Pay attention, if you will, to the following lines of dialogue from the single player campaign of Battlefield Bad Company 2 (BC2 from here on):
Sweetwater (Yes that’s his name): “If this were a snowmobile race I’d take you down!”
Haggard (Again, that’s his name): “It’s not a snowmobile. Snowmobiles are for sissies!”
That should make things crystal clear to everyone that from the outset, BC2 is pitting itself as THE rival to the Modern Warfare (MW) series. Ever since Infinity Ward decided to give PC Gamers the finger with MW2, the community has been looking at EA/Dice for revenge. So have they succeeded? Well… the answer is a clear, albeit reserved, yes.
To the uninitiated, this is the lowdown: You play as Preston Marlowe, one of 4 characters from Bad Company, a bunch of hardass grunts with a penchant for getting in way over their heads. The single player campaign takes you through a silly story about a super weapon falling into the hands of the Russians. And the Russians (surprise, surprise) are hell bent on invading, well, pretty much any place that isn’t Russia. Let’s just say the story is passable, i.e., not as bat shit crazy as MW2. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to go to different places, meet different people and then proceed to blow em up sky high. That’s good because stuff blows up real pretty in BC2. Before playing the game I had dismissed the hullabaloo around the “destructible environment” feature as mere hype. Playing through it, however, it became apparent that it truly does add a whole new facet to the standard FPS dynamic. Sure, you can hide behind a wall to regain your health whilst in cover (the dumb AI doesn’t really know what “flank” means) but you can bet your bullet riddled ass that the wall won’t be there for long. There is no dearth of explosions in this game. Adding to the visuals is the ZOMG level of sound design. The devs did nail this one. I will not hesitate to say that this is the best use of sound I have seen in any shooter till date. Bullets whizz by, vehicles rumble ominously, explosions distort hearing and it’s hard not to get immersed. Hell, there were more than a couple of times I poked my head out to deliberately get hit by rockets. Yes, it’s THAT good. Where the game falters though, is the sheer predictability. There are some surprises throughout the 10 hr campaign but none enough to blow your socks off. The voice acting is good; unfortunately the script is straight out of a B grade Hollywood action flick. I almost feel guilty for enjoying it as much as I did. The humor in the game works sometimes. And when it does, it’s genuinely funny. Other times it will make you roll your eyes. The dialogues do an OK job of adding some personality to your motley crew, whether you like that personality, is, strictly a matter of personal preference. Mission variety is adequate enough but nothing we haven’t seen before. There were some annoying instances where certain scripted events would not trigger when they were supposed to, but these were rare. The game ran stable for me, but my 3 yr old rig did struggle with the graphical goodness on offer. Switching graphics to low made everything look like crap but it ran fine after that. Can’t fault the game for this however, my usual test system is long due for an upgrade.
All in all, the single player campaign is above average, certainly enjoyable but, there are some annoyances that mar the experience. Hardcore FPS vets have every right to complain about not seeing anything new, but the more casual amongst us will still be entertained immensely.
The real deal however is the multiplayer. And this is where things get a little tricky. The internet was rife with complaints of connectivity problems and Punkbuster (man how I HATE that thing) issues. My personal take is that any multiplayer game is bound to run into teething problems the first few weeks and by all reports, Dice has had a rocky launch. Regardless of how much we want this to be a trouble free part of the PC experience, it never really is. I did have a hard time connecting to any games, (before the patch), mainly because servers were always full. And yes, the mess that is Punkbuster (seriously, why does the damn thing even exist?) did boot me out for no reason a number of times. The server browser is pretty basic as well, I would have liked to see a lot more filters. Add to that a few random crashes that and well… you get the idea. However, when I did play online, it was hands down, the best squad based online shooter experience I have had since UT2004’s Bomber Run. Weapons feel meaty and solid, lining up shots is a skill that’s hard to master, the vehicles are a blast and every kill feels satisfyingly hard earned. The learning curve is a little steep, especially with the vehicles, but the massive battlefields with multiple ways of approaching an objective make it thoroughly enjoyable. The destructible environment makes camping hard to do (as it should be) and the game forces you to play as a team. Each of the 4 classes (Assault, Medic, Recon and Engineer) have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s a sure bet that a new player will settle on a favorite pretty soon depending on his/her style. Though would be Rambos can go solo (Recon excels in this imo), a quick look online will show you that the teams that do well consistently are the ones that play as a unit, with all classes playing their part. The top of the leader boards are full of players that did not necessarily get the highest kills, but the ones who helped their teams the most, i.e., by healing, repairing, assisting squad mates and taking out key targets. Level design is solid, with different maps catering to different classes and approaches (there are a couple of unbalanced maps however). The action never lets up and constant leveling up in “Rank” and frequent unlocks for weapons and equipment will keep things fresh for a long time.
One thing I will call out Dice on is the complete lack of a tutorial for the multiplayer. Most people will end up being frustrated with it purely because they will treat this as your average run of the mill shooter, which it most definitely is not. If you are looking for a good guide for beginners, you can find it here. Oh, and even though dedicated servers are available, LAN play is out… sort of. If you want a friends only game, you will have to enable a password on one of those.
Having a building you were sniping from crumble around you, feeling the rumble of a tank that did it and hearing yourself yelling “MEDIIIIC!!” before being pulped by a mortar attack is something you have to experience to believe. I once saw a squad mate head-shot a pilot that was eating us for lunch, the chopper he was in crashed into our objective destroying it completely. Just like that, we won the round. I can’t think of any other game I have played where I witnessed anything half as cool. Bottom-line, the multiplayer is awesome.
Unless you were looking forward to BC2 purely for the single player experience, there is no reason to complain. The connectivity issues and random crashes will get resolved in time (the game has already been patched once resolving many of the connectivity issues). If you ever miss your childhood days of playing “Army” in the backyard, run to your nearest retailer and buy this game.