suffer and fixing it, or simply removing it for the sequel. Combine that with the fact that DICE went back to their roots with the online and you have yet another can’t-miss shooter.
Let’s start with the single player portion of the game, which was easily the weakest part of the original game. Once again we are dropped in with Haggard, Sweetwater, Sarge and of course Marlowe of B Company. This time around they are trying to hunt down a Russian madman who is in possession of the ultimate weapon developed by the Japanese during World War II. All of the typical plot twists and epic moments are intact, but what makes this game stand outside is the witty banter back and forth between characters. Hearing Haggard ramble on about Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and T-bone steak really connects you with the characters. The writing is actually humorous and makes bland missions more entertaining.
The campaign runs 8-10 hours and spans some of the most beautiful locales I have ever seen in a shooter. From snowy mountain peaks to barren desert wastelands, the settings are breathtaking. Every level feels unique and the added destruction changes every firefight. Taking cover has never been this intense as rocket blasts blow down walls you are hiding behind while bullets wiz through wooden barriers at you. The dynamic of being able to destroy nearly every piece of cover really does set the game apart. My biggest gripe about the original game was the fact that enemies could nail you anywhere on the map with deadly accuracy, thus not giving you a chance to fight back. Things have changed this time around making the difficulty feel more balanced.
Also gone is the annoying health system from the first game, which has been replaced by the traditional regenerating method. Now you don’t have to worry about taking a shot every five feet. The pacing has also been streamlined making the game move along at a nice click from beginning to end. The four main characters are easy to like, and the story is definitely interesting, if not a bit clichéd. I also enjoyed the small stabs the game takes at a certain other franchise; of course it is all in good fun. Needless to say the single player game has been re-worked from the ground up to be a much more enjoyable experience.
Of course the main draw for a game like this is not the solo campaign. The online mode in Bad Company 2 really brings the action from DICE’s early PC games to the console with some of the most enjoyable online action I have played in some time. The class system is your standard fare with soldier, engineer, medic and recon. Everything you do in the game earns you experience that is put toward unlocking new weapons, gear and even armor. The ranking system really requires some dedication. After my first two hours online I was still only a level two, so you can imagine how long it would take to max out. This can be both a good and bad thing as new players are still matched up with more skilled opponents. Eventually this should balance out once more players get online, but right now there are some people that have simply played way too much for their own good.
The collection of maps is reminiscent of the single player as well as some classic throwbacks. There are several modes within the game, all of which take a nod from the quintessential Battlefield manual. Rush mode pits teams against each other in a defend type scenario. Teams protect their M-COM stations while the other exhausts their respawn tickets. There is also a more intimate version of this called Squad Rush where only two teams are involved. Squad deathmatch is exactly what it sounds like and will be familiar to anyone who has played a shooter before.
The real meat of online is Conquest though, and this is classic Battlefield at its finest. Think of this as a war scenario where various control points are taken by either team. When you control more than half of the points your hold increases. Each kill counts as a respawn ticket and the more areas you control more vehicles spawn for your destruction. This is easily the most fun to play as it supports up to 24 players and party matchmaking meaning you and your friends can all hop on the same squad and stay together. The lag was non-existent in my initial runs, but a few server problems have been creeping up lately. Thankfully they are already working on it.
I found myself blowing through two hour sessions without giving it much thought. That is definitely a sign of a great online experience. Of course it helps when you are playing with a solid group of guys who communicate for each match. While it may be a bold statement I think that Bad Company 2’s online mode actually stands head and shoulders above Modern Warfare 2 in several areas. Gamers looking for the next great thing should definitely jump into the action.
With so much already contained in the package it seems unfair that the game is also incredible both visually and sound wise. First up the graphics are definitely eye-popping. The locales as I mentioned are so dynamic and varied. The particle effects in the desert and snow areas are incredible, while the destruction definitely adds a new layer of realism to the environments. The sound is downright incredible with explosions cutting out hearing for a few seconds and the proverbial thump when a rocket blows the side of a building out is truly fantastic. The voice acting is top notch, the music is mood fitting and everything else just fits together nicely. The menu system is even smooth and easy to navigate.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 is by all intents and purposes a fantastic follow-up to the original game. All of the great ideas that fell short have now come to light, and the return of classic Battlefield online make this the game to own for online shooter fans. Granted if you are just picking it up for the single player alone you may be disappointed, but if you are here for the entire package you will be hard pressed to find much wrong with what you get.
Review copy provided by publisher.